Once there was a boy who loved bats. He loved bats so much that he spent most of his time in a cavern under his mansion doing detective work and hanging out with them. Well, that boy who loved bats grew up to become a man who dressed up like bats -- a Bat-Man, if you will. Yeah. We'll call him Batman.
Batman was a grim loner type, but over his nearly 80-year history, he still had a whole lot of girlfriends -- so many girlfriends, in fact, that to cover all of them would take several articles. I'm going to focus in on a few of my favorites.
Kathy Kane (Batwoman)
Not to be confused with Kate Kane Batwoman, the redheaded goth Batwoman most of us know and love, Kathy Kane, was a former circus performer and thrill-seeking millionaire. She zoomed around on this super cute little motorcycle, yelling out one-liners and generally doing a better job of fighting crime than Batman. There is one conclusion you should be drawing from this information: she is way too cool to date Batman. Cute jacket, check; cute motorcycle, check; millionaire, check; former circus performer and current vigilante, check, check, check, check, check.
But who is Batwoman, really? Where did she come from? What's she thinking about? Is she thinking of me? The introduction of Batwoman to the Batman universe holds more than meets the eye. In the 1950s, there was this book that nobody alive today has read called "Seduction of the Innocent" by Dr. Fredric Wertham, who wrote (among other things) that kids who read Batman comics would be encouraged to engage in juvenile delinquency and homosexuality. That does kind of describe the exact sequence of events that occurred in my life, so I can't really argue with him. To me, people reading comics and being gay just sounds like a good thing becoming even better, but, in the 1950s, a psychologist making the allegation that Batman was turning kids gay was kind of a big deal. In the bad way. So, the folks at DC Comics decided to introduce Batwoman to be Batman's girlfriend. It didn't really work though, because 1950s Batman was always pretty standoffish to her. While the introduction of Batwoman and Batgirl was supposed to encourage a more "normal" Batman, those comics were chock full of accidental double entendres. Batwoman was doing more or less the same thing that the era's Lois Lane was doing over in the Superman comics: trying to trick Batman into marriage, that sort of thing. This changed years later when Grant Morrison reintroduced the Kathy Kane version of Batwoman in Batman Incorporated, where the love affair actually got really fun before ending in, you guessed it, tragedy.
Natalia Knight (Nocturna)
The list of female characters introduced just to have emotionally complicated relationships with Batman and/or Bruce Wayne before inevitably dying in some manner...well, it's a long list. One of the weirdest was Nocturna, or Natalia Knight, a sort-of vampire-themed character who had a pointlessly complicated backstory involving: pale skin due to radiation, a Daddy Warbucks-type who adopted her but then turned out to be a criminal, a bizarre marriage proposal to Bruce Wayne, and a brother-figure who became sexually obsessed with her and eventually stabbed her to death. This all led to her ultimately climbing into a hot air balloon to drift over Gotham as she slowly passed away from blood loss, which has got to rate pretty high up there on utterly bizarre comic book death scenes.
Her relationship with Bruce was equally strange, and she became a sort of surrogate mother figure for the troubled second Robin, Jason Todd. Like Jason, she was eventually resurrected - but in her case, as an actual vampire who dated Batwoman in order to betray her for arbitrarily evil reasons in a storyline that I would refer to as “questionable.”
Silver St. Cloud
Besides having far and away the best name of anyone on this list, Silver St. Cloud rules because her job is “event planner,” which means she actually gets paid to throw incredible parties. That's how she met Bruce Wayne, who goes to galas just waiting for villains to show up. Just the sheer fact that Silver was able to get the people of Gotham to even leave their houses after years of being terrorized every time they do shows that, while she might not have been a crimefighter, she was at the very least amazing at her job. She was also really helpful to Batman and even saved his life a few times before she even knew he and Bruce were the same person. When she realized the truth she broke up with him, which in turn made him seriously consider giving up his life of dressing up like a bat and beating up people in alleyways (a plot device which has been echoed often in the Batman films).
Silver was a great love interest for many reasons, not the least of which being that she wasn't a supervillain, nor was she secretly trying to murder Batman like most of his other girlfriends. You might be able to see where this is going. SHE HAD TO DIE. Silver was brutally fridged in later issues but has since returned in Gotham and DC Super Hero Girls. Silver might not have been a great match for Batman, but she fit right in with Bruce Wayne, billionaire playboy.
Dr. Chase Meridian
Nicole Kidman shows up in Batman Forever as Chase Meridian, superanalyst. Wikipedia explains that her name actually represents her desire to seek out the psychological "middle" between Batman and Bruce Wayne, which means that even her gosh-danged name is based on Batman's issues. Weird how her parents foresaw that she would at some point date a masked vigilante who relates way too much to his rogues gallery. One of the first things she does is to use the Bat-signal to call Batman over so she can tell him that Two-Face has kind of an obsession with his coin. You know, the one he carries everywhere, talks to, and relies upon entirely for his decision-making.
She's mostly in the movie to wear a lab coat, which psychologists do not wear, over a sexy dress, which psychologists sometimes wear but usually not while they're at work. Also, she gets dangled off of cliffs by supervillains sometimes, as people in real life often never do, and likes to point out things the audience already knew well before the movie began.
At the end of the movie, Riddler tries to force Batman to choose between her and Robin, both of whom Batman met like 30 minutes ago, and he chooses BOTH. It's not like either of them were really in any danger anyway, since all Batman's villains ever seem to really want is for Batman to pay attention to them. Nicole Kidman and Val Kilmer have kind of a hilarious lack of chemistry - but in their defense, if you've seen Batman Forever you know they didn't have much to work with.
For people who grew up on the Batman Returns Catwoman or even the campy Catwoman of Batman '66, the comics version of the character can seem like an almost entirely different person. While those other versions of Catwoman are amazing, Selina Kyle of the comics has a bit more depth. She's a former sex worker and a cat thief who always outsmarts Batman, cracking jokes while staying several steps ahead of the world's greatest detective. Selina Kyle isn't always written consistently, but she is always written awesomely. In all her incarnations, however, one of the key elements in Selina's character is her belief that what she does isn't wrong. The moral ambiguity in her is a lot more interesting than the constant, unwavering, self-convicted rightness of Batman.
Catwoman is a criminal in the eyes of many, but not in the eyes of Selina Kyle. If Batman is black and white, Catwoman sees the world all in grays. For all of the reasons we love Catwoman in Batman's life, we should likewise acknowledge that she could never truly fit there - although their missions do overlap often enough to cause a great deal of emotional confusion for them both.
In the end they simply don't have the same goals, but she respects his a lot more than he respects hers. If she can never stay with him, it's also true that she can never completely sever ties with him. Trying to force them either fully together or fully apart would be impossible. It's not a perfect love story, but it's sure as hell a convincing dynamic with a lot of great stories behind it.
This is barely even the tip of the iceberg when it comes to discussing Batman's doomed love affairs. We haven't even gotten to Zatanna, Talia, Vicky Vale, Poison Ivy, Bekka, his flirtation with Black Canary, Rachel Dawes, or Wonder Woman. To be honest, this guy has a history.