Will the Dark Knight ever take a wife? While some of his contemporaries like Superman and the Flash have enjoyed long and healthy marriages, Batman has always struggled when it comes to holy bat-trimony. As we prepare for DC FanDome and celebrate Batman Day, let’s explore Bruce Wayne’s long and complicated history with marriage and see if it gives us any insight on why he can’t seem to close the deal.
Curious About the Cat
During his early Golden Age stories, Batman was engaged to a woman named Julie Madison. Julie predated Robin, Alfred, Joker, Catwoman and many of Gotham’s most iconic characters. She first appeared in 1939’s Detective Comics #31 where she was kidnapped by the Mad Monk. Bruce and Julie’s relationship wasn’t explored much, with Julie mostly serving as a damsel-in-distress. In 1941’s Detective Comics #49, Julie finally grew tired of Bruce’s lack of ambition and gave him an ultimatum—do something with your life or the wedding’s off.
At the time, Wayne Enterprises was not part of the status quo and Bruce privately mused that Julie would sing a different tune if she knew he was Batman. Reading the scene, it’s clear he’s treating it as a private joke. Julie ends their engagement, but it’s hard to see this moment as anything other than Bruce passive aggressively driving her to do it. Why not tell her he was Batman? After all, you were planning on marrying her. Whatever the case, something was holding Bruce back.
Bruce’s next engagement occurred in 1943’s Batman #15. Batman learned that Catwoman, who was disguised as a socialite named Elva Barr, had fallen for Bruce Wayne. This caused him to launch one of the strangest plans he’s ever concocted. Thinking that his affections could cause Catwoman to retire from crime, Bruce Wayne romanced Elva and quickly proposed to her. According to Bruce, the plan was to end their engagement once Catwoman had given up crime for good.
There are many obvious problems with this plan. First, Bruce didn’t let Dick in on it, causing the Boy Wonder to become alarmed when he read about the engagement in the newspaper. When Dick pressed Bruce for answers, the Dark Knight smugly brushed him off. Bruce also didn’t give his real girlfriend, Linda Page, a heads up. (Far too many of Bruce's friends and loved ones had to find out about this in the paper.) Of course, the biggest problem is also the most obvious one: there is no way this ends well. Calling off the engagement has the danger of breaking Catwoman’s heart and driving her back to crime. Exactly how far were you planning on taking this Bruce?
Ultimately Catwoman learns the truth and returns to crime, but you have to question Batman’s motivations here. Because Bruce didn’t tell Dick his plan, it’s fair to conclude that he was ashamed of the whole thing. Batman wanted to be with Catwoman, but their roles as hero and criminal prevented any relationship. The engagement deception allowed Bruce to taste the forbidden fruit, even if he had to lie to himself and pretend it was for a noble purpose. It’s possible Batman wasn’t aware of how far he was willing to go.
Do You Take These Women…
The Caped Crusader’s next brush with marriage occurred in 1953’s Batman #79. A foreign diplomat had fallen for reporter Vicki Vale, and in order to prevent an international incident, she pretended she was already spoken for. Vicki identified Batman as her betrothed, and the Caped Crusader begrudgingly went along with the charade. Throughout the story, Batman and Robin give a negative view on marriage and there are lots of (now very dated) henpecked husband jokes. Like most sitcom charades, the lie spirals out of control until a real wedding is planned, but Batman’s quick thinking allows him to remain a bachelor.
This attitude towards marriage continued with the introduction of Batwoman. Throughout the early Silver Age, the idea of Bruce Wayne marrying Kathy Kane was explored, but only in dreams and fanfiction that Alfred wrote (yes, that was a real thing). Some of the scenarios had Dick Grayson anxiously wondering if marriage would mean the end of the Dynamic Duo partnership, playing into the mentality of “weddings mean the end of masculine exploits.” At the end of 1959’s Batman #122, Bruce Wayne ponders, “I-marry Kathy? I expect some day I will marry! Kathy, eh? Well, she’s a nice girl! Who knows.” Despite this musing, Batman strongly rejected Batwoman’s affections during their adventures together.
The idea that marriage was a joke continued with Batman’s next engagement in Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #59. Bruce learns that Lois thinks he’s Superman, so he and the Man of Steel decide to play a questionable prank on her. Bruce Wayne proposes to Lois and she accepts, believing herself engaged to Superman. During the wedding ceremony, Bruce Wayne shocks his bride by having Superman stand beside him as best man. Lois leaves Bruce at the altar and Batman shares a private laugh with Superman after the guests leave. (Let’s be real, none of them behaved their best here, but they’ve all saved the world multiple times so I feel we can cut them a little slack. Plus, it was the Silver Age!) It’s interesting that out of all of Batman’s engagements, this was the first one to culminate in an actual wedding ceremony, even though it was never completed.
Love Among the Lazarus Pits
Years later, Batman met Talia al Ghul, daughter of the criminal Ra’s al Ghul. Like Catwoman, there was a clear attraction, but Bruce and Talia’s moral differences prevented Batman from acting on his desires. Nevertheless, Ra’s made his intentions clear—he wanted Batman as his son-in-law. He saw the Dark Knight as a suitable mate for his daughter and heir to his empire. Talia had no objections to her father’s matchmaking, but the Dark Knight was resistant. This caused Ra’s to take matters into his own hands, resulting in one of the most bizarre shotgun weddings ever seen in a comic.
In DC Special Series #15, Ra’s sends his men to drug Batman and when the Dark Knight awakes, he finds himself standing at the altar as Ra’s is finishing up a marriage ceremony between him and Talia. “I now pronounce you Batman and wife,” Ra’s al Ghul says to a puzzled Caped Crusader. Ra’s explains to Batman that in his country the bride’s father is the only person needed to consent to a wedding. Talia is overjoyed, but Batman tells her he refuses to consider the marriage real.
Years later, in the graphic novel Batman: Son of the Demon, Bruce finally accepts Ra’s offer to join his empire and live as Talia’s husband. As Talia prepares to consummate their union, Batman asks about the ceremony and Talia reminds him that the wedding he slept through in DC Special Series #15 is still binding. While Batman has his reservations, he embraces married life, and spends many happy weeks at Talia’s side. “I’ve never been happy at all. I like it,” Batman tells his bride.
Before long, Talia tells Batman that she’s pregnant and the Dark Knight couldn’t be more thrilled. However, Talia notices that he’s losing his edge. Batman’s started taking less risks, saying that his wife and unborn child are the only things that matter. Surprisingly, it’s Talia who chooses to end the marriage, faking a miscarriage and telling Batman to leave their happy life. Of course, Batman fans and comic readers now know this child as Damian Wayne, the current Robin, but it would take Batman years to learn that his son had survived.
While Batman’s early brushes with marriage were played as complications and comedies, his time with Talia started a trend where it turned markedly toward tragedy. Comics were maturing as a medium, which meant that Batman’s attitude towards marriage was as well. The storyline “Batman: Year Two” finds Bruce proposing to a woman named Rachel Caspian. Wayne envisions a life where he could settle down with Rachel, free of his responsibilities as Batman. This began a reoccurring theme that a happily wedded Bruce Wayne couldn’t co-exist with his alter ego Batman.
After learning that her father was the criminal known as the Reaper, Rachel ended her engagement with Bruce and became a nun. If you’ve never read the comic, but find this story familiar, it’s because a similar narrative played out in the classic animated movie Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. In the film, we learn that shortly before Bruce began his career as Batman, he considered abandoning his vigilante plans when he fell in love with a woman named Andrea Beaumont. Bruce proposed marriage, deciding that he had a chance for happiness after all, but Andrea mysteriously left the country the next day. Heartbroken, Bruce dove headfirst into launching his career as Batman, deciding there was no room for love in his life.
Bruce Wayne’s animated counterpart found love again in The New Batman Adventures episode “Chemistry,” quickly marrying a woman named Susan Maguire. Once again, Bruce arrives at the conclusion that Batman can’t exist if he’s married, and he tells his sidekicks that he’s stepping down so he could spend more time with Susan. Sadly, at the end of the episode, it’s revealed that Susan was a plant construct created by Poison Ivy, leaving Batman heartbroken.
Marriage leading to tragedy was now a given, and the theme played out again in Batman: The Widening Gyre #6. During this limited series, Batman proposes to his girlfriend Silver St. Cloud, but his happiness doesn’t last long. He quickly accuses his fiancée of being an evil robot and wonders if he has what it takes to be happy. Sadly, he’s not given the chance, as Silver is murdered by one of his enemies at the end of the issue. Next, Grant Morrison rewrote history in 2011’s Batman Incorporated #4, revealing Batman and Batwoman were briefly engaged, much to Robin’s horror. When Kathy’s spy superiors ordered her to reveal Batman’s identity, she decided to end the engagement without telling Bruce the real reasons.
Wedding Day Blues
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman run played with the idea that Bruce can only seek out marriage when Batman isn’t in the picture. After a confrontation with the Joker gives Bruce amnesia, Jim Gordon temporarily takes over as Batman, while Wayne lives a quiet life working with underprivileged children alongside Julie Madison. Bruce and Julie become engaged in 2015’s Batman #46, but their happiness is cut short when Bruce is called into action as Batman again. Julie helps Bruce regain his memories, even though she knows it will transform him and end their engagement. By this point, its clear that Bruce can either be Batman or happily married, not both.
This idea was explored by writer Tom King when he took over the Batman title in 2016. Under King’s pen, Bruce Wayne questioned if he had the right to be happy. Musing on the idea for some time, proposes to Catwoman (this time sincerely) in 2017’s Batman #24, and Selina accepts in Batman #32. In the weeks leading up to their wedding, everyone from the Joker to Holly Robinson ask Selina to consider if Bruce could still be effective as Batman if he’s a married man. The question weighs on her, causing her to worry about Gotham’s future without its Dark Knight. Ultimately, Catwoman concludes that Batman needs darkness to thrive, so she leaves Bruce at the altar in 2018’s Batman #50.
Batman and Catwoman reunited months later, but as of this writing they’ve tabled their wedding. But all of this begs a question. Married heroes like Superman, Flash and Aquaman are still effective crimefighters, so what makes Batman different? Is it because the early death of his parents left him without a positive example of a healthy marriage growing up? Does he use darkness as a crutch? Throughout Batman’s career, he’s treated marriage as a joke (Lois Lane), a means to an end (Elva Barr), and a trap to escape from (Vicki Vale). Can Batman finally confront his demons and take the walk down the aisle, or is he doomed to remain a bat-chelor? Only time will tell.
DC FanDome returns on October 16, 2021! For more articles like this one, and to stay up to date on all the latest news, visit dcfandome.com.
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, "Gotham Gazette." Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.