Who's Batwoman?

Who's This? The hero with the weaponized lipstick.
The facts: In 1955, under editor Jack Schiff's direction, Edmond Hamilton and Sheldon Moldoff expanded Batman's supporting cast to include Batwoman in Detective Comics #233 (see below), as a love interest to refute Fredric Wertham's allegations in Seduction of the Innocent, that Batman was gay. She appeared with some regularity until Julius Schwartz nixed her (along with a lot of "sillier" Batman Family members) in 1964. Thanks to pressure from fans, Batwoman was brought back in Batman Family #10 (1977) as a guest-star for Batgirl, but two years later, she is killed by the League of Assassins (in Detective Comics #485).
How you could have heard of her: Now of course, we have a Batwoman right now who can headline her own book and has her own TV show, and she IS based on the original (Kate Kane to the classic Kathy Kane), just very loosely. Grant Morrison flashed back to the original model in Batman Inc. #4 in 2011, where she is Bruce Wayne's aunt by marriage. Though thought killed (all of Batman continuity happened, according to Morrison), Batman Inc. #13 revealed she was secretly working as an assassin for Spyral, that covert organization Dick Grayson once infiltrated (and she does make some fleeting appearances in the Grayson series).
Example story: Detective Comics #233 (July 1955) "The Batwoman" by Edmond Hamilton, Sheldon Moldoff and Stan Kaye
Last week's Bat-Mite profile presented the Jack Schiff era of the Batman books as being pitched to little boys, with the Mite as a stand-in for them. If there were any doubt, the era's take on Batwoman shows a definite "no girls allowed in the tree house" kind of vibe. Let's look at Kathy Kane's first appearance to get a better sense of her role...

One Gotham night, the bat-signal flashes, there's trouble at the new air terminal, but Batman and Robin are going to find there's a new, and very capable, crime fighter in town.
And she's weaponized cosmetics and jewelry. Girl power! Now, Batman is quick to inform her that there's a law in Gotham City that no one can wear a Batman costume (what kind of dickish trademark protection is that?), but he should read those bylaws again. They say no MAN can do so, and she's a woman, so haha, and off she goes on her red motorcycle, ducking into an alley before the Dynamic Duo can chase her down. They sure are driven to stop her "interference" and "dangerous career", but she warns them that uncovering HER identity will automatically reveal THEIRS.

The next night, there's a jewel thief in the crowd at a movie premiere. Batman and Robin go on the offensive, but once again, it's Batwoman who manages to stop the crook.
AND save Batman's life. He won't live this down. And she saved him from the jewel mob once more with her perfume flask full of Tear Gas #5! Robin is pretty pissed than his mentor is made to look bad. Batman's a little more mature about it, but as Hero of the Patriarchy, he must prevent this woman from putting herself in danger further! Because she's only been successful to date thanks to LUCK. And she's too RECKLESS so bad guys are sure to uncover her identity sooner rather than later. So Batman pledges to prove that to her by exposing her identity HIMSELF. But admits he doesn't know where she hides out. So... which is it, Bruce? Easy to expose, or damn good at her job?! Time to catch up with our cool new heroine:
An old mine tunnel in the suburbs doesn't sound like a real place so it's perfect for a superhero hideout. A portrait hides her Bat-Cave (um, ok), but otherwise, it looks a lot like the proper Bat-Cave of this era. Her origin is pretty simple. She's a rich heiress who was once a circus trapeze artist and motorcycle stunt driver. Yet, she dreamed of using her skills to fight crime like her idol, Batman. Once she inherited a fortune, it became a no-brainer. Checks out. What else do the idle rich do? Go to social balls, of course. In fact, she's throwing quite the swank party in her mansion, and Bruce Wayne is invited. Maybe they'll meet then have to make excuses to go and change into costume when an emergency arises? Of course they will.
The trouble is at the Tomorrow Club, a night club that's dressed up in crazy science fiction environments. There's a guy in there just trashing the place. Batwoman gets there first because her motorcycle allows her to take shortcuts the Batmobile can't, but Batman is soon on the seen being very condescending.
Finally - FINALLY! - Batman gets to save her from danger, which I'm sure he thinks proves his point even though it's now 3 to 1 in her favor. It knocks him out, and after Batwoman hair-nets the bad guy, she thinks of unmasking him, but no, that wouldn't be right.
Once again, she's come up aces, but Batman is still trying to expose her and end her career. Her mention of "scratch-riders" and "trap-artists" is a crucial clue, but he doesn't want to explain it to Dick quite yet. WHY WOULD HE NEED TO?! ROBIN IS FROM A CIRCUS FAMILY AND WAS HIMSELF A TRAP-ARTIST!!! It's nice to see them work together more harmoniously as a Dynamic Trio on the next crime, but final kill on the would-be mint robber goes to Batwoman. She gets all the XP, but Batman just won't let her level up! After checking his files on circus performers, it looks like Kathy Kane is the most likely culprit. Old maps show the abandoned mine on her property, so that clinches it. Batman and Robin confront her in her lair, but what about her claim that exposing her would also expose him?
Her portrait! It hides all sorts of biometric sensors she could then use to track him down. But she decides not to and hands him the tapes. But it doesn't matter, because Bats noticed the photoelectric eyes looked wrong and he did something to the film, haha. Sounds like a load of bull not to lose further face with Robin, if you ask me. Kathy agrees to stop being Batwoman and Batman puts her portrait in his trophy room? His stammer there tells me he might use it for other purposes, and is just about the only indication that Batman isn't, in fact, gay. (I mean, if that was the point of this story.) Are you convinced? Well if you're not, don't worry, Batwoman WILL return for further engagements to make sure you know that while women may not have a place in the work force, they're good for the odd flirtation and definitely prove that Batman is straight! RIGHT?!

Who's Next? The Forever Girl.

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