In the mid-1950s, Batman and also Robin comics had a tried-and-true formula: The Dynamic Duo conference the Joker/Penguin/Catwoman, slug it out v Gotham City’s many fiendish villains, conserve the day, and retire to stately Wayne Manor for part well-earned under time. That an easy rhythm dictated the adventures that the Caped Crusaders because Robin was presented in 1940, however in July 1956 reader were wham-pow-zapped by a colorful, ravishing new addition come the Bat-family.

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Batwoman, announced top top the cover of Detective Comics 223, rocked the Batcave’s status quo. Below was a major addition to Gotham’s ranks, and also she was capable of besting Batman and Robin in ~ the superhero game. Yet the female superhero’s come wasn’t just around spicing up Batman and also Robin’s routine; that was additionally intended to brief circuit the viewed subtext that the Dark Knight and also Boy Wonder shared more than an interest in punching out bad guys.

In 1954, German psychiatrist Fredric Wertham’s book Seduction of the Innocent gripped America. The nation was in the middle of a 10-cent panic, paralyzed with are afraid that lurid comics—not just superhero tales, but pulpy romances, war stories, westerns, horror and also sci-fi books—were corrupting the nation’s kids with delusions of grandeur and also fantasies of depraved violence. (EC Comics’ Crime SuspenStories 22, indigenous April/May 1954 featured a guy holding a bloody axe and a woman’s severed head as the human body lay in the background.)

Wertham and also his book told parents and also other agents of conformity that, yes, comic publications were undoubtedly rotting adolescents’ moral, emotional, spiritual and also sexual well-being. His dubious cases were later displayed as coming from falsified research, however at the time they landing forcefully, especially when it concerned superheroes. Superman, the most famous comic publication hero of the time, was fascist. And also in the dynamic between Batman and also Robin, Wertham observed “a great dream of 2 homosexuals life together.”

For the industry generally, Seduction that the Innocent brought about the self-censoring Comics password Authority, to keep the government from emotional books. And also when it came especially to do Batman “safe,” national Comics (the predecessor to DC Comics) chose he required a love interest—and Batwoman to be born.


Bob Kane, who produced the comic piece character Batman, posing with some of his original drawings of Batman, Robin and Batwoman, in 1979. (Credit: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

Kathy Kane, a optimal circus acrobat and also stunt motorcyclist, yearned to follow in Batman’s crime-fighting bootsteps. She gained her chance after inheriting a huge fortune, i beg your pardon she used to stock she satchel of gadgets—sneezing-powder powder puff, charm bracelets that twin as handcuffs, tear gas perfume. She even had her own Batcave, concealed in an abandoned mine under her estate. After she 1956 debut, Batwoman ended up being a Bat-family regular through the ‘50s and early ‘60s; she niece, Betty Kane, even came to be the original Bat-Girl—introduced in 1961, changed by Barbara Gordon in 1967—giving Robin his very own heterosexual love interest.

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But if Batwoman served her purpose—to straighten up Bruce Wayne and also Dick Grayson—she to be perhaps much more transgressive than Batman and also Robin ever before were. 3 years ~ Marlon Brando set the design template for leather-clad biker rebellion in The Wild One and practically a decade before The Shangri-Las immortalized the “Leader the the Pack,” Kathy Kane—a solitary woman in an era characterized by shackling females to marriage and kitchens—cruised Gotham ~ above a motorcycle, busting negative guys in a skin-tight bodysuit. She to be a brainy, beautiful badass, and also Bruce Wayne—and Batman fans—couldn’t get enough.