Superman has Lois Lane. Spider-Man has Mary Jane (Whoops! Well, he did have her). Mr. Fantastic has the Invisible Woman. Cyclops has Jean Grey. Every major super-hero at every major company (at least the ones I can think of; I’m sure someone can remember one I’ve missed) has a romantic lead that is identified with them. Who does Batman have? Well, it depends on what era we’re discussing.
Originally, Batman’s romantic interest was Julie Madison, an actress with no personality. To be fair, this was the Golden Age of comics, when the heroes themselves considered themselves fortunate to have personalities, and supporting casts existed to function as plot points, not fully rounded characters. Julie Madison was like many of the love interests of early comic heroes, in love with her man, but bemoaning the fact that he couldn’t be as brave, strong or adventurous as the thrilling Batman. Bruce, meanwhile, often seemed like he could barely remember her name. She had no value for the series, and was quickly sent packing when the writers realized that they couldn’t bring her relationship with Bruce to fruition, and they were as sick of her as the readers.
The next serious (and I use that term loosely) love interest for Batman was Vicki Vale, who first appeared in the 1950s, but then disappeared for decade, before returning in the 1980s. No one would likely remember Vicki Vale were it not for her appearance in Tim Burton’s original Batman film, where she was played by Kim Basinger. Vale was a photo-journalist and in the style of Lois Lane, she was willing to take chances to get her stories. In many ways, she seemed to have the closest temperament to Bruce (she certainly was less of a shrinking violet than Julie Madison), but the two were never really close, and they broke-up without much fuss.
During the Silver Age, Batman was supposedly romantically involved with Batwoman, one Kathy Kane, but this relationship was even more tepid than the ones previously mentioned. We never saw them doing anything that couples do, and Batman seemed more embarrassed by Batwoman than in love with her. Scuttlebutt is that the relationship was forced into the series to help sink rumors that Batman and Robin were gay, and whether or not that was true, the entire “relationship” was removed from the DC universe during “Crisis on Infinite Earths”. (For the completists out there, he actually married a woman and had a son back in those Pre-Crisis days, but all of that was removed when DC management decided that Batman needed to be more of a jerk.)
Batman has been romantically linked with Catwoman, and especially during the “Hush” storyline, he ran around with her for a short time. There seemed to be some actual sparks between the two characters, but it was a very short lived romance, and shows no signs of returning. He was also linked with Talia, the daughter of his villainous foe Ra’s Al Ghul, and she claims that he fathered her child. Whether or not this is true remains to be seen, but his relationships with either of these women were quick and virtually nonexistent.
There have been other ladies who have passed through his life; in the late 70s, Silver St. Cloud was introduced for a few story arcs. It was suggested that she figured out that Bruce was Batman, but neither one of them could quite bring themselves to talk to the other about Bruce’s dual identity, and so they broke up. He was involved with his doctor, Shondra Kinsolving, and that seemed serious, so there was a plot which ended with her mind being regressed to that of a toddler. He also briefly had a fling with Bruce Wayne’s bodyguard, Sasha Bordeaux, but this quick fling also faded away after a short time. Not a good track record.
There’s a few things I’d like to point out here. First of all, with a few exceptions, most of these women didn’t leave Bruce after a dramatic and exciting storyline….they just faded away as writers got tired of dealing with them. This brings me to the second point, which is that most writers get tired of these women because they have no strong personality, and no real connection to Bruce Wayne. There is no real passion in these romances, and the relationships never feel real; they feel very fake. If you like at the other iconic heroes that permeate our culture, almost all of them have love interests who are well known and sometimes as much a part of the cultural firmament as the hero themselves. Except for the few villains that Batman has dallied with, does anyone know any of his other loves, and if so, is it just because that love ended up in a movie? And then they never get more than one movie; there’s always a new one in the next movie. Batman is as bad as James Bond when it comes to keeping a woman.
The problem with all of this is that many comics readers and members of the general public will say that Batman is their favorite hero because he is a human with no powers and he’s more relatable. I have to disagree with this notion, especially when applied to the current DCU Batman; I find him completely unrelatable, and would say Superman is more human than Batman is. I find it very odd and rather disturbing that Bruce Wayne has apparently no sexual drive or need for companionship. I’ll be the first to say that not every story needs a love interest and I myself get frustrated when they are shoehorned into a story where they do not belong. However, Batman has been consistently unable to maintain a relationship with any woman for any length of time throughout his entire career and when he does have a woman around, there’s rarely any sort of chemistry between them.
So, does Batman need a love interest? Is he better off without one? What sort of woman could fit into his world?
I would like to believe that Batman would be a bit less of an uptight bastard if he had a little…release…once in a while. Give him an opportunity to let go of some of those pent-up aggressions and frustrations. Let him get his Bat-Groove on, so to speak.
And it makes sense. It would ground him, give him something to protect outside of the abstract, and add some vulnerability to his nigh-unrealistic portrayal as the never-smiling, never-sleeping Broodmaster General. This is another of the topics that I think will end up coloring our revamp of Batman in the long run. I mean, if he has no friends and no love interest, then what’s the fighting for? If Batman doesn’t care about anybody then why should anybody care about him?
It’s pretty sad that the character has been around for nearly 70 years and the first girlfriends I could come up with for him were Kim Basinger and Katie Holmes…or at least the characters they played in 1989 and 2005. And one of them was created specifically for the movie!
I agree with your assessment that, out of all the potential flings DC presented him with, Vicki Vale was the most likely to stick. She had a spunkiness to her, but her personality came off (probably because it was originated as such) as a copy of Lois Lane. “Hey,” the DC editors seemed to announce to whomever was listening at the time, “that female reporter angle gives us a continuing plot device as well as romance!” All the other girls were just wet rags thrown at the feet of Bruce Wayne or Batman, which he either wooed half-assedly or just ignored altogether.
And he needs a strong woman. He needs someone who can stand toe-to-toe with him. Hell, he even needs a woman who is BETTER than him. Let his nonchalance be his downfall. Let him go ga-ga over a chick who clearly sees him as a step down the ladder. Who could this be? Not sure yet, but I have an idea…
You can’t retcon a love interest in. That’s both too obvious and too lazy. Just as Hush seemed like a cop-out villain once his identity was revealed, the “back in the day” lover would be just as reviled. You also can’t just spring some new woman into one of the Batman titles out of the blue. Those kinds of telegraphed maneuvers can kill any momentum you may hope to build. No, this has to be a gradual thing, something that readers may not even notice at first. And it can’t be anyone to whom Batman has any sort of connection. This has to be a strictly Bruce Wayne relationship. Why? Well, Bruce is Batman’s weakness, the part of him without the mask to hide behind, the part that the public knows and identifies with. Bruce Wayne is Batman’s ultimate vulnerability, his Achilles heel.
Here’s my proposal: we introduce a business rival, but we don’t reveal that this powerful woman is the head of the company. Perhaps there’s a takeover attempt or some sort of collaboration involved, something that makes them sit down at a table together. However, the woman has to be written so that she doesn’t take any of Bruce’s flak. She’s impervious to his supposed playboy charm. She’s strictly business…and maybe she’s the one that sets the pace of the relationship, putting Bruce in the awkward position of being the pursuer. He’s off his mark and it affects his Batman work as well. Bottom line: he’s smitten.
Sure, there’s an inherent disconnect in the fact that Batman would let someone like this get to him, but maybe he sees something he hasn’t seen in a long time: a challenge.
Can you take this nugget of an idea and build it into something plausible?
Before I tackle your suggested romantic interest, I wanted to expound on something you mentioned in your post, because I think it really cements why it’s so vitally important that Batman have a love interest. Without a love interest and without a family of some sort around him, what exactly is Batman fighting for? Sure, you can say that he’s fighting so that everyone else can have these things, but isn’t Bruce also fighting for the memory of his parents? And how would his parents feel about what he’s become?
In the Greg Rucka/Klaus Janson mini-series Death and the Maidens, Batman take a drug provided by Ra’s al Ghul, which supposedly lets him communicate with the spirit of his dead parents. The story leaves it for the reader to decide if he actually speaks with them, or if the whole thing is simply a delusion, but the important thing is that his parents are angry with him, as they feel he’s wasted his life. Being Batman is not what they wanted for their son, and they certainly didn’t want him to wall himself off from the rest of humanity. By choosing this celibate life, be living an almost monastic existence (at least as far as sex and companionship are concerned), Bruce is dishonoring the memory of his parents, who I believe truly would be saddened by what has become of their son. I’m sure we may come back to this idea as we continue to explore the Batman, but I wanted to put it out there now for everyone to consider.
Of course, as we move back to your idea for Bruce’s love interest, I can’t help but feel we’re also going to start moving toward our next topic, which is how Batman and Bruce Wayne coexist. Personally, I feel that you’ve nailed one of the most important components of what sort of love interest Bruce Wayne needs, in that this woman is someone he meets as Bruce Wayne. This is why Talia and Catwoman don’t work as love interests (or, at least, one reason); they are part of Batman’s world, and when he’s Batman, all of his defenses are in place. A woman needs to hit the Bruce Wayne side of our title character first, where he’s more vulnerable and willing to allow himself to feel, at least a little.
You ask if I can make this something plausible, but I think you’ve already done that. A strong businesswoman (perhaps even a rival businesswoman) is a great start, and it works well if we have Batman spending more time as Bruce Wayne (again, that would be our next post). They meet in the course of business, and she catches Wayne’s eye and things progress from there. Again, not to step all over the feet of other posts (which, I suppose, is the danger of breaking them up like this, although this would have been a heck of a lot to do in one post), but perhaps one of the things that Bruce loves about her is that, while she’s whip-smart and tough, she’s also been able to do a lot of good with her fortune and her company, much as he always tries to with his. It also might be a nice touch to have had her lose someone close to her to violence. Making it her parents seems too convenient and cliche, but it could be a former lover, a sibling, a long time friend….if she’s known the pain that senseless acts of criminal violence can bring to someone, then she’s got something vitally important that she shares with Bruce. Perhaps this loss is even what convinced her to start doing the charitable acts that helped attract Bruce to her.
I think this is a strong idea. Do we want to explore it here, or in a separate Bruce Wayne post? Then we could tie it all together in our final Batman post.
I have no qualms about going into the topic here…it’ll help us make the case for a stronger Bruce Wayne later on without having to waste time going over it again. Of course, in my quest to make a point about this particular type of love interest, I’m going to delve into another part of the Bruce Wayne identity: just how good of a businessman is he really? Bruce inherited the Wayne fortune, passed down through generations of industry and real estate investments, but what has he done on his own to back up this supposed “business genius” tag that he’s been handed? I’m not assaulting his character per se, I’m just setting up a scenario that this woman could fit into properly.
What if Bruce isn’t that great of a businessman? What if his success is more along the lines of just riding coattails instead of leading with new innovations. I mean, I don’t see him as a parallel to Tony Stark. It’s been established in the movies (and to a lesser degree in the comics) that he relies on someone else for his technology and his toys. I don’t want to get too far off topic here, but these things should be explained better. “International Playboy” is not some sort of code for “Genius” in anyone’s book. He could see this woman as someone to aspire towards. She handles it all so much better than he ever has.
Then again, we need to be careful that we’re not just creating a female version of Bruce Wayne. For her to have the same business inklings is one thing, but to push it so that she’s also had violent death in her family…and has some sort of secret she can’t tell Bruce…and has a group of surrounding friends that she ignores…is a bit too convenient as well. Oooh…what if there are two women that we introduce semi-simultaneously? We could have the strong businesswoman who plays hard to get (or just really isn’t interested in the first place) and, on the flip side, we could have the obnoxiously rich jetsetter type who appeals more to the playboy image of Bruce Wayne…someone who can’t be bothered by all that business hubbub. She has people that do that for her. She’s more interested in the downtime. Two successful women with two completely different outlooks on what success means.
The introduction of two women would make it much less obvious that this was telegraphed from the beginning. Readers wouldn’t assume that one or the other was going to be a long-term love interest for Bruce. And, hey, DC’s done it before…why not have a 900 number they can call in and vote on? Ha-ha!
Well, I’m not sure (and by “not sure”, I mean “very sure”) that I suggested that the proposed love interest be an analog of Bruce Wayne. My point about her having a family tragedy was simply because I think it would take a special woman to grab his attention and a special woman to want to be a part of his world. Of course, it’s not necessary to have the tragedy in her backstory and it can easily be forgotten.
I agree wholeheartedly with your comments about Wayne’s business acumen, and it’s something we’ll discuss more soon. However, I would say without any hesitation that Lucius Fox runs the company. Even if Bruce Wayne had any business skills, he never spends time at work (he’s worse than a character on a daytime soap opera….does Bruce ever go to the office?) so he can’t have any sort of active role in the leadership of his company. That’s what Fox is for. I’m not even sure that Bruce has an interest in running his company, although again, he could be inspired to do so when he either: 1. Loses an important business deal to his proposed love interest and has to learn how to play the big business game so he can get what he wanted back from her, or 2. Sees what the proposed love interest has managed to do with her business and realizes that he could do the same with his. Either way, this woman would spark the idea that Bruce could do a lot of good with his business, which would push us forward into our discussion of how Batman relates to Bruce Wayne and vice versa.
Introducing two women sounds like a good plan, although if one is depicted as shallow and obnoxious, is there going to be any reader who honestly believes that Bruce Wayne would end up with such a woman?
Wait…you mean based on everyone’s past view of the character and all the long-term relationships he’s held throughout his life? You really think no one would believe Bruce going after the easy target? And I didn’t mean to set it up like she’s some sort of bimbo or anything, just more of an affected socialite who feels she has better things to do than rabble with the hoi polloi. Granted, I don’t think it’s the best move to have him go after her, but it could be just enough distraction for readers that they wouldn’t suspect him falling for the strong businesswoman. It’s a red herring!
I’d love to see him develop a relationship with a woman who was his superior in some way. And I didn’t mean to bust on you for suggesting she should have a similar loss in her past, but I could see it veering off into she-Bruce territory and I thought we should be careful. The last thing we need is another two-dimensional romance for Batman. I think it would be great if this woman came from a very stable background…almost the complete opposite of Bruce Wayne and maybe that’s what attracts him to her. She has it all. She doesn’t really need him. Y’know?
We also need to set her up as the iconic partner. Bruce Wayne needs his Betty Ross, his Sue Storm, his Lois Lane. We have to make her memorable and likable and realistic. She has to have her own goals and not just play off as a plot twist that conveniently shows up when some new female villain rolls into town. And this all needs to develop over the span of a year or so before we even hint at the fact that Bruce is interested. Let her become a character in her own right before she’s thrust into the obvious situation, make it as far from obvious as possible. Hell, maybe at first they can’t even stand to be in the same room together…then something innocent, like being stuck in a stalled elevator trading stories, brings a glimmer of romance only to have it squashed again in their next negotiation. Play it back and forth like that for a few appearances. It would work as a nice tension-building parallel to whatever criminal Batman was tracking at night.
I agree with you that the woman needs to be introduced and established before a romance begins. I also think that they might not hit it off at first. I still like the idea of this woman besting Bruce’s company in some deal and doing it because this woman is simply a better businesswoman than Bruce (which shouldn’t be too difficult). I think that would be the impetus for Bruce to become more involved in running his company, and would force him to up his game in the corporate arena, which seems pretty bad.
At the same time, we introduced another female. Perhaps this is a society heiress with little interest in work or in her family’s business. This woman is smart, and more importantly, she’s adventurous. Bruce meets her at one of the parties he’s always forced to attend for his cover, and she charms him immediately. She invites him to do something dangerous with her (sky diving, mountain climbing or something like that) and he agrees. While he’s done things that are much more dangerous than any of these activities, he hasn’t done them as Bruce Wayne, and he finds the excitement of that, and the excitement of doing these things with this gorgeous woman, fills him with life. This woman is kind, and she gives lots of money to charities, but she doesn’t really give her time. She’s a good person, but she’s a little selfish; not blatantly selfish, but we pepper the stories with very subtle signs that this woman thinks of herself first. She’ll give millions to homeless shelters, but she doesn’t check on how her money is being spent, and if asked to come and do a television appearance to raise more money, she refuses, as she has to go pearl diving off the coast of Mexico.
While we have this going on in Bruce’s life, he continues to tangle with the businesswoman. He’s working hard to become her business equal, and he’s also investigating her company and her. He sees that she is doing a lot of good in her own way, but he still wants to best her in business, perhaps at this point for the sheer challenge of doing so. Over the course of a few months, he begins to realize that the challenge of matching wits with this woman is just as exciting, in its own way, as doing things with his heiress friend, and that the businesswoman is much deeper. It’s a somewhat slow but he starts to come around and starts thinking of the businesswoman is more than a rival….
At least, that’s how I see it playing out. These would all be subplots that would play behind the real action for quite awhile. You said a year, and I think that’s probably an accurate idea of the time this would take.
Yeah, you can’t take all the action away from a Batman book to focus on romance. You’d have a bit of a fan revolt, I believe. I think your approach works best…setting up two women who are unwittingly competing for completely different parts of the Bruce Wayne persona. Which is more intriguing to him? And which one will have a longer-lasting involvement in his life. It’s a good challenge to have.
That said, we’re not the only people clamoring for such changes. This article also talks about how isolated the Batman character seems in its latest movie incarnation (of course, I think their suggestions are rather short-sighted). The people have spoken…and they want love!