Why Original Character Kai Li Cain Shows Up In Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham, According To The Writer And Director

Kai Li Cain in Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham
(Image credit: Warner Bros. Animation)

Usually with Marvel and DC movies, most of the cast is comprised of characters who originate from the original source material. But every now and then, there’s room to include brand-new creations, and in Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham’s case, that character is Kai Li Cain, one of Bruce Wayne’s wards. If you’re wondering why this original character was included in the latest of the direct-to-video animated DC movies, writer Jase Ricci and co-director/producer Sam Liu opened up about her origins while speaking with CinemaBlend.

Based off the same-named “Elseworlds” miniseries from Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, Richard Pace,Troy Nixey and Dennis Janke, Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham takes place in the 1920s and follows David Giuntoli’s Bruce Wayne returning to Gotham City to investigate and combat supernatural forces threatening his home. Uncharted and You actress Tati Gabrielle voices Kai Li Cain, who fills the role that Tim Drake occupied in the original comic, though she has more to do in this adaptation thanks to being the secondary protagonist. Curious about how Kai Li came to be, I first asked Jase Ricci how he went about creating her, and he answered:

Obviously the name is a portmanteau of Kelley from Dark Knight Returns and Cassandra Cain, but I think what it really came from is… I give all credit to Sam Liu and Jim Krieg, because when we were developing this story, we brought up points like, ‘Well here’s a Bruce Wayne that left Gotham City very early to travel the world to become Batman. Along the way, he accumulated, if you will, these orphans who are stand-in Robins. But it didn’t seem very international. It wasn’t a directive that, ‘We need to spread out our cast.’ It was thinking of it as organic to the story. Kai Li actually wound up being one of my favorite characters… The hard thing of writing Batman is he’s not extremely loquacious, so it’s hard to know to get into his head. Especially when we get to Gotham, she’s our avatar into the story. She’s the newcomer to the pack of Robins, and they’re like, ‘Well, this is how Bruce is, this is how it is.’ We see her fall in love with Gotham. So I think that was a necessary change, and I love the fact that they are more of a representation of world travel rather than Tim and Jason. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, [but] I think it fit our story better.

For those who don’t know a lot about Batman, Carrie Kelley was the young girl who became the new Robin in the alternate continuity miniseries Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, and later reappeared in the sequels Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again and The Dark Knight III: The Master Race. Cassandra Cain has been been part of the main DC Comics continuity since 1999 and, along with succeeding Barbara Gordon as Batgirl in 2001, has also gone by the identities Kasumi, Black Bat and Orphan. So for the movie version of Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham, it was decided to mash these young women together into Kai Li Cain not just to help diversify the lineup of “Robins,” but also to provide that newcomer perspective to both how Bruce Wayne is and coming to Gotham for the first time. 

Kai Li Cain is one of three youths that Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham’s Bruce Wayne takes under his wing, the other two being Dick Grayson (just like the original comic) and Sanjay “Jay” Tawde, a revamped version of Jason Todd. Now knowing that Sam Liu played a key role in coming up with Kai Li, I later inquired with the director about his connection to the character. Here’s what he had to say:

Jim Krieg, who’s sort of the head writer, I remember when we first sat down and we were looking at the script and like, ‘Ok, what are we going to do? How are we going to make this work?’… [Jim Krieg] was like, ‘This cast is all white male, for the most part.’ You have two semi-controversial, racist kind of depictions of Ra’s and Talia, but everybody else is white men basically. So how do we mix this up a little bit?… I don’t mind it if it makes sense, so I wrestled with that a lot. So to me, it’s like, if Bruce Wayne, after his parents died, was taken abroad by Alfred, and he learns basically everything that he knows. Elements of mysticism, his Houdini elements, his detectiving, all that came abroad in different countries with different specialists. It made sense to me that we could probably change the “Robins.” Because again, he’s not in America or in Gotham. He’s around the world, and he probably would have picked up his family during his travels around the world.

So now we know the story behind how Kai Li Cain was created, and although she’s an amalgamation of Carrie Kelley and Cassandra Cain, I’ll be curious to see if this specific character is later included in other DC projects. As for what awaits Kai Li in Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham, you’ll just need to watch the movie for yourself to learn that, although there is an amusing moment where she’s clearly not amused by the drunken antics of Oliver Queen, voiced by Christopher Gorham. The movie’s voice cast also includes David Giuntoli as Bruce Wayne/Batman (he previously voiced the character in Batman: Soul of the Dragon), John DiMaggio as James Gordon, Patrick Fabian (of Better Call Saul and “The One Piece is real!” fame) as Harvey Dent, Brian George as Alfred Pennyworth and David Dastmalchian as Grendon, among many others.

Following its world premiere this past Friday at WonderCon and Anaheim, Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham will be release by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on Digital, 4K Combo Pack and Blu-ray Tuesday, March 28. Stream plenty of other animated DC offerings with an HBO Max subscription, and keep your eyes peeled on CinemaBlend for news on upcoming DC movies.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore, Adam is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He started working for the site back in late 2014 writing exclusively comic book movie and TV-related articles, and along with branching out into other genres, he also made the jump to editing. Along with his writing and editing duties, as well as interviewing creative talent from time to time, he also oversees the assignment of movie-related features. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Journalism, and he’s been sourced numerous times on Wikipedia. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.