Holy sexuality, Batman! Two months after his untimely death, the creators of Gotham City's crime-fighting superhero, Bruce Wayne, have finally unveiled his politically-correct replacement: a ginger-haired, lesbian socialite called Batwoman.
The publisher of Detective Comics, the iconic title which for 60 years has revolved around the recently-deceased Wayne, revealed this week that future editions of the comic book will star his long-standing female counterpart, whose real name is Kathy Kane.
Described as "a lesbian socialite by night and a crime-fighter by later in the night", Batwoman will be the subject of at least 12 issues. It will be the most high-profile appearance by a gay superhero in any book published by the legendary DC Comics.
As her alter-ego, Batwoman, Ms Kane wears knee-high red stiletto boots and a figure-hugging black outfit. Two years ago, she made headlines when it emerged that she was the ex-lover of Renee Montoya, a Gotham City police detective.
Although Kane has enjoyed only fleeting appearances in Batman comics since being "outed", writer Greg Rucka – who is in charge of this summer's run of Detective Comics – said Bruce Wayne's apparent death had provided the perfect opportunity to make her the subject of his prestigious series.
"We have been waiting to unlock her. It's long overdue," he said in an interview with the Comic Book Resources website. "Yes, she's a lesbian. She's also a redhead. It is an element of her character. It is not her character. If people are going to have problems with it, that's their issue. That's certainly not mine."
The news represents a significant cultural landmark for the gay rights movement, and follows a concerted effort by DC Comics to introduce more characters from ethnic and sexual minorities. However, Rucka hopes that the new titles, which are due to be released in June, will not be overshadowed by controversy about Kane's sexuality.
"I think there is going to be some media," he said. "I can't control it. You've got to remember, Wonder Woman got a haircut and that became news. So it will be what it is."
"My job is to write the best book I can, about a character that I think is exceptionally cool, that J.H. Williams [his co-writer and artist] thinks is exceptionally cool, that DC Comics thinks is exceptionally cool and worthy of being the lead player in Detective Comics," he added. "Frankly, she should be judged on her merits."
The last episode of Detective Comics ended with Batman's millionaire alter-ego Bruce Wayne being ejected from a speeding aircraft without his famous cape and face-mask.
He is now presumed dead (although it is an unwritten rule of comics that superheroes can always be reincarnated) and Mr Rucka said future editions will revolve around a selection of potential heirs, including Batwoman, Catwoman and Bruce Wayne's purported son, Damien, fighting to succeed him.