Lady Shiva

Lady Shiva


caption=Shiva as the Jade Canary, from "Birds of Prey" # 92
Art by Paulo Siqueira.
character_name=Lady Shiva
real_name=Sandra Woosan/Wu-San (varies)
publisher=DC Comics
debut="Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter" #5 (December 1975)
creators=Dennis O'Neil
Ric Estrada
alliances=The Brotherhood of the Fist League of Assassins Birds of Prey
aliases=Jade Canary, The Paper Monkey, Tengu/Tengu Mask
powers= able to read body language and anticipate an opponent's actions, martial arts grandmaster. She is considered one of the best fighters in the DC Universe.

Lady Shiva (real name Sandra Woosan, or more recently Sandra Wu-San) is a fictional comic book character co-created by Dennis O'Neil and Ric Estrada, and published by DC Comics. She first appeared in "Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Master" as an antagonist of Richard Dragon. 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.

Fictional character biography

Becoming Lady Shiva


Sandra Woosan is first introduced as an antagonist to martial artist Richard Dragon, believing him to be a spy responsible for the murder of her sister Carolyn. In actuality, Carolyn's murder was orchestrated by Guano Cravat, a corrupt businessman whose criminal ambitions had been foiled by Dragon. Cravat convinced Woosan that Dragon was Carolyn's murderer, deliberately pitting her against Dragon in an act of revenge.

In order to avenge her sister, Woosan drove herself to become a master combatant. During the course of her training, she discovered that she was a prodigy, rapidly mastering several martial arts and eventually dubbing herself Lady Shiva.

When Shiva tracked Dragon down and lured him to Cravat's hideout, Dragon managed to reveal Cravat's deception. The Swiss, Carolyn's real murderer and Cravat's underling, had already died in battle with Dragon, rendering Shiva's vendetta moot.

Afterward, she briefly took up crimefighting with Dragon and fellow martial artist Ben Turner, to allay her feelings of purposelessness, saying "I tolerate Dragon because danger seems to cling to him like fly to honey... and without danger my life is empty!" (Richard Dragon #7) Dragon, in hopes that she might follow his example and use her skills for good, coaxed her to explore the spiritual side of martial arts, to no apparent success. When the three eventually parted ways, Shiva began a wandering existence, training herself further, and eventually parlaying her skills into a career as a master assassin.


Shiva was born in a shanty town, in an unknown country, and raised to be a warrior and protector of the village. Eventualy, 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. ["Birds of Prey 92-95"] 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. ["Black Canary #1" — 2007]

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 bear 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.


Due to revelations in the final issue of "Batgirl" (issue #73, February 2006, see Cassandra Cain), the relative Post-crisis canonicity of Guano Cravat and Richard Dragon in Shiva's history remain in question, as Sandra appears to immediately know the identity of her sister's killer, and her decision to become Lady Shiva stems entirely from events related to her sister's death and daughter's birth, rather than a rivalry with Dragon.

Professional assassin

Meeting the Question

During her time with Richard Dragon, Shiva became addicted to combat and life-or-death situations. Already a very accomplished martial artist, Shiva hired herself out as a mercenary both to recapture the thrill and to finance further training. Her considerable skills allowed her to ask a high price for her services, and she soon became highly sought after.

Shiva was eventually hired by Reverend Hatch, the corrupt adjunct to the mayor of Hub City, to fight troublesome masked crimefighter the Question. She defeated him with ease, but rather than have Shiva kill him, Hatch instead had his men beat the Question further, shoot him in the head with an air gun, and dump him into the river. Seeing "a passion for combat" in the hero, Shiva rescued a near-death Question, and brought him to Richard Dragon's mountain hideaway, to give him a chance to fulfill his potential. In his civilian identity as Victor Sage, the Question entered Dragon's tutelage, training in combat and receiving a spiritual awakening.

On leaving Dragon, Sage met Shiva, who ordered him to fight her. She ended the fight after only a few moves, and confirmed her own suspicions of a "warrior's passion" in him, because he was willing to fight her even after his previous, crushing defeat. However, influenced by Dragon's philosophy, Sage proposed that he was simply "curious" what would happen if they fought again. Shiva left without telling Sage why she saved him, and Sage readopted the identity of the Question, returning to Hub City.

hiva and the O-Sensei

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.

After recruiting Green Arrow, Shiva returned to Hub City, and saved the Question from an attack by former employees of the now-dead Reverend Hatch. Shiva killed the men, who had been after a fortune in embezzled funds stored in Hatch's abandoned home, and set fire to the money. Later, she nursed the Question's elderly friend Tot back to health. While the Question puzzled over her inscrutable and violent nature, she confessed that the O-Sensei was "the one man I am certain I would not harm if he kissed me."

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.

Toward Sodom and Gomorrah

When Hub City fell victim to rapid, systemic urban decay, Shiva returned to offer her services to one of the ruling gangs, but instead killed the members for sending "unskilled" men to kill her. On meeting the Question, she was dismayed to find that staying in Hub City had atrophied his fighting skills. Nevertheless, she repeatedly saved both him and his lover, Mayor Myra Fermin, from assassins.

She vanished some time later, only to reappear stepping out of a helicopter meant to rescue the Question and his companions, who had decided to flee the city. Shiva explained that though the Question and his friends wished to leave, it was now a fit place for her to go toward. The Question and Shiva had a final exchange before he left.cquote|"I never know what to say to you, Shiva. I'm afraid that if it's the wrong thing, you'll destroy me."
"Ah. Then you have not yet understood the grand secret."
"Which is?"
"I cannot destroy you unless you permit me to."
-from "The Question #36", by Denny O'Neil

After Hub City

Shiva continued to work as a mercenary for money, challenge, and perfection of her skills. Eventually, she crossed paths with 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 "".

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 her, Batman rapidly realized that Shiva's 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 Wu-San" 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.

Later, Shiva began to track down those who referred to themselves as Shihan, "Master," or any other title proclaiming mastery of a martial arts form. She would learn what she could from them and, depending on their skill and personal whim, kill them when they were of no further use to her.

Teaching a Little Bird

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.

Getting involved with Gotham

After Bane broke Batman's back, he 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 ""). 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. ["Batman #534" — September 1996]

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.

Mother knows best

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.

A new Sensei

In Gail Simone's ""Birds of Prey"" series, during a joint hunt with Black Canary for the murderer of a shared, beloved sensei, Shiva is 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 Tigris 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 and resurrected her.

One Year Later

Having switched places with Black Canary in order to allow them both to experience each other's life experiences, Shiva joins Oracle's covert team of female operatives known as the Birds of Prey (with Canary hoping that spending time with them would soften Shiva), using the name "Jade Canary". However, she retains her hard and cold personality. Oracle semiseriously refers to Shiva as being possibly sociopathic, and refuses to call Shiva by the Jade Canary title, even though Shiva (as part of the deal with Canary) has taken to wearing Black Canary's boots and trademark fishnet stockings (though she hates wearing them).

Shiva continues to perform solo-work however, and visits Robin to assist him (much to Robin's chagrin) in discovering the truth behind Batgirl's recent disappearance and recent upheaval within the League of Assassins. She refuses to allow herself or Oracle's team to be involved, and instead trusts her former pupil to handle the situation. It appears that she holds no ill-will towards Cassandra as she informs Tim that she hopes that her daughter is well.

During a recent mission, Oracle's team confronted the villain Prometheus, whose helmet allows him to copy the skills of 30 of the world's greatest martial artists, including Shiva herself. This had allowed him a victory against Batman in the past. Shiva believed that his files on her would be out of date, and that she would be able to defeat her "old self". She seemed unconcerned about the skills of the other 29 fighters, and apparently decided to attack Prometheus head-on. Prometheus, however, had more up-to-date files than Shiva suspected, and in three seconds had knocked her to the ground. After this defeat, Shiva vanished, leaving a message for Black Canary: "Tell the Canary, I release her."

Stripped of her chance to mold Black Canary in her own image, and stripped of Sin, the young girl who was next in line as her successor, Shiva was last seen talking to Bethany Thorne, daughter of the late Crime Doctor. It appears that she is yet again hoping to train a new heir in the art of her lethal form of martial arts.

Still, although Shiva is no longer an active member of the Birds of Prey, she continues to be protective on her former teammates. Such is the case when the Birds of Prey were being threatened by Spy Smasher who attempts to steal control away from Oracle. After a mission in Russia, Oracle and Spy Smasher fight against one another for control of the team. Although Oracle is unable to use her legs, she is victorious, though Spy Smasher attempts to go back on their deal. Unfortunately, she is confronted outside by every single living Birds of Prey Agent Oracle has ever recruited, who warn her against ever going after Oracle again; Lady Shiva is amongst them. When Barbara later asks the others who called Shiva, no one responded.

Lady Shiva in other media

Lady Shiva is portrayed by Sung-Hi Lee in the "Birds of Prey" TV series in the episode "Lady Shiva". Here, she is about equally skilled as Barbara Gordon and Huntress. Instead of being Cassandra's nemesis as Batgirl, she is Barbara's. In her civilian identity, she is a former schoolmate of Huntress.

External links

* [ Women of Gotham Biography: Lady Shiva]
* [ CanaryNoir]


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