This is going to be old news for quite a few folks, but I only recently discovered that Catwoman and Batman have had sex. In case you’re not aware, DC Comics has chosen to reboot their entire universe in an effort to grab new readers into comics. Instead of the same sweaty man-children or cast of Big Bang Theory marching in for new issues and debates, they were hoping to grab new readers of…honestly, I don’t know what ages.
Let’s speak truthfully. The easiest way to get any sort of new viewer, reader or user is to try and go after a younger audience. Children, basically. Most adults are already set in their ways, and the only way they’ll start reading comics is if there was always an interest there to begin with. You might get some folks that never got into it before, but the odds that they’ll go from not buying a single comic to buying a new issue every month, let alone up to fifty-two of them, is pretty damn ridiculous.
Yet here lies DC Comics, imagining a complete reboot of their universe could somehow grab new readers while simultaneously hoping they don’t alienate too many of their current ones.
Word on the “street” (and by street I mean blogs and forums) is that the New 52 is pretty disappointing on the whole. While I was visiting the comic shop Captain Blue Hen in Newark, DE, I was shown how Joker carved his own face off in the new Batman and some other gruesome torture in other comics. It seemed pretty evident to me that the New 52 decided to go all Mark Millar, glorifying violence as if it were somehow mature and adult. Let’s forget that Watchmen, one of the graphic novels that influenced this love of grit and darkness back in the 80’s, actually had meaning to its violence.
It seems DC is going the whole nine yards, though. I’ve recently discovered through this excellent article that Batman and Catwoman have finally stripped down and done the nasty.
I suppose part of my initial shock was the classic old skool fan fearing change. Part of it may have been my Christian values going all ballistic. Yet when I sat down to think about it, I came to the conclusion that the folks in charge of the New 52 don’t know their own characters.
Keep in mind that my thoughts would be different if this was Batman #523 or whatever number they’d be up to by now. This is from the standpoint of starting over from scratch, trying to grab new readers without all the complex continuity. People still want the Batman that they expect. They don’t want him to suddenly be fine with killing villains because “that’s grim and gritty”. They want him to be Batman.
What is Batman, then? What makes him so different than any other super hero? Simple. He is just a man. He has no super powers or mutation. Hell, in the world of DC, this basically means he’s one of the only comic heroes that isn’t an alien or somehow related to aliens. He is a regular human being. Yet he has carried a persona that gives the rest of the world the impression that he is more than a man. He is something to be feared. He is a living legend, and looked upon as one might view a Demigod. He has tricked the world into believing he is Hercules.
Enter Catwoman. In truth, what people most know about her is she is a sometimes villain with heavy emphasis on teasing sexuality. Truth be told, she’s actually the sort of woman that would irritate the ever loving shit out of me in real life. That is neither here nor there, though.
When you consider Catwoman’s persona, she is a woman that uses her sexuality and sex appeal as a weapon. She makes men weak in the knees, or is constantly under-estimated because of her gender. She brings out the weakness that all men share, which is rooted in sexual desire or prowess. She is very much a dominatrix, getting her kicks out of knocking the men around her down a peg. Her sexuality is just another tool for that, distracting men easily.
So along comes Batman, trying to catch Catwoman and send her to prison like any other criminal. This is a character that works hard to seem more a monster than a mere human. Most of the villains he faces are men, and therefore there’s nothing for him to combat than sheer alpha-male pride (and guns. Lots of guns). All of a sudden here is a woman that happens to be a good fighter, but also a tease.
If Catwoman gets her kicks out of teasing men and making them crumble, then wouldn’t it be a challenge to make Batman, a modern day Hercules, weak in the knees?
It’s why their character dynamic can be so interesting. Catwoman looks at Batman as the ultimate challenge. He can’t be Bruce Wayne, playboy with a weakness to pretty girls. He has to be Batman, the Dark Knight, a man without weakness. To succumb to Catwoman would destory this persona that he has worked hard to establish.
Now, in truth, I know Batman has had relations in the comics. I don’t know if he ever had sex with Catwoman, but he has done the hibbidy dibbidy with Talia al’Ghul, a very different romance. If he had sex with Catwoman, then it would have been after several years of “will they or won’t they?”
The problem is that the new comics decided to stick that at the very end of Catwoman #1. This isn’t something they built up to, and reveals a complete lack of understanding character dynamics. In the very beginning of their reboot DC has already humanized Batman. He has shown weakness and fractured his persona. Catwoman, meanwhile, loses any empowerment she once had. After all, being a tease allows a man to build this image in their mind of what a woman could be like in bed. Sometimes the imagination is better than the reality, and once a man knows what it’s like to bang a woman, she has less power. If Batman were a frat boy, he could go to the Justice League, fist pound Superman, Aquaman and Green Lantern, smile and say “I hit that”. Catwoman can tease all she wants, and he’ll certainly feel desire, but it won’t be like before. He has had sex with Catwoman, and the mystery has been answered. Her power over him has, at the very least, greatly been weakened if not shattered.
This is the sort of event you hold off on. This is the sort of event that you write in at least a few years down the line (assuming you’re that impatient). It changes the dynamic of Batman and Catwoman’s relationship, and ultimately changes the characters themselves. It’s something that you can build up. Yet instead, it was executed in the very first issue of Catwoman #1, a reboot that’s meant to draw new readers in. You can’t change the characters and have it mean something by pulling this off so early.
Choosing to have Batman and Catwoman have sex is a decision that just smells of juvenille wish fulfillment or a total misunderstanding of actual mature storylines.
More than ever I wish DC would have just made a separate universe, just as Marvel had created the Ultimate universe for new readers. True, Mark Millar went in and ruined The X-Men for me, but Ultimate Spider-Man is just the sort of comic I want to read without having to dig through five or six decades worth of continuity. Meanwhile, all the fans that have been into comics for years can still be entertained with the Peter Parker they’ve always known.
At least then you could ignore poor decisions (again, Mark Millar writing The X-Men). By making this new reboot the continuity, DC just ruined the foundation of two of their largest characters, as well as knocking down the pillars that held up their relationship. Why? I don’t know.
It’s a damn shame that comic writers seem to lack such fundamental understandings of character and development. Maybe that’s the trick to pulling in new readers? Maybe that’s why the entire cast of Watchmen is more memorable than the entire line-up of classic DC superheroes? Or would that make too much sense?