DC introduced Kathy Kane to the world of Batman in 1956. She had one purpose as a character: be Batman’s romantic love interest. Until 1979, that’s exactly what the masked Kane Industries heiress was. After ’79, DC shelved her character. Skip forward to 2006, when DC finally reintroduces the character. This time around, the newly-named Kate Kane isn’t Batman’s crush. Writers completely reworked Batwoman’s character, making her the first lesbian Jewish superhero on DC’s roster. At that moment, a new era of Batwoman began.

Since her reappearance in comics, Batwoman has become an incredibly popular character with a dedicated fan base. Multiple solo series and spotlight arcs have helped develop her character leagues beyond what most gay comic characters can expect. Her character shows what can be accomplished when a company like DC is willing to rewrite characters and make them more relatable for a diverse readership.

Recently, The CW revealed that Batwoman would be joining her fellow on-screen heroes in the show ARROW. In order to help fans of ARROW learn a little bit more about Batwoman before watching her debut, ComicsVerse is going over her most important issues, arcs, and series.

52 #7: First Appearance

Kate Kane
52 #11 Cover. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

The modern version of Kate Kane found her start in the series 52, which chronicled the events leading up to the INFINITE CRISIS series. While the 52 series is good, you don’t need to read every issue if you just want to learn about Batwoman’s past. You can find her first appearance in 52 #7, where writer Geoff Johns makes sure to include obvious allusions to Kate’s relationship with Renee Montoya (aka the Question).

This first appearance sees a well-dressed, socialite version of Kate that’s rarely seen. Tanned skin and bronze hair make the character almost unrecognizable from her current self. Still, 52 #7 is a must-read for those who’ve never seen her character in comics before.

52 #11, 30, & 48

The 52 series is not really about Batwoman. The only reason she appears in it is that she was once the Question’s girlfriend. Writers wanted to tentatively introduce the character before giving her more prominent roles, which is why her appearances in 52 are frequently short.

However, they’re still important in showing how Kate’s evolved since 2006. Check out 52 #11 to see the first appearance of Batwoman in costume and read 52 #30 and 48 to see some classic Kate Kane fighting moves. 52 #48, in particular, emphasizes Batwoman’s signature ability to “Soldier on.”

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DETECTIVE COMICS #854-863

Kate Kane
DETECTIVE COMICS #855 Cover. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

DC gave Batwoman a more thorough introduction in 2009 by giving her a spotlight arc (“Elegy”) in DETECTIVE COMICS. From #854-863, writer Greg Rucka delved into Kate Kane’s unexplored personal history.

He gave her a tragic backstory that includes a murdered mother, a dishonorable discharge from West Point, and a psychotic twin sister. This short run also brought artist J.H. Williams III and colorist Dave Steward to the character, which radically changed her look. Steward gave Batwoman her signature ghostly pallor and bright red hair while Williams made her once natural long hair a wig that’s attached to her cowl.

Kate Kane’s appearance and personality begin to take shape in this arc. We see how she reacts under stress and what she values in a hero. This arc is definitely required reading for any budding Batwoman fans.

BATMAN AND ROBIN #7-9

Kate Kane
BATMAN AND ROBIN #7 page 18. Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

While not quite as Kate Kane-centric as the Elegy arc, the short “Darkest Night” arc in BATMAN AND ROBIN does feature Batwoman. The new Batman, Dick Grayson, tries to use the Lazarus Pit to revive a dead Bruce Wayne. Batwoman makes her appearance when some cultists of the religion of crime try to sacrifice her.

She, of course, escapes and finds Dick about to dump Bruce into the pit. The three-issue arc puts Batwoman through a wild turn of events, that includes Dick mercy-killing her. This isn’t a must-read if you’re short on time, but it is a solid arc that helps to develop Batwoman’s character in relation to the other Bats. Since she wears the bat insignia but is rarely associated with Batman, that’s some needed characterization.

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New 52 BATWOMAN #1-40

Kate Kane
BATWOMAN #0 Cover. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed with how much reading you have to get through, I recommend ignoring everything else on this list and skipping straight to Batwoman’s first solo series, BATWOMAN. The other issues and arcs that I’ve pointed out are important and you definitely should read them if you can, but I personally think the New 52 BATWOMAN series did the most for her character.

It’s also the best series on this list in terms of writing and illustrating. Seriously, if for no other reason, read BATWOMAN for the art. J.H. Williams III is a comic book legend who deserves an award for what he did in BATWOMAN. Along with doing most of the art for the series, J.H. Williams III also co-wrote BATWOMAN, along with writer W. Haden Blackman. Williams and Blackman use their series to build Kate’s character, both with and without the mask.

The series tackles numerous aspects of Kate’s life, including her relationship with detective Maggie Sawyer, her never-ending search for a group of missing children, and her brief infatuation with a vampire. If you’re looking for an entertaining series that is all about Kate Kane, New 52 BATWOMAN is for you.

DETECTIVE COMICS #934-981

Kate Kane
DETECTIVE COMICS #934 and 981 Covers. Images courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Batwoman returned to DETECTIVE COMICS in issue #934 to help Batman train a team of young heroes. With so many solo series, we’ve seen Kate Kane by herself pretty frequently. DETECTIVE COMICS #934-981 opens Batwoman to the world of Gotham’s crime-fighting elite. Perhaps most importantly, we get to see how Batwoman and Batman approach problems differently, and how those differences can be disastrous.

Batwoman isn’t really the star of this run until the final “The Trial of Batwoman” arc and even then, the story is mostly about Batman. With that being said, I still enjoyed Batwoman’s character during these issues because of the social aspect. Kate Kane is naturally introverted but this run shows how she interacts with other heroes when she has to.

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BATWOMAN Rebirth

Kate Kane
BATWOMAN: REBIRTH #1 Cover. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

2017 saw a massive “Rebirth” reboot of all DC titles, including BATWOMAN. Writers James Tynion IV and Marguerite Bennett started a new storyline in Rebirth BATWOMAN that is centered on one of Kate Kane’s long lost lovers. Later arcs in the series deal with Batwoman’s sister, Beth, and Kate’s involvement with Batman.

DC recently canceled the series, which doesn’t come as much of a surprise. While the series has some high points, Tynion and Bennett recycled much of the plot from past Batwoman series and arcs. In comparison to the New 52 BATWOMAN, this series isn’t half as good. However, it does shed some light on the events in DETECTIVE COMICS #934-981.

If you read one, I highly recommend you read the other as well.

What’s To Come for Kate Kane

The cancellation of the Rebirth BATWOMAN puts Kate Kane in a difficult position. She’s no longer in DETECTIVE COMICS, and her solo series is gone, so where does she go now? The CW is putting her on ARROW, so I don’t think DC wants to shelve her. But, they might give her a short hiatus while they plan something big, like a move from Gotham or (fingers crossed) a wedding.

In the future, make sure to scan the covers at your local comic book store for Kate Kane’s bright red hair. I promise you, you’ll be in for a good read.

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