Undeniably, Batman and Catwoman are DC’s most iconic costumed power couple. First crossing paths in Batman #1 back in 1940, from the very beginning, their opposite positions on either side of the law did little to abate their primal attraction. Throughout the decades, the Bat and the Cat have brought their hot-blooded “Will They/Won’t They” forbidden romance in comics, television and film—most recently in Matt Reeves’ The Batman. Whether working together or going against each other, the Bat/Cat relationship has inspired countless writers, artists and directors and spawned some of the most memorable, exciting and straight up sexiest comics out there. Let’s revisit some of the best.
While these two long-form mystery tales are famous for their pulp atmosphere, compelling mystery and bevvy of super-villains, a major element of both stories is the interplay between the Bat and the Cat. Set during the early days of Batman’s career, Catwoman is still known as a thief who steals from the mob, with her scarring of Carmine Falcone from Batman: Year One regularly referenced. Batman doesn’t even know her true identity, which is doubly ironic since during the day, Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle make attempts at sustaining a courtship.
Selina’s It-Girl persona and Bruce’s Billionaire Playboy make regular news in the Gotham Gazette, but their night lives as hero and villainess keep them apart, to the point where Bruce’s untrusting nature eventually drives away Selina as a potential lover and Catwoman as a potential partner. The betrayal of Harvey Dent leaves Batman even less capable to believe in the goodness of Catwoman’s heart, who decides to cut her losses by the end of Dark Victory and leave Batman to his mission. Although despite his final words, this would certainly not be the last time the Dark Knight would encounter Gotham’s most notorious cat-burglar.
In the seminal adaptation of The New Batman Adventures animated series, Batman is in the middle of seemingly apprehending Catwoman for yet another burglary when she suddenly saves his life from a booby-trapped safe. When Catwoman is rendered comatose by the ensuing explosion, it’s up to Batman to figure out what Selina’s recent robberies have to do with a group of crime bosses who never reported the crimes. The investigation leads him to the Iceberg Lounge where it’s revealed that the Penguin had employed Catwoman to rob from his wealthy patrons, but she began using the stolen goods to benefit various charity organizations, so Penguin attempted to kill her in retaliation.
Throughout the story, we see memories from Batman of the times Catwoman fought by his side and helped the less fortunate, all while maintaining in the present that her history as a criminal keeps them apart and that she’ll never change. In the end, Batman is present when Selina awakens and he apologizes for not giving her the benefit of the doubt. This surprises Selina, giving a glimmer of hope that there may be a future between the two of them yet.
This story takes place near the end of one of the most tumultuous years of Bruce Wayne’s life. Framed for the murder of an ex-girlfriend, Bruce was arrested and imprisoned in Blackgate. Unable to watch the city descend into chaos, Bruce escaped and allowed his reputation as a fugitive to continue unchallenged, while he devoted his full attention to stalking the night as Batman. Enraging those closest to him who were working on clearing his name, Bruce asserts that the “Bruce Wayne” persona is a fiction that no longer served a purpose.
Weeks later, Batman is joined by Catwoman in pursuing some of the Joker’s henchmen and finding that they’ve kidnapped a rival mob boss. Catwoman, who protects Crime Alley on her own and has no compunction on seeing a crime boss die, is slow to act. Batman says that’s not how he operates and enters the fray, only to get quickly shot by the crooks. While his Kevlar armor holds, he repeatedly takes more shots to the chest to protect the kidnapped gangster. Catwoman arrives, saving him and taking down the gunmen all on her own, while Batman struggles to catch his breath. In the end, Selina expresses confusion at Batman’s willingness to die for a criminal. Batman nearly opens up, but can only say that life complicates matters. Selina then tells him that he didn’t need excuses to see her, and even though he’s a boy scout with holier-than-thou convictions, she’ll see him again soon.
This brings Batman’s thoughts into focus, realizing that his code to preserve life came from the lessons Thomas Wayne instilled in his son. Renewed with a fresh sense of self, Batman emerges better than ever in his vow to protect the people of Gotham City and not just the innocent.
Writer Jeph Loeb clearly had an interest in the Batman/Catwoman relationship, and it shows with his third storyline taking place in the modern continuity.
In Batman #608, after Batman rescues a kidnapped child from Killer Croc, he spies that the ransom money has been stolen. Quickly spotting the culprit, he swings into the Gotham skyline and finds Catwoman, confused at her presence. What follows is a series of events that brings the two closer together, despite moments of physical injury and personal loss.
Tired of the dancing around their attraction, Catwoman initiates a kiss which Batman surprisingly reciprocates. The two begin working together, and pursue an unleashed Poison Ivy to Metropolis, fight Scarecrow and Clayface in Gotham and even take on the Joker and Harley Quinn. When Hush is revealed to be Bruce’s childhood friend Tommy Elliott, his sense of betrayal reignites his paranoia, and his partnership with Selina is called off. Catwoman leaves Batman alone with the ghosts of dead friends and ruined relationships to crowd his mind.
In Solo #1, an anthology comic spotlighting the artist Tim Sale, this illustrated short story written by Darwyn Cooke depicts an evening out between the Caped Crusader and the Cat-Queen of Crime. Of course, being who they are, don’t expect dinner and a movie!
Batman arrives on the scene of a burglary, noting that the valuable item in question has actually not yet been stolen. He’s then tackled through a glass window by Catwoman, who wrestles and gives chase across the rooftops of Gotham. The two fall into a rose cart, crash through a restaurant filled with romancing patrons and end up held high up over the streets by a cord line. The evening ends with Batman strung upside down, face covered in kisses, a fact which he’s not exactly unhappy about.
The true draw here is the artwork by Tim Sale, he of The Long Halloween and Dark Victory fame. Those stories were dark, moody murder mysteries. In “Date Knight,” Sale gets to flex his comedic muscles by having our two romantic leads engage in a light-hearted ballet of swinging and fighting, a perfect metaphor for their less than conventional relationship.
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Donovan Morgan Grant writes about comics, graphic novels and superhero history for DCComics.com. Follow him on Twitter at @donoDMG1.