Note that I haven't read the comics in question, so I'm going entirely off of this article's description (as an aside, the NYT apparently got a bit of a deserved backlash for printing a story full of spoilers for a still-unreleased comic). But this touches on an issue that is of some interest to me.Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne, two of the most prominent citizens of Gotham City, were to be married at 6 a.m on July 4. It was intended to be a quiet, intimate ceremony with just the judge and two witnesses atop the city's Finger Tower skyscraper. It was a moment that has been building since the couple first met in 1940. It was also not meant to be.
The turn of events is revealed in issue No. 50 of Batman, written by Tom King and drawn by Mikel Janin with colors by June Chung and letters by Clayton Cowles, along with almost 30 other artists who capture a moment in the nearly 80-year history of the couple. The issue, published by DC Entertainment, is to go on sale at 12:01 a.m. July 4 at participating comic book stores.
Ms. Kyle and Mr. Wayne, or rather their famous costumed alter egos, met aboard a yacht as the Cat (as Catwoman was first known) planned a jewelry heist. The plot was thwarted by Batman, but the femme fatale may have stolen his heart. In the last panel of the story, Batman remarks to his sidekick, Robin, "Lovely girl. What eyes!" and adds, "Maybe I'll bump into her again sometime." (This encounter was published in 1940 in the first issue of the original Batman series. Thanks to the elixir-like properties of comic book aging and reboots, Batman and Catwoman can still pass for 30-somethings.)
Over the next 78 years, the two have met again and again: often as enemies, sometimes as allies, occasionally with revamped back stories, as comic books do. (In one version of their story, they aged normally, married - after Catwoman served prison time - and both died tragically. Their daughter, the Huntress, would carry on their legacy.) In June last year, their relationship reached a new level when the Bat, as she calls him, proposed to the Cat.
On that night, on a rooftop and in the rain, the hero revealed that he owned the diamond she tried to steal at their first meeting. "I knew I'd need it," he told her. "Just like... I need you." He then unmasked, knelt and said, "Marry me," in the glow of the Bat signal. It was a rare glimpse of light in the dark life of Batman, whose quest for justice began when, as a child, he witnessed his parents' deaths, when they were killed during a robbery.
As the big day approached, Ms. Kyle and Mr. Wayne dealt with highs and lows, including a double date with Clark Kent and Lois Lane, the epitome of a happy marriage in the superhero community, and a murderous rampage by the Joker, who was upset at not being invited to the festivities.
Another quandary came when Ms. Kyle found her dress. She broke into a bridal boutique in the dead of the night. After imbibing in some purloined Champagne, she helped herself to a $28,000 lavender and black lace gown (which was designed by the comic book artist Joelle Jones; the groom's gray three-piece suit was designed by Mr. Janin). She then sneaked back to stately Wayne Manor, where she spooned with an unknowing Mr. Wayne. This vandal and thief was the future wife of Batman?
Wayne Manor is the setting for many of issue No. 50's emotional scenes, some of which are depicted in parallel as the couple ready themselves for their ceremony in separate wings of the estate.
Ms. Kyle is assisted for her dawn wedding by Holly Robinson, a friend and protégée who was introduced in 1987. Ms. Robinson noted to Ms. Kyle that she had never seen Mr. Wayne so happy. "He always seemed to need his misery" to serve his crusade, she said, as the two prepare to leave for the ceremony. The observation begins to stir some doubt in Ms. Kyle, who later asks her friend, "Am I a hero?"
Mr. Wayne has his own confidant, namely Alfred Pennyworth, his loyal butler for 75 years, who often wonders if his employer will survive his evening exploits. Mr. Wayne complains that his wedding suit is "too tight," and Mr. Pennyworth is quick to jokingly scold: "Every night you wear a molded leather bat suit. You will be fine." In another sequence, Mr. Wayne expresses his doubts to Mr. Pennyworth: "Can I be ... happy?"
The answers to the questions are found in letters the couple have written to each other before their wedding day. Mr. Wayne's correspondence reveals an acceptance of Ms. Kyle, who in her time has been a jewel thief, a villain, an antihero and a mob boss. "You're not someone who can be figured out. Or solved. And never will be," he declares. He also writes that he can be "more than a boy whose parents are dead," that he can be "the man who loves you. Who will always try to love you better."
Ms. Kyle's letter lays out the truth as she sees it: "You're still a child, Bruce. A hurt child." Their happiness, she speculates, would kill Batman, who rescues everyone and turns pain into hope. "How can I do that," she writes. "To save the world, heroes make sacrifices."
In order to keep countless innocents safe, she concludes that she cannot marry Mr. Wayne. "My sacrifice is my life. It's you."
In the final moments of their story, the bride and groom end up at different locations in the early morning hours. In a silent page, Ms. Kyle sits on a rooftop, contemplating. She discards her veil and leaps toward the street. At the Finger Tower skyscraper, after an hour of waiting for his bride, Mr. Wayne realizes she is not coming. He throws off his tie and takes a similar leap, but in the opposite direction. Theirs is a story that is forever to be continued.
I love superheroes. I love the films, but I have a hard time getting into comics. Part of that is the shear scale and impenetrability of a decades-old universe with numerous interconnected comics, and part of it is the tendency of Marvel and DC comics (at least as I perceive it) towards cheap exploitation. But a big part of that is also the tendency to fall back on the status quo.
We're all, I expect, familiar with "comic book death", for example- wherein a character is killed, sometimes cheaply/for shock value, and then brought back in a few months or years. Or cheap twists (like "Captain America is secretly a Nazi") which we know won't last. It tends to be a problem with a long-term serialized story based around an iconic character, that the status quo can never really be allowed to change, and if it does, it will revert back. Reboots and alternate timelines at least allow for multiple different continuities, and at least theoretically for a given version of a character or world to have a clear arc, progress, and undergo meaningful, lasting changes. And this is a big part of why I am a fan of reboots, and of the more self-contained film universes. But I think we all knew, when they announced that Bruce and Selina were getting married, that it wasn't going to last.
My point is not to argue that Bruce and Selina should get together. I don't have strong feelings on that either way, though I can think of a number of pros and cons. And in fairness, the events and reasoning described in this article fit fairly well with the established themes of the franchise and the usual characterizations of Bruce and Selina. And I suppose we should be glad that they didn't derail the marriage by fridging Selina, which was my initial fear when I heard about this engagement.
But it does bother me that you have a franchise where the characters can apparently never be allowed to really grow or change in a lasting way. Just as it bothers me that DC may be sending the message that you can only be a hero if you are tormented and miserable.