Batwoman: 1950's Feminist

Bloggified by Jake on Sunday, July 13, 2008

Batwoman was first introduced in 1956, two whole years before Supergirl made her debut. For the first decade or so, Supergirl stories consisted largely of Superman forcing her to live in secrecy and crushing her self-esteem by pointing out everything she did wrong while everyone else in the DC Universe openly lamented that she wasn't Superman. Now consider that World's Finest #90 is five years less enlightened than those linked panels and you'll get a feel for the feminist tome known as "The Super-Batwoman."

The elaborate set up for a millionaire heiress to don her bright yellow jumpsuit and be endowed with flight, superstrength, and all of Superman's other powers begins when a crook named Elton Craig escapes prison after boasting to other inmates that he has a superpower capsule hidden someone on the outside. Where does one get a pill that allows one to go toe to toe with Superman?

Why from Superman's dad, of course.

Yes, even though the planet was blown into billions of pieces, somehow these pills survived and happened to land near the city Jor-El's son would one day call home as an adult.

So Superman flies to Craig's old hideout. Batman hears about the escape and jumps into the Batmobile with Robin and heads for Craig's old hideout. Kathy Kane also hears the news report and decides that even though Batman ordered her never to don her canary yellow tights with bright red accoutrement that just scream "bat," she's going to hop on her motorcycle and lend a hand over at Craig's old hideout.
Stupid girl! The world's greatest detective was able to deduce your true identity, so you're worthless! Not having read the previous Batwoman story in which Batman figures out her secret identity, I can't be certain how the man whose detective skills are so far above all his peers that he's headlined 800 or so issues of Detective Comics figured out Batwoman was Kathy Kane. However, based on my knowledge of other Silver Age Batman books, I'm going to guess either she accidentally drank a truth serum, a circus elephant pulled off her mask during the climactic arrest of some bad guys, or some aliens abducted Batman and from the bridge of their ship he was able to spy on Kathy Kane's boudoir while she changed into her costume.

Whatever the case, I can almost certainly say Batman's discovery should in no way indicate Kathy Kane is any more or less competent than any other costumed superhero Still, without a word of protest, Kathy heads back home to mope around the house in a ratty old robe, slippers, and curlers while eating a whole carton of chocolate ice cream.

Along the way, though, she passes an old chemical factory that's full of huge lead tanks. So while Batman, Robin, and Superman lean against a tree waiting for Craig to show up at his old safehouse, Batwoman checks out the one place within five miles that someone would be able to hide something from someone else who had x-ray vision, and, sure enough, she finds Elton Craig digging up the superpower capsule from beneath a several ton lead chemical tank.

She snatches away the capsule, making arresting him much, much easier... not that apprehending the dangerous criminal while the titular "world's greatest" superheroes twiddled their thumbs at the single most obvious place an escaped convict could go hoping he just happened to be stupid enough to go there would earn her any respect.
Yeah, you stupid girl! Just because you proved yourself more adept at doing our jobs than all three of us were put together doesn't mean anything. That was just one time! What? What do you mean "like that one time I discovered your secret identity through sheer luck"? No, it's nothing like that. That gust of wind blew your mask off because I'm such a skillful detective!

Batman and Superman, who regularly drag a green-pantie-clad teenage boy along with them to gunfights, lecture Batwoman on responsibility, demanding the now-invulnerable Kathy Kane go home and hide in her basement lest she hurt herself. Fed up with their typical 1950's macho bravado, Batwoman declares she will turn the tables on them, proving her competence by using her superpowers to discover their secret identities.

Unfortunately, when she uses her x-ray vision to look through Batman and Robin's masks, she finds Superman has lined them with lead at Batman's suggestion upon learning Batwoman had superpowers. So instead of using any of the other powers from the encyclopedic list of abilities writers granted Superman in the 1950's and 60's--grabbing their masks off their faces with superspeed, blowing their masks off with superbreath, setting their masks on fire with heat vision... on more than one occasion, Superman used super-hypnosis!--Batwoman just let's Superman laugh derisively in her face about how stupid she is to have fallen for the old lead mask trick.
And so the next 23-and-a-half hours are spent largely with Batwoman hovering in the sky slightly behind our heroes, waiting for them to go home or to chance their outfits or do anything else that might give away their identities. But the men have a plan, which is good because women are too stupid to make plans. All they can do is follow men around and hope answers fall into their laps and Superman isn't about to give Kathy Kane the first inkling of who he really is.
General rule of thumb when trying to hide your true identity from someone with superhearing: Don't blurt out your true identity in casual conversation. Exceptions to this rule include when the person with superhearing is a woman in the 1950's and will most likely be using her superhearing to eavesdrop on a neighbor's gossipy phone call or her soap operas. In that case, feel free to shout "My name is Clark Kent" loud enough to be heard over a jet turbine engine while you are flying away from the listener.

After the Dynamic Duo and Superman split up, Batwoman follows the Batmobile. Fortunately for the Caped Crusaders, there's a fire in a skyscraper and Batwoman decides to help, giving them ample time to hide inside a battery factory.
Batwoman determines the names of the owner of the mansion above the Batcave and moves on to investigate Superman's true identity.

She joins him on his way to save the cleverly named town of Mountainville from an avalanche, then follows him around waiting for him to go back to work. Since he can't outfly her, he decides he can scare her away. After all, she's just a stupid, scaredy girl.
Not being able to frighten the invulnerable Batwoman with thunder or explosions... and why would anyone think that falling over Niagara Falls would be frightening to someone who can fly! I'm sorry, Superman, but if this is the best you can come up with, I fail to see how Lex Luthor doesn't have your Kryptonite-riddled corpse hanging on the wall of his penthouse suite.

Of course, Superman's attempts to scare Batwoman aren't nearly as insulting as the fact he finally succeeds.
Once inside the house, Superman burrows underground to get away, but Batwoman tracks him with her superhearing. Then she reveals that her real plan was to keep him away from his office so long that she can now go back to the Daily Planet building and see who's been gone most of the day.

But when she arrives, Clark Kent is at his desk. So Kathy leaps out the window... just as her superpowers wear off. Superman catches her and Bruce Wayne, who was disguised as Clark Kent, joins him at street level to break the bad news to Batwoman.

The Batcave she found wasn't real. Instead, Superman excavated a new Batcave underneath a mansion other than Wayne Manor and shielded the real Batcave with lead. So just in case Batwoman felt Superman, Batman, and Robin had the least bit of respect for her... ZING!
I can only assume Batman's word bubble was too small for the letterer to fit in all the original scripted text.

0 sarcastic replies:

Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom)