Agent of S.T.Y.L.E. - The Faces & Costumes of BATWOMAN
Kathy did her best to catch Batman’s attention while also enjoying the thrilling life of a vigilante. After several adventures, however, she put away her colorful costume and left Gotham. A couple of years later, Kathy Webb-Kane was killed by the forces of the terrorist Ra's al Ghul and the master assassin O-Sensei.
Years later, Kathy's relative Kate Kane left the military when it was revealed that she was gay. Driven by the memory of her mother and sister's deaths, Kate was a warrior at heart who now didn't have a fight. Inspired by Batman, she became the new Batwoman, with her father acting as her aide. Kate is a dedicated vigilante, hunting down some of Gotham's most dangerous criminals, working alongside other heroes and on her own. She is also the star of her own ongoing comic book series.
So let's take a look at the different heroes called Batwoman.
KATHY KANE, CIRCUS STAR
Batman designed his costume to inspire fear in criminals and to give off the impression that he, lurking in the shadows, might be a creature rather than a man. Kathy had no such aim. She was a woman and she was spectacular and she wanted to advertise that. Similar to Robin, she’s a laughing daredevil who enjoys the challenge of a good fight and the excitement of a chase. She isn't embarrassed by using charm bracelet hand-cuffs and hair-nets that are actual nets just as Batman isn't embarrassed to have bat-shaped boomerangs and throwing blades.
I could also do with a stronger bat element beyond the cape. Otherwise, it does make her look more like a fun-loving vampire to me than a bat-themed vigilante. In the Elseworlds mini-series JLA: The Nail, Alan Davis added a bat-shaped pendant to the Batwoman cape collar, which was a nice touch.
A while back, I discussed this costume with Tim Gunn, host of Project Runway and Chief Creative Office of Liz Claiborne, Inc. You can watch the full video here, but one thing we discussed was the lack of a bat-emblem on Kathy's outfit.
TIM GUNN: But I just want to go back to the original look and semiology... you don't need a bat-symbol on that look.
ALAN: It does look more like a vampire to me than a costumed crime-fighter.
In one strange adventure, published in Batman vol. 1 #122, Robin had a dream where Kathy Kane and Bruce Wayne got married. But Bruce did not reveal his identity to her. Evidently, Bruce did this in an attempt to stop Kathy from risking her life as a hero, figuring that a married woman would want to stay home with her husband rather than go on adventures with a masked man who faced danger on a regular basis.
And then we found out it was Robin's very weird dream based on his anxiety that his mentor might one day leave the crime-fighting life behind.
The "Mrs. Batman" outfit is not terribly great. I mean, what guy wants his love interest to dress exactly like him? That's just weird. Not to mention, unoriginal.
ALEX ROSS DESIGNS In the 1996 epic Kingdom Come, creators Mark Waid and Alex Ross brought forth a dark, possible future of the DC Universe that showcased a new generation of heroes and vigilantes. In this story, an elder Batman assembled a small army of superhumans and fighters. One of these soldiers included a new Batwoman, who was actually an alien woman from the planet New Genesis, a warrior who greatly admired Batman. This version of Batwoman wasn’t given any lines or any major scenes, she was just a fun new take on the Kathy Kane design. Her mask looked like an actual bat’s face, stylized, and she rode a bat-winged giant dog called Ace (a reference to “Ace, the Bat-Hound”).
In the late 1990s, artist/painter Alex Ross took a stab at redesigning the costume of Barbara Gordon AKA the classic Batgirl. Ross was working on a new Batgirl proposal with Paul Dini, who has been one of the showrunners behind many of DC’s animated series and films, including the famous Batman: The Animated Series. Dini and Ross proposed a story that restored Barbara Gordon to her role of Batgirl, which she had left behind in the late 1980s due to an injury that rendered her a paraplegic.
DC Comics decided not to go with the proposal. Since losing her ability to walk, Barbara Gordon had dealt with her disability and now operated as a character called Oracle, aiding not only Gotham heroes and the Justice League, but also acting as coordinator for the heroes known as the Birds of Prey. DC felt that having such a strong, disabled character in their fictional universe outweighed the chance to see her become a costumed vigilante again. A new Batgirl would be introduced in 1999 with a distinctly different outfit.
THE ANIMATED MYSTERY
This vigilante operated rather recklessly and seemingly without regard for whether criminals lived or died. In his investigations, Batman discovered that this Batwoman identity was actually shared by multiple women, one of whom was named Kathy Duquesne (pronounced "Due-Kane").
Once again, we have a suit that greatly resembles the one worn in Batman Beyond by Terry McGinnis, a Batman of the future. The resemblance here is even greater than Ross’s design, as there is a full face mask with no visible hair. The silver look, as opposed to black, gives it a different style, however, as does the traditional cape. Not bad at all, but I’d prefer a red belt so there would be greater unity in the costume colors. And it seems odd to have visibly separate gloves but not visibly separate boots.
HERE COMES KATE!
Overall, an excellent design. However, the loose hanging belt makes me think Batwoman doesn't take herself too seriously and that it's there for decoration. And the gloves and boots are just taken from a little too similar for me to Barbara Gordon's Batgirl costume, simply switching them from gold to red. Keeping that design made sense when you were updating Barbara’s style, but if this is a different hero then let’s make her look as different as possible.
Although they don’t ruin the costume, my personal preference is usually not to have heels on a character who will be running across rooftops and perching on fire escapes. Nor am I a big fan of character designs that have their symbol on their belt buckle and on ther chest. Seems a bit repetitive to me. We see the cape and the symbol, we get who you are.
The cowl is constructed to be easily separated and not inhibit her ability to turn her head, with vents on the side to make sure she can hear easily. It's no longer just a stylized mask now, it's also a helmet, adding protection. It also disguises her identity in a creative way, thanks to its wig attachment hiding the fact that Kate actually has short-cropped hair. And if anyone tries to grab her hair during a fight, they'd only grab a wig.
The utility belt now looks just like what it is, a necessary element to carry weapons and tools, with a large pocket in the back to hide a gun for emergencies. The buckle has been altered so that it implies a bat-wing or a batarang but it's not a full-on bat-symbol, so it doesn't seem repetitive of the emblem on her chest.
The cape has also been redesigned. It now comes to exactly five points. This means that when Batwoman is in silhouette and extending her cape or descending from above, she forms a replica of her own bat-symbol. Nice touch.
And that brings us up to speed, faithful readers. I hope you enjoyed this look at the many lives of Batwoman. Until next time, this is Alan Kistler, Agent of S.T.Y.L.E., signing off!
Alan Sizzler Kistler writes the comic book history/fashion column Agent of S.T.Y.L.E. He is an actor and author living in New York who has been recognized by Warner Bros. Films and major media/news outlets as a comic book historian. He is the author of The Unofficial Batman Trivia Challenge and The Unofficial Spider-Man Trivia Challenge, as well as the co-host of the podcast “Crazy Sexy Geeks." He knows entirely too much about the history of comics, Star Trek, Doctor Who, time travel, and vampires. He thinks Isaac Asimov should be required reading in schools. Alan can be followed via Twitter: @SizzlerKistlerFACEBOOK and TWITTER!