The Shadow of the Bat grows ever longer! This week, the world discovered that Javicia Leslie will be playing Ryan Wilder, heir to the mantle of TV’s Batwoman in its forthcoming second season. What happened to the show's original Batwoman, Kate Kane? That remains a mystery. What we can say, however, is that this isn’t the first time the title of Batwoman has been handed off to a new, exciting unknown. In the 1950s, Silver Age love interest Kathy Kane donned a yellow jumpsuit and red bat-handbag, calling herself Batwoman in pursuit of thrills and the Caped Crusader’s heart. The 2003 film Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman introduced not one, but three new identities for the mysterious new crimefighter in Gotham City: mafia princess Kathy Duquesne, WayneTech employee Rocky Ballantine, and GCPD Detective Sonia Alcana, all of whom traded off the identity every night.
Even after the scarlet starlet we know as Batman’s cousin Kate Kane took up the name, Batwoman was reinvented as antiheroine Katrina Moldoff for a 2010 episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. So don’t fear the change: your new favorite character may be just around the corner. As followers of Stargirl know well by now, legacy is the cornerstone of the DC Universe, as heroes inspire new generations to continue on in their name, just as they inspire us all. To illustrate that, here are ten of the proudest legacies in DC history.
10. DOCTOR FATE
One of many brainchildren of DC’s ambitious but often forgotten “DCYOU” line-wide initiative of 2015, Khalid Nassour distinguishes himself from previous wearers of the helm of fate in one important way: he’s an actual doctor. (OK, fine… he’s a medical student.) No, really, the distinction is that like many artifact-based heroes, the mantle of Doctor Fate has traditionally been the purview of some intrepid white American explorer looting the ancient treasures of a foreign nation. Egyptian-American Khalid Nassour, unlike his predecessors, was directly chosen by the gods of his ancestors to represent their ongoing concerns in the world of man. By invoking Khalid’s cultural connection to the helm’s Egyptian origins, this med student has survived Rebirth and beyond to continue on as the primary Doctor Fate in Justice League Dark.
9. BRAINIAC 5
Hardware upgrades are a form of legacy, to be sure. The phone you may be reading this on was probably descended from a chunky music player with a click wheel. But of all the upcycling in the technological world, there’s no more awe-inspiring upgrade than a switch from villain to hero. Unlike his ancestral enemy of Superman, Brainiac 5 pursues knowledge on behalf of the Legion of Super-Heroes as one of their most beloved members. It goes to show that on a long enough time scale, any legacy may eventually be redeemed. By the 31st century, the Brainiac homeworld of Colu is as associated with intelligence as they are with heroism.
Michael Holt never knew the original Mister Terrific. But like Terry Sloane, he had a natural aptitude at a young age for meeting any mental or physical challenge which came his way, instantly adapting new information and techniques to his impressive repertoire. But despite his skills, Holt’s life was beset by tragedy as a series of accidents took away everyone he loved. When he was at his lowest point, he was visited by The Spectre, and told Sloane’s inspiring story. Luckily, the man we now know as Mister Terrific proved to be as adaptable emotionally as he was at everything else, and took Sloane’s example to heart. Who among us who has been inspired by stories of the world’s greatest heroes can’t relate?
7. THE ATOM
When your power is shrinking to submolecular size, it’s quite easy to get in over your head. But where Professor Ray Palmer usually stuck to Silver Age science problems, his young teacher’s aide Ryan Choi had to deal all too often with a collision of his atomic-sized world and his very human one. When Ryan shows up to assist Professor Palmer only to find him vanished into the Microverse, Ryan finds himself entrusted with his would-be mentor’s greatest responsibility: the mantle of The Atom. Since then, Ryan has grown into a capable, heroic Atom in his own right, and has earned the right to call Ray his equal.
6. GREEN ARROW
Oliver Queen’s freewheeling, devil-may-care days before his time on the island which forged him into the Emerald Archer were always bound to catch up with him. Such was the case when he discovered Connor Hawke, the son he never knew he had, living in a Buddhist ashram, studying the art of archery as a meditative exercise. Though Connor longed to learn more about his estranged father, even idolizing Green Arrow without initially making the connection between the two similarly-goateed figures, Ollie never seemed to have time for his first born--until a plane explosion severed Green Arrow’s mortal coil. Deprived of the chance to know him better, Connor chased his departed father’s legacy by walking a few miles in his green boots. And by the time Ollie finally resurrected, as heroes do, he met a son he could finally understand.
If you’re watching Stargirl on DC Universe, you know that Courtney Whitmore is far more than a mere sequel to the Star-Spangled Kid. As Stargirl, Courtney is the torchbearer for an entirely new generation of heroes, connecting the Golden Age of heroism to the modern day in an unbroken chain of continuity. With the hard-won blessing of her stepfather, the original Stripesy, and the Cosmic Staff of her predecessor as Starman, Jack Knight, Courtney carries on the spirit of a multitude of heroes, a living testament to the impact we all can have on the generations that follow us.
Symbols have power. On any Earth, there are few more powerful than the symbol of the Bat, emblazoned like a promise upon the night sky. More than an instrument of fear, the bat represents a sense of justice; the idea that no matter how dark the world seems, someone or something is fighting to make it better. And to some, it represents a calling. Nobody who has ever worn the Bat has needed it more than Cassandra Cain. Born to become the ultimate weapon, Cass was raised with no notion of any other life, without even the words to ask for it. And yet, even so, she chose another path. As the Batgirls before and after her have also shown, legacy isn’t always something you inherit: it’s something you choose. Cassandra Cain was not born to be Batgirl. She was not chosen by the Dark Knight. She became a Bat, and she will always be a Bat, because she wanted it.
The legacy of Green Lantern began in 1940, with an oath and a magic ring. Two decades later, it was an idea that became as big as the universe. Though unrelated to the original Green Lantern, Hal Jordan used the same tools to accomplish the same mission: to spread the light of good in an ocean of dark. Joining him: thousands of Green Lanterns from every sector of the universe, all fighting for a universal cause of peace and harmony. The proliferation, the utter ubiquity, of heroes who call themselves Green Lantern has changed the game forever. Legacy isn’t something that’s passed down from one person to the next -- it can be a movement, a cause supported by legions of those inspired by the ones who came before them. It doesn’t matter how many there are, ANYONE can be a Green Lantern. Which means you can be any kind of hero you want to be.
There’s no more literal example about how comics can affect us than Barry Allen. Though his prominence in the DC Universe has led many to think of him as the one true Flash, it’s important to remember he wasn’t the first: that was Jay Garrick, the Mercury-helmed speedster of the Golden Age. But rather than sidekick or study under his forebear, a young Barry was inspired to use his newfound abilities for good by a Flash comic book. Since then, The Flash has always been about legacy, in all the ways it can possibly be spread. Through mentorship, through friendship, through love, through family. Of all the super-teams in the DCU, there’s no stronger bond than the one shared by those united in the Speed Force. Even across realities, their legacy is a lightning rod which always keeps them coming back.
1. THE ROBINS
Whether it’s Dick, Jason, Carrie, Tim, Stephanie, Damian, or Duke, everyone has a favorite Robin. For most, Robin is a transitional phase -- an identity young heroes adopt on the way to figuring out who they really are. But it’s also the very first role in establishing the DC Universe’s long history of legacy, by providing Batman with a young partner who might one day continue his mission. Everyone who’s ever served under Batman’s cowl has contemplated what it would be like to wear it. Some have even realized it, for a time. But even more than Batman’s good soldiers, the Robins will always be brothers and sisters in arms, knowing fully what it means to grow up in the pursuit of justice.