Twisted Sister: A History of Beth “Alice” Kane

alice batwoman

A recent Batwoman arc, entitled “The Fall of the House of Kane”—by Marguerite Bennett, Fernando Blanco, and John Rauch—concluded on June 20, 2018 with Batwoman Vol. 3 #16. And at the center of that awesome and fiery arc was Batwoman’s biggest arch-rival, her own flesh-and-blood—twin sister Elizabeth “Beth” Kane aka the super-villain Alice. Much has been said and written about Bruce Wayne’s amazing cousin, Batwoman Katherine “Kate” Kane, but a closer examination of her twisted sister Alice—originally created by Greg Rucka and JH Williams III—proves a bit harder to find. So, let’s take a closer look, shall we?

First off, I should mention the big difference between the Modern Age versions of Kate and Beth Kane versus current iterations (The New 52/New Age aka Rebirth Era). Their relationship (along with their dad Jake’s relationship) to Bruce Wayne was always vague and confusing in the Modern Age. In the Modern Age, Kate and Beth were distant relatives of the original Bat-Woman Kathy Kane, but directly unrelated to Bruce. The New 52 not only made Kate, Beth, and Jake’s places on the family tree crystal clear, but it upgraded their connection to the Waynes as well. Batwoman Vol. 2 #25 (by Marc Andreyko, January 2014) strongly implied that Bruce’s mother Martha Wayne (née Kane) had four siblings: Philip Kane, Jacob “Jake” Kane, Nathan Kane (who was once married to Katherine “Kathy” Webb), and an unnamed sibling that was parent to another cousin, former Bat-Girl Mary Elizabeth “Bette” Kane. In the Golden and Silver Age, Bette was always said to have been the niece of Kathy Webb (used to be “Webster” back then), which always implied an unnamed Kane sibling as her progenitor. Detective Comics #939 (by James Tynion IV, October 2016) confirmed that Jake and Martha were siblings, officially defining Bruce, Kate, and Beth as first cousins.

By the time the New Age/Rebirth Age rolls around in early 2017, we get further details that allow us to fully understand the Wayne-Kane family tree. It was already long established that Elizabeth “Betsy” Kane and Roderick Kane were the patriarch and matriarch of the Kane side of the fam, and there’s no change there for Rebirth. Moving on, in Detective Comics #975 (by Tynion IV, April 2018) and Detective Comics #978 (by Tynion IV, June 2018), it is confirmed that Martha has only three brothers: Jake, Nathan, and Philip (also sometimes spelled “Phillip”). Since there’s no unnamed fourth Kane brother, Bette Kane, while never fully confirmed, is likely Philip’s only daughter (with an unnamed partner). We can further infer this due to hints gleaned from Nightwing Vol. 4 #27 (by Tim Seeley, October 2017), Detective Comics #967 (by Tynion IV, December 2017), and the aforementioned Detective Comics #978. Kate and Beth are the twin daughters of Jake and his wife Gabrielle aka “Gabi.” After Gabi dies, Jake marries Catherine Hamilton. And Uncle Nathan never has any kids, but he does marry Kathy Webb, who takes the Kane surname, becoming Kathy Kane. After divorcing Nathan, Kathy becomes, among many other things, the first Bat-Woman and Bruce’s lover. In any case, the first cousins are Bruce Wayne, Kate Kane, Beth Kane, and Bette Kane. Now that we’ve sorted out the family tree of a tribe that has way too many variations of the same few names (there’s three Katherines and three Elizabeths for crying out loud!), we can move on. We’ll first look at Beth Kane in the Modern Age, where she originally was born.

alice two batwoman batman collin colsher

As fleshed-out in Detective Comics #854-858 (by Rucka, Williams III, and Dave Stewart, August-December 2009) and also later referenced in Tynion IV’s Detective Comics #975 nearly ten years later, Alice’s origins begin at a young age. Army colonel Jake Kane takes a NATO gig and moves his family, including Gabi and the young twins, from Gotham to Brussels, Belgium. There, the Kane family lives happily until becoming the victim of a terrorist kidnapping. Kate, Beth, Gabi, and their chaperone Carol are held for ransom. Jake leads a rescue mission, but it gets botched. Horrific tragedy occurs. Kate is saved, but Gabi is killed and Beth goes missing. (Beth is incorrectly presumed dead.)

Mentally broken, Beth grows into adulthood, but keeps herself hidden from her family. Eventually, she joins The Religion of Crime, becoming the High Madame of the organization. Obsessed with Lewis Carroll, Beth changes her look dramatically, becoming “Alice.” You’d think the DCU already has enough Lewis Carroll-inspired characters (and you’d be right since there’s multiple Mad Hatters and an entire Wonderland Gang of Carroll-inspired villains), but Alice takes it to a whole new level. Modeling herself as an unhinged Steampunk version of Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Beth, upon her debut in Detective Comics #854—and much to the amazement of some fans and chagrin of others—would only speak in actual quotes from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland!

detective 857 batwoman alice

In Detective Comics #854-860 (by Rucka, Williams II, and Stewart, December 2009-February 2010), Batman (Dick Grayson, at the time) introduces himself to Batwoman (Kate Kane) for the first time and they discuss the fact that the Religion of Crime has a new leader: the mysterious Alice. (Note that, in the New 52 and Rebirth Era, Batman isn’t a part of this item.) Batwoman gets debriefed by her father Jake, who also happens to be her mentor and field operations leader. Ready for action, Batwoman infiltrates a high-profile Religion of Crime gathering and confronts Alice. They fight, and Alice drugs Batwoman with a poisoned razor blade. An intervening Kyle Abbot saves Batwoman from Alice. Jake Kane then nurses Batwoman back to health. Not long after, Alice and her Crime cultists kidnap Jake. Eventually, Batwoman and Kyle Abbot save Jake and stop Alice from dropping a deadly chemical payload over Gotham. Batwoman fights Alice aboard an aircraft and the latter does her Darth Vader reveal, telling Kate that she is Beth. But unlike in Empire Strikes Back where Luke falls, the villain falls to her death. (Don’t worry, Alice will be back!) Batwoman takes a blood sample of Alice (which is splattered on her costume) to a DNA testing lab to find out the truth. The results come in positive.

We next see Alice in Batwoman Vol. 2 #17-20 (by Williams III, W Haden Blackman, Stewart, et al, April-July 2013). Williams III graduated from gorgeous art duties to writing as well. In this arc, entitled “This Blood is Thick,” Mr. Bones is now in charge of the US Government’s Department of Extranormal Operations (DEO). Batwoman, now working for Director Bones’ DEO, has just gotten engaged to Maggie Sawyer. Along with her new sidekick Hawkfire (Bette Kane’s new moniker), Batwoman has also just defeated the global criminal organization known as Medusa. Chase and Bones track down a mystical Religion of Crime sarcophagus. Guess who’s inside—and alive and well? Beth! She’s been miraculously resurrected by the Medusa hoodoo. Batwoman Vol. 2 #18-19 continues the story, showing Batwoman and Hawkfire take down Mr. Freeze—with Batman (Bruce) coming to clean up the mess. Batman and Batwoman argue as the former demands Mr. Freeze’s freeze-gun. Batwoman breaks it in two and gives the Dark Knight one of the halves. Later at DEO HQ, Cameron Chase and Bones discuss how their agent, Batwoman, has gotten increasingly more and more disobedient as of late. Hoping to reassert his hegemony, Bones decides it’s time to reveal the ace up his sleeve: the captive Beth. Going in and out of her Alice character, Beth meets with her sister and hugs her in a warm embrace. Bones tells Kate that they can cure Beth (and will release her), but only if she (Batwoman) delivers Batman to them on a silver platter. Batwoman reluctantly agrees. Unknown to all, Bones interest in Batman is a false front for a deeper conspiracy. Bones has mistakenly come to believe that his father is Jake Kane. Despite the fact that Jake is not really his pop, Bones is obsessed with the idea and has come up with a plan to use DEO resources, under the guise of finding out Batman’s secret ID, to get revenge against the Kane Family. From this point onward, the New 52 continuation of “This Blood is Thick” gets a bit screwy due to an unfortunate clash between creators and editorial, which leads to an even more unfortunate dismissal/departure from the title. We’ll address this dirty mess next.

batwoman annual 1

Beth Kane aka Alice’s story continues with the conclusion of the “This Blood is Thick” arc—in Batwoman Vol. 2 #24 (by Williams III, Blackman, Trevor McCarthy, et al, December 2013) and Batwoman Annual #1 (by Marc Andreyko, McCarthy, Moritat, and Guy Major, June 2014). If you notice the gap between the final two issues, this is because Williams III and Blackman had a huge falling out with DC Comics at the time and quit/were fired due to creative differences. So the story goes, Williams and Blackman were pushing the relationship between Maggie Sawyer and Kate Kane, hoping to soon make it the first lesbian marriage in mainstream comics. Unfortunately, DC head Dan DiDio and others didn’t like that direction and said no. Despite having already written issues #24-25, Williams and Blackman parted ways with DC on bad terms—with fiery Twitter words exchanged from both parties—leaving those two issues in never-to-be-published-Limbo forever. Andreyko and company were brought onto the book and they finished the arc a few months later. Who knows what Williams and Blackman originally had in mind for Alice? We might never know. Onto the synopsis of what was published! To lure Batman (and his main target Jake) out into the open, Bones has authorized the release of several of Gotham’s deadliest criminals—Mad Hatter, Poison Ivy, Riddler, Tweedledum, and Tweedledee. These released Arkham inmates, along with a hired Bane, attack the city. The Bat-Family responds to the chaos. Angered at the fact that so many super-villains are being used by the DEO, Maggie Sawyer confronts Cameron Chase. Chase, using her DEO authority, responds by taking control of the GCPD. Meanwhile, Batman wails on Bane and injects a serum into his body that turns his Venom into a virulent toxin. Defeated and in pain, Bane reveals that Bones has set up the whole affair. Across town, Hawkfire busts into a DEO facility and breaks Beth out of captivity. While Batman and Batwoman fight each other, Bones, Chase, and a DEO squadron capture Hawkfire, Alice, and Jake’s military ops unit known as The Crows. Batwoman gets the jump on Bones and company by surprising them with a ruse where Jake wears the Batman costume. The real Batman, Nightwing, and Batgirl then take down the DEO guys. DEO Agent Asaf, on direct orders from the POTUS, takes out the rogue Bones by shooting him in the head, which puts him into a coma. Three weeks after Director Bones’ DEO assault on Batman and the Kane Family, Jake departs for a therapeutic overseas cruise with Beth in hopes of rehabilitating her at Roderick Kane’s old private island estate. For now, Alice is a villain no more.

red alice batwoman unknowns

Chronologically, our next Alice-related item is Batwoman Vol. 2 #36-40, entitled “How in the Hell Did We Get Here?” (by Andreyko, Georges Jeanty, Karl Story, and Major, January-May 2015). Beth, seemingly fully-recovered, returns to Gotham, with hopes of turning over a brand new positive leaf. Becoming “Red Alice,” Beth meets up with her sister with the idea that they should become a crime-fighting duo. Unfortunately, Kate is going through some wild stuff at the moment. She’s is convinced that she’s been turned into a vampire! Red Alice doesn’t trust Kate’s new girlfriend Nocturna, clearly aware that the latter is playing her sis. Shortly thereafter, Batwoman and Red Alice patrol together as superheroes! They soon find themselves teaming-up with the odd trio of Ragman, Clayface, and Jason Blood against the immortal sorceress Morgaine le Fey! Later, Red Alice exposes Nocturna for the villain that she is. In response, Nocturna metapower-manipulates Kate to attack her own sister. But Red Alice is smarter than that, showing Kate that she’s not actually a vampire—she’s simply Nicolas Cage A Vampire’s Kiss. Nocturna has merely used her powers to make Kate think she’s a bloodsucker. Nocturna tries to pin a murder on Kate, but Red Alice saves her sis again by secretly recording a confession from Nocturna and sending it to the cops. Red Alice is a pretty damn good superhero (and detective)! Runs in the Wayne-Kane Family, I guess. After a warm embrace and a loving sisterly conversation the likes of which we really hadn’t gotten the chance to see prior to this issue, Ragman interrupts. No rest for the weary! Morgain le Fey is in outer space and they’ve got to stop her.

This leads to Batwoman Vol. 2 #35 (by Andreyko, Jeanty, Story, Scott Hanna, Dexter Vines, and Major, December 2014)—out of order from a few issues prior—and the conclusion in Batwoman Annual #2 (by Andreyko, Jeanty, Yishan Li, Roberto Viacava, Ronan Cliquet, et al, June 2015). Batwoman and Red Alice join Etrigan, Ragman, and Clayface to become the superhero team of misfits known as “The Unknowns.” After rocketing into Earth’s atmosphere, they fight Morgaine le Fey and her demon army. Red Alice gets knocked-out but is saved by Ragman’s Suit of Souls, which only works because of all the evil deeds Red Alice has committed in the past. The Unknowns crash back down to Earth, but Morgaine le Fey has turned the entire planet into her own Medieval kingdom. While the rest of the heroes hide out and do recon, Red Alice wanders in the void realm that is within the Suit of Souls, coming face-to-face with evil souls that tempt her to stay with them forever. However, Red Alice proves that she’s really atoned for her sins. She truly wants to repent and be good. It is because of this that she is saved. Eventually, the Unknowns break Morgaine le Fey’s spell and return Gotham to normal.

Publication-wise, we also see Red Alice in the alternate universe story (i.e. non-canon) Batwoman: Futures End #1 (by Andreyko, Jason Masters, and Major, November 2014). In this Futures End timeline tale, Batwoman has become a legit vampire (as opposed to a fake one) and has gone insane, becoming violently murderous. Red Alice, having learned Batman’s ID, goes to Bruce and asks for help in bringing her sis to justice. Bruce gives Red Alice a sonic device that can stun Kate temporarily. Batwoman’s former Unknowns team of Red Alice, Clayface, Ragman, and Jason Blood/Etrigan then reunites and strikes against the vampire queen in Gotham. Seeing no other option, Red Alice uses Bruce’s sonic device and then nets her sis. Red Alice then reluctantly puts a stake through Batwoman’s heart, turning her to a pile of ash.

beth returns to canonicity alice batwoman

Beth returns to canonicity in the New Age/Rebirth Era with Batwoman Vol. 3 #13-15 (“The Fall of the House of Kane”)—the most recent and currently ongoing arc by Bennett, Blanco, and Rauch (May-July 2018). It’s highly debatable and hard to tell whether or not Beth’s New 52 arcs—the DEO story and Red Alice story—are still canon in the Rebirth Era. Some lines of dialogue in “The Fall of the House of Kane” seem to imply that they aren’t canon while others hint at them still remaining canon. We simply don’t know. It’s also highly possible that they are canon, but highly altered versions of what they were before. All we do know for sure is that, when we pick up with Alice, she is in a Swiss sanatorium, where she’s been for quite some time. Kate, as her legal guardian, placed her there and has been keeping tabs on her long distance for a while. When Beth goes missing from the sanatorium, Batwoman believes she’s been kidnapped by the criminal organization known as The Many Arms of Death, which has been fighting Batwoman for a full year. Batwoman’s guess is correct. Beth, back in full crazy Alice mode thanks to having been heavily drugged, returns to Gotham as “The Mother of War”—The Many Arms of Death’s ultimate weapon to use against Batwoman and the entire city. Drifting in-and-out of her Alice persona, the Many Arms of Death lieutenants guide her toward evil. That evil manifests in the form of a dastardly plan to kill everyone in Gotham. With the backing of the Many Arms of Death, a confused Alice mockingly spreads a deadly plague-like disease across the city via swarms of bats. Batwoman knows she (herself) is both a carrier and immune to the disease (thanks to a recent encounter with Scarecrow at a Many Arms of Death bio-weapons lab), so she contacts Julia Pennyworth for help. While Julia preps an antivirus using samples of Batwoman’s blood and DNA, Batwoman flies a plane and uses a sonic-emitter to attract all the infected bats, luring them away from the city. As soon as Julia has whipped-up the antivirus, she crop-dusts it over Gotham in a mini-jet. Batwoman then eliminating any possible traces of the deadly disease with explosives. Meanwhile, Batman, having been contacted by Julia, arrives to confront Alice.

batwoman 16 cliffhanger one alice
batwoman 16 finale batman alice batwoman

And that’s the cliffhanger at the end of issue #15. Pretty good, no? The conclusion to “The Fall of the House of Kane” ends with Bennett, Blanco, and Rauch’s Batwoman Vol. 3 #16 (June 2018). Batman confronts both Alice and Batwoman atop the old Kane Industries Building. An explosive three-way-dance makes its way through the building. Batwoman eventually claims victory by playing a loud recording of a gun firing (which apparently screws with Batman’s head) and then trapping the Caped Crusader underneath a giant letter K. With Alice in a moment of confused calm, Batman reminds Batman that Beth is not just her sister, but his cousin as well. Crawling out from beneath the K, Batman accepts that he should help family. The Dark Knight stands-down and leaves Beth in the care of Batwoman, but tells the latter that she’ll have to retire from crimefighting if she ever messes-up again. Seemingly recovered from her insanity (for the moment, at least), Beth stumbles over to an emotional Batwoman, who embraces her and apologizes. This is a nice way to end the long saga of Alice, for the moment anyway. Alice has gone through so much as a character, it’s fitting to see her somewhat redeemed or, at the very least, acknowledged as something more than the usual super-evil (and one-dimensional) baddie. She’s acknowledged as a legit member of the Wayne-Kane family. Like Kate, she’s Bruce’s first cousin—and that means something.

alice batwoman 16 batman collin colsher

batwoman alice batwoman 16 finale end

Bennett’s follow-up in Batwoman Vol. 3 #17 pushes the clock forward three months. Batwoman and Batman aren’t on the best of terms (and Batman is super-bummed after Catwoman left him standing at the altar, so to speak). But thankfully, Alice/Beth is doing great! She’s become a sidekick of sorts to Batwoman. Along with Julia, she’s even moved into her sister’s place and built a stable family life. This awesome trio of kickass women is quite refreshing to see in DC comics land. There’s one more issue of Batwoman Vol. 3 to go before the series closes out. Let’s hope for a nice and satisfying conclusion. Hopefully, future writers will run with Bennett’s ball and treat Alice with similar respect, providing her with the help she needs from family and friends alike. Who knows what fate lies in store for Batwoman? But, more importantly, what fate lies in store for Alice/Beth? Only time will tell.

batwoman 17 happy alice

About Collin Colsher

Collin Colsher, the creator of The Real Batman Chronology Project and disCONTINUITY, is a writer, filmmaker, teacher, and comic book historian that currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He has lectured at various universities, libraries, and book fairs. Collin has also served on the jury for the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize, which is sponsored by the US Library of Congress.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *