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 handwaved 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.
All images presumed copyright of their respective owners