Lady Shiva is one of the most deadly assassins in the DC Universe. Shiva has also trained the third Robin, Tim Drake. Shiva's daughter, Cassandra Cain, would later become the new Batgirl. Over time, she has become more closely associated with Batman and related characters, both as an enemy and an ally. She is a martial arts grandmaster, one of the most skilled combatants in the entire DC Universe. She is an assassin-for-hire, who specializes in bare-handed kills.
Shiva was born in a shanty town, in an unknown country, and raised to be a warrior and protector of the village. Eventually, Shiva successfully fled the village with her sister. Years later, when the heroine Black Canary visits the village to experience Shiva's training, a village child named Sin is held hostage by the villagers, with the promise that if Canary fails to become the warrior-protector of the village, Sin is to take her place, suggesting that Shiva's sister was once used in a similar manner. Speaking about her childhood, Sin says that Ra's al Ghul's League of Assassins ran the village where she and Shiva were born and raised.
The sisters moved to Detroit, using the names Sandra and Carolyn Wu-San. There, they devoted their time to practicing the martial arts. Because of the girls' young age, talent, and unique bond as sisters, their practice evolved into a secret, perfected language that only they could share. Out of love for her sister, Sandra held back in her spars with Carolyn. The assassin David Cain saw this restraint in Sandra one day when he visited Detroit to see the siblings perform. Considering Sandra a kindred spirit, Cain murdered Carolyn, in order to remove the obstruction that blunted Sandra's true potential.
Discovering that David Cain had murdered her sister, Sandra hunted him down, only to be lured into an ambush by Ra's al Ghul's League of Assassins, of which Cain was a member. In the heat of a losing battle, Sandra realized how Carolyn had held her back, and how much undeveloped potential she had. Cain spared her life, and in exchange, Sandra agreed to bare Cain a child, and leave it for him to raise. The child, Cassandra Cain, was to be Ra's al Ghul's "One Who Is All," a perfected bodyguard, whose only form of communication was literacy in body language, and whose sole instinct was for hand-to-hand combat. With Carolyn gone, Cassandra and Sandra were the only two humans known to share this gift. The day of Cassandra's birth, Sandra set out to become reborn as the Lady Shiva: creator and destroyer.
Shiva set out with her martial arts and began training to perfect them. She went on adventures with Richard Dragon and became addicted to the adrenaline rush that is gained from life or death situations. She eventually became a mercenary for hire in order to finance her activities. She became so skilled that people will pay high prices for her services.
Shiva continued to work as a mercenary for money, challenge, and perfection of her skills. Eventually, she encountered the League of Assassins, and its leader, Ra's al Ghul, and began an on-and-off association with them. Though she has kept close ties with the League, she sometimes works against their interests, as seen during Batman: Legacy.
While training prospective assassins, mercenaries, and terrorists in war-torn Lebanon, she was approached by Jason Todd, the second Robin and his guardian Batman, acting on a rumor that she had associated with Todd's father, and speculating that she might be his mother. Eager to finally face Batman uninterrupted, Shiva knocked Robin unconscious and challenged the Dark Knight. Initially underestimating Shiva and thinking that she was just showing off, Batman soon found that her skills were such that she could kill him, and began to fight in earnest. It took intervention from Robin to knock Shiva unconscious and subdue her for interrogation. When asked if she was Jason’s mother, Shiva laughed, sarcastically claiming to have littered dozens of babies across the globe. When Batman dosed her with sodium pentothal, Shiva claimed to have no children, confirming that Jason was not her son. Arguably, the later addition of Cassandra as Shiva's biological child could be canonically explained as Shiva considering her identity as Sandra Woosan to be wholly separate from her current identity as Lady Shiva. Batman left her in the desert reasoning that she would soon free herself from her bonds. Shiva warned him that they would meet again, to which Batman simply answered "Too bad" — but it is not specified if this was a show of contempt for Shiva's threat, or dread of another rematch.
Shiva eventually traveled to Manchuria to visit with her godfather the O-Sensei, former instructor of Richard Dragon and Bronze Tiger. After living over 150 years, he had finally decided to die. He intended to fulfill a promise to his wife, and be buried alongside her, but his wife's family had hidden her remains out of anger at his abandonment. The O-Sensei had Shiva select three warriors to aid him in the search for her remains: the Question, Green Arrow, and Batman. Reluctant to acknowledge the O-Sensei's death wish, Shiva expressed her ambivalence both verbally and physically, unnecessarily applying deadly force in battles with O-Sensei's assailants. Shiva and the O-Sensei then traveled to Hub City, meeting with the Question, who, in turn, brokered Shiva's first meeting with Batman. Compelled to test his skill, Shiva immediately fought the vigilante only to be stopped by the O-Sensei. They did, however, convince Batman to aid them. In their search for Green Arrow, Shiva encountered slave traders, killing all except one who successfully cut her, whom she rewarded with a kiss on the forehead. After locating Green Arrow, she met Black Canary for the first time, and sparred with the hero. Although Canary did not know it at the time, the two had both studied under Sensei Otomo, though nonconcurrently.
When Batman discovered that the remains of the O-Sensei's wife had been moved to a small island, Shiva, the O-Sensei, Green Arrow, and the Question set out for the island, only to be caught in a storm. The O-Sensei was lost overboard, but the group discovered that his wife's remains had likewise been lost overboard, years earlier, while in transport, leaving O-Sensei's promise fulfilled.
Getting involved with Gotham
In further pursuit of her art, Shiva tracked the defeats of martial arts masters, in order to discover new techniques. In this way, she developed an interest in the defeat of Koroshi, master of the art of empty-handed fighting. Gaining no information from Koroshi himself, she began to search for King Snake, the man rumored to have defeated him. During her search, she met Tim Drake, who was fighting King Snake's criminal organization, the Ghost Dragons, as part of his training to become the third Robin. Shiva saw potential in Drake, and took him on as a student. As a bonus, she offered to train him in one weapon, and he chose the bo staff. Shiva derisively mentioned that it was not a lethal weapon, and Drake explained that was the reason he had chosen it. At the end of his training, he defeated Shiva in a sparring match with the bo, and she gifted him with a collapsible bo staff. Eventually, they discovered that the Ghost Dragons were creating a virulent plague. Robin, Shiva, and ally Clyde Rawlins attempted to stop them from releasing it, but the Dragons escaped with a few canisters. After tracking them to Hong Kong, they eventually defeated King Snake, though Rawlins died in the attempt and Shiva mostly witnessed the proceedings. While King Snake hung precariously on the ledge of a building, Shiva ordered Robin to kill him to signify his "graduation" and become her "weapon." Robin refused and left. Shiva then threw the King Snake off the ledge herself, though he survived the fall.
After Bane broke Batman's back, Batman sought training from Shiva to help him regain his skills and fighting spirit. Though she deemed him unworthy of her efforts, she devised a training regimen, out of respect for what he had been before his injuries. As part of this training, Shiva killed Gotham native, the Armless Master, (a sensei notable for training Catwoman), while wearing a tengu mask, making sure that his death was both witnessed and relayed to his best students. Shiva then made Batman wear the mask while performing training missions. He was then ambushed by the master’s students, who mistook him for the "Tengu Mask warrior." He defeated all of them in turn, but Shiva attempted to complete Batman’s training by manipulating him into killing an opponent using her fatal Leopard Blow. Batman simply feigned using the maneuver on an assailant to trick her into believing he used lethal force.
Shiva later discovered the truth, but did not seek vengeance.
Later, she helped Batman against Ra's al Ghul and his League of Assassins, including Bane, when Ghul attempted to release a deadly virus called Ebola Gulf A that would have killed half the world (see Batman: Legacy). The trail had led Batman to Calcutta, India. Since their knowledge of the city was limited, Oracle contacted Shiva, who agreed to help Batman. Together they defeated Ghul's men and prevented the virus from being released. Shiva later traveled to an army base in Transbelvia to fight a young political rebel and martial artist named Dava Sbörsc, who specialized in undefeatable "single-blow techniques" and wished to learn Shiva's Leopard Blow. Instead, Dava's friend, her former pupil Tim Drake, in his identity as Robin, jumped into the fray in her place. Granted superspeed by a drug Dava gave him, and unused to its effects, Robin unwittingly used lethal force, killing Shiva in battle. He quickly administered CPR, both reviving Shiva and dosing her with the drug. Thus enhanced, she killed attacking soldiers while Robin and Dava made their escape, vanishing immediately after. In an earthquake-ravaged Gotham, Shiva fought in the Brotherhood of the Monkey Fist's martial arts tournament under the alias "Paper Monkey." In a final, close battle, she fought and won against Connor Hawke, the Green Arrow. As repayment for saving her life, Robin asked her to spare Connor. She relented, warning Robin that this use of her favor meant she would challenge and kill him when he was older. Over the years, Shiva amassed groups of followers who worship her as an incarnation of Shiva, the Hindu incarnation of death. She pays them little attention, occasionally using them as lackeys or killing them when it suits her whims. Some of her followers have even created temples to honor her victories, one of which was Gotham, which she later destroyed.
At age 8, Shiva's daughter Cassandra fled David Cain, horrified and regretful after killing a man with her bare hands on her first assassination. She then wandered the world as a mute, and, seeking redemption, found herself in Gotham City during the events of No Man's Land. Seeing promise in Cassandra, Batman and former Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, gave Cassandra their blessings to take up the mantle of Batgirl. Eventually, Batgirl's skills caught Shiva's attention. Without telling her of their relationship, Shiva challenged Batgirl to a battle to the death. To Shiva's disappointment, she defeated Batgirl soundly. Batgirl's body language fluency was newly impaired by a telepath's forcible inculcation of the ability to speak. Wanting to fight Batgirl at her peak, Shiva refrained from killing her, and promised to retrain her on the condition that they have a rematch in one year. The secret to being undefeatable, Shiva explained, was to not fear death, even to seek it. Under Shiva's care, Batgirl soon regained her abilities.
Shiva reappeared to fight Batgirl at the Forum of The Twelve Caesars, and killed her in combat. Realizing that Batgirl had not given her all, Shiva revived her. Batgirl admitted to harboring a death wish ever since Cain first forced her to kill. Her ability to perfectly read the agony of her victim had deeply traumatized her. Having overcame her death wish, Batgirl fought again, shattering the sword Shiva wielded. In the midst of battle, Batgirl accused Shiva of having a death wish herself, really only traveling and fighting in search of her own death. Batgirl defeated Shiva by breaking her jaw, but refused to kill her.
In Gail Simone's Birds of Prey series, during a joint hunt with Black Canary for the murderer of a shared, beloved sensei, Shiva was beaten and kidnapped by supervillain Cheshire. Cheshire ties up, gags and locks Shiva in the trunk of a car wired with explosives, so as to use the similarly Asian charred corpse in a plan to fake her death and flee the country after murdering a senator. Fortunately, Shiva is saved when Catwoman discovers her. After Cheshire confesses to murdering their sensei, Black Canary kicks her out of a helicopter to prevent Shiva from killing her in a vengeful rage. Shiva subsequently offers to share her knowledge with Black Canary, who takes her offer under consideration. When Cassandra began to suspect that Shiva was her mother, but could not provoke Cain into an admission, she embarked on a search for Shiva, eventually finding her as the new sensei the League of Assassins under the leadership of Nyssa Raatko, Ra's al Ghul's eldest daughter. In battle, Cassandra sacrificed her life to save former League member Tigress from an attack by her own unsuccessful experimental predecessor, Mad Dog. Shiva decided to resurrect Cassandra in a Lazarus Pit to reveal the truth of her heritage, and fight her once more. On reviving her, Shiva admitted that the reason she agreed to give birth was that she hoped her child would be the one to kill her. They began an evenly-matched battle, which Cassandra won by dodging Shiva's Leopard Blow and snapping her neck. Shiva, still alive, begged Cassandra not to heal her in the pit. Cassandra, still unwilling to kill, shallowly impaled her mother's shoulder on a hook suspended directly over the Lazarus Pit, and left. Having subsequently appeared alive and uninjured, it is most likely that Shiva's body fell into the Pit, which healed her.
Powers and Abilities
Martial Arts: Lady Shiva is a deadly assassin and one of the prominent martial artists on the planet. She has combined many moves and elements from numerous martial arts including a few forgotten ones to create a combat form that matches her own strengths. Shiva is known to have studied the styles of Leopard Style Kung Fu, Dragon Style Kung Fu, Taekwondo, Judo, Capoeira, Kokusho, Savate, Karate and Stick Fighting.
Medicine: It has been said that Shiva can heal as deftly as she can harm.
Tactical Analysis: Shiva is very literate in body language. She can often predict what an opponent will do before they do it and better plan her attacks this way.
Indomitable Will: She can control her nervous system enabling her to deaden her body to physical pain, control her emotions. She can even control her bleeding rate.
In Other Media
- Shiva appears in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, in "Everybody Talks About the Weather!", voiced by Kelly Hu. Where she teams and betrays all the heroes, and was later captured. This version of Shiva is Katana's big sister and has an attraction to Gentleman Ghost.
- Main article: Shiva (Arkhamverse)