The Difference Between Batwoman & Batgirl Matters. A Lot.

PHoto: Courtesy of the CW.
The Arrowverse is growing. On October 6, Batwoman will premiere on the CW and join a world that includes Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow. But, if you aren’t totally familiar with any batty superheroes outside of Batman, the new show might raise some questions. This show is about Batwoman, but isn’t there a Batgirl, too? Are they related? Are they the same person? What’s the deal? 

Who Is Batwoman In The DC Comics?

First, let’s get things straight about the Batwoman who is featured on the new show. Batwoman's real name is Kate Kane, she’s Batman’s cousin, and she’s played by Ruby Rose. Kate steps in as Batwoman to protect Gotham after Batman been missing for three years. As the trailer says, she’s basically “the female Bruce Wayne” down to the fact that his actual Batsuit is tailored to fit her. 
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This version of Batwoman made her comics debut in 2006, according to DC Universe. She’s an open lesbian. She’s Jewish. She attended West Point Academy. Her father is Bruce Wayne’s uncle on his mother's side. This Batwoman was inspired to fight crime after being rescued from a mugger by Batman, but there is also a storyline in the comics that deals with Batman’s disappearance, which clearly inspired the new series. 
But, while this is the most current Batwoman and the one in the new CW show, there were other iterations of Batwoman before this. The original Batwoman was named Kathy Kane, and she was introduced way back in 1956. While Kathy and Kate have similar names, they’re very different from each other. As explained by the Batman Fandom site, Kathy had a romantic interest in Batman, which was the basis of her involvement as a crime fighter. 

Who Is Batgirl In The DC Comics?

In fact, this leads us to Batgirl, because in the comics of that time, Batgirl (introduced in 1961) was Batwoman’s niece, Betty Kane, and she had a crush on Robin. The Batman Fandom page for Batgirl notes that some experts believe that Batwoman and Batgirl were created to refute speculation that Batman and Robin were gay. These versions of Batwoman and Batgirl were not super long-lived, but in comics, there are always rebirths and recreations and multiple timelines, so the characters both went through changes. For instance, there is also a character named Bette Kane, who becomes a superhero named Flamebird (some folks suspect Kate's step-sister may become that superhero later on in the CW series).
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A more recent version of Batgirl is Barbara Gordon. Rather than being related to Batwoman, she’s the daughter of Commissioner Gordon. This Batgirl is a “genius-level hacker and information broker, and an expert martial artist,” according to DC Universe. Barbara has also worked under the name Oracle. There was also a Batgirl named Stephanie Brown, who was the daughter of a villain named Cluemaster.
Another version of Batgirl, Cassandra Cain, is particular relevant right now. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Cassandra is the ward of Barbara Gordon, who takes on the identity of Batgirl. Cassandra will be in the upcoming Birds of Prey movie, but it’s unclear how much the film will delve into the backstory of Cassandra and Barbara. 
As you can see, sometimes Batwoman and Batgirl are related and wooing Batman and Robin together, and sometimes they’re entirely separate members of the Batman Family. The whole thing is pretty confusing considering how iterations there have been, but hey, at least both of their storylines are much more modern these days.

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