Aside from “Who would win in a fight?,” no debate gets comic fans more heated than the question of whether or not superheroes should marry. In this mini-feature, former Bride Rebecca Henely-Weiss and Bride-to-Be Kayleigh Hearn take a trip to today’s spinner racks and look at the most recent times comic companies took the plunge and got their characters hitched! Did we like the couple? Did we like the dress? And, more importantly, why did (or didn’t) the marriage last? Today, we look at the wedding of Batman and Catwoman.
The Couple: Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle
The Issue: Batman #50
Published: July 4, 2018
Today: Oh, you know what happened.
Rebecca: Y’know, maybe I should have been more sympathetic to those Kitty/Piotr shippers last month, because I feel like my inner preteen who painstakingly sewed white thread into the leggings of her Batman Returns-era Catwoman costume did NOT take this issue very well. I’ve had Wedding Issues make me angry before, but this one just bummed me out.
Kayleigh: So, X-Men: Gold #30 was crazy, huh? A mega-hyped superhero wedding with months of build-up, only for an anti-climax where the bride leaves the groom at the altar? Now, to pick up my Batman mug, open Batman #50, and take a big sip of coffee.
Rebecca: Catwoman is my favorite character, not only in Batman’s rogues gallery but probably in Batman’s entire canon. Part of it is just thinking her whip-and-talons weapon set and most of her costumes are cool as hell, but if Batman is a wish fulfillment fantasy for young boys (i.e., being rich, strong, and smart with a personal butler to pick up after you), then Catwoman has her own charms for young girls. Of course, it’s not right to steal jewelry, but if you have to play the bad guy, why not be pretty and clever with a heart of gold? There’s something neat about being the independent woman who could attract male attention if she wants to, but maybe at the end of the adventuring prefers coming back to her apartment where her super somehow never complains about her 30 cats.
Kayleigh: Batman and Catwoman have been chasing each other since Batman #1, 68 years ago, which is a literal human lifetime! I’ve loved this couple ever since Michelle Pfeiffer and Michael Keaton talked about eating deadly mistletoe while they danced, and it’s been interesting watching their relationship evolve. There’s an obvious shift from Catwoman being just one of billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne’s many paramours to, as the kids say, Bruce and Selina being “endgame.” Part of it is that audiences are more sympathetic to morally gray anti-heroes, and part of it is our love for forbidden romances, but compare the “You’re a criminal, I’m a hero, it can never be!” tragedy of 1966s Batman: The Movie to Bruce and Selina’s European honeymoon in The Dark Knight Rises, or the two being childhood sweethearts on Gotham. I’ve been reading Golden Age Batman comics for the first time, and it’s surreal that Bruce’s earliest love interests, like Julie Madison and Linda Page, are obscurities now while Catwoman is a cultural icon in her own right. It always comes back to Bruce and Selina (Batman #1, bitch), and I wanted to see it made official.
Rebecca: Just like last month, we’ll talk about the fashion and cameos before we go into the plot. Bruce and Selina’s guest list was very small, with Bruce bringing Alfred along to be his witness and Selina temporarily springing longtime ally Holly Robinson from prison to be hers. (Yeah, the Robins and rest of the extended Bat-family don’t get an invite.) Bruce wears a suit that brings to mind his Batman costume, a nice dark gray with a light gray vest and blue pocket square and tie, even if I don’t buy that Mr. Socialite needs help putting on the latter. However, Selina’s dress, which was designed by Joelle Jones and hyped up in previews, is truly spectacular. The severe black lace accents are darkly beautiful and perfect for Selina’s character, and the small veil pinned over a cat-ear tiara is on the nose, but still incredibly cute. And hey, if you really like it you can buy a custom version for yourself off Etsy for a price that’s actually pretty competitive for wedding dresses.
Kayleigh: Selina’s wedding dress is an absolute beauty, and it rockets up to the top of the list of the best dresses we’ve ever reviewed. With the off the shoulder black lace, it looks like the hotter evil twin of Kitty Pryde’s wedding dress, and I’m half-wondering if I can steal that cat-ear tiara for my own wedding. Main artist Mikel Janin really sells the beauty and emotion of the couple getting ready on their special day. The standout scene in this issue is the panoramic spread of Bruce and Selina seeing each other on opposite ends of a sweeping Wayne Manor hall and then meeting each other in the middle for an embrace. Janin’s work here is critical because this scene needs to hit us on two different levels: joy for Bruce and Selina as they see each other for the first time on their wedding day, and, sigh…
…Sadness as we realize, after we close the book, that it’s the last time they see each other, too.
Rebecca: One of the frustrations of writing about this comic is that there’s just not much of a story. After a quick conversation while beating up bad guys, Selina and Bruce wrangle together a ceremony with their two witnesses and a half-sauced Judge Wolfman on the rooftop where they met. Except, well, DC did the exact same thing Marvel did last month. They hyped fans up with news of a big wedding for months, then blabbed to The New York Times so the Gray Lady could tell everyone in a headline that the wedding didn’t happen days in advance. Still, at least Marvel threw us a bone and had a more interesting couple than Colossus and Kitty Pryde marry instead. Batman #50 features some strained conversations over whether or not Bruce Wayne needs to be miserable to be Batman. Then Selina gets cold feet and runs off, and the final panel implies that Holly may have been part of a villain-led conspiracy to break Batman’s heart.
Kayleigh: The publicity cluster-fuck here stole Marvel’s own poorly-conceived thunder more than Gambit stole Colossus’s wedding. At least Marc Guggenheim and Kelly Thompson said their piece in X-Men: Gold‘s NYT article (though as Oliver Sava points out on The AV Club, Marvel’s secrecy in soliciting the upcoming Mr. and Mrs. X mini as “X-Classified” isn’t a good sales strategy), but Tom King was blindsided and had to urge fans on Twitter to try to avoid the spoilers. The writer of the backfired BatCat vows announcement later said he regretted how the article was handled. If the cat was out of the bag, retailers were left holding it, as many shops had planned midnight release parties and day-of celebrations involving everything from real wedding cakes to costume contests. All for a wedding that doesn’t happen. COMICS, EVERYBODY!
Rebecca: It’s just such a letdown. We’ve seen “Batman almost marries” stories before—from the celebrated Mask of the Phantasm movie, to the maligned Kevin Smith Widening Gyre miniseries—and this one brings nothing new to the table. It barely has a plot, considering how so many pages are dedicated to (admittedly nice) pin-ups from various Batman artists with really trite, tedious monologues where the couple talks about how they saw each other in each other’s eyes and … ugh. Even for a fake-out marriage, there’s no reason this issue with this couple had to be this boring.
Kayleigh: The issue is as bloated and overstuffed as your drunk uncle making his third trip to the carving station at your wedding reception. As much as I loved most of the special guest illustrations—this is, all angst aside, a visual banquet for BatCat fans—they almost collapse under the weight of Tom King’s prose, which is at its most turgid and purple here. This is all the more frustrating, because Selina’s change of heart is obfuscated until the very end, which makes her seem incredibly easy to manipulate. Holly makes one comment, and it’s enough to convince Selina to leave the love of her life at the altar! Completely ignoring the publicity fiasco, I feel cheated. Nothing changes, nothing progresses, and it feels like a waste of my time, your time, and even the artists’ time. (Seriously, they called up Neal Adams and Frank Miller and Tim Sale for this?) Batman #50 wants to be treated like an event without actually being an event.
Rebecca: The weird thing is that despite everything I said above, I don’t feel like I necessarily needed to have Bruce and Selina marry. I like it when superheroes marry their civilian partners, because I think that the “I need to lie to the love of my life for their own safety” trope is antiquated and paternalistic (even if Barry Allen didn’t get the memo). I like it when superheroes on the same team marry each other because a couple in love fighting together is fun. I don’t know if a hero and a villain necessarily need to marry if the latter isn’t going to reform completely, and Selina shows no signs of wanting to do that. On the other hand, there’s no way these two would have settled down and lived an ordinary suburban life after they wed, and DC has rebooted their universe so often there’s no reason they couldn’t have explored this marriage idea for at least a couple of years before inevitably hitting the reset button. This doesn’t feel like a grand tragedy so much as a missed opportunity.
Kayleigh: One reason I really wanted this marriage to happen is, well, how the hell would they make it work? How does someone like Batman adjust to married life? What does a cat burglar do when suddenly she has all the wealth in the world at her claw-tips? How do all those semi-orphaned Bat Boys deal with a new mother figure in the Bat Cave? There was a brief line from Bruce about keeping the marriage a secret to protect their public identities, which is a great twist! It’s something we’ve never seen before, and would be an amazing source for drama! Why, why, why didn’t we get that instead?
Rebecca: In the end, both of The Big Two’s Wedding Issues this year turned out to be fake-outs. It’s pretty on-brand for both companies’ fear of upsetting the status quo too much and reluctance toward married couples in general. Possibly interesting stories are set to come out from the result of both issues, but, to be honest, I’m just glad that Steven Universe sprung Ruby and Sapphire’s wedding on the fans the same week as the BatCat wedding. At least someone out there is willing to tell stories of genuine marriages that end in epic boss battles.
Kayleigh: Part of Tom King’s damage control has been assuring fans on Twitter that we’re only half-way through a 100-part (!!!) story “celebrating the love of Batman and Catwoman.” Unlike some of the couples we’ve covered that eventually split, this by no means feels like a permanent schism. There will always be Batman and Catwoman stories. And who knows, maybe they’ll get married in a surprise twist at the end of Batman #92. Despite the comic’s lofty ambitions at depicting an epic romance, a cop-out ending and a publicity nightmare leave Batman #50 completely declawed. At the end of the day, is too much to ask for a comic book that has “THE WEDDING” printed in bold on the cover to actually feature a wedding?
Rebecca: Alas, we’re not done with deferred nuptials on The Wedding Issue. Join us next month when we go back in time to when another member of the Bat-family saw their special day go down the drain. Until then, maybe find an after-reception bash somewhere and cheer yourself up.