The Bat and the Cat: The History of Batman and Catwoman's Romance

We're just a matter of days away from the theatrical release of The Batman, and a whole new interpretation of the DC Comics mythos being brought to life on the big screen. One throughline that has been clear in the film's marketing has been the budding romance between Bruce Wayne / Batman (Robert Pattinson) and Selina Kyle / Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz), with entire trailers devoted to the idea of "The Bat and the Cat". While we'll just have to wait and see precisely how Batman and Catwoman's dynamic will unfold in The Batman, its storyline will be the latest in a long, long history between the duo. Ahead of The Batman, let's look back at how the pair's relationship — romantic or otherwise — came to be.

Batman and Catwoman first crossed paths in the latter's first comic appearance, 1940's Batman #1. While Catwoman wasn't quite the fully-fledged character she would become — she was operating as a burglar named "The Cat" who, in that issue, posed as an elderly woman, and her backstory wouldn't be properly unveiled for a full decade — it was clear that their dynamic was already something duplicitous. Over the course of a single issue, The Cat had suggested that they become the "king and queen of crime" together, Bruce had responded to her trickery by remarking that she needed to be "quiet or Papa spank!", and Batman had monologued (to Robin's dismay) about how lovely her eyes were. Their rapport would continue across the Silver Age, and eventually make its way over to television in the Batman television series, which saw Adam West's Batman and Julie Newmar's Catwoman nearly kissing.

Towards the end of the Bronze Age, after DC had firmly established that its Golden Age stories took place in the alternate universe of "Earth-Two", we began to see how that era's Batman and Catwoman ultimately ended up. The pair had married in 1955, after Selina had decided to give up being Catwoman, and would go on to have a daughter named Helena Wayne. Golden Age Selina then met her death in the same issue, which inspired Helena to begin operating as the vigilante Huntress.

Meanwhile, in the main Earth-One continuity, Batman and Catwoman's flirtation was just as strong (or arguably, even stronger) than it was in the Golden Age. After briefly telling Bruce Wayne that she wanted to stop operating as Catwoman — who, at that point, was somewhat of a deadly villain — in 1979's Batman #308, the pair began to date. In the 1980s, Selina did return to being Catwoman, but in a more heroic context, and the two dated sporadically across that decade up until Crisis on Infinite Earths

Post-Crisis, Batman and Catwoman's history — both individually and romantically — was essentially rebooted by 1987's Batman: Year One, establishing that the pair did not know each other very well beforehand. If anything, the most definitive romantic connection between the two at that time occurred onscreen in 1992's Batman Returns, with Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman and Michael Keaton's Batman kissing during a definitive moment of the film. This dynamic would, over a decade later, be the foundation of Helena Wayne's storyline on The WB's Birds of Prey TV series in 2002, which used archival footage to establish that she was the daughter of Keaton and Pfeiffer's characters, who had since died in a plot from The Joker. (Birds of Prey would later be retconned to have existed in a separate corner of the DC multiverse, with Keaton's incarnation of the character still going strong.)

Around the same time as Birds of Prey dealt with the legacy of Batman and Catwoman's relationship, a turning point for the pair occurred in the comics, as they started dating and Bruce revealed his secret identity to Selina beginning in the "Hush" storyline in Batman #608. However, by the time we got to Batman #619, Bruce began to suspect that the relationship was all a ploy from Hush, and broke up with her.

This seemed to largely be the end of the couple until the New 52 reboot completely changed continuity, establishing Batman and Catwoman as friends with benefits who were unaware of each other's real identities. From New 52 until the DC Rebirth relaunch of 2016 (which tried to reconcile the pre-and-post-New 52 continuities), the pair's relationship was largely explored in videogames, out-of-continuity comics, or through Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway's squeaky-clean portrayal in 2012's The Dark Knight Rises. This time also saw the start of Fox's Gotham television series, which made a series-long storyline out of the connection between the young versions of David Mazouz's Bruce and Camren Bicondova's Selina. 

Once we got to Rebirth, Catwoman became a major player in the main Batman book, and revealed in 2016's Batman #10 that she did, in fact, know his secret identity. By Issue #14 of that run, the pair were having romantic rendezvous on rooftops; by Issue #24, Bruce was asking Selina to marry him. She agreed, and the book focused pretty heavily on the idea that the two of them could finally be happy together — only for it all to fall apart in 2018's Batman #50. In that issue, Selina became convinced that marriage would stand in the way of Bruce protecting the city as Batman, a line of thinking that was ultimately planted to her thanks to manipulations from Bane. Selina got cold feet and fled to be a vigilante in California, but eventually made her way back to Gotham, but various Joker Wars and Fear States have prevented their romance from being truly rekindled. The most profound ongoing exploration has been in the Batman/Catwoman miniseries, which jumps into a possible future built on the pair's torrid romance.

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If the trailers for The Batman are any indication, the film could very well kickstart a new generation of "Bat/Cat" shippers — but we'll just have to wait and see exactly what that entails.

The Batman will be released in theaters on March 4th.