In the 10 years between her “introduction” in Secret Origins Annual #3 and her bit part in the JLA/Titans miniseries in 1999, Bette Kane made a whopping five appearances in the DCU. That’s once every two years, and it was usually a fleeting glimpse of her amongst a larger superhero crowd.
JLA/Titans wasn’t much different – it was pretty jam-packed with Titans and Leaguers – but it did manage to showcase Bette’s obsession with Robin by portraying her as an absurdly horny cartoon:
In the following issue she sums up Nightwing’s appeal by saying, “It’s his butt!” Incidentally, 1999 was the height of Spice Girls girl-power pseudo-feminism, so maybe the writers of JLA/Titans thought they being progressive. Though Phil Jiminez and Devin Grayson shared writing duties, I’m going to guess that this characterization/dialogue was Grayson’s doing (see her subsequent 20-issue run on The Titans for further evidence of how completely off-the-mark her writing could be).
A year later, Titan veteran Beast Boy would get his own four-issue mini, in which Bette was prominently featured. At first, it was business as usual, with Bette’s crush wavering somewhere between awkward and overbearing, until Nightwing tells her he’s just not that into her (and that she shouldn’t quit her day job):
But the Beast Boy mini was actually a tale of redemption for Bette Kane. She decided she was so over that loser Dick Grayson – what was she thinking? – and that adventuring would totes be her number-one priority from now on:
Which is all well and good, but…take a close look at her costume. Notice anything? That torso’s almost like a gold-and-red version of Nightwing’s isn’t it? No? Maybe not? Maybe it’s a coincidence.
A few years later, Flamebird would be among the Titans called to battle Superboy-Prime during Infinite Crisis. At the same time, Earth-2 Superman was busy recreating his adopted homeworld in the hopes it would help revive his dying wife Lois, an act that transported all of the Earth-2 heroes back to their proper universe. Among them was…Bette Kane?
Yeah…why did you go there, Bette? DC had taken great pains to assure us you were a new, different character from Betty Kane, and even if you were Betty Kane, it wouldn’t matter because Bat-Girl was never part of Earth-2. She never appeared in Earth-2 stories and Betty/Bette Kane was from Earth-1 before and after Crisis on Infinite Earths. So this is confusing.
A little while after this, a new Batwoman was introduced in the year-long weekly series 52. While it was clear this was a new take on the character – she’s redheaded and a lesbian, whereas her predecessor was brunette and desperately heterosexual – her name is Kate Kane. The previous Batwoman was named Kathy Kane. Gumming up the works is the fact that Kate’s stepmother is named Catherine Kane (though Catherine, it’s pointed out, is not the previous Batwoman). Kate, to the delight of nostalgic fans, was revealed to be the cousin of none other than Bette Kane. So Batwoman and Bat-Girl, er, Flamebird, were together again after 40 years! Sort of! And then Grant Morrison decided to do this:
Yes, that’s Kate Kane Batwoman fighting a Kathy Kane Batwoman imposter in the pages of Batman Incorporated. Now, the only way for Earth-2 Bette Kane to somehow function as cousin to Earth-1 Kate Kane would be to pretend Kathy Kane had never existed. Just never mention her. Never even hint that she existed in any way, shape, or form, or the whole house of cards would come tumbling down. But…there she is.
How is Kate Kane cousin to Bette Kane? Is Kate Kane from Earth-2? Is this Bette Kane actually from Earth-1? An Earth-1 where the Kathy Kane Batwoman existed but Betty Kane Bat-Girl didn’t? Was the Infinite Crisis Earth-2 Flamebird eaten by wolves, necessitating an Earth-1 replacement? And how many Kane women have the same goddamn name? I should also mention that Kate Kane has a twin sister named Elizabeth “Beth” Kane.
Still, the new version of Flamebird that debuted alongside Batwoman was pretty badass:
Bette convinces Kate to train her in the deadly art of redhead military lesbian asskick-fu, with the end goal being that the cousins would fight alongside each other on the streets of Gotham City. Kate’s all for it, until she realizes, in Batwoman #3, that things are dangerous enough for her, let alone her semi-sheltered cousin. Kate gives Bette a Nightwing-style dressing-down, and Bette responds the same way she did before: by ignoring the advice she’s been given, designing a new costume, and rebelliously leaping into the fray:
At least that one aspect of Bette Kane’s character is consistent.
UPDATE: I somehow missed the fact that the wife of Bob Kane, long credited as Batman’s creator despite ample evidence to the contrary, was also named Elizabeth Kane. Yikes.