This post continues our celebration of Batman’s 75th anniversary with a spotlight on the Gotham Gals.
Busybody Aunt Harriet was introduced in the New Look Era of Batman to address a ridiculous idea : that the Wayne household was a model of gay living designed to “seduce the innocent”, to cop a cliche. That’s a “joke” that carries on into the 21st century. Gareth Roberts stooped to giving Rose Tyler a gag about it in the first-ever Ninth Doctor strip, The Love Invasion.
Aunt Harriet only appeared in the comics, off and on, for about four years but she had a very significant presence on tv. Ironically though, many of the other female figures in the tv show could be read with a queer subtext. None more so than this bevy of grotesque, domineering Bat-villainesses…
The first trio are Zelda the Great, escape artist and stage magician; Ma Parker, criminal matriarch modelled on Ma-ma-ma Barker; Marsha, Queen of Diamonds, who used love potions and teamed up with the Penguin. I wouldn’t care if they never troubled the Bat-verse again.
More intresting are Black Widow( no relation) a butch bank robber and uniquely a senior citizen criminal; The Siren, mind-controlling chanteuse aka Lorelei Circe- uniquely a tv Bat-foe with super powers; Olga, Queen of the Cossacks, rightful heir to the Bessarovian throne and consort to Egghead. ( Played by Anne Baxter aka Zelda)
The final three are far less memorable-Nora Clavicle, militant womens rights activist; Dr. Cassandra Spellcraft, alchemist and occultist; Minerva, a villainous spa-owner. However, I expect some of these females to retrun in the pages of Batman ’66. We’ll check on that in the summer…
Now, what might a Bronze Age sequel to Batman 208′s catalogue of the women in the Darknight Detective’s life look like?
Ruby Ryder: femme fatale and business rival to Bruce Wayne, long-forgotten Ruby bewitched Plastic Man and starred in four Bob Haney tales. I like the idea of a female industrialist (complete with monogrammed belt) competing with Wayne- wonder if she’s any relation to Jack Ryder, the Creeper?
Talia al Ghul: the Daughter of the Demon, Talia is a homage to Fah Lo Suee, the daughter of Fu Manchu. An amoral but lovestruck beauty in her earliest appearances, Talia became the mother- and ultimately, the slayer- of Bruce Wayne’s son Damian. She was the mastermind behind Leviathan in Batman Inc and killed by Kathy Kane. Grant Morrison’s ruthless super-terrorist resembles the screen version played by Marion Cottilard.
Lady Shiva: this assassin and martial artist debuted in 1975′s Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter. However, she was folded into the Bat-Verse in the 90s.
Leslie Thompkins: lady doctor who acted as parent figure for orphaned Bruce Wayne. Later a protector of street girls and addicts, who fell out with Batman in the worst way.
Duela Dent: introduced in Robin’s Batman Family series, the wacky Joker’s Daughter had a bizarre MO of impersonating villains’ children. Never actually battling Batsy (to my knowledge) Duela joined the original Teen Titans as a new Harlequin but was hadndwaved away by Marv Wolfman at Donna Troy’s wedding.
Other versions have come and gone but Duela’s legacy carries on in the form of Harley Quinn- of whom, more next time.
Silver St. Cloud: sultry Silver, socialite and events planner discovered Batman’s secret identity in the legendary Englehart/Rogers run of Detective.
The Huntress: The daughter of the E-2 Batman and Catwoman, Paul Levitz’s “deadliest crimefighter ever imagined” made her debut as a lithe and shadowy powerhouse in the JSA.
She graduated to her own strip, first in Batman Family and then as an enduring and entertaining back-up in Wonder Woman. She had a close friendship with the pneumatic Power Girl and a memorable confrontation with the Joker.
Frustratingly, the well-rounded and fascinating Helena was a victim of the Crisis but was renewed as a Mafia princess in the late 80s. Her hard-edged vigilante ethos got that version kicked out of Morrison’s JLA.
The E-2 version was revived in the New 52 , this time with Power Girl in a buddy book, but still wearing the Mafia version’s huge, unsubtle crucifix.
Julia Remarque: Bruce had a dalliance quite close to home with Julia: Alfred the butler’s daughter with wartime resistance fighter Mlle. Marie.
Nocturna: burglar and balloonist with bleached skin, Natalia Knight was also the adoptive parent of Jason Todd, the wayward second Robin. The pseudo-vampire was a glamorous, Gothic foe.
Next time, we’ll look at the First Ladies of Gotham from the Crisis on Infinite Earths to the present day.
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