Ruby Rose set to soar as gay Batwoman
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Ruby Rose set to soar as gay Batwoman

Australian actress Ruby Rose is to join the pantheon of American TV superheroes as Batwoman.

US studio Warner Bros will feature the character in a "crossover" event linking several programs and then, if she proves popular with audiences, spin her off into her own weekly television series.

There have been rumours for some time that Rose, whose credits include a role in Orange is the New Black, was in the running to play Batwoman.

Australian actress Ruby Rose has been cast as Batwoman.

Australian actress Ruby Rose has been cast as Batwoman.

Photo: AP

Warner Bros, which owns DC Entertainment, the parent company of DC Comics, has now confirmed the casting.

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So who, exactly, is Batwoman? First things first: she's not Batgirl.

The character of Batwoman was first introduced in Detective Comics #233 in 1956 as Katherine (later Kate) Kane, a wealthy Gotham City heiress who, inspired by Batman's heroic deeds, created for herself a superhero alter-ego.

As only a comic book franchise can do, there are actually two Batwoman characters in the current DC Comics "continuity", one which uses the real name Kathy, and the other which uses the real name Kate.

There's a long-winded explanation involving multiple Earths, but we'll spare you.

The Kate Kane iteration of the character, which Rose will play, is a lesbian who professes the Jewish faith and is, in the comic books at least, romantically involved with Gotham City detective Renee Montoya.

Those character notes would make Rose's Batwoman the first gay superhero to take a leading role in a television series.

Confirmation of the casting and character comes just a few weeks after Warner Bros announced at Comic-Con that a transgender superhero named Dream would be added to its Supergirl television series.

A gay Batwoman is, in historical terms at least, an ironic touch in the long-running story of Batman.

In a highly publicised book published in 1964, and titled Seduction of the Innocent, American psychiatrist Fredric Wertham said comic books were dangerous and, amongst other things, suggested that Batman and Robin's relationship was more than platonic.

The character of Batwoman, created two years later, and initially as a romantic interest for Batman, has often been seen as a reaction to that perception.

In comic book terms, Batwoman's story faded away in the mid-1960s and in 1985 was retroactively wiped from the Batman canon.

That twist was part of the so-called Crisis on Infinite Earths and, honestly, if we got into it now we'd be here all day.

It was in that vacuum, and in the wake of the hugely successful Adam West Batman television series in the 1960s, that Batgirl rose to a more prominent position in the Batman canon.

Batwoman returned as a character in DC Comics in 2006.

32-year-old Melbourne-born Rose will make her debut as Batwoman in December as part of a planned "crossover" event, in which the superheroes of multiple television programs will team up.

Though it has not been explicitly stated, artwork released by Warner Bros suggests she will wear the character's signature black and red costume.

The so-called "Arrowverse" includes the programs The Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and DC Legends.

The "crossover" event will see Rose's Batwoman team up with Green Arrow (Stephen Amell), The Flash (Grant Gustin), Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) and the DC Legends, potentially including Atom (Brandon Routh), White Canary (Cathy Loitz), Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell) and John Constantine (Matt Ryan).

Whether she gets her own spin-off television series remains to be seen.

The standalone series is being developed by Caroline Dries in tandem with producer Greg Berlanti who oversees most of the DC Comics television programs for Warner Bros.

Mark Pedowitz, the president of The CW, the US channel which airs the Arrowverse series, said a pilot episode would be filmed at the end of the year, after production on the "crossover" event was finished.

"Whether it goes to series, I cannot tell you," Pedowitz told US media this week.

In Australia, the Arrowverse programs air on Foxtel.

Pedowitz also confirmed that the Arrowverse iteration of the Batwoman character would reside in Gotham City.

If you're a comic book geek, that's a significant detail as it dramatically increases the chances that either Batwoman's own series or the other Arrowverse shows could at some point feature Batman himself.

"There are no plans at this time to have Batman appear," Pedowitz said. But he added it had been established that Batman existed in the Arrowverse as the Green Arrow character had made reference to him previously.

Michael Idato is a Senior Writer based in Los Angeles for The Sydney Morning Herald.