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The many marriages of Catwoman and Batman

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May 28, 2020, 3:50 PM EDT (Updated)

Introduced in 1940 as the supposed antithesis of a man dressed like a bat was the woman dressed like a cat named Selina Kyle, who ultimately became the character we know as Catwoman. From the beginning, Batman and Catwoman had an attraction to one another that was stymied by Catwoman's strong amoral streak and Batman's inability to suspend judgment of her alternative lifestyle, which, in all fairness, did sometimes include murder and theft. Now, after decades of on-again, off-again flirtation, dating, breaking up, seeing other people, and hooking up on the sly, Batman and Catwoman were finally slated to be married as of this month. (If you're curious to know how that turned out, don't say we didn't warn you for spoilers.)

What some people don't know is that this is not the first time Batman and Catwoman have gotten married. While the previous marriages did usually occur in alternate timelines, they still happened, and there's something to be said for the many, mostly ill-fated marriages of Batman and Catwoman that have come before.

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Catwoman: Guardian of Gotham

One of DC's trademarks of the '90s was the Elseworlds series, prestige books in which writers would tell What If...?-style tales. Elseworlds stories were typically disappointing for their lack of imagination on a whole, often utilizing predictable tropes such as dropping modern DC characters into major historical events like WWII or the Civil War, relying on creative teams that were already writing regular DC books, and simply not providing enough context for the prestige-format, standalone books they were touted to be. That aside, the idea itself had a lot of potential.


Among the many Elseworlds stories, there was Guardian of Gotham. Springing from a weak era of the Catwoman series during the late '90s (at which time Selina's complex personality and riveting crime sprees took a backseat to misogynistic stereotypes), the story revolved around the idea that Selina Kyle had the origin we generally know Bruce Wayne for. Her mother and father were killed by a burglar in front of her, and she therefore went on to live in a weird mansion and fight crime for a living.


The story begins with Catwoman, in her quest to guard Gotham, committing to ending a murder spree from a mysterious character known as, you guessed it, Batman. The Batman of Guardian of Gotham is a cold-blooded killer, mostly targeting women. While Batman can be kind of a jerk in the best of circumstances, he's an extreme murder jerk with bad jokes in this story so it definitely makes you appreciate regular-continuity Bruce. Around this time in the present-universe Catwoman series, writer Doug Moench had given Selina another random serial murderer for a boyfriend, so it also reads as being too thematic for comfort. Bruce is abnormally annoying in this story, and it's really difficult to understand what the appeal is from Selina's perspective.


One of the weirdest things about this series is that, instead of Alfred the butler, Selina has a hot maid named Brooks that apparently just hangs out in themed lingerie dusting the Cat Cave all day. Selina's chemistry with Brooks is off the charts, which makes the proposed love affair between her and Bruce all the less believable. At one point, the maid asks, “What do you need a husband for when you've got me?” and, honestly, I like that direction a lot more than the Murder Batman this story goes with.


Nightwing #52

Batman comics had apparently gotten too grim around this time for some readers, so there was some effort from creative teams to revive the playfulness of the early days. Thus we have Nightwing #52, which is, at heart, an ordinary, run-of-the-mill team-up between Catwoman and Nightwing that takes some strange, Silver Age-inspired turns.


This issue begins with Catwoman's dream, which just so happens to be about marrying Batman because isn't that all that ladies ever think about? They are wed, but when Batman sees the Bat-signal in the sky and attempts to leave to answer it, Catwoman straight-up murders him via many stabs. Apparently, the knowledge that he can never truly be hers drives her to kill. This story was not written by a woman, which is relevant only because I don't think there's a single female writer working today that would have made that story choice. Anyway, she marries Batman, she murders Batman, and then she wakes up.


Selina goes on to have a team-up with Nightwing for the rest of the pages of the issue, and even makes out with him in order to make Bruce jealous. She urges Nightwing to tell Bruce about the kiss, however brief, and Nightwing laughs uncomfortably, dismissing it as nothing that Bruce would care about. Really, Nightwing? Are you sure about that?


JLA #8

Early in the now-legendary Grant Morrison run on JLA, he brought back the obscure Justice League villain the Key as a major threat. The Key appeared inside the Justice League Watchtower on the moon, trapping each of the Justice League members in their own, specially tailored alternate realities to keep them busy while he did... well, whatever it was he was doing.


In Batman's reality, he had married Catwoman, and together they were raising their son to be the new Robin. In contrast to the other League members, Bruce's fantasy life revolved around ultimately retiring to raise a family, which is tragic considering the fact that he woke up after a few pages and had to deal with the fact that he was the Batman and everything was terrible. Selina doesn't make much of an appearance in this story, but it is still important to keep in mind that when Bruce was given a chance at happiness, his dream included Selina.


Brave and the Bold #197

In a story called “The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne,” we delve into Bruce's world and his view on his own life, supposedly written just a few months before his death. It takes place in Earth-2, an alternate reality in which DC characters didn't evolve past a certain point in time. Bruce and Selina team up to take out the Scarecrow, who is on a murder spree. While they try desperately to find their enemy, they share their mutually tragic backstories, and love blossoms between them.


In the end, Scarecrow makes Batman afraid of cats and Catwoman afraid of bats in hopes that they'll lose their trust in each other and be easier to defeat. Instead, the two take off their masks and embrace, defeating the Scarecrow and marrying shortly thereafter. This story actually kind of made me cry. It's continued in the next entry, though, where it gets the bleak, depressing ending you should expect if you're reading a Batman comic.

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DC Superstars #17

DC Superstars #17 presents another facet of the Earth-2 marriage discussed in the previous entry, in which Batman and Catwoman remain in their Silver Age identities without much of the baggage that would follow in later years. Although this was printed a few years before Brave & the Bold #197, it's a continuation of the story told there.


This issue is the most commonly referenced and well-known of the Batman/Catwoman marriages, but more for being the origin story of the Huntress than for the marriage itself. Like Power Girl, Huntress is one of the alternate universe characters of DC that subsequent retcons made obsolete, but whose popularity allowed them to stick around in DC proper even after their respective realities were completely wiped from the slate. It's difficult to understand exactly where we're at with the Huntress in current comics continuity, but here are the things about her that have mostly remained consistent: she's the daughter of Catwoman and Batman, she's a schoolteacher, and she has a huge chip on her shoulder about pretty much everything.


In this story, we discover that Catwoman of the early days had simply seen the error of her ways, done some jail time, and, when it was over, had been released. Bruce was so into her that he was waiting at the jail when she got out. They get married and enjoy a very brief period of domestic bliss before Catwoman is fridged and the Huntress is born to take vengeance upon those that killed her mother. While this is definitely more a Huntress story than a Catwoman or Batman story, it's still cute to see the couple married for about five minutes before tragedy strikes, as usual.

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