Batman: The Bat and the Cat – 80 Years of Romance

By Bill Finger & Bob Kane, Jack Schiff, Len Wein, Alan Brennert, Darwyn Cooke, Jeph Loeb, Ed Brubaker, Tom King, Jerry Robinson, George Roussos, Irv Novick, Joe Staton, Tim Sale, Jim Lee, Sean Phillips, David Finch, Mikel Janín, Joëlle Jones & many and various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-9585-1 (HB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: A Romance for All Seasons… 8/10

There’s a hideously misogynistic adage from my ancient childhood that I can’t get out of my head after reading this compilation of tales celebrating the second longest love story in comic books…

“Man chases Woman until She catches Him.”

Once you’ve stopped scowling/screaming/vomiting, I ask you to consider whether, in this one specific instance, there might be kernel of truth to be gleaned here.

A sultry, sneaky, powerful thief has been alternately vamping and thumping a stiff-necked, doctrinaire, high-minded myrmidon for eight decades now and that relationship is still going strong: perpetually running hot and cold and generating plenty of sparks and engrossing entertainment for all of us voyeuristic fans.

As much promoting the Batman/Catwoman wedding publishing event as celebrating 80 years of tantalising sexual tension and masked roleplay, this carefully curated hardcover and/or digital compilation gathers material from Batman (volume 1) #1, 3, 15, 324, 392, 615; The Brave and the Bold #197; Solo #1; Catwoman #32; Batman (volume 3) #24, 44, 50 – as well as offering a gallery of breathtaking covers – and opens sans preamble or editorial comment with ‘The Cat’ by Bill Finger, Bob Kane & Jerry Robinson from the Dark Knight’s first solo-starring issue, released in  Spring 1940.

Third story in that landmark was ‘The Cat’ – who later added the suffix ‘Woman’ to her name to avoid any possible doubt or confusion – who plied her felonious trade of jewel theft aboard the wrong cruise-liner, rapidly falling foul for the first time to the dashing Dynamic Duo. Even then she tried to escape the consequences of her actions by vamping the big boy scout… with no appreciable result…

The larcenous lady returned in the Fall for #3 in Finger, Kane, Robinson & George Roussos’ ‘The Batman vs. the Cat-Woman’: clad in cape and costume but once again in well over her masked head by stealing for – and from – all the wrong people…

She graduated to full villain status in Batman #15 (February/March 1943, by Jack Schiff, Kane & Robinson) as ‘Your Face is your Fortune!’ exposed the Feline Fury taking on a job at a swanky Beauty Parlour to gain intel for her crimes, but inadvertently falling for Society Batchelor Bruce Wayne

There were decades of stories before Batman #324 (June 1980) but Len Wein, Irv Novick & Bob Smith’s ‘The Cat Who Would be King’ is significant as it reveals a growing intimacy leading to something more as the Dark Knight remorselessly battles Catman for a mystical remedy to the disease inexorably killing Selina Kyle

Next up is an alternate universe yarn, where The Brave and the Bold #197 (April 1983) sees Alan Brennert, Joe Staton & George Freeman reveal how in 1955 the Earth-2 Batman and Catwoman clashed with the Scarecrow before finally sheathing their claws and getting married in ‘The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne!’

Doug Moench, Tom Mandrake & Jan Duursema then detail ‘A Town on the Night’ (Batman #392, February 1986) as a newly-reformed Feline Avenger futilely seeks to get her masked man to take her on a date in Gotham City, after which Solo #1 (December 2004) expands on the theme for ‘Date Knight’ by Darwyn Cooke & Tim Sale. Of course, Selina is back to her wild, wandering, pilfering ways now, which she thinks adds a slice of spice to the affair…

Extracted from extended epic Hush (chapter 8 from July 2003, if you’re counting), Batman # 615 – ‘The Dead’ by Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee & Scott Williams – is pretty incomprehensible on its own, but is significant for one single interaction between the Cat and the Bat…

Catwoman #32 from August 2004 by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips & Stefano Gaudiano and reveals how the on-again, off-again relationship gets very serious indeed in ‘Only Takes a Night’ before we jump to August 2017 and Batman volume 3, wherein issues #24, 44 and 50 give us the highlights of the whirlwind romance that declares ‘Every Epilogue is a Prelude’ (Tom King, David Finch Clay & Seth Mann) and enquires ‘Bride or Burglar’ (King, Mikel Janín & Joëlle Jones) before finally presenting ‘The Wedding of Batman & Catwoman’ (by King, Janín and an army of guest creators.

Also included is a gallery of classic covers for tales which didn’t make the final cut here, and some wedding dress designs, to tantalise and keep all the romantics on edge for the next 80 years…

Fun and thoughtful, whilst reviving a few lesser-known yarns, this is a solid serving of froth and cake to delight fans of Costumed Dramas. And who doesn’t love a wedding, right?
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