The CW shocked the internet (well maybe not shocked) the other day with the announcement that Batwoman was getting her own TV series. This is exciting news for a number of reasons: First it will be the first time the lead hero is openly gay, second it's a Bat-family TV series which has not been done (Gotham technically doesn't count as Batman is not in it), and third it's another step forward in the same vein as Supergirl and Jessica Jones to have a female led series, both in front of and behind the camera.
The Kate Kane version of Batwoman is a relatively new addition to DC Comics. Sure there have been Batwomen in the past, and more famously Batgirls, but Kate is different. She's a veteran, Bruce Wayne's cousin, and already primed for leadership due to harsh training by her father, Colonel Jacob Kane. She's interesting to me because she simultaneously stands apart from the rest of the Bat-family and yet is one of two characters (the other of course being Damian Wayne) that is actually blood-related to Batman. Literally any of the Bat-family members could lead a compelling and exciting TV series but since Greg Berlanti and co. have decided to go with Batwoman, I want to offer some unsolicited advice and what I think could make it a fantastic TV show.
LEARN FROM THAT OTHER VET'S SHOW
There's plenty of drama to be mined with a television show about a war vet. You know what hasn't been done yet? A show about a lesbian that was dishonorably discharged from the military suffering from PTSD. THAT is brand new territory for prime time television to cover and the producers would be remiss to overlook that in favor of more superheroics (although that's obviously important and we'll come back to that).
The Punisher on Netflix has been regarded as one of the best television stories about veterans suffering from PTSD. It's a touchy subject that maybe people don't want to talk about or even hear about but with thousands of vets taking their lives every year from trauma associated with war, I think it's important to showcase what it's like for them and how they can cope. In the comics, when Kate was discharged she spent her nights partying, getting drunk/high, and other such self destructive behaviors. It wasn't until she was rescued by Batman that she decided to get her life back on track and become Batwoman to save Gotham City.
Speaking of touchy subjects . . . Yes ladies and gentlemen, Kate Kane AKA Batwoman is gay. While I don't think her sexuality defines her, it is a part of her character and will be addressed going forward. So far, the CW has done an excellent job of showcasing out-gay characters such as Curtis Holt/Mr. Terrific, Alex Danvers, Sara Lance, Anissa Pierce/Thunder to name a few. During Supergirl's second season, Kara's sister Alex went a journey of self discovery and came out of the closet. It was one of the best stories of the entire series because it was portrayed as realistically as possible. Alex's journey was scary for her and she was worried about alienating herself from her family and friends. Ultimately, they all embraced her new status quo. Being gay didn't change anything about Alex other than the dates she might bring to family dinners or game nights. These types of experiences are not as unique as you would think. It's a story that feels unique to the individual because it's so terrifying and ostracizing but the amazing truth is that there are so many people out there that can relate to that experience. To have their story told in a prime time, action packed superhero television series is so exciting. Comic books and science fiction are great at telling exciting stories cleverly disguised as social and political issues. And sometimes the stories aren't disguised. They are blatantly stated for the world to see. Even in today's more accepting society, it's still a bold statement to make and I'm proud of the CW for embracing it with these wonderful characters.
These days I fear that the word "feminism" is sometimes also a touchy subject. True feminism is all about equal rights, which of course is admirable. Unfortunately, like any social movement, there are bad apples that give the whole group a bad name. I think it's great that we have heroes like Supergirl, White Canary, Vixen, Black Canary, and now Batwoman that can stand shoulder to shoulder next to Green Arrow, the Flash, and the other Legends. I'm not saying that I want Kate to be marching down the street in every other episode in protest for women's rights. I don't think that's a bad thing, I just think the actions of the character speak loud enough. She's been trained in combat by both the military and Batman. Basically - she's someone you don't want to mess with. I think it's important not just for little girls that will watch the show but for boys too. They need to see that things like "fight like a girl" isn't an insult but a compliment. I mean, if anyone can fight like Batwoman they deserved to be praised . . . and maybe feared a little.
SHADOW OF THE BAT
Much like Supergirl, Batwoman will have to work to get out of the shadow of her more famous cousin. In the comics, it's easy enough. She can be in her own world away from his activities and have her own adventures. On TV though, with a much larger audience, let's just say there's a reason Superman's name came up more than a few times during the first season of Supergirl. It's not to say that Kate can't handle her own, it's just that with the BAT in the title, audiences automatically expect a Bat-cameo. Personally, I'm all for Batman to show up at some point down the line, but it's important for Batwoman to find her own voice. One of the issues I had with Supergirl and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. during their first seasons was that there were too many references, winks, and downright name dropping of Superman and the Avengers. Batwoman wouldn't exist (literally) without Batman and Agents wouldn't have been popular without the Marvel brand attached. So yes, a reference and acknowledgment is fine, but you're on your own now kid. You gotta find your voice and be your own hero. Eventually, Supergirl and Agents did just that. Supergirl went the entire season three without needing a guest appearance or even much reference to Superman. Truthfully, I barely noticed because I was so excited to see Kara and her heroics.
SYMBOL OF HOPE
In The Dark Knight Batman says to Harvey Dent, "You're the symbol of hope I could never be." To me, if they have any reference to Batman it should be that. Kate is a very different type of hero than Batman. She doesn't have to stay in the shadows and strike fear in the hearts of criminals. She stands up tall in the light in front of them. Batman's goal is to inspire the people of Gotham and that is shown perfectly with Batwoman. After all, she's proof that he is an inspiration. But unlike Batman, she can have a more gentle touch with the public. I'm not saying she's gonna be going to public events like Adam West's Batman did (and please God no), but she will be a more, for lack of a better word, approachable hero for the people of Gotham to admire. Of course, like Bruce, she has her inner demons (such as the PTSD we discussed earlier) but she's much more than just a female Batman. That would not be a compelling story, otherwise why not just do a Batman show? Having the star be Kate means she can lead in a way that he can't.
Batman has the best Rogues Gallery in all of comic books and if you disagree I'm prepared to fight you on this. But I'm pretty confident you will agree. Gotham has done a really great job of showcasing a lot of Batman's wonderful, wacky, and evil adversaries. As much as I would love to see Batwoman take on Clayface, the Riddler, Poison Ivy, and even the Joker, I think it's best if the producers focus on the lesser used Bat-villains and Kate's own enemies from her comic book series. Again, the worst thing the show can do is treat it like "a female Batman series". She has to be more than that. I wouldn't mind if she had a female Joker (of sorts) to fight but it wouldn't be very interesting if all the villains were just gender-bent to fit the female Batman. Granted, I'm not worried and more often than not, the producers have proven that they know how to make exciting and interesting villains for our heroes to fight. Kate only has about an eighth of the comic book history that Batman has, but she's still a vigilante in Gotham and has made plenty of enemies.
Speaking of . . .
LIKE FATHER LIKE DAUGHTER
One of the more recent, and best, stories to come out is how ex-Colonel Jacob Kane tried to make a Bat-army of his own. These were military trained men and women that were also trained in stock news footage of Batman and his allies. Their goal was to take the concept of Batman and weaponize it. Technically speaking, that's pretty bad ass, but then again, not everyone is going to harness the skills of Batman for good. Jacob might have the best intentions but it puts him in direct conflict with his daughter. Jacob's plan is basically "you're either with us or against us cuz this is happening either way." For a strong, independent woman that's not exactly the thing she wants to hear, even if it is coming from her father that she loves very much. One of the best subplots throughout all of the CW shows is that of legacy and family. There's the family you are born with and the family you make. In the case of the Bat-family they have all come together through some sort of tragedy and made each other their own adopted family. I have no doubt that Kate's story will touch upon that in her series. Kate's legacy and family is compelling enough for a great series.
If there's one thing the CW shows love to do, and have done well, is build a legacy and partners for their heroes. Seeing characters like Spoiler/Stephanie Brown, Orphan/Cassandra Cain, or even Barbara Gordon herself would be super exciting for longtime Bat-fans that have been craving for more of the extended Bat-family to get their due on screen. Personally, one of my favorite comic book series of all time was when Stephanie Brown was Batgirl. If she got to play some role during Batwoman I would be over the moon excited about that.
Either way it's safe to say that Kate will definitely be getting back up in some way whether that's from Renee Montoya either as a cop or as the Question or any other random characters that the producers can dig up from the DC archives. I mean, Cisco Ramon wasn't a Flash supporting character in the comic books but that didn't stop them from putting him front and center for a heroic journey on The Flash. It will definitely be exciting to see who the producers choose to give a new spotlight to next to Kate.
I really can't stress enough how exciting this announcement is. I knew we would be in for a treat when Stephen Amell first announced that Batwoman would make her debut during this upcoming year's crossover event, but I didn't think we'd actually get a full-fledged spin off!
Kate is a perfect fit for the already diverse and ever expanding DC-CW universe. I think the show will definitely play up the BAT part of her name but, if done right, it won't be long before people are saying, "You mean there's a BatMAN too?" Ok ok maybe that's a stretch! But given the producers track record for telling relevant, compelling, and all around incredible stories, I'm not worried. Time to start the countdown!
Till Next Time!
JJ - The Comic Junkie!