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The Secret History of the Mysterious Hooded Woman in the DC Comics Relaunch

If you’ve been paying close attention, you may have noticed that there’s one common thread uniting all of DC’s “New 52″ titles, even the ones set five years in the past: Each one features a cameo appearance by the same Mysterious Hooded Woman. She’s been spotted at Cyborg’s football game in Justice League, riding a train with Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen in Action Comics, and even, as seen above, partying at the club in the pages of Green Arrow. But despite the fact that she’s the busiest character in the relaunch, the question remains: Just who the heck is she?

Element Girl? Harbinger? A new version of the Time Trapper? A rebooted Destiny of the Endless? A walking plot device to lead us all into the next crossover? Everyone’s got a theory, but no one quite knows for sure. What we do know, however, is that once you start looking for her, you can find her everywhere — even at some of the biggest milestones of DC’s past!If you’re a new reader, you may be under the misconception that the Mysterious Hooded Woman made her first appearance at the end of Flashpoint #5, ushering Barry Allen — and the readers — into the rebooted DC Universe:

That is, after all, the prevailing wisdom. But here’s the thing: It’s not true at all.

I know, I know, it blew our minds too. We here at ComicsAlliance had always figured she was a brand new character this year, but last night while I was doing my monthly read-through of the greatest Batman story ever told, I noticed that she showed up at the defining moment of one of DC’s most notable villains… The KGBeast.

You know, I’ve always wondered why the Beast decided to use that axe to cut off his own hand rather than just cutting the rope that was holding him in place. Could the Mysterious Hooded Woman and her fetching double-breasted suit have been involved in the decision? It seems like that just might be the case. Either way, it was clear that whatever DC’s building up to with the character, they’ve been seeding it since at least 1988.

And that’s not an isolated incident, either. As soon as I noticed her, I started flipping through other Batman comics of the era to see if she showed up again. And sure enough, there she was, at a slightly less important but no less pivotal moment for the Universe: The fan-mandated death of Jason Todd in A Death in the Family:

All these years and I’d just assumed that was one of the Joker’s old suits fluttering in the wind. I should’ve known better.

At that point, I started to notice a pattern emerging — she’s there for the big moments. And sure enough, when I checked the groundbreaking Batman: The Killing Joke, I spotted her in no time:

That’s her in the bottom right-hand corner. Don’t feel bad if you’ve never noticed her there — with her glowing purple hood, she blends right in with John Higgins’ lurid, psychedelic coloring. Once you know what you look for, though, she can be pretty easy to spot.

It’s not just the Batman titles, though. See if you can spot her in the crowd during one of the DC Unvierse’s biggest turning points: The legendary Death of Superman, the bold story in which Superman and a monster in bike shorts hit each other until they both died:

Is she just part of the crowd, or is this a clue to her mysterious powers? Is she, perhaps, the reason that two dudes are punching each other so hard that every window in a skyscraper is shattered from the force of it, while a bunch of regular people are able to just sort of hang out, chatting with each other about falling glass while it all goes down?

But even that story is small change compared to some other appearances the MHW has made in the past. Today, she’s showing up to watch high school football games, but in 1987, she appeared at one of the most crucial moments in comic book history. That’s right: She made a cameo in Crisis On Infinite Earths:

Then again, who didn’t?

Clearly, we can all see the pattern here. Whoever the MHW is, she’s appeared at some of the most important, groundbreaking and memorable moments in DC Universe history. And also in 2005′s Infinite Crisis.

But this is where it starts to get really interesting. Up ’til this point, I’d only been looking for her in regular DC Universe super-hero comics, where she’d turned up time and time again. But on a whim, I went to my bookshelf and grabbed what might just be the most important comic book of the modern era. And in what might be the shock of the year — a ComicsAlliance Exclusive — I saw her in the pages of Watchmen:

Sure, she’s a little off-model when you compare her to the others, but there’s no mistaking that pink halo. Just how deep does this rabbit hole go?

With thousands upon thousands of DC comics published over the past 70 years — and only a relative handful in my collection — it’s impossible to know just how far back her appearances go, but I have discovered one additional fact that might blow this mystery wide open. She might be easier to spot in the Modern Age books, but that’s definitely not where she started.

As far as I can tell, she was around far earlier than that — as evidenced by 1951′s Batman #66:

And really, with as much as those panels have floated around the Internet, you’d think we would’ve noticed that one sooner.

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