Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Girlfriends, Silver Age Edition: Batwoman

As the Silver Age dawned, with it came the Comics Code Authority. It appears likely that the CCA would not have approved of the Catwoman; she was far too glamorous and had a habit of escaping at the end of stories, both of which were at least nominally verboten under the new regime. And so Batman's writers and editors ignored her for well over a decade.

In her place arrived a character with only one letter different: Batwoman. Kathy Kane was a former circus daredevil who aspired to use her athletic talents for crime-fighting. When a rich uncle dies, she adopts a costume and patterns herself after Batman:

At first, however, there is little attraction expressed between Batman and Batwoman. The romance develops instead between Kathy and Bruce:

By the end of the story, Batman deduces Batwoman's real identity. Realizing she would be in jeopardy if the underworld made a similar discovery, Kathy reluctantly agrees to give up her crime-fighting duties.

In her next appearance, Kathy decides to wear the old uniform for a costume party. We can see that she's interested in Bruce:

But at the end of the story, we see that she has the same old problem with him that all his prospective female partners have expressed:

Shortly after that, Batman decides that Batwoman has been careful enough and he lets her resume her night-time patrols. Meanwhile Vicki Vale has been making some irregular appearances in Batman stories, and inevitably, they meet:

Conveniently for plot purposes, the judges have decided to give the two women six more hours to prove who is more accomplished in her field. And to add to the rivalry:

As is perhaps inevitable, Batwoman and Vicki tie, and thus:

That's the first that Batwoman expresses any romantic interest in Batman. They have a whirlwind courtship and:

Just kidding. What actually happens is that Bruce and Kathy go out on a date, leaving Dick behind to study his schoolwork. Dick falls asleep and has a dream where Bruce and Kathy have eloped (in their real identities, not as Batman and Batwoman). In the dream, Bruce eventually reveals to Kathy his crime-busting role, and forbids her to join them on cases any more. However she disobeys him and because she is wearing one of Batman's spare costumes, her mask is blown off. The crooks recognize her and because of her prominent marriage to Bruce, they immediately realize Batman's real identity. Good thing it was all just a dream!

As I have indicated, for the most part the romance was between Bruce and Kathy. However, that began to change when Betty Kane appeared. She was Kathy's niece and took up crime-fighting as Bat-Girl (the original) in Batman #139. She was also very forward about her attraction to Robin, as I discussed in detail a few years ago. And Auntie Batwoman decides to take a few tips from her:

In Batman #153 it looks as if Batman and Batwoman are doomed and:

Well, there's only one possible response to a request like that:

Although you'll note that Batman seems somewhat less enthusiastic about the kiss than his partner. And at the end of the story:

Cold, Batman, cold.

Vicki Vale had disappeared for several years (apparently on a European assignment), but she popped back up again in Detective #309:

And at the end of that tale:

Alas, it was not to be. Vicki and Batwoman both disappeared in May 1964, as Julius Schwartz took over the editor's desk for Batman and Detective Comics. Schwartz set about trimming the Batman family substantially, getting rid of Kathy, Vicki, Betty, Ace the Bathound, Bat-Mite and (temporarily) Alfred.

Before moving on to the New Look, I should mention two other aspects to Batwoman's relationship with Batman. First, Alfred became a writer in the early 1960s, and typed out a few adventures of Batman II (Dick Grayson) and Robin II (Bruce Wayne, Jr.). In those stories Alfred had Bruce and Kathy married and retired from crime-fighting. Second, in Detective #311, #318, and #325, Batman faces the Cat-Man, who makes an effort to woo Batwoman over to his side, with an accurate, if cruel assessment of her chances with the Caped Crusader:


Coming Soon: The other Silver Age love interests!