Wednesday, 11 April 2018

The Original BatCat Marriage Part 02: The Bronze Age

Having discussed Bruce and Selina's Golden Age history as originally written by creators Bill Finger and Bob Kane as well as various others, we now have a strong foundation for their characters. The Bruce Wayne Kane and Finger originally developed came from a dark place of tragedy and revenge, but still believed in people, which factored into how he related to Selina Kyle.

Selina similarly came from a dark place and operated on the opposite side of the law for thrills, but she was also depicted as a complex individual. As exciting as it was for her to pull expensive heists, at no point did she ever consider murder and she was even seen assisting Batman on his own cases at times. Occasionally, she would even be seen rescuing both him and Robin from dangerous situations.

Towards the end of the Golden Age, Selina was depicted as wanting to move on from her life as Catwoman and this is the "cut off" point the Bronze Age stories pick up on. Though the Golden Age Selina makes her first Bronze Age appearance in 1977 in the DC Super-Stars #17 story "The Secret Origin of the Huntress," it is actually in the 1983 story "The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne" that fills in the gap between her last Golden Age appearance and her new status quo in the Bronze Age.


WHERE IS MY FUTURE GOING?

First published in The Brave and the Bold #197 in 1983, "The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne" opens with an elderly Bruce recounting his origins as the Batman, the allies he had acquired over the years, and more importantly, the woman who would spend the next 20 years of his life beside him as his wife.

The flashback takes place in 1955, just a year after Batman and Catwoman's last Golden Age stories were published in 1954. In the flashback, Bruce had already been fighting crime for 15 years and has started becoming aware of the fact that his life was not progressing in any meaningful way. His friends and even ex-partners were moving on to new chapters in their lives in a way he wasn't.

Bruce's immediate friends Clark Kent (Superman) and Lois Lane had already married. As did Jay Garrick (the Flash) and Joan Williams. He was now attending the wedding of his ex-girlfriend, Linda Page, which is the wedding that's making him self-conscious of his lifestyle choices. To add to that concern are his immediate family in the form of Dick Grayson and Alfred Beagle. Dick was getting older and the elderly Alfred could pass away at any time. Bruce got to the question of "what happens to me when I am finally alone?"

Moments before Linda is to walk down the aisle, Bruce decides to say hello to her in her dressing room. She is happy to see him, of course, but is also concerned about the fact that he hasn't changed at all in the 15 years that she's known him. She asks him how he wants to be remembered, which gets Bruce to think about why he created a "Bruce Wayne" persona (i.e., the playboy billionaire) that is completely opposite of the person he really is.

Bruce rationalised that since Batman and Bruce Wayne frequently operated within the same circles, it became necessary to establish both identities as two separate personalities to evade suspicion. If the world thought Bruce Wayne was the rich idiot who behaved immaturely for his age, no one would suspect him as the dark, angry, violent Batman that terrorised the criminals of Gotham City.

This way of life was also having an additional side effect: it was costing Bruce his relationships and preventing him from connecting with other people in a more meaningful way. This was certainly the reason his relationships with both Julie Madison and Linda Page ended. He never let them in on his secret and he wasn't sure that they would approve of his lifestyle if they did. It was for this reason his only friends were Commissioner James Gordon and the Justice Society of America.

Even his equally costumed adventurer friends from the JSA had moved on to new things in their lives after they were put out of commission in 1951 by the House Un-American Activities Committee. It was increasingly becoming obvious to Bruce just how much his social circles were shrinking as he was approaching the age of 40. A fear Jonathan Crane (alias the Scarecrow) had exploited when he attacked Linda Page's wedding. His motivation? He knew Batman's connection to Linda was significant.


HELP ME HELP YOU

Following the Scarecrow's attack at Linda's wedding, Bruce got shot with a highly potent hallucinogen that revealed his greatest fear: being deserted by the people in his life and being left alone. This prevented him from being able to see, hear, and feel his friends and allies, including ones living in another city like Lois and Clark in Metropolis. This left one last person for Bruce to turn to in his efforts to stop the Scarecrow, the one enemy he could sometimes count on as an ally: Selina Kyle, the Catwoman.

Though the encounter with Bruce and Selina at the state women's prison picks up from "The Secret Origin of the Huntress" from 1977, there is some inconsistency with the events that actually took place in the Golden Age. For example, following the amnesia backstory first told in Batman #62 in 1952, Selina was pardoned for her crimes as Catwoman and opened a pet store that she maintained for a while until she briefly returned to crime in 1954.

Those events are not acknowledged in "The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne" which implies that she immediately turned herself into the police following the events of Batman #62. However, given that Selina's brother, Karl Kyle (who was introduced in Batman #69), was still acknowledged in an earlier story (that we'll discuss in Part 03), and Bruce is the person narrating his own past, I am reluctant to call this a retcon. If anything, I think it would make more sense to place Selina voluntarily turning herself into the police as happening sometime after her brief return to crime in 1954. It would at least coincide with the year this story takes place in: 1955.

Getting back on topic, Selina once again tries to convince Bruce (as Batman) that she "hardly remembers" the crimes she committed as Catwoman, though Bruce is not entirely convinced that this is true. He doesn't communicate this to her, but still solicits her help in capturing the Scarecrow in exchange for early parole. Selina doesn't resist and takes the offer, donning her Catwoman costume, one more time.

Bruce and Selina track the Scarecrow down to the university of his former employment where they are ambushed several times at several sites. During one of these ambushes, Batman is shot with a flamed arrow that Catwoman quickly puts out. At the nurse's office, Selina tends to Bruce's burns, but notices the significant amount of scars on his back from the 15 years he's been fighting crime. She then decides to ask him why he chose to live this dangerous life.

Without revealing his civilian identity, Bruce goes on to admit that his career as Batman started with the death of his parents when he was only 10 years old. Since the murder was random and without provocation, he had no other outlet for his anger than to commit to a life of avenging his parents' deaths, and preventing other criminals from doing the same thing to other young children. Selina then realised that anger coupled with trauma sent this young man down a very dark path, mirroring her own life in some way.

It is not until the Scarecrow's attacks become more brutal that finally pushes Selina to accidentally reveal the real reason she became Catwoman.


I WANTED TO START OVER

Bruce admits at this point that he never bought the amnesia story Selina cooked up for him a few years back because it didn't line up with what he knew of her character in the years he encountered her. He knew that she always knew what she was doing as Catwoman, but went along with her story anyway because he wanted to believe she wanted to change for the better. He didn't want to sabotage her attempts to reform like he had done so in the past, most notably in Batman #15. Nonetheless, he still wanted to know the real reason the Catwoman happened.

Selina admits that it was never her intention to lie to him, but she didn't see any other way out of the life she crafted for herself. When Bruce first met Selina, he only knew her as "The Cat." He didn't get to know the woman who was Selina Kyle before her life as "The Cat" began two years before they met on the yacht. Because Selina had lived her life as the Catwoman for so long, the world no longer remembered her as "Selina Kyle" but as "the Catwoman." The amnesia story was her first genuine attempt to reclaim her identity as Selina Kyle and put the Catwoman behind her.

As to why she became the Catwoman at all? She became the Catwoman under similar circumstances that Bruce became Batman. She did it in response to a traumatic episode in her own young life: her first marriage to a man who abused her when she was only a teenager. Because she was young when she filed for divorce, her ex-husband wanted to hurt her financially, professionally, and emotionally. So she responded in kind.

One day that her ex-husband was out of town, Selina stole the one thing that was most precious to him: his material wealth. The experience of that felt so good to her, it was easy for her to keep going. What started out as an act of revenge against an abusive man transformed into a moment of empowerment she wanted to keep reliving. When she was Catwoman, she got to dismantle the very world the wealthy and privileged took for granted and she was good at it. She therefore felt she deserved the things that she took from them as compensation for her own suffering.

It is at this moment Bruce realises that their stories are more similar than the are different: their responses to trauma fit their respective traumas.


WHERE ONE DOOR CLOSES, ANOTHER OPENS...

With Selina Kyle looking to reclaim her original identity away from the Cat, it only made sense that Bruce felt the need to reclaim his away from the Bat as well. Having spent so much of his life stuck in a single moment from his past, he needed to figure out who Bruce Wayne was outside of Batman in the same way Selina Kyle figured out her identity. He more importantly needed to answer what he wanted more than anything in his life to bring about the change he desperately wanted.

After thinking about it, Bruce came to the conclusion the thing he wanted most was the thing he lost as a child: a family. A desire he shares with Selina, who also expressed that a big part of the reason she wanted to move on from Catwoman was that she didn't want to die alone without love and without children. With both people finding themselves in the same predicament, everything started to make sense and come together for them.

Though Bruce and Selina haven't formally dated (not counting Bruce's ruse from Batman #15), they also knew each other for 15 years by this point. They had already gotten to know each other's personality quirks, habits, and behavioural patterns. The only thing that was missing now was for Selina Kyle to know the man behind the Bat.

While it is possible Selina already knew (given the fact she wasn't surprised by the revelation) she still needed Batman to remove his cowl and personally show her his real face. Not just because she needed the confirmation to her own suspicions, but also because doing so would indicate to her that he actually trusts her. Bruce, of course, is reluctant at first, but eventually doesn't hesitate to show her that he is in fact Bruce Wayne and doesn't regret his decision.

It was at that moment both people realised that they can have what they want together. If Bruce could not share all facets of his life with Julie Madison or Linda Page because they would not accept him, he met the one person who could. The one who came from a similar background to himself and lived a similar adventurous life: Selina Kyle, the woman who got to know him in both of his identities. And it wasn't just Bruce who came out a winner here. Selina did too because she got to be with the one person she always wanted from the beginning: the man behind the Bat.

It only made sense that if Bruce and Selina wanted a family that they would pursue that dream together, which will be the topic of Part 03!

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