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Why We Should Embrace Married Superheroes

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What is more emotionally satisfying than seeing someone you care about find happiness? Whether it’s a friend, a sibling, or even a celebrity you admire, don’t you feel a twinge of joy when you see them achieve something special? Unless you’re a cynic or a sociopath, you’ve probably had those feelings at least once in your life.

With those warm and fuzzy feelings inside, why shouldn’t that also extend to the iconic superheroes we know and love? When our favorite heroes finally get around to marrying the love of their life, it’s natural to want to cheer them on the same way we would cheer for our best friend as he and his bride do karaoke at the reception.

However, those tasked with building the canon seem to have an aversion to married superheroes. Just this past summer, that aversion was on full display. Two major superhero weddings were set up, one involving Kitty Pryde and Colossus in X-men Gold #30 and the other involving Batman and Catwoman in Batman #50.

Sadly, both events ended without tearful vows and a drunken toast, although one salvaged a matrimonial quickie at the last second. I’ve already broken down how one wedding just prolonged an already drawn out romance while the other denigrated the entire concept of romance, as a whole. Rather than bemoan those romantic misfirings, I’d like to step back and look at the bigger picture of married superheroes.

This is actually a controversial issue among fans of superhero comics and those who create them. I’ve been browsing comic book message boards for years. I can attest to just how much fans care when their favorite characters get married. They continue caring long after the wedding reception.

On the other side of the controversy, though, there are the creators that work for Marvel, DC, and their corporate overlords. They have a slightly different view of married superheroes and one that’s not nearly as sentimental. To say their views are complex is like saying a plumber has mixed opinions on food poisoning.

While many of those writing, editing, and producing superhero media are fans themselves, they often have to leave their fandom at the door. Companies like Marvel and DC Comics don’t pay them to write fan fiction. They pay them to tell stories that will sell, increase the value of their brand, and improve market share.

A writer or editor’s ability to do this is prone to many challenges. Fans, especially comic book fans, are notoriously fickle with their passions. If they see something they don’t like happening to a character they love, they’re pretty vocal about it. Just ask fans of Captain America, the Fantastic Four, or Cyclops of the X-men.

In that respect, I have some sympathy for the people responsible for handling beloved characters. They’re basically playing with someone else’s toys and getting paid for it. However, if they break those toys or damage them in any way, there can be hell to pay. Just look at the current situation with Star Wars.

That sympathy, though, only goes so far and I can’t extended to how some at Marvel and DC have approached marriage. DC Comics editor, Dan Dido, once went on record as saying that superheroes should not get married. Long-time Marvel editor and COO, Joe Quesda, even had to justify breaking up Spider-Man’s marriage to Mary Jane Watson by claiming that it “stabilized” Spider-Man too much.

Now in general, I try to be understanding and respectful when people hold positions that I disagree with. I’ve even tried to do that with hot-button issues like abortion, feminism, and organized religion. In this case though, I just have to call bullshit.

Claiming marriage does too much to stabilize a superhero is like saying ketchup makes food too red. It gives the impression that stability is somehow a liability with superheroes, as though they can only be interesting when their world is falling apart and they’re one stubbed toe away from a nervous breakdown.

It’s true that we superhero fans love seeing our favorite heroes fight back invading aliens, punch Nazis, and even take on renegade alien gods. However, it’s also true that we don’t expect or want that to be the only story that superheroes tell. We’re also interested in the lives they live outside their flashy costumes. It doesn’t just humanize them. It gives us more reasons to root for them.

Both Mr. Quesada and Mr. Dido try to make the case that part of being a hero involves sacrificing parts of their personal life in order to serve the greater good. There’s little doubt that being a hero comes at a price, as many of Batman’s former lovers can attest, but that doesn’t have to involve outright isolation.

It also doesn’t mean being a superhero makes a functioning marriage impossible, either. Yes, it’s a lot harder to be a loving spouse and a superhero, but I wouldn’t say it’s as daunting as battling planet-eating space gods or surviving a team-up with Deadpool. In fact, it can enhance their heroics in ways that go beyond romance.

I’m not the only one to make that point either. In wake of the recent wedding debacles by Marvel and DC, Comic Books Resources asked why publishers are so afraid of married superheroes. They cited the same excuses I did about heroes needing to sacrifice, but they also pointed out how these kinds of real-life, mundane events help people connect with these characters.

What the article didn’t get into is why this matters. Superman is a hero with god-like power who can move planets and create diamonds with his bare hands. He’s also married to Lois Lane and still has to put in the effort to make that marrage work, even when it becomes prone to complications.

Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four is among the smartest beings in the entire Marvel Universe. He creates thought projectors, flying cars, and personal robots without breaking a sweat. He too has to work hard to keep his marriage and family functioning, especially when a handsome Atlantean king keeps trying to sleep with his wife.

Then, there’s Spider-Man. I know I’ve brought him up a number of times and not always in a positive light, but what happened to him and his marriage is still one of the most controversial things that have ever happened in comics. In many ways, he embodies the ultimate flaw in the excuses to undercut married superheroes.

In the infamous story, One More Day, Spider-Man’s marriage to Mary Jane Watson wasn’t just undone. He actually made a deal with Mephisto, Marvel’s stand-in for the devil, to sacrifice his marriage in exchange for saving his Aunt May’s life. Considering his Aunt had told him just a few issues ago that she didn’t want to be saved, Spider-Man still went through with it.

To say fans were upset by that decision would be like saying the Hulk has a slight anger management problem. This act didn’t just undercut an iconic superhero romance. It essentially reverted Spider-Man back to the state of an immature loser who had barely grown up since high school.

Again, Marvel made plenty of excuses. Long-time Spider-Man writer, Dan Slott, claimed that Spider-Man has to remain within a particular status quo. He has to keep being this lovable loser who is always struggling to hold down a job, keep a girlfriend, and still be a hero. In order to keep that unique appeal he has, and all the merchendising money it makes, he can’t be married.

I understand that logic, but I still call bullshit. You know what happens to characters who never change, grow up, or evolve over time? It’s the same thing that happens to real people. They become boring and unlikable. In Spider-Man’s case, he becomes something worse. He becomes the guy who sold his marriage to the devil to save someone who didn’t even want to be saved. That’s not heroic. That’s just plain selfish.

That’s the price a superhero pays for remaining in a prepetually regressed state. I contend that price is far higher than any associated with the inherent difficulty of writing married characters. With Spider-Man, One More Day established that no matter what he did in his personal or heroic life, he would never change. He’d always end up sleeping on his Aunt May’s couch.

It doesn’t matter if he pursues a new romance. It doesn’t matter if he becomes a billionaire and runs his own company. A reader can just assume he’ll screw it all up somehow and end up right back where he started. It’s just hard to root for any character that keeps regressing like that.

It’s like rooting for a sports team that never wins. Even terrible teams can turn it around at some point. Yes, that includes the Cleveland Browns. If that team never wins, though, why even root in the first place?

This is why marriage is so vital to the growth and evolution of superheroes. When a hero gets married, it’s not just an excuse to have a big event full of superhero-themed cakes. It’s a culmination of a much larger story about love, growth, and strength. It takes a lot to make a marriage work and not all of it can be done with superpowers.

Therein lies the ultimate appeal, though. When a superhero gets married, they go from simply pursuing a relationship to actually making it work. They have to learn how to build a life with another person and become part of a larger family, something that cannot and should not be exclusive to the Fantastic Four.

It fundementally changes how superheroes approach their lives, in and out of costume. It adds new layers of complexity and intrigue. Yes, it’s considerably harder than telling stories about Superman rescuing Lois Lane from Lex Luthor’s evil clutches. That’s exactly what makes it more compelling.

I don’t doubt that Marvel and DC will continue making excuses about married superheroes. Whether or not their approach to the issue evolves remains to be seen. However, since they’re in the business of keeping their characters relevant, they will have an incentive to adapt these characters for changing times and maturing audiences.

Being the romantic I am, I believe love will eventually win out in the end because love is part of why we root for superheroes in the first place. Love isn’t just about being unselfish. It’s also about achieving something special after so much sacrifice. Fans of superheroes want to see them achieve the things they struggle for. It affirms that all those heroics have meaning and purpose.

Marriage doesn’t have to be the ultimate achievement for a superhero. It can be part of it, though. It doesn’t have to be an end. It can be a beginning, as well. Until Marvel and DC lets its heroes get to that point, though, those stories won’t get told and hearts will keep getting broken for all the wrong reasons.

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes, Love Or Obsession, Marriage and Relationships, romance, superhero movies, X-men

How To Disappoint (But NOT Destroy) An Iconic Romance In Batman #50

688356-_sx1280_ql80_ttd_It’s been a rough summer for fans of romance, superheroes, and superhero weddings. In fact, in all the years I’ve been reading comics and following romantic sub-plots, I can’t remember a time when there was this much melodrama and heartbreak. I understand that any epic romance is going to involve a healthy bit of emotional strain, especially when it involves superheroes. There comes a point when it just becomes too much.After the deconstruction and denigration of superhero romance that unfolded in X-men Gold #30, I feel like we’re dangerously close to that point. It’s as though everyone involved in making superhero comics is admitting that superheroes can’t get married. They can’t have a functional, compelling romance and still be interesting.That sort of sentiment is basically an affirmation of Marvel’s justification for undoing Spider-Man’s marriage to Mary Jane Watson in the infamous One More Day story. Given the relative infamy of that story line and the recent upheaval with the X-men, many fans of both superheroes and romance were placing a lot of hope that the wedding of Batman and Catwoman could help stop the bleeding in Batman #50.I certainly counted myself among those who was very excited about this event. I even admit I really wanted this to make up for the disheartening outcome of X-men Gold #30. The romantic in me wanted at least one superhero wedding this summer that didn’t end in heartbreak or tragedy.Well, if you saw the same spoilers in the New York Times that I did just two days before Batman #50 came out, you already know that’s not what happened. Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle did not get married. That means in terms of superhero weddings, the summer of 2018 is now 0 for 2.However, that outcome did not compound my lingering disappointment from X-men Gold #30. I’ll even go so far as to say that Batman #50 didn’t send the state of superhero romance past the point of no return. It didn’t improve the state of affairs. It was disappointing, but not to the point where it damaged a story or a romance beyond repair.Before I explain, I want to establish that many of the details beyond this point are heavy spoilers. Seeing as how this comic was already spoiled a couple days prior to its release, much to the chagrin of comic retailers, I don’t think I need to place too many warnings. I still recommend that people buy the comic, but there’s more going on here than a wedding that didn’t happen, much more so than what we saw in X-men Gold #30.By nearly every measure, Batman #50 approaches the concept of a superhero wedding differently than X-men Gold #30. The wedding of Kitty Pryde and Colossus was set up as this big, momentous affair between an established couple that overcame a lot just to have the opportunity to get married. They brought in friends, family, and fellow superheroes from across the X-men comics.In contrast, the ceremony in Batman #50 was very small. In fact, there wasn’t much of a ceremony to speak of. The only ones who were present besides Batman and Catwoman were Aflred, Bruce Wayne’s butler and long-time confidante, and a lone judge who was already drunk so that he wouldn’t remember his or Catwoman’s identity. Batman always has a plan for that sort of thing. That’s why he’s Batman.On top of that, Batman is the one who proposed to Catwoman back in Batman #24. He’s the one who pitched the idea of getting married in the first place. That’s critical because Kitty Pryde was the one who proposed to Colossus in X-men Gold #20. That matters because she’s also the one who broke it off and at the last second, no less. Things were a bit less cruel in Batman #50 and that’s saying something for a Batman comic.At one point in the story, Batman makes clear that he still wants to marry Catwoman. He’s not having second thoughts. It’s Catwoman who makes the fateful decision to break it off and she doesn’t wait until half-way through the ceremony, either. To put that another way, an admitted jewel thief who enjoys having sex on rooftops showed more decency than Kitty Pryde on her failed wedding day.It’s not a public spectacle that turns into an equally public debacle. It’s a private affair that simply doesn’t pan out. There’s no awkward reception. There’s no attempt to salvage it by shoehorning another romance into the mix just so someone gets married, as though such romances can be swapped out like batteries. It just doesn’t happen.Moreover, Catwoman actually gives a reason for not going through with the wedding and, unlike Kitty Pryde, it’s not a wholly contrived. She establishes throughout Batman #50, through a series of montages documenting their romance over the years, why she loves him and why he’s such an effective hero. In the process, she reveals something profound about Batman.What makes Batman both effective and iconic is how he takes the pain of a tragedy, namely the death of his parents, and turns it into strength. The same pain that would break a lesser man drives him to do so much more. He’s the Dark Knight who defends Gotham. He’s a hero who deserves to fight alongside demigods and aliens on the Justice League. For him to be Batman, he needs that pain to fuel him.From Catwoman’s perspective, Batman finding happiness means denying him the fuel he needs to be Batman. That’s not a realization that just randomly pops into her mind at the last second, though. This is something the Joker actually points out to her in Batman #49. It has less to do with whether or not she loves him and more to do with him being the hero that Gotham needs.That doesn’t make Catwoman’s decision any less disappointing, but it’s still nowhere near as callous or selfish as Kitty Pryde’s decision in X-men Gold #30. I know it’s somewhat unfair to keep comparing the two, given the different circumstances of their relationship, but those distinctions highlight an important element that the failed Batman/Catwoman wedding has that the Colossus/Kitty Pryde wedding didn’t.What happens in Batman #50 is definitely a setback for Batman and Catwoman’s relationship, but it doesn’t fundamentally destroy it. In fact, there’s a very critical detail at the end of the issue that leaves the door open for this romance to keep evolving. I won’t spoil it, but it unfolds in such a way that makes romance fans like me want to root for this relationship.The same definitely cannot be said for the Colossus/Kitty Pryde relationship. After the way things played out during their wedding, it really feels as though their romance is damaged beyond repair. It’s no longer a love story. It’s an outright tragedy, one that would need an even greater contrivance to repair at this point. In a universe with shape-shifting aliens, though, that’s not wholly unfeasible.In the grand scheme of things, Batman #50 is still disappointing in the sense that it doesn’t let Batman and Catwoman take their love story to another level. In fact, not a whole lot changes. The way it plays out feels more like a setback rather than a tragedy. The writer of the comic, Tom King, even claims it’s just part of a much larger narrative between Batman and Catwoman.How that story will play out remains to be seen. Given how long it took Batman and Catwoman to get to a point where they try to get married, Batman #50 already gives the impression that their romance is being dragged out. For a couple who has been off and on again since the 1940s, that’s saying something.If I had to score Batman #50, as both a comic book fan and a romance fan, I’d give it a 6 out of 10. It’s a bit of a letdown, but it’s not nearly as soul-crushing as X-men Gold #30. It still leaves the state of superhero romance in a very precarious state, but at the very least, this book gives me reason for hope.I’ll still be very skeptical of any future superhero wedding for the foreseeable future, though.

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Why Stupid Love Is Honest Love (According To Batman)

Whenever someone says love is stupid, they’re usually getting over having their heart broken or upset that other people aren’t lining up to fuck them. It’s a cynical, jaded position on one of the most fundamental and powerful emotions there is in the human experience. As an aspiring erotica/romance writer, I’m often reminded of its power.

Sometimes, though, you need other kinds of reminders to appreciate the breadth of love. In a sense, it is stupid, but not in the way ex-lovers, recent divorcees, and Evanescence fans often claim. It is an inherently irrational, exceedingly overwhelming emotion that drives us to do some pretty crazy things. However, that’s exactly what makes it beautiful.

That beauty isn’t easy to see. Sometimes, it manifests in subtle ways. Other times, though, it’s front and center in a Batman comic. No, that’s not some colorful aside. I’m dead serious. The stupidity of love has actually manifested itself in a Batman comic and it’s beautiful to a level that only Batman can achieve.

This beauty was on full display in Batman #35, which picks right up from the huge development that occurred a few issues back when Catwoman accepted Batman’s marriage proposal. It has little to do with wedding plans, overpriced engagement rings, or how good Catwoman looks in skin-tight outfits. It actually goes out of the way to highlight the stupidity of love and all its uncanny beauty.

The context of the issue is secondary. If you really want to know the particulars, I highly recommend you read Batman #35 to get the full context of the situation. With respect to the topic at hand, namely the stupidity of love, all you need to know is that Catwoman has a chance to confront one of Batman’s other famous flames, Talia Al Ghul.

That’s a big deal for anyone who dares to get involved with Batman’s personal life. Talia Al Ghul isn’t just someone that both Batman and Bruce Wayne were fond of seeing naked. She’s also the mother of Damien Wayne, but not in the classic sense. He wasn’t conceived in the classic, fun sort of way.

The creation of Damien Wayne, much like Baman’s relationship with Talia, was largely a byproduct of a cold, unfeeling agenda. It had a specific purpose, a defined goal, and very little passion involved. It’s even less sexy than it sounds. It’s basically the antithesis of the stupidity of love.

That’s very much who Talia Al Ghul is. Sure, she looks almost as good as Catwoman in skin-tight outfits, but she’s not much of a romantic. She’s a cold, calculating bitch who sees love as an asset at best and an inconvenience at worst. She’s also the one Catwoman has to deal with in Batman #35 and not just because she’s marrying her baby daddy.

The clash between these two women may not be as sexy as nude oil wrestling at the Playboy mansion. It may not even be as epic as a battle between Superman and Doomsday. However, the way this fight plays out perfectly highlights both the stupidity and the beauty of love. Catwoman herself articulates it perfectly.

It’s not just that loving Batman carries with it a lot of baggage. It’s not just that being involved with the goddamn Batman is overwhelming and not just because he tends to attract homicidal clowns. To love someone like Batman is not to ignore the sheer stupidity of being involved with him in the first place. It’s to embrace it.

It’s a message that fans of romance and aspiring erotica/romance writer alike can get behind. Instead of scrutinizing or overthinking why someone loves another person, you just focus on the love itself. Sure, it’s stupid in the sense that it ignores the logistics. Sometimes, though, that’s the key to making love work.

When you’re in love with a complex person with loads of baggage, like Batman, there’s a lot to think about and scrutinize. It’s one of the many reasons that Batman has had such a colorful history with women. Between being a costumed crime fighter and a billionaire playboy, he’s a complicated man with a lot of moving parts.

It’s because of those complications that many of those women who may genuinely love him find plenty of reasons to walk away. Talia Al Ghul is a perfect example of this because she approaches her love with Batman in a way that’s cold and calculated.

To love him, in her mind, isn’t to embrace his baggage. It’s to re-shape and re-mold it into something she sees as greater. What she tries to do with Batman is very similar to what many people try to do with their lovers in the sense that they try to change and mold them into the person they want them to be, even if it means undermining the person they are.

That’s not just a losing battle that only leads to greater heartache. It goes against the very principles of love. You don’t love someone for who you want them to be. You love them for who they are.

Talia Al Ghul wants Batman to be a certain way for her. She feels she knows what’s best for him, their future, and their family. She’s also willing to lie, cheat, and manipulate him into achieving those goals. She may leave his balls intact, but she’ll make sure his soul is hers to guide. Even Regina George isn’t quite that ambitious.

Catwoman does the exact opposite. She doesn’t try to change Batman into some ideal version of a man that she has in her head. She loves him for who he is and doesn’t want to mold him into something else. On paper, that’s still kind of stupid in the sense that it basically permits him to keep doing the crazy things he does. However, it’s probably the most sincere and honest love anyone can offer.

That does more than contrast Catwoman’s love for Batman from that of Talia Al Ghul. It shows how genuine love compares to the shallow brand of love that comes with caveats. Some people build their relationships around an agenda, much like Talia Al Ghul. They see it as a means to an end. Love, in that context, is indistinguishable from a mortgage application.

Loving someone honestly means loving their flaws as much as their strengths. Catwoman doesn’t overlook or deny those flaws in Batman. Batman himself doesn’t try to hide them either. That honesty, making themselves so vulnerable to one another, is stupid from a purely logistical point of view.

However, that’s exactly what makes their love so sincere. Even if you’re not a comic book fan or a fan of beautiful women in skin-tight outfits, it’s still a love that’s worth celebrating.

 

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Big Superhero/Romance News: Batman And Catwoman Are Getting Married!

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I had a whole other topic I wanted to discuss today, but sometimes certain events occur that require you to throw out your plans, spit on your schedule, and love every second of it. Despite some of the tragic news to come about in the last few days, something big just happened in the world of comics, a world with which I’ve made my passions known.

It’s news that appeals to both the comic book fan in me and the erotica/romance fan in me. It’s rare that a combination that potent converges in my world. When it does, my heart and loins are sent into overdrive for all the right reasons. I don’t care if that sounds overly dramatic. I’m in good a mood right now to dampen my spirits.

This time, I’m not going to provide a larger context. I’m not going to give some elaborate backstory on the circumstances to explain an ongoing controversy. Whether you don’t know squat about superhero comics or haven’t felt a romantic sentiment since the series finale of “90210,” you can’t deny this is big.

You don’t need context. You don’t need much insight either. All you need to know is this.

Batman and Catwoman are getting MARRIED! 

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That’s right. USA Today broke the story. In Batman #24, Bruce proposed to Selena on a rooftop. Now, after months of agonizing build-up, Batman #32 gives the answer. The Dark Knight and the sexy jewel thief who dresses in a skin-tight costume are getting married.

In an era where 95 percent of all Batman stories involve him brooding all the time, including those involving Lego-themed characters, Batman is getting married. If you put your ear to a computer screen, you can hear thousands of comic fans squeeing and cheering uncontrollably.

In the context of superhero comics, this is big news and not just because it means seeing Catwoman in her underwear more often. As I write this, superhero comics are going through a rough patch in which iconic romances, especially those involving Marvel’s heroes, are being undone, undermined, or reserved for non-canon alternate universes. It’s a tough time to be a romance fan and a comic fan.

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Lately, DC Comics has been trying to change that. They’ve been expanding the long-time marriage between Superman and Lois Lane in recent years, building on a family element and even giving them a son to raise. Someone actually had the audacity to think that a loving relationship can have appeal outside of a toxic love triangle. What a concept, right?

While they may not be as iconic as Superman and Lois Lane, Batman and Catwoman have had their share of romantic and sexy moments. Theirs is not the sweet, cuddly relationship that Superman has with Lois Lane. Theirs is more complicated, but many times hotter and not just because Catwoman looks sexy as hell in her underwear.

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These are two people who don’t always find themselves on the same side of the law, but they both have lines they won’t cross. They both have principles they won’t compromise. They’re both tough, capable, and know how to handle themselves in overwhelming situations.

He’s the goddamn Batman. She’s the sexy-as-hell Catwoman. Superman and Lois may make sweet, passionate love. That’s fine for them. For Batman and Catwoman, they’ll settle for the hot, exciting, dangerous love that gets the heart and genitals going in all the right ways. It’s even sexier than it sounds.

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For Batman, a character best known for brooding, growling, and making Christian Bale one of the biggest names in Hollywood, it’s a huge shift in his life. The past several years of Batman comics have expanded his mythos in many ways, even giving him a son, but he’s never really gone beyond brooding and beating up criminals. For a man defined by how tortured he is, this sort of thing adds some badly-needed balance.

Ever since the mid-80s when Frank Miller got his hands on Batman, he’s been such a dark character who is so overly serious in everything he does. At times, he seems to go out of his way to deny himself any measure of happiness. It makes Batman feel less like a hero and more like someone who’s just obsessive and/or mentally ill.

By having him find love with someone, that adds an important dynamic to his character. It means that he doesn’t just want to brood all the time over Gotham City’s crime problem. He wants to find some measure of happiness. Despite the loss his suffered as a kid, he still wants and feels love. Something about that shows just how resistant he is as Batman.

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Granted, Batman has had his share of love interests over the years, as is the case with most heroes. He’s still nowhere near as bad as Wolverine. However, of all those love interests, Catwoman is probably the most iconic. They’ve been married in other realities with varying degrees of success, but this is the first time DC Comics is giving them the same shot they gave Superman and Lois Lane.

Not much has been revealed beyond Catwoman’s acceptance of Batman’s proposal. I doubt anyone has thought about wedding plans or honeymoons just yet, which for them probably involves beating the snot out of the Joker. There may or may not be a wedding special like there has been with other iconic romances.

All we know is that the desire and the will is there. For Batman and Catwoman, or passionate lovers of any kind in any reality, real or fictional, sometimes that’s all you need.

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