Katana (DC Comics)
|First appearance||The Brave and the Bold #200 (July 1983)|
|Created by||Mike W. Barr (writer)|
Jim Aparo (artist)
|Alter ego||Tatsu Yamashiro (山城 タツ)|
|Team affiliations||Suicide Squad|
Birds of Prey
Justice League United
Soultaker Sword grants:
Katana (Tatsu Yamashiro (山城 タツ, Yamashiro Tatsu)) is a fictional superheroine that appears in comic books published by DC Comics. First appearing in 1983, Katana is a samurai warrior whose skill with a sword allows her to fight for justice as a superheroine. Her tragic backstory includes the death of her husband, Maseo, whose soul becomes trapped in her blade, the Soultaker. Katana has been featured in various DC Comics superhero teams, including the Justice League and the Birds of Prey, but is most commonly associated with the team known as the Outsiders, a team of heroes hand-picked by Batman to act as his personal black ops team, handling riskier missions.
In the 2010s, DC began to feature the character much more extensively in media adaptations of its comic books, including a recurring role in the animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold and then a starring role in the series Beware the Batman. The character was adapted for live action in 2014, portrayed by Rila Fukushima during the third and fourth seasons of the Arrowverse series Arrow, and returned in the final season. The character made her feature film debut in the 2016 film Suicide Squad, portrayed by actress Karen Fukuhara, which is part of the DC Extended Universe. The character has also been featured in direct-to-video animated movies and a number of DC Comics video games.
Katana first appeared in The Brave and the Bold #200 (cover-dated July 1983) and was created by writer Mike W. Barr and artist Jim Aparo. She is frequently a member of "team" publications such as Batman and the Outsiders, Birds of Prey (during the New 52 era), or even Suicide Squad (during the DC Rebirth era).
In February 2013, Katana received her own series written by Ann Nocenti and with art by Alex Sanchez. This book is considered by DC as part of the "Fourth Wave" of New 52 titles. Katana lasted for ten issues. The final issue was released on December 11, 2013.
Fictional character biography
Tatsu Yamashiro (山城 たつ) was an average Japanese girl, save for her proficiency in the martial arts, a trait encouraged by her parents. Two brothers—Maseo and Takeo Yamashiro—both proclaimed their love for her. While she liked both, she chose Maseo as her husband. Takeo "did not take this well" and refused to attend the couple's wedding. Maseo disowned his brother, who had joined the Yakuza and taken their mark of a large dragon tattoo across his chest. Tatsu and Maseo, mourning the deaths of Tatsu's parents, started a family of their own. Tatsu gave birth to twins, Yuki and Reiko. Meanwhile, Takeo rose through the Yakuza's ranks and indulged his "exotic tastes" for ancient weapons. He was presented with a pair of matching swords by General Karnz (later henchman to Baron Bedlam), one of which Takeo favored for its mystical properties.
Takeo spent days preparing himself before taking both swords to the Yamashiro residence, demanding his brother duel for the "prize" of Tatsu. During the course of the struggle, a fire was started, and—while Maseo was distracted by his children—Takeo killed his brother with the sword which would become known as "Soultaker". Tatsu arose just in time to see her husband die and engaged Takeo, gaining the upper hand and disarming him. Attempting to save her children, she heard her husband's voice coming from the sword, telling her they were already lost. Escaping with her life, Tatsu began training as a samurai under a master called Tadashi. After much time she graduated from his tutorship and left for America where she intended to use her talents to fight for justice. She took the codename Katana after the sword that she wielded, possessed for some time by the soul of her husband.
Becoming an Outsider
Eventually Tatsu journeyed to Markovia, a small Baltic state, where she had tracked down Karnz, and she was successful in killing him, inadvertently implicating Black Lightning (coincidentally there with Batman) in her crime. Attempting to rectify the misunderstanding by freeing Black Lightning, she encountered a young girl who was named Halo. The two joined up to rescue Black Lightning, Batman (himself captured due to a blunder by Halo), and Bruce Wayne's employee Lucius Fox from their captor, Baron Bedlam.
Batman was himself in Markovia to rescue Lucius Fox, and having sought—and failed to gain—the help of the Justice League of America, had resigned his membership in the Justice League. Inspired by the teamwork he encountered between Black Lightning, Katana, Halo, Geo-Force (Prince Brion of Markovia), and Metamorpho (also coincidentally present), Batman decided to form the Outsiders. The team managed to end the Baron's tyranny in Markovia and moved to Gotham City, where they set up their headquarters (a former penthouse of Bruce Wayne, secretly the Batman). Tatsu became Halo's guardian and the two moved into the penthouse.
At the same time, Takeo was still at large and had followed Tatsu to Gotham City. He attacked her and Halo at their home, overpowered Tatsu and switched swords with her. He left for Tokyo with Tatsu on his tail. The Outsiders followed Tatsu and offered to help her, despite her desire to leave them out of it. Takeo took the sword to his master, the godfather of the Yakuza, known only as the Oyabun. Performing a specific ritual, the Oyabun and Takeo called forth the souls that inhabited the sword and gave them corporeal form. Among them were legendary mercenaries and assassins, but also Maseo, who was now a slave to the Oyabun. Katana— and the Outsiders— had to fight them all, but she was ultimately able to reclaim the Soultaker from Maseo. She was forced to kill her husband, and then took the opportunity to kill Takeo, finally putting some of her ghosts to rest. Maseo and those killed a second time by the Soultaker passed on to their eternal rewards, leaving Takeo trapped in the sword in his place.
At one point the Outsiders split from Batman's leadership and took up residence in Markovia where they were funded by the Markovian crown (Geo-Force is a prince of the royal family). They became the official agents of Markovia and moved to the city of Los Angeles where they made their headquarters in the Markovian embassy, while retaining another secret HQ just off the shore. Although Tatsu had left her past behind, the Oyabun returned in her life and sent a tengu after her, with which he captured her. This mischievous spirit possessed her, and the Obayun was able to use her as an assassin. Her teammates in the Outsiders Halo and Looker were able to save her using other tengu and the tengu leader, who aided them in battle.
After a while, the team disbanded after various tragic events surrounding Geo-Force's parents and Markovia. Nonetheless the Outsiders were forced to defend Markovia against the Manhunters, but during the fight Halo was knocked into a coma, saving Katana's life. Bounded by giri-ninjo (a debt of honor even unto death), Tatsu left the team so she could tend to Halo's wounds. During that time however, she was approached by a family member of her husband, who wished her to accompany the Suicide Squad on a mission to destroy a large hoard of weapons that was about to be sold to the Yakuza. She declined on the basis of her giri-ninjo, although she was willing to help if the need was truly desperate. That family member was later killed, and she went after the killer, the Daichi-Doku's Oyabun (of which her relative was a member), who did not wish to see the weapons destroyed and tried to stop the Suicide Squad. During that adventure, she saved the life of Bronze Tiger and Manhunter (Mark Shaw), making them honor-bound to her by giri-ninjo. Mark Shaw then assisted her in taking down the Daichi-Doku's Oyabun. The Oyabun committed ritual suicide and Katana stood by as his "second", ready to help with a blade strike so he could keep his honor.
Returning to the Outsiders
Eventually though the Outsiders re-formed and returned to Markovia. Instead of a peaceful reunion, however, the team became trapped in a web of public relations that branded them outlaws. Although the charges were dropped eventually, the team was fractured. Halo died from an assassin's blast but was reborn in a new body, which put an immense strain on Tatsu's relationship with Halo. Katana joined a team with Geo-Force and Technocrat, taking the lead. She develops a mild romantic relationship with Joey Hong, an Asian associate of Guy Gardner. During a lone mission, her old mentor Tadashi sends Lady Shiva to claim Katana's Soultaker sword. Shiva confronted Katana, who was battling a gang of drug dealers. Katana slew many of them, but refused to kill the youngest member, something Shiva insulted her for. Shiva, renowned as the world's greatest assassin and fighter, killed Katana with her own sword. Katana returned to life after a trial by combat within her sword, which included confronting many of the souls of the people she had killed. Afterwards, she found her old mentor and took his life. The two splinter teams eventually reunited to take on more supernatural threats focused around the new team member Sebastian Faust. Katana and her friends suffered through the mental and physical tortures that Faust's father, Felix, put them through. Halo eventually freed them by destroying several of Felix's items of power. Soon after, the group broke apart. After disbanding, Tatsu kept her association with her old allies among the Outsiders (such as Black Lightning, Geo-Force, and Halo), and although they did not operate as an official team, they were always together during major crises. Her close ties to Batman also saw her fighting by his side, several times, notably during the Imperiex crisis and the Day of Judgment incident when Hell invaded Earth. The main battle against the villain, the rogue angel Asmodel, with the power of the Spectre, took place in New York. Katana personally protected Madame Xanadu who guarded the rest of Asmodel's power with a mystical shield. Katana's protection of Xanadu was assisted by Doctor Occult, Phantom Stranger, and Alan Scott. Later, Katana assisted Batman when he and Superman were declared outlaws. Katana was also called upon by Black Canary, together with other female mercenaries, in order to rescue Oracle from Senator Pullman. After Oracle was saved, Katana received a card, together with the promise of a favor if required. Katana later returned to assist Oracle in issue #108 alongside dozens of other agents.
Later Katana joined a new team of Outsiders after assisting them in defeating a more powerful Sabbac. That team consisted of all new members, with the exception of Metamorpho who rejoined the team after Shift's demise. In Outsiders (vol. 3) #42, Katana dons a new costume, as she felt it inappropriate to wear a costume based on Japan's flag, since the country had revoked her citizenship due to her membership with the controversial team. Later, Katana summons Sabbac to destroy Dr. Sivana's base with his Hellfire. Katana remains an active member of the Outsiders following the 2006 "One Year Later" continuity jump. Initially, the team is led by Nightwing, but later leadership transfers to Batman. Batman decides to 'test' Katana and the rest of the initial team, in order to design a better team. Katana is Batman's first official recruit.
While escorting Killer Croc to incarceration, the Outsiders' vehicle is demolished by Maseo, Yuki, and Reiko, who have all been revived as Black Lanterns. Katana, believing that she has been reunited with her lost family, lets her guard down, but is saved from death by her teammates. Realising the truth, she draws her sword, preparing to fight her undead husband. When Katana stabs Maseo, Soultaker reveals to her the Black Lanterns' full intentions. Her attacks soon prove to be completely ineffectual against Maseo, who is instead destroyed by an outpouring of light from Halo, who also destroyed Katana's undead children.
|Publication date||February 2013 – December 2013|
|No. of issues||10|
|Written by||Ann Nocenti|
|Artist(s)||Alex Sanchez, Cristina Coronas, Bill Sienkiewicz|
The events of the 2011 "Flashpoint" storyline led to The New 52, a relaunch of all of DC Comics' monthly books, and a reboot to the DC Universe in-story continuity. In this new continuity, a newly healed Barbara Gordon returns to the Batgirl identity and takes a leave of absence from the Birds of Prey and suggests that Katana take her place full-time on the team.
Katana joins Black Canary and Starling as the third member of the Birds of Prey. Katana is described as a lethal fighter who has spent the last year waging war on the Yakuza clan that is responsible for the death of her husband. She is rumored to be mentally unstable due to her belief that her husband's soul, whom she often converses with in Japanese, resides in her sword.
After a number of adventures with the Birds of Prey, Katana leaves the group in order to keep an eye on a cult of assassins known as the Daggers. She later accepts membership in Amanda Waller's new Justice League of America in exchange for information on her husband's murderers. When DC launched Justice League of America, they also launched the solo series Katana, focusing on Tatsu's abiding mission to track down her husband's killer. The series lasted 10 issues. After this, Katana made an appearance in Green Arrow (vol. 5) #27 (2014), where she is told by the mysterious blind man Magus that the death of her husband relates to the Outsiders, the society formed of various weapon clans and connected to Green Arrow's new origin story. The Soultaker is worked into the Green Arrow mythology as the totem of the Sword Clan, which has parallels in the Fist, Mask, Shield, Axe, Arrow, and Spear Clans. Representatives from each of these clans make up the Outsiders, a secret society dedicated towards ending global corruption, but which is itself largely corrupt. Katana joins the Outsiders. In Green Arrow: Futures End #1 (2014), set five years later in one possible future, Tatsu is shown to still be a member of the Outsiders, which has developed a grudging relationship with Green Arrow, who rejected leadership of the Arrow Clan in the main Green Arrow series five years before.
Amanda Waller recruits Katana to be a co-captain of the Suicide Squad. Later, she joins the latest iteration of The Outsiders.
Powers, abilities, and weapons
Katana is a highly proficient hand-to-hand combatant and swordswoman, having studied martial arts as a child and later being trained by the samurai Tadashi. From her time with the Outsiders and Batman, she has also developed strong tactical skills.
Katana's Soultaker sword, along with its non-powered twin, was forged in the 14th century by Muramasa, whose swords were said to be cursed and make those who were evil commit evil acts. It sometimes takes the souls of those it kills, storing them inside the sword, where they can engage in limited communication with whoever wields it. These souls and spirits can be freely reborn/reincarnated by the means of a sacred ritual, under which they serve their summoner, even if it is against their will. Its cutting edge is sharp enough to rend the Dilustel skin of Captain Atom and Major Force. In The New 52, the Soultaker is established as being the 'Sword Totem' of the Outsiders, meaning like the other totems, it supposedly bestows immortality and enlightenment upon its wielder, although some like Green Arrow are skeptical of the literal truths of these statements.
In addition to the Soultaker, Katana often carries additional weaponry into battle.
- In the alternate timeline of the 2011 "Flashpoint" storyline, Katana joined with the Amazons' Furies.
- Katana is featured in the Smallville Season 11 digital comic based on the TV series. She is a member of the Outsiders.
- In the prequel comic to Injustice 2, Katana is shown to be a member of this universe's Suicide Squad. However, like Harley Quinn, she too despises Ra's al Ghul and an impostor Batman for their cowardly actions on killing the civilians including the original Blue Beetle, Ted Kord to lure Batman's Insurgency and the remaining peace conference governments to surrender. She is later spared and flees from the battle as Harley covers her presence.
In other media
- A character similar to Katana called Tsukuri (voiced by Karen Maruyama) appears in the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited animated series, in the episode "Fury", as an assistant to the villainess Aresia and later as a member of Grodd's Society.
- Katana appears in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold, voiced by Vyvan Pham, and later by Kim Mai Guest. In the episode "Enter the Outsiders!", she is shown as a member of the Outsiders alongside Black Lightning and Metamorpho, as teenagers rather new to their abilities. They serve the sewer-dwelling villain Slug until Batman and Wildcat defeat him and persuade them not to follow Slug's ways. In "Inside the Outsiders!", Katana is revealed to have been the student of Tadashi, who was killed by the evil samurai Takeo. Psycho-Pirate makes her believe that it was her talkative nature that led Takeo to Tadashi, and she becomes silent out of shame. Batman reminds her that this was not what happened, as Tadashi sacrificed himself to make her a greater warrior, and her silence honors his teachings of self-control. In the teaser of "Requiem for a Scarlet Speedster", Katana and the Outsiders, along with new members Geo-Force and Halo work with Batman to stop Kobra and his cultists' plan for world domination. In this episode, Katana is shown to be older and now donning her classical costume.
- Katana appears as one of the lead characters in Beware the Batman, voiced by Sumalee Montano. Tatsu Yamashiro is portrayed as a CIA agent who infiltrated the League of Assassins, then faked her death in order to remove the Soultaker sword from their possession. Alfred Pennyworth was a friend of her father during their MI-6 days, and later became Tatsu's godfather. Tatsu agrees to serve as Bruce Wayne's bodyguard while Alfred is recovering from injuries. When she becomes a crime fighter by Batman's side, she uses her League codename, Katana, so they will know who defeated them. According to producer Glen Murakami, Tatsu would have become the show's version of Nightwing if season two were made.
- Katana appears in Young Justice: Outsiders, initially as a member of the Justice League before she resigns in a pre-planned move alongside Batman to operate as vigilantes.
- Katana appears in the DC Super Hero Girls episode "#SoulSisters", voiced by Rina Hoshino. This version starts out as a ruthless vigilante who uses the soul-taker sword to steal the souls of criminals rather than capturing them. As Tatsu Yamashiro, she enrolls in Metropolis High and becomes fast friends with Diana Prince during a fencing match with her. After stealing the souls of various supervillains, she confronts the Super Hero Girls, who she deems evil for wanting to help the villains and proceeds to take all their souls besides Wonder Woman. When both Tatsu and Diana learn each-other's identities, they fight and argue about their methods until Diana sacrifices her soul to defend an innocent man who Tatsu mistakes as a car-thief. Realizing the error of her ways, Katana releases the souls of all her victims and vows to pursue justice the right way.
- Rila Fukushima portrays Tatsu Yamashiro on The CW series Arrow, debuting in the third season premiere, "The Calm", in flashbacks to a time when Oliver Queen was working as a mercenary for Amanda Waller operating out of Hong Kong. She initially distrusts him, but Oliver gains her trust after saving Tatsu and her family from China White and a Chinese Triad. Oliver befriends Tatsu's son Akio, who later dies when rogue U.S. general Matthew Shrieve releases the Alpha Omega virus in Hong Kong. Devastated by the loss of their son, Tatsu chooses a life in seclusion while her husband Maseo joins the League of Assassins. In the present storyline, the Yamashiros save Oliver's life after he is defeated in battle by Ra's al Ghul. Later, Oliver recruits Tatsu to stop Ra's al Ghul from unleashing the Alpha Omega virus on Starling City. During the battle against the League, she meets and battles her husband. Tatsu tries to convince him to abandon the League, but ultimately kills him and grieves his death. Tatsu returns to Japan and joins the Crescent Order. In season four, Nyssa al Ghul finds Tatsu guarding the lotus elixir she needs to cure Thea Queen. They battle until Nyssa mentions she works with Oliver, convincing Tatsu to give her the elixir. In season eight, Tatsu saves Oliver and Diggle from a rival of the Chinese Triad and reveals that she was excommunicated from the Crescent Order for her failure to protect the Lotus Elixir. Tatsu also reveals that she has heard of Mar Novu and the coming crisis that will destroy infinite earths from her time in the Crescent Order. She helps Oliver track down biophysicist Dr. Robert Wong but he is kidnapped by China White and the Triad, who learned that he has recreated the Alpha-Omega virus. Oliver and Tatsu argue over whether or not to give China White the virus for Dr. Wong, with Tatsu expressing her distrust of Mar Novu openly. However, she relents when Oliver reveals all the things that he sacrificed in order to prevent the crisis from happening. They confront China White who attaches a bomb vest to Dr. Wong to leverage Oliver into giving her the virus. Tatsu engages China White but is mortally wounded. However, she is rescued by Laurel Lance and taken to heal. Oliver tells a healing Tatsu that he will travel to Nanda Parbat to find answers on the Monitor’s true origins and whether or not he could be trusted.
- In "Shogun", a season two episode of Legends of Tomorrow, set in the same continuity as Arrow, the Soultaker sword is revealed to have originated in feudal Japan as the instrument with which a local shogun was defeated. It was then passed to Masako Yamashiro, who is implied to later become the first in a long line of female warriors named Katana.
- Katana is portrayed by Karen Fukuhara in the 2016 Warner Bros. Pictures release Suicide Squad. Rick Flag states "This is Katana, she's got my back" and "I advise not to get killed by her, her sword traps the souls of its victims." Fukuhara has stated that she wants to explore Katana's backstory in the sequel, although she ultimately did not appear in said sequel. In the film, Katana serves as Rick Flag's bodyguard, and is shown to be actively working to avenge her husband's death. Captain Boomerang lightly flirts with Katana in the film as well, but Katana ignores his comments.
- Katana appears in the animated movie Superman/Batman: Public Enemies.
- An evil parallel Earth version of Katana named Sai appears in Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths as a member of the Crime Syndicate. She's one of Owlman's Made Men and have a suit similar of Cheshire.
- Katana appears in the animated movie DC Super Hero Girls: Hero of the Year, voiced by Stephanie Sheh. While training extensively for the ceremony for "Hero of the Year", Dark Opal has his shadow monsters steal one of her shuriken.
- Katana makes an appearance in the second DC Super Hero Girls movie, Intergalactic Games. She is seen dueling one of the Female Furies and defeats her.
- Katana appears as a recurring character in Lego DC Super Hero Girls: Brain Drain, Lego DC Super Hero Girls: Super-Villain High and DC Super Hero Girls: Legends of Atlantis.
- A Katana plush doll briefly appears in Teen Titans Go! To the Movies.
- Katana appears via DLC as a playable character in Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes.
- Katana appears via DLC as a playable character in Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham.
- Katana appears as a playable character in Infinite Crisis, voiced by Kelly Hu.
- Katana appears as a playable character in Lego DC Super-Villains, with Sumalee Montano reprising her role.
- Katana appears in the web series DC Super Hero Girls and special DC Super Hero High as a student at Super Hero High. She is voiced by Stephanie Sheh.
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