Lady Shiva: Who is DC’s Deadliest Warrior?

Beware of Batgirl’s Mom

Lady Shiva:Do not torment yourself trying to understand me. Your mind is not ready to understand me. It may never be ready to understand me. Content yourself with this: I am outside.

The Question Annual #1

A martial artist wakes up in a panic. Something is wrong. He runs to the dojo as dying screams pierce the air. He throws open the doors to see his students laying dead. Necks have been snapped, limbs shattered, and the floor is stained crimson with blood.

A woman radiating a palpable bloodlust stands among the corpses. The teacher’s instincts scream at him to run, but he enters a stance, knowing he cannot escape. He unleashes a flurry of blows on the woman, all of which are dodged or parried. She paralyzes his arm with a nerve strike. A kick leaves his leg crushed between her knee and elbow. A piercing strike through the eyes ends his life. Lady Shiva leaves the dojo, disappointment clear on her face.

Lady Shiva is one of DC’s best martial artists. She may not have superpowers, but her skills have left more than one hero fighting for their lives. So who is she? How did she become so skilled? Can anyone defeat her? Let’s find out.

Rising Leopard, Patient Dragon: Lady Shiva’s Backstory

Lady Shiva: I deliberately missed you, pig… to prove I could kill you easily! Instead I prefer to do it otherwise… to pound the life from you! For I am Sandra Wu-San… and you caused the death of my sister!

Richard Dragon: Kung-Fu Fighter #5

Lady Shiva debuted in Richard Dragon: Kung-Fu Fighter #5 in 1975. She was created by Dennis O’Neil and Ric Estrada. Lady Shiva’s name refers to Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction, change, and rebirth. Originally intended as a foil for Dragon, her popularity has since eclipsed his.

Sandra Wu-San was a young martial arts student in Detroit. Her most frequent sparring partner was her sister, Carolyn. Sandra always held back when facing Carolyn, not wanting to hurt her less skilled sister. Over time, they developed a language based entirely on martial arts and body language.

A corrupt businessperson murdered Carolyn and framed Richard Dragon. Sandra trained relentlessly to avenge her, naming herself Lady Shiva when she was ready to face him. 

Lady Shiva fought Dragon to a standstill before learning the truth. The murderer died before Shiva could avenge her sister. Realizing she enjoyed combat, she began traveling with Dragon who unsuccessfully tried to help her find purpose through the spiritual side of martial arts, Lady Shiva eventually left to become an internationally feared assassin.

Daughter of Destruction

Batgirl:Just tell me… how many? Killed. Since we fought?
Lady Shiva:With my own hands? Forty-eight.
Batgirl:Will you ever stop?
Lady Shiva:It’s why I had you.
Batgirl:…I’m ready.

Batgirl #73

Lady Shiva’s character was overhauled following the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Her backstory started the same way, but her sister’s killer was changed to assassin David Cain, who had killed Carolyn to remove Sandra’s restraint. Sandra sought revenge, but eventually accepted his logic. She had Cain’s child and renamed herself Lady Shiva as she became an assassin.

Lady Shiva targeted martial artists, thinking that she could only improve by killing the best of the best in fair duels. She has taught many heroes in return for an eventual duel, including Batman, Robin, Huntress, The Question, Green Arrow, and Shiva’s reluctant friend, Black Canary. The heroes always find a way to sidestep a duel to the death, either cheating so they win or convincing Lady Shiva to postpone.

While traveling through Gotham City, Lady Shiva came face to face with her daughter Cassandra Cain, the second Batgirl. Shiva helped Cassandra master her body language skills and taught her how to cope with a death wish she had developed.

Mother and daughter met again while Lady Shiva was working for the League of Shadows. Shiva revealed that she was Cassandra’s mother and suffered from a similar death wish before challenging her daughter to a final duel. Cassandra defeated Shiva and honored her wishes by killing her. She then resurrected Shiva with the mystical Lazarus Pit to avoid breaking her vow against killing.

Claws of the Leopard: Lady Shiva’s Powers and Personality

Richard Dragon:The Leopard Blow. Her signature. Taken from the deadliest land animal on Earth. Used by the deadliest woman on Earth. No one sees it and lives. Not even Richard Dragon.

Richard Dragon #12

Lady Shiva doesn’t have superpowers because she doesn’t need them. She has mastered dozens of martial arts styles, combining their techniques into her own unnamed style. She finishes worthy opponents with the Leopard Blow, a piercing strike through the victim’s eye socket that destroys their brain. 

Lady Shiva is considered the best fighter in the DC universe, rivaled only by Richard Dragon and Cassandra Cain. Her experience with Carolyn has taught her to read body language, making her almost precognitive in a fight. It’s been implied that Shiva might not be human, with some portrayals alluding to a fairy or spirit background. There was even one occasion where she appeared right after The Question prayed for her help. 

Lady Shiva is pragmatic, ruthless, and addicted to danger. She holds herself to a strict, albeit ill-defined code of honor. If she accepts a rule for her duels, she will not break it. This is how lesser skilled heroes have managed to escape her. Lady Shiva wants nothing more than a worthy opponent for her final battle, but she’s willing to wait until Cassandra is ready to kill her.

The Actors Who Play Lady Shiva

Sung-Hi Lee – Birds of Prey
Finola Hughes – Beware the Batman
Sachie Alessio – Batman: Hush, Justice League Dark: Apokolips War
Gwendoline Yeo – Young Justice: Outsiders
Panta Mosleh – Deathstroke: Knights and Dragons
Kelly Hu – Batman: Soul of the Dragon

Didya Get All That?

The deadliest martial artist in DC Comics.

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