|First appearance||Detective Comics #33 (November 1939)|
|Created by||Bob Kane
|Full name||Martha Kane|
|Supporting character of||Batman|
Martha Wayne (born: Martha Kane) is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics, commonly in association with the superhero Batman. She is the mother of Bruce Wayne (Batman) and wife of Dr. Thomas Wayne. When she and her husband are murdered in a street robbery, her son becomes inspired to fight crime as the vigilante Batman.
Martha Wayne first appeared in Detective Comics #33 (November 1939) in a story by Bob Kane and Bill Finger which detailed the origin of Batman. Initially little more than a cipher whose death inspired her heroic son, later comics would expand upon her history.
Born Martha Kane (a maiden name given in homage to co-creator Bob Kane), Martha was the heir to the Kane Chemical fortune and a member of one of Gotham City's wealthiest families. It has been revealed she is related to Kate Kane (Batwoman) in Detective Comics Rebirth issue #934, but no other connection to the other prominent Kanes of Gotham, such as Bette Kane (Flamebird). Despite her Irish-Catholic background, in her youth, Martha had a reputation as a notorious party girl, socialite, and debutante, frequenting all the most prestigious country clubs, night clubs, and soirees. She also had a developed social conscience and often used her family's wealth and status to champion causes and charities.
As revealed in the miniseries Batman: Family by John Francis Moore, Martha's closest friend in those days was the woman Celia Kazantkakis. Both were renowned for their beauty, which caught the attention of a gangster named Denholm. Martha dated Denholm for a time prior to meeting Thomas Wayne, though she was unaware of his true nature at the time. Celia, who had had previous dealings with Denholm, became very protective of her friend and conspired to get this thug out of her life. In the process it came to light just why Celia was familiar with him. Celia, it turned out, was a criminal herself and had been embezzling money from an orphanage that was one of Martha's charities. She attempted to hide the evidence of this by setting fire to the building but Martha discovered her duplicity. Before Celia departed for her family's home in Greece, Martha threatened to expose her should she ever return to Gotham. Celia would return to Gotham many years later as "Athena", the leader of a criminal cartel. In this guise, she attempted to stage a coup of Wayne Enterprises, until Batman discovered the true nature of his mother's history with Celia and defeated her.
Shortly after Celia's departure, Martha met and fell in love with prominent physician and philanthropist Dr. Thomas Wayne. They were wed soon after and Martha eventually gave birth to their son Bruce Wayne.
Though mention of Martha's occupation is small, some stories have indicated that, like Bruce, she was unable to allow the crime of Gotham to continue unabated. This version fought against the abuse of Gotham's children and against the trafficking of children around the globe. She headed a covert detection agency with help from Commissioner Gordon and the family butler Alfred—their goals were to stop abuse against children, in the hopes that those children would not grow up to turn into abusers and criminals themselves. Learning of his mother's mission prior to death, Batman gained further inspiration and motive for helping the innocent of Gotham.
When Bruce Wayne was eight years old, his parents took him to a screening of a Zorro movie at a cinema in Gotham's Park Row. Returning to the car through an alley, they were confronted by a lone gunman, who attempted to steal Martha Wayne's pearl necklace, an anniversary gift from Thomas. In the ensuing struggle, the thief shot both the Waynes dead (Later versions of the story claimed that only Thomas was shot; Martha died instead from the "shock" of his murder due to her having a weak heart. This retcon was ultimately undone, with Martha again being gunned down with Thomas.). In the wake of this tragedy, Park Row was given the nickname "Crime Alley".
The identity of the Waynes' killer has varied through different versions of the Batman story. Initially, he was said to be the criminal Joe Chill. Later retellings would claim that Chill had been hired by gangster Lew Moxon, an enemy of Thomas Wayne, and told to make the killings look like a robbery. After DC Comics' history-altering Zero Hour series, this interpretation was abandoned in favor of the Waynes' deaths being a random street crime. The killer was thought to have never been caught, adding to the tragedy and universality of Batman's origin. After the further continuity tweaks of the Infinite Crisis miniseries, DC has once again returned to the Joe Chill interpretation.
Since her death, Martha Wayne has only appeared in the Batman series in flashback and in the occasional out-of-body experience or hallucination. Her most significant appearance in this latter category is in the miniseries Batman: Death and the Maidens by Greg Rucka. In this story, Batman ingests an elixir given to him by his enemy Ra's al Ghul, and believes he is having a conversation with his dead parents. Martha is depicted here as a beautiful woman whose face is marred by a bleeding bullet wound, suggesting that Bruce remembers her this way because he has become 'focused' on her death rather than her life, the wound vanishing after she forces him to acknowledge that issue. Martha strongly disapproves of her son's costumed crusade, fearing he has thrown away his chance for happiness, although her husband notes that they disapprove of what being Batman has cost Bruce rather than disapproving of Batman himself. As she and Thomas depart, they assure Bruce that just because the passing of time has lessened his grief does not mean that he no longer cares for them, and, as a result, Bruce is able to accept that he is Batman because he chooses to be, not because he has to be.
In Jeph Loeb's Batman stories, Bruce feels responsible for his parents' murder because he advised Martha to wear the infamous pearl necklace the night she was murdered. Had she not worn it, the mugger might have not killed them, or even have been attracted to them. In Death and the Maidens she claims that the pearls were fakes, and that she wouldn't have worn real ones simply to go to the theater. As this experience may have been merely a hallucination, it is unknown whether or not this is true.
Another mystery about Martha Wayne's final fate is unveiled in the Batman R.I.P. storyline, where it is revealed that the Kanes hired a detective to prowl about the circumstances of her death, always suspecting that Thomas Wayne married her for her money.
Many years later, the detective hired by the Kanes presents to Commissioner Gordon a dossier describing Martha as a helpless, frail woman hooked on drugs by an abusive husband, who frequently indulged in orgies and extramarital affairs, taking Alfred Pennyworth as her lover. The detective pushes his theory further, disclosing to Gordon a theory about Thomas Wayne ordering the fateful shooting to get revenge over an unfaithful wife and disappearing before being hit by the scandal. The villainous Simon Hurt, head of the Black Glove cabal, bent on getting revenge on Batman, claims to Alfred, taken hostage, to be Thomas Wayne himself, returned to enact his vengeance once again over the unfaithful Martha by ruining her son's life. Alfred disproves this version and questions the truth of the "revelations" about Thomas Wayne.
Simon Hurt is unmasked by Bruce Wayne as Mangrove Pierce, a former impersonator trying to ruin Thomas and Bruce Wayne's lives. Simon implies that Pierce may be another forged identity, but tacitly admits that the stories of Martha's sexual relationship with Alfred and the circumstances of her drug addiction and homicide are clever forgeries designed to break Batman or coerce him to join the Black Glove as a means to silence the rumors about his family.
With Bruce Wayne's and Simon Hurt/Mangrove Pierce's disappearance, the charges are dropped, and Martha's good name is cleared.
In Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader, Martha appears to her son between life and death and guides him to his fate.
In Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #5, the detective hired by the Kanes to investigate Martha Wayne's murder is revealed as Batman himself, turned amnesiac as he leaps through time under Darkseid's Omega Effect. His 'investigations' are influenced by the Black Glove organization as they attempt to use him as a sacrifice in a ritual while planting evidence to frame the Wayne family for debauchery.
In the series Streets of Gotham, Martha Wayne's history as a young woman was revised and elaborated further.
After her father was tricked into a shady investment deal by a mobster named Judson Pierce, which drained the Kane fortune and made him suffer a fatal heart attack, Martha became involved with charity work focusing on Gotham's poorest citizens. One of her main projects was raising support for the free clinic founded in Gotham's slums by doctor Leslie Thompkins.
During an attempt to solicit support from Gotham's elite, she had her first encounter with Thomas Wayne. Aside from being a well-regarded surgeon, Thomas was also an infamous playboy and party animal. He affirmed this reputation by being extremely drunk in public and vomiting on Martha's shoes, causing her to storm off in disgust despite his apologies.
Leslie's clinic also became a new target for Judson Pierce after he deemed it a key point for taking over the surrounding neighborhood. Pierce attempted to prey on Martha's poverty by offering cash to shut the facility down. Martha accepted Pierce's money, but filed it as a donation to keep the clinic running. Enraged, Pierce arranged to have Martha and Leslie assassinated.
Martha met Thomas Wayne a second time after he had Alfred chauffeur him to the clinic so he could apologize again. That same evening though, Pierce's hitmen also decided to make their move. Alfred was able to subdue the assailants, but not before Leslie suffered a minor gunshot wound. While Leslie recovered from her injury, Thomas volunteered to work in the clinic alongside Martha. Thomas became content with the work there and it wasn't long before Thomas and Martha became romantically involved. By the time Leslie returned to work, Thomas became an official sponsor of the clinic and used his vast resources to keep it running. Thomas also distanced himself from his hedonistic past, citing Martha as his inspiration to change.
In "The New 52" (a reboot of the DC Comics universe), Martha Wayne is seen as a good, strong-willed mother worried about her child's future and the future of Gotham's children as well. It is revealed that while Bruce was three years-old, Martha was pregnant with a second child named Thomas Wayne Jr. Due to an accident orchestrated by the Court of Owls, the child was born prematurely and supposedly sent to Willowwood Asylum in order to heal. After the murder of Thomas and Martha, the asylum ceased to receive proper funding and the staff started to abuse the children in their care. At some point in time, the Court of Owls offers a child that is possibly Thomas Jr. to become a part of them and he goes up Gotham's ranks with the false-identity of a rich Gotham socialite and mayor candidate, called Lincoln March. Thomas Jr/Lincoln holds Bruce directly responsible for their parents' murders and the life he went through, and has a burning desire for revenge against his brother. Whether Lincoln really is Bruce's brother or a ploy set by the Court of Owls in order to enlist him in their ranks is unresolved, with Bruce acknowledging that the evidence favouring March being Thomas Junior makes sense but certain that his parents would have told him if he had a brother, records stating that Thomas Junior died twelve hours after he was born even if another child was admitted to the orphanage with injuries matching what Thomas Junior would have suffered from.
In Mark Millar's Superman: Red Son, Martha and her husband are anti-communist protesters in the Soviet Union. They are executed by the NKVD under Commissar Pyotr Roslov, which leads to their son vowing to overthrow the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
In Batman: Dark Knight Dynasty, Thomas and Martha are saved from death when 'Valentin Sinclair'- really Vandal Savage, a man who has a long-standing interest and admiration for the Wayne family despite the fact that they often end up opposing him when they learn about his plans- scared off Joe Chill, Sinclair becoming a partner in Wayne Enterprises, only for Sinclair to have them killed when they threaten to expose his plan to divert a meteor that gave him his powers back to Earth so that he can study it. Their deaths- triggered by Sinclair's fear-inducing henchman Scarecrone causing them to remember the mugging, driving them to flee Chill by running off their balcony- prompt Bruce to become Batman to investigate, Gordon having written their deaths off as an accident and Bruce unwilling to investigate as himself because of the risk to his new wife, Julie Madison.
The alternate universe Flashpoint version of Martha Wayne is the Joker and even resembles Heath Ledger's iteration as seen in The Dark Knight. After Bruce Wayne is shot and killed by Joe Chill, Martha is unable to cope with her loss so she cuts open her cheeks to create a faux smile. As Joker, she is the nemesis of Batman and uses Yo-Yo as a henchman. She kidnaps Harvey Dent's son and daughter.
Joker kills James Gordon after she tricks him into shooting Harvey's daughter (disguised as the Joker). After Dent's son and daughter are saved, Batman confronts Joker about their son's death. He reveals to Martha that there is a way to rewrite history (as Batman has recently met Barry Allen) where their son will live although they will die. Realizing that her son will be Batman, Martha flees in horror, falling to her death in the caverns below Wayne Manor.
In an alternate universe ruled by the tyrannical 'Planetary' organization, Martha and her husband were part of a makeshift 'League of Justice', an underground cell trying to revolt. They were murdered by Elijah Snow.
In the graphic novel Batman: Earth One, Martha's maiden name was Arkham instead of Kane in this alternate continuity. Martha's father was murdered by her mother when she was twelve, leaving her family with a series of scandals, including a rumor that the Arkham bloodline is peremptorily insane. Martha was a campaign manager of her husband's mayoral campaign against Oswald Cobblepot. Cobblepot had planned to have a corrupt cop, Jacob Weaver, murder Thomas, but a mugger got to her family first and killed both her and her husband, leaving Bruce orphaned.
In the Elseworlds novel Batman: Holy Terror Martha works with Thomas and other medical professionals in an underground clinic treating victims of the religious theocracy that rules most of the planet. In one example she makes note of a man that had been tortured to try to change his homosexuality.
Martha Wayne's Earth 3 counterpart is featured in Forever Evil. In the revised Earth 3 alternate universe of "The New 52", all characters from the mainstream universe have corresponding counterparts albeit these counterparts are either a darker or outright evil version of the character. Martha is the abusive and sadistic mother of Owlman, in contrast to Batman's mother being a kind woman who fought against child abuse and corruption. Martha blames her husband's surgical fetish for the family's huge expenses. Owlman orchestrates his parents' murder with the Alfred of Earth 3. Owlman later wonders why Batman would dedicate his life to his parents' deaths.
In the opening of the first issue of the comic DC Comics Bombshells, set in an alternate history 1940, Martha and Thomas Wayne's lives are saved by an already-existing Batwoman, implying that Bruce Wayne will never grow up to become Batman.