“Batwoman” has arrived on the CW, filling the bat-shaped hole in our hearts left by the cancellation of “Gotham.” And not a moment too soon.
Premiering earlier this month, “Batwoman” stars Ruby Rose as Kate Kane, aka the eponymous crime fighter, taking the place of Batman, who has been missing for three years. Gotham has gotten even worse in the interim, so the city has hired the Crows, a private security firm, to help police the city.
Kate’s transition to vigilante is made possible by the discovery of one of Bruce’s Batcaves, complete with uniform and equipment. She also has some friction/sparks with former flame Sophie, who is apparently not strictly lesbian, as she is married to a man. What? Oh, yes, Kate’s ex is a she. I guess I buried the lede: Kate is openly gay, just as is the actress portraying her. So that’s some TV history being made right there.
That’s freaking out some people, who review-bombed “Batwoman” on Rotten Tomatoes in what appears to be a deliberate campaign.
Personally, the character’s sexuality merits little more than a shrug from me — after all, I’ve been reading Batwoman since her 2006 debut, where being gay was always just part of who she is. And who she was in those early comics was pretty cool, given the stories by the award-winning team of writer Greg Rucka and artist J.H. Williams III.
And speaking of the comics, there remains some confusion about who Batwoman is. And the answer is: Exactly who she is on TV. But the water is muddied by a host of other women with “Bat” in their name. So here’s a primer:
The first Batwoman appeared in 1956, a female version of Batman that turned out to be Kathy Kane (no relation), a former trapeze artist and motorcycle stunt rider. Some speculate that Batwoman was introduced to tamp down criticism of the Batman strip as latently homosexual (three men living in a mansion).
In 1967, the “Batman” TV show ratings were slipping, and the producers decided to boost viewership with a little sex appeal in the form of “Batgirl,” secretly Commissioner Gordon’s daughter Barbara, played by Yvonne Craig. Reverse engineering from the TV show, DC introduced the character to comics — before she actually appeared on TV.
Barbara has had a tempestuous time as Batgirl — at one time becoming a paraplegic and using her mental skills as the superhero information broker Oracle — but has proved enduring to this day, where she once again wears a Bat-suit. She was instrumental in launching the superhero team Birds of Prey, replicating that role in the 2002 show of the same name.
As for the current Batwoman, it’s a shame that so much of this fiercely feminist Bat-female has to rely so much on a male’s equipment and reputation, with Batman totally absent. But “Batwoman” is certainly an able replacement. It’s not a perfect show yet; there are some obvious growing pains. But if we can’t have Bruce — and evidently we’re never going to — I’ll gladly take Kate.