SODA & TELEPATHS

Comics and Culture

5 Things I’d Like to See In the Batwoman TV Show

Ruby Rose as Batwoman

Batwoman is my favorite superhero by default. As a red-headed Jewish lesbian twin who’s a native of — oh, did you think I was talking about Kate Kane? Nope! Representation matters and Greg Rucka’s queer reincarnation of Batman’s beard came on the scene when I was in high school, right when I needed her most. Barring a few details, I could literally see myself on the page, cracking one-liners, winning over ladies, and saving the day. (Also — dancing with werewolves!) Kate has had a rough go of it since her debut in 52, but I’m stoked to see her hit the small screen. We got a hint of what the show could be like in this year’s Legends of the Super Flarrowverse crossover Elseworlds. Now that the pilot has been ordered, here are some of the things I’m hoping for in the upcoming Batwoman show.

Dynamic Visuals

If there’s one thing the Batwoman comic is known for, it’s the innovative page layouts and gorgeous art (except for that Andreyko run. I’ll get into that.) I love the idea of Kate but, to be brutally honest, the writing on her books has left a whole lot to be desired. The two things that bring me back to her are my loyalty to her and the art in the books. I know we’re working with a CW budget here but I’d love for the show to capture the daring experimentation found in the comic.

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Campy Tone

The Batwoman comic has been through a number of identities. When Rucka spun it off from 52, he turned the book into a truly noir detective comic, finding Kate pitting her wits against the Religion of Crime and allying herself with B-movie monsters. JH Williams III followed in this vein, capping his run off with one of my favorite comic book arcs anywhere: a Batwoman/Wonder Woman team-up that culminates in Kate proposing to Maggie. However, Williams and Rucka have something else in common when it comes to Batwoman: they each left DC when they got pushback for leaning into queer themes.

In response to these critiques, DC brought on Marc Andreyko, an openly gay writer. While he’s the person who’s written the most issues of Batwoman, his run on the comic was virulently toxic and I refuse to read anything by him anymore. He made the series into a team book of creepy D-listers (anticipating Justice League Dark), which I enjoyed. However, the main crux of the story was Kate’s relationship with Nocturna, an actual vampire and obvious metaphor for an abusive relationship. It was…poorly handled. It wasn’t so much that Kate was entranced by a vampire so much as it was ham-fisted representation of a sensitive topic that didn’t fit Kate’s character in the slightest. The art degraded accordingly and the final issue looked like something I’d draw while I’m half-asleep.

However, we’ve also seen Marguerite Bennett’s interpretations of Kate in both Bombshells and her own revival of the present-day title. Bombshells!Kate is a matinee hero with a conflicted heart and a satisfying relish for bashing fash. Batwoman!Kate has similar romantic woes, but Bennett shelves the Gothic magic in favor of an international spy story. (Fear not — Kate spends a good chunk of time tripping on Scarecrow’s fear toxin so there’s plenty of weird to savor.)

All of this is to say that Batwoman does not have a clear identity. However, in Elseworlds, we see a Gotham City populated by wealthy couples who drive in armed Humvees and muggers who will rob known murderer Oliver Queen at gunpoint with little urgency. There’s not much separating the bedlam in Arkham from Gotham. And the fight scenes in those episodes were bonkers. Maybe it’s because the crossover episodes somehow always look like they were filmed on a $20 budget, but there was a lot of scenery chewing there. You could practically see the “Pow!” and “Bam!” titlecards from the classic Batman TV series. Honestly, I’d be really into a show that brings that kind of cheekiness into the 21st century in the same way Supergirl has translated the old Wonder Woman show’s energy for today’s audience.

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At Least One Person With Jewish Cultural Competency, Like, Anywhere on Set

There was a whole thing all over Twitter about whether or not the actor cast as Kate should be Jewish themselves. As with many other debates in modern Jewry, this discussion gets really sticky. Jewish people come in many shapes and sizes — not just of Eastern European descent, as is commonly depicted. So I don’t think it’s necessary for whoever was cast to be Jewish. Of course, you could have race-blind casting for Kate but I don’t think that’s something these people are thinking about when advocating for a Jewish actor! Oops!

Secondly, Kate has straight red hair and deathly pale white skin in the comic and, as a redheaded Jew (we are few but mighty!) I’m more bummed that they couldn’t dig up a natural redhead.

That aside, I’ve found the depiction of Jewish characters on the CW shows…lacking. We know that Felicity is Jewish because…she’s funny and says Yiddish words sometimes? Also she occasionally says stuff about Hanukkah. I don’t think this has been adequately covered in the Batwoman comics either — honestly, she’s Jewish because they needed to find someone for that little holiday one-shot Rucka wrote for 52. People engage with Judaism in many different ways — I barely know Hebrew and pretty much never observe holidays. But I have a sense of what works and what doesn’t.

What doesn’t work are Ruby Rose’s giant cross tattoos:

While Marvelous Mrs. Maisel might be the go-to reference, I find the characters to be veering into…caricatures. However, One Day at a Time is a show created by Latinx people about a Cuban-Americana family and I think that’s the model to look at: stories that follow a group of people as they navigate life and draw strength from their culture.

…And Competency With Writing Trauma

Soooo Kate’s been through a lot. In addition to that weird Nocturna storyline that we can pretend just didn’t happen at all, she’s also the survivor of a kidnapping, her mother was murdered by said kidnappers, and she thought her twin sister was dead until she reappeared as her main foil, Black Alice, a Lewis Carroll-spouting cultic leader. Also, she was kicked out of West Point under DADT and wants few things out of life other than to serve and be a part of something greater to herself — and possibly to escape herself, as she struggles with her relationship with alcohol.

The last thing I want to see in this show is trauma porn. Kate has a lot to work through, and watching an anti-hero self-destruct and anguish about it has been done. Obviously we need to see her struggle, and we need to see her not be okay sometimes and thrive at others — that’s how that shit works. But I don’t want to see constant doom and gloom. Legends of Tomorrow, for all its goofiness, does an amazing job of handling its characters with care and sees them throw authentic struggles.

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Let Batwoman Be Batwoman!

One of the things we’ve learned in Elseworlds is that Batman is missing. Actually, it’s pretty much the first thing we learned and really the only thing we’ve learned about Batwoman. Some audition tapes for the pilot leaked on Vimeo, and it appears that finding Batman is going to be an important plot point in the show. The auditions also showed characters referring to shadow figures known as Crows — perhaps a reference to the Parliament of Owls?

What the hell, DC? You’ve already turned Arrow into Batman-with-a-different-name — we truly do not need Batwoman: The Search for Batman. Instead, we’ve got a big ol’ rogue’s gallery that Batwoman will inherit from her cousin. While Batwoman’s bench is a bit thin (see above), this should be an opportunity to introduce the character to a broader audience in the same way Supergirl did — and just pretend that their gentleman counterparts are busy elsewhere. Give me that X-Files meets Arrow show — and keep that flirty energy between Kate and Kara.

An educator and music writer in her native island of Manhattan. Rachel co-hosts the ‘Adobe & Teardrops’ Podcast with Von Cloedt of Americana Rock Mix.
Rachel recently self-published the first issue of her fantasy minicomic ‘Artema.’