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How Grant Morrison Completely Re-Defined the Original Batwoman

by  in CBR Exclusives, Comics Comment
How Grant Morrison Completely Re-Defined the Original Batwoman

This is “Gonna Change My Way of Thinking,” a feature spotlighting notable examples of retcons that don’t fit into the framework of Abandoned an’ Forsaked, which is specifically about stories that outright “overturn” older stories. There are many examples of “retroactive continuity” that do not actively abandon the works of the past. Some of them are minor, some of them are major, all of them are interesting enough to me that I figure that they are worth writing about.

Today, we look at how Grant Morrison re-wrote the history of Kathy Kane, the original Batwoman.

Batwoman was introduced in Detective Comics #233 in 1956 (by Edmund Hamilton, Sheldon Moldoff and Stan Kaye). Now, was it a CERTAINTY that she was introduced in response to Fredric Wertham talking about how Batman and Robin “may stimulate children to homosexual fantasies, of the nature of which they may be unconscious”? No, it is not a certainty, but it sure seems likely. In any event, she made her bow with an awesome Sheldon Moldoff cover…

How freaking vibrant was that cover?!? It was amazing work.

The issue opens with Batman and Robin being shown up by this new hero in Gotham City, the Batwoman!

We then learned her secret identity…

Eventually, Batman figures it out as well and Kathy Kane agrees to retire, but obviously she does not.

Not only does she not retire but she became a recurring figure in the Batman titles over the next eight years. She eventually introduced her niece, Bette Kane, who became Bat-Girl and basically there was this sort of double feel going on in the books. When Julius Schwartz took over the series as editor, however, he wanted a complete revamp of the Bat-books, which meant jettisoning all of the previous characters, including Batwoman and Bat-Girl.

Batwoman then went into character limbo, but she would pop up occasionally, like to help Batgirl in Batman Family #10…

Sadly for her, that was soon before Kathy Kane was killed off by a brainwashed Bronze Tiger in Detective Comics #484 (by Denny O’Neill, Don Newton and Dan Adkins), all part of a plot by Ra’s Al-Ghul to force Batman to take down the Sensei, a rival to Ra’s’ control over the League of Assassins. Ra’s let it leak that Kathy Kane was someone important to Batman and of course the Sensei ordered his men to kill her…

Ra’s now had Batman dedicated to taking down Ra’s’ adversary. It really is a brilliantly twisted plan.

That was it for Kathy Kane, until 2011, by which time Kate Kane had already debuted as the NEW Batwoman. In Batman Inc. #3-4, the current Batwoman teamed up with Batman and while in the process of learning about the spy agency known as Spyral, we see the TRUE history of Kathy Kane…

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