Blog Archives

Precinct1313’s Comic-Book Classics: Batwoman – Elegy

elegy banner

After an extended hiatus from the world of costumed crimefighters, Batwoman triumphantly returned like the proverbial phoenix in 2006 through the pages of DC’s weekly crossover epic – 52. Batwoman was created by Bob Kane and Sheldon Moldoff in 1956 and made her debut in Detective Comics #233. There have been two notable variants of the character over the decades beginning with Kane and Moldoff’s original take, Kathy Kane, the silver age version. Kathy was originally created to be part of the burgeoning Bat-Family, and a possible love interest for Bruce Wayne, but in 1964 following on from a radical restructure of the Batman universe, Kathy was removed wholesale from Bat-lore by new editor Julius Schwartz.

Aside from a couple of anniversary issues of Detective ComicsBatwoman wasn’t seen again until her revamped reappearance in 2006, re-introduced as Kate Kane. Apart from sharing the same moniker, the two versions of the character couldn’t possibly be more diverse. Whereas Kathy was a fun loving socialite with the hots for the Caped Crusader, Kate is tough, no nonsense, ex-military and independent of Batman and his cohorts. Also of note is her sexual orientation, Kate is a lesbian, much was made of this revelation at the time with mostly good but also, unfortunately, some bad press from various media, though ultimately it proved a popular move on DC’s part with many LGBT groups worldwide heralding the character. Kate was a hit and fast became one of DC’s most popular female heroes.

elegy1

Batwoman: Elegy was a story arc that ran through the pages of Detective Comics #854 – #860, after the comics star Batman had been killed at the hands of DC’s biggest villain Darkseid. Kate filled the void left by his absence and cemented her return to comics and Gotham itself. Written by Greg Rucka and drawn by the phenomenally talented JH Williams III, with the latter going on to become the biggest influence on Kate’s future and success. JH is an extremely talented artist/writer with a visual style almost unsurpassed by his peers, his use of splash pages and the weaving of his art into these carefully constructed panels is stunning. This is arguably JH’s most impressive work, though he went on to replicate this prescient style when he started writing and drawing the ongoing Batwoman comic series in 2010.

elegy2

Plot Synopsis: Whilst investigating the 13 Religion of Crime covens in Gotham City, Batwoman learns that the coven’s overseer is coming to Gotham. Alice is the name of their new leader, basing herself on Lewis Caroll’s inimitable creation, Batwoman immediately sets out on the trail of Alice but it seems that the coven is also hunting Batwoman for their own nefarious and sinister purposes.

Batwoman: Elegy is a stunning re-introduction of a much loved character into the Batman mythos and is without a shadow of a doubt one of the most beautifully illustrated comic books ever released. Greg Rucka’s story draws you into the eerie supernatural side of Gotham City and JH Williams’ superbly realised drawing style leaves you breathless. Available as both a softcover and (hard to find) deluxe hardcover, this is highly recommended to all fans of great comics and stunning art.

Elegy score

 

Holy Half Century Batgirl!!

b-r-edited

In 1967, at the behest of the producers of the classically camp sixties Batman show a new Superhero was born, Barbara (Babs) Gordon, better known as the feisty flame haired vigilante – Batgirl!

Bab’s creators – Julius Schwartz, William Dozier, and Carmine Infantino called for a female analogue to the Caped Crusader, who could be simultaneously introduced into both the comics and the popular television series. Technically though, Batgirl wasn’t a new character, she was a variant of the original Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff created persona from earlier that decade. The original Batgirl appeared in Batman #139 in April 1961, the niece of Kathy Kane aka Batwoman.

bk-edited

Original Pre-Crisis Versions Of Batwoman And Batgirl

Batwoman and Batgirl were originally created to be romantic interests for Batman and Robin, as well as costumed crime-fighting associates. In 1964, Batman editor of the time Julius Schwartz erased Batwoman, Batgirl (and other supporting characters – Ace the Bathound and Bat-mite) from the timeline on the grounds that the characters were “too silly”. Both Batwoman and her niece Betty (now known as Bette) Kane eventually and triumphantly returned to the DC Comics timeline, with Kate Kane reprising her role as Batwoman (with a few fundamental changes to her character) though Bette returned not as Batgirl, but as Flamebird, a role that had previously been inhabited by several other DC creations that included Jimmy Olsen and Kara Zor-El.

fb-edited

Original Batgirl – Bette Kane, Took On The Mantle Of Flamebird

Babs Gordon though has always been seen and celebrated as the Batgirl by her millions of adoring fans, debuting in Detective Comics # 359 in a story entitled “The Million Dollar Debut Of Batgirl” by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino. Babs was introduced as the daughter of long time Batman aide – Commissioner James Gordon, she retains a doctorate in library science, is employed as the head of the Gotham City Library and possesses a photographic memory and genius level intellect.

bg67-edited

Bab’s Dynamic Debut

Aside from being a popular recurring character in many DC publications, Babs didn’t get her first starring role until the “Batman Family” comic series in 1975, where she took centre stage alongside other members of the bodacious Bat clan including original Robin, Dick Grayson.

Bab’s continued her well loved run as the masked avenger up until Alan Moore’s Eisner winning one-shot “The Killing Joke“, where, in a controversial sequence of events, she was shot through the spine by the genocidal jester himself, The Joker, ultimately causing paralysis from the waist down, with the paraplegia signalling the end of her crime-fighting career… or did it?

A subsequent storyline by John Ostrander and Kim Yale established Babs in a new role, as the wheelchair bound Oracle. Forming a formidable team of female Superheroes (that includes amongst its members – Black Canary and The Huntress), Babs became a behind the scenes leader and information collator as her Birds of Prey fought crime and corruption on a global scale. During this time two other ongoing versions of Batgirl took over the mantle – Cassandra Cain and then later Stephanie Brown, both had a modicum of success as the character.

or - Edited.jpg

In 2011, DC Comics heralded a comic wide reboot of their entire Universe of characters known as “The New 52“, the major revamp followed the “Flashpoint” paradox which brought extensive changes to their classic cadre of characters, including Batgirl/Oracle. Babs was eventually given back the use of her legs after receiving experimental surgery at a South African clinic and through rigorous physical rehabilitation. The decision to allow Babs to regain her mobility was seen by some fans as somewhat of a shame, as she had become one of the few very prominent disabled heroes in comics, but most fans were (myself included here) ecstatic to see the Batgirl prowling the rooftops of Gotham once more.

bg4 - Edited.jpg

And so “Happy Birthday Babs” and here’s to another fifty years in your awe inspiring presence, oh and “hey DC Comics, how about some live action love for Babs huh? the only actress who has ever done her justice onscreen was the lovely and very much lamented, Yvonne Craig, I think it’s about time… Batgirl Returned!”