The Batman/Catwoman Wedding Is Supposed to Upset You

This article contains spoilers for Batman #50

A Once In A Life Time Comics Event

For some, it was the comics event of the year, for others it was a fraud.

Batman and Catwoman, two characters with over seventy-five years of history, were set to be married in Batman #50. Many fans and critics were skeptical that the wedding would happen, given Bruce and Selina’s track record, as well as the general impermanence of relationships in both Batman and Catwoman’s comics. Despite the skepticism, writer Tom King devoted issue after issue to preparing for this event. Even before Bruce’s proposal in Batman #24, Batman and Catwoman’s relationship was a burgeoning part of King’s overarching Batman narrative. Even the gritty The War of Joke and Riddles was framed as a confession from Bruce to Selina, a moment of profound vulnerability followed by a profound moment of acceptance. In short, Tom King’s meticulous and devoted storytelling made many readers believe that these characters could get married in a way that wouldn’t feel like publicity stunt.

Batman #50 Cover by Mikel Janin

In Batman #50, King and company delivered one of the most visually stunning comics in recent memory. Serving as a grand and romantic reflection on the Batman and Catwoman’s relationship, D.C. Comics and Tom King enlisted a horde of incredible artists to contribute art to the issue. The stunning laundry list of artist includes Tom King’s Batman collaborators Joëlle Jones, David Finch, Clay Mann, and Lee Weeks while also including veteran artists like Lee Bermejo, Frank Miller, José Luis García-López, Becky Cloonan, Andy Kubert, Neal Adams, Rafael Albuquerque, Mitch Gerads, and Jim Lee. It’s a stunning array of artists, all of whom contribute their own distinct visual styles to the issue. The issue is anchored by Mikel Janin (who is establishing himself as a iconic Batman artist) who serves as the primary artist and does an incredible job amidst the star-studded guests.

Not to be outdone by the army of artists, writer Tom King utilizes some fascinating narrative techniques to depict and examine the relationship between Batman and Catwoman. King uses dueling text boxes (with each character having their own distinct lettering and text boxes) to explore the thoughts and feeling that Bruce and Selina experience as their wedding grows closer. King’s narrative approach feels like an attempt at streams of consciousness, where the reader has access to all the thoughts of both characters as they move towards their wedding. It’s an approach that leads to moments of deep and complex reflection for both characters.

In terms of layouts, narrative techniques and art, Batman #50 is an incredible piece of design and storytelling. It is a comic that looks and feels distinctly different than any Batman story told in recent years.

Upending the Narrative

Batman #50 -- Variant Cover By Jim Lee

But they don’t get married.

Selina decides that the love and happiness she shares with Bruce are incompatible with the Batman identity. Catwoman describes the pain that fuels Batman as an “engine” that creates change and ultimately saves lives. Bruce took this terrible childhood event (Selina acknowledges that in some ways Bruce is still that boy in the alley) and somehow uses to it give purpose to his life and to save lives. With this in mind, writer Tom King uses this idea to great effect, asking the question: what happens if Batman is happy? Does that engine turn off? It’s this question that haunts Selina as she nears her wedding. Ultimately, Selina decides that Batman needs to be out in the world, fighting and battling the forces that created him. Selina seems to believe that if she builds a life with Bruce, Batman will suffer, along with the world he protects. This a gut wrenching moment, with the decision playing out on parallel panels as Selina and Bruce drive separately to their wedding, just as Bruce is beginning to believe in the idea of his own happiness.

Art By Mikel Janin

In the final panels of the comic, it is revealed that Holly Robinson, Catwoman’s friend (essentially her maid of honor), has been working with Bane and a host of other villains, who have been conspiring against the caped crusader. The comic ends with Bane declaring: “the bat is…broken” (Batman #50). In an interview for SYFY Wire, King asserted that “you can’t break Batman by hurting him, he’s been hurt in every way possible. You can’t hurt him by killing a Robin because that happens every Friday” (SYFY Wire). Instead, the only to break Batman is to “break his heart”. This final revelation reinforces that Bane will be the primary villain of Tom King’s arc, pulling strings from the shadows. For King, the question going forward for Batman is: “What happens when Batman finds this out [Bane’s influence] and how does he recover from it?” (SYFY Wire). This is the fundamental question that will define Tom King’s Batman as the narrative progress towards Batman #100, the moment that appears to be King’s ultimate end game.

The ending of Batman #50 was always going to be controversial but it hurt the comic that the ending was revealed by New York Times three days before the comic went on sale. In the age of internet, it feels incredibly shortsighted to spoil a huge comic event ahead of its release, as some spoilers are almost unavoidable depending on your social media interactions. Even readers who stayed away from articles related to the comic, could not escape the fact that they knew that SOMETHING controversial happened in the issue and drew the obvious conclusion from the reaction around them. This spoiled an exciting moment for many comics fans, fans who had followed the build up to this story for months. Perhaps D.C. thought that the reveal would give Batman #50 extra publicity, but it was disingenuous to both King and the fans to release the ending prior to release.

For many fans, the larger issue at stake was the execution and build up to the event. Why did D.C. and King insist on building up this story line issue after issue, only hit the breaks at the last second? The reaction to the comic has not been pretty, and while criticism for any piece of media is perfectly valid, the reaction has not been totally appropriate. Tom King, who has received some backlash from critics and fans, also received death threats. King appeared at San Diego Comic Con with a burly body guard to watch his back due to these threats. It’s incredibly disappointing that a comic book, or any piece of media, should ever result in someone receiving death threats.

What Comes Next?

Batman #50 -- Art By Lee Weeks

In the midst of this heated situation, Tom King has been calmly and quietly addressing many of the concerns brought up by critics and fans. In a tweet, King asserted that: “Batman 50 is not the end. This is a 100 issue story documenting and celebrating the love of Batman and Catwoman. Whatever happens, whatever anyone says, nothing’s going to spoil that.” King views Batman #50 not as ending, but instead as a midpoint in his narrative. King has been very adamant that he has a overarching vision of how his story is progressing and this is simply one step in the story.

Additionally, Tom King addressed the reaction to Batman #50 in the same video interview with SYFY Wire (King begins discussing Batman #50 at 3:30 in the video). King asserts that this moment is intended to upset the reader, as well as Bruce himself. King wants the reader to feel like the wedding was going to happen, to feel the way Batman does during the story. King asserts that: “Batman thought he was getting married, he believed when he was going on the rooftop that he was going to find happiness and that was yank away from him” (SYFY Wire). By working to put the reader in Bruce’s mindset, King seeks to help us understand how Bruce would feel in that moment. For Tom King, the frustration that many fans felt is not unlike what Batman would feel as he waits in vain for Selina to arrive.

DC Comics Tom King On THAT Wedding, Heroes In Crisis & Breaking Batman | SDCC 2018 | SYFY WIRE

The honest truth is that at this point readers don’t know where Batman #50 is leading its characters and readers. King has promised that this is a one hundred issue story and there is so much more to come. The final pages of the comic, give the reader hints of where the narrative will go, but much of the story remains unknown as this point. I encourage anyone frustrated with this Batman #50 to continue reading the King’s Batman comic. King is an excellent story teller and he deserves to be given the benefit of the doubt. More importantly, the questions that King is asking about Batman and his happiness are powerful and have rarely been examined with such depth and complexity. In the end, only time will tell if Batman #50 will lead to great things, or if it will be remembered as a misstep.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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34 Comments

  1. Dominic Sceski

    I don’t even read comics but you described all of this so perfectly I think I actually experienced the shock and confusion of Batman #50. Well done. The concept of “can heroes be happy?” is an intriguing one, and I think it merges nicely with the question of “do heroes need the violence just as much as the villains?” which is a question that comes up in Batman as well, specifically with the Joker. Thanks for this, happy weekend!

    • OptimistPrime99
      2

      I think the problem with the question of “Can heroes be happy?”, or specifically, Batman and Catwoman, is that the real answer is “Sure, if the writer wants them to be”.😹 Once you establish the romantic chemistry between Batman and Catwoman, and show the softer and more heroic side to Catwoman, then it comes down to allowing the characters to successfully play off of each other.

      Both their differences and their similarities, make them compelling as a couple. So because of their long history and popularity together, you don’t gain anything as a storyteller, by splitting them apart. All you get is two iconic characters, that would rather suffer than be happy. Instead of allowing them to be inspirational, they’re just characters wallowing in endless misery and negativity. Batman and Catwoman were always meant to represent so much more than that. Hence, the ending to The Dark Knight Rises, and the Golden Age/Earth-Two Batman storyline.

    • Sean Gadus

      Thank you! I think you make a really good point about violence and super heroes, one that is perfect for discussing Batman.

  2. As someone who runs a comic shop, obviously I’m disappointed. I thought there was a chance they let Batman have something nice. However, the reason this is so disappointing is because every issue leading up to this was phenomenal. Tom King’s run has been an absolute joy, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not having read the previous ten issues.

    • Even this one was well done though, and believable; there are only so many times you can keep hearing the same thing from others before you start to believe it yourself, which made Catwoman’s decision resonate for me. And we don’t know how things pan out over the next 50 yet, so let’s not jump ahead of ourselves.

    • Sean Gadus

      I agree, the issues leading up to this arc are really good reads.

  3. I don’t read comics, but I did read comics, I’d be pissed that I invested time and emotion (and money) into this plot line just to be played around at the end for shock value.

    This is like Lost or the end of BSG 2004, but over the last 80 years instead of a few seasons.

  4. This was absolutely what should have been expected. Superheroes need conflict! Getting married, being happy and having a family isn’t conflict at all.

    • If you’ve managed marriage and starting a family without any conflict in your life, you need to write a book!

  5. This was a terrible issue. All that build up just to jerk the fans around. This isn’t what the fans wanted at all. It’s almost as bad as ending Peter Parker’s marriage or when Clark and Lois were forcibly broken up. What is WRONG with D.C.?

    • Short answer? Dan DiDio. They went all but verbatim with his “If heroes are happy, they wouldn’t want to hero”.

    • Short answer is the story isn’t finished yet; let’s check in again in another 50 issues. The way the issue was branded wasn’t great though.

      The issue itself was great though. The letters, the pin up art, the references, the emotional beats (Alfred in particular) were all great.

  6. Alphonso
    0

    Please make catwoman more villainous in comics & an enemy to Batman.

  7. This issue was pure garbage, i’m really dissapointed DC…

  8. Batman should marry Wonder Woman. They are better together.

  9. As a part of King’s ongoing Batman run I don’t think #50 is a real problem, it’s part of the ongoing 100 issue plotline, and I have faith that King is going somewhere interesting with it. The real problem is the way DC hyped this thing to an absurd degree for months, sold us on a bunch of prequel issue that had NOTHING to do with the actual event (honestly, I’m no longer sure that the prequels were written with even basic knowledge of what was going to happen in #50), and then got comic shops to buy a giant pile of variant covers for an event they had to know would be controversial once people found out what happened in the book. And don’t get me started on leaking it to the NYT, that was just stupid.

    Anyway, I’m still planning to keep reading King’s run, but I’ll switch to trades from here on out, it’s simply no longer worth the premium to read it as it’s written, not if they’re going to have that little respect for their audience.

  10. Munjeera

    I loved this article!

  11. charlez
    0

    THIS comic sucks. Tom Kings run on Batman issue #1-49 are way better than this heap of garbage. Whoever was the editor for this issue deserves to get fired.

  12. This book is Just More proof that Tom is the King of Bad story telling. His run on Batman is the worst thing I’ve ever read, and is reminiscent of what Schumacher did to Batman with Batman and Robin movie, he’s ruined Batman. Why is he doing 100 issues. He should just stick to Mr Miracle, that seems to be more his speed. He’s got to go.

  13. Santana
    0

    i had a feeling that something would happen, and they wouldnt get married. i tried not having high hopes.

    what im confused about is if selina killed joker, then hows he alive at the end of 50? its the same joker we see in the previous issue. i know theres 3 of them running around, and he looked like the same guy.

    • Sean Gadus

      Batman #49 depicts Selina slicing Joker’s throat with her claws and both character’s are bloody and bruised/near death in the issue. I think that King intended for both characters to live through the issue. As such, I think that the problem is that King and Batman #49 are not being clear that the Joker survives the issue. For example, they don’t include a panel of the Joker being wheeled out in an ambulance or being taken back to Arkham. I don’t think he dies at the end of the issue, hence his role in Batman #50.

  14. Batman getting married is up there with the end of the christopher nolan atrocity where batman retires.

    • you mean the critically acclaimed award winning Nolan trilogy? that one?

      • I mean the one that violated the core of who batman was – yes – i don’t care what critics think.

        Batman doesn’t give up when a girl gets killed, murder is what drives his sociopath. Batman doesn’t ‘retire’, he’s driven to undo something that can’t be undone.

        The third nolan movie violated the core of who batman was and therefore I don’t consider it a batman movie.

        Not to mention the pall of his dark no sunlight garbage casts a pall over the entire DC Universe. I care not for box office or critics, a misunderstanding of your source material is a fatal flaw, be it nolan or rather who claimed superman would always kick batman’s ass.

        It’s an ok movie, but the third one is NOT a batman movie because that character may wear the costume and have the name bruce wayne but when you violate the core of 6+ decades of source material, you’re not longer batman, any more than emo whiny mouth off to pa kent superman was actually superman.

        That’s DC’s core mistake in all their movies, they violate the core of who the characters are. They misunderstand why batman and superman were always a great duo, they are diametrically opposed in who they are and WHY they do what they do but they have the same goal.

  15. i gotta say: the idea that Batman would stop being Batman if he ever became “happy” (and, as a consequence, we have a moral obligation to keep Batman miserable) is an incredibly stupid one. not only is it unfathomably cruel in practise, but it’s also just deeply unrealistic – it seems to imply that this otherwise life-consuming crusade against crime is something he’d drop in a heartbeat the moment he got the rest of his life together.

    I kinda wish there was more effort put into thinking about new ways to contextualise character like Batman as people, rather than returning to these kinda inexplicable hackneyed old tropes

  16. This will be most annoying thing for me 😀

  17. Batman’s Asexual so it makes no difference.

  18. I agree with you, cliff.

    Selina comes off as cowardly and cruel by deciding that the world is better off with a miserable Batman. Marriage didn’t magically make trauma disappear. Batman’s reasons for fighting the forces that destroyed his childhood and shaped his identity wouldn’t disappear. What would change is that they would be committing to helping with each other through a social agreement. That’s marriage. It’s not a magical contract for contentment.

    Then there’s the laziness in the decision. Hasn’t Bruce *almost* married far more times than a Robin has died? Longtime fans expected the wedding to fall because *that’s what always happens*. Seeing the characters’ marriage would’ve been more interesting than the same-old story of the villains conspiring to break Batman by interfering with his relationships.

    The gorgeous art is really what’s going to sell the series, because the story isn’t anything special.

  19. Joseph Cernik
    0

    A good essay. Reference to a 100 issue story, certainly leads to wondering how many different directions the story will head.

  20. Sean Gadus

    Thank you. I’m hoping Tom King gets to make it as Batman writer all the way to issue 100 and finishes his story. He’s going strong at issue 60 right now.

  21. SaraiMW

    Wow! Thanks heaps for sharing, I actually think I’m going to go chase this comic up and I thought I was done with DC, but this sounds amazing!

  22. Very interesting! Thank you for this.

    I’ve always thought the best thing about Batman and Catwoman’s relationship was that they augment each other’s lives without defining each other’s lives. Each one can still function apart and has their own lives, but they’re even better when they come together. (Well, when the writers realize this and don’t make some kind of bizarre dysfunctional . . . thing!)

    I agree with other commenters who said that the idea that heroes won’t be driven if they’re happy is ridiculous. It’s not only laziness and tropery on the part of writers, but in some cases it’s simply setting up short-term shocking moments (Guy Gardner’s girlfriend got murdered! etc).

  23. I can’t really wrap my head around why so many people are so frustrated by King’s current run on Batman. To me, this is some of the best comics writing in recent history. I can definitely see this becoming a

    I guess that the serialized format of comics has always worked against it in the way that television episodes might perform worse without a clear endgame in view.

    But man does this run knock my socks off with every new issue. That Alfred scene alone, in a veritable sea of amazing touches in Issue 50, touched my heart in a way that I so rarely get with comic books nowadays. Can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.

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