Batman #50 came out this week, and people are fairly disappointed in the result. For those Not in the know, Batman and Catwoman were getting married this issue, and the event was HIGHLY publicized, with news sites that aren’t even comic-specific reporting on the impending nuptials, most notably the New York Times. Throughout the 26 issues following the proposal, writer Tom King handle the relationship of Bat and Cat extraordinarily well and made their resolve to marry really just fit with their personalities and roles in crime fighting. It was a romance grounded in crazy world of killer clowns and patent-leather justice. Somehow, it just felt real.
So, what happened?
Batman #50 ends with Catwoman leaving Batman standing at the alter.
Then, Gambit leans in to Rogue and says, “Here we go again” and those two get married instead. So Bruce and Selina never wed, but what was the catalyst here? That’s where things get shaky. So, in previous arcs leading into wedding time, a few significant things stand out. First, Catwoman was told about a future where Bruce was not Batman due to having never lost his parents, and Gotham was much worse for it. Second, the Joker and Catwoman have a long showdown wherein the Joker argues that if Batman marries, he will be happy and thus stop being Batman, allowing the Joker to kill without challenge, which he finds much less fun. Finally, one thing that happened much earlier than these two and everyone seems to forget is when Selina and Lois Lane had a fairly lengthy conversation about what being married to a big dawg in the super community means, and the conversation ended up mostly positive.
So which of these three things sets Selina off? Well, none of them, honestly. It is literally a single line from her longtime friend Holly Robinson, who rather simply mentions that Batman has never been happy. Perhaps this trudges up everything from the previous few months, from what Booster hinted at and what Joker had said. So she bails, plain and simple with very little drama in the actual act, just her jumping off a roof.
Granted, the whole concept is fairly ridiculous on the story-telling side. First, if Selina had these concerns, it would be a simple thing to go to Batman and say “hey, let’s talk.” The fact that she doesn’t and that she fully believes this man who has spent most of his life fighting for justice would simply walk away and watch as a murdering spree rips through the city is just absurd. At what point is Bruce doing his bat thing because he believes in the cause and not just because someone shot his parents? It’s absurd to still be so drastically focused on this character’s origin and not where he is now. Second, if it was the ramblings of the Joker that stuck in her head, then she effectively just handed the Joker a win, played directly into the best-wishes of a psychopath. Heck, as shown in the last panel, she actually DID play directly into the hands of Bane, who we’re being led to believe orchestrated this event and, seemingly, every event in the last 50 issues, which is some kind of crazy St. Elsewhere nonsense. I am interested in seeing where Tom King goes with this, but moreover NONE of this is the real issue here.
The problem is, this issue was HEAVILY marketed as a key issue and a general turning point for the character. At no point was it presented as a probably not gonna happen thing. Hey, DC is a business and I get it, but leading readers and fans into an expectation of something very exciting for their favorite characters only to have it fizzle out in the last few pages for the sake of “oh but we’re only halfway done with their story, just wait until issue #100!” is a complete load of bullshit. On top of all this, DC seems willfully unaware that there is even an issue. Here’s where our discussion of covers comes into play: DC made the decision to release Catwoman #1, a book which picks up after the events of the wedding, on the same day as Batman #50. The cover features absolutely BEAUTIFUL artwork from Joelle Jones (who always does beautiful work, so no surprise there), but DC had to go and twist that knife:
This cover not only is directly a spoiler for a book that this issue would presumably be RIGHT next to on the shelves of most shops (because come on, why would that question even exist if she didn’t), but it’s also just a flippant slap to the cheeks for fans who might be upset. It sucks ALL the drama a fan might feel directly out of the #50 by having her coyly treating the narrative as another shitty “IN THIS ISSUE. SOMETHING HAPPENS” flavor text that so often decorates the covers of comics where very few different or exciting things go down. It just makes the whole thing feel like a cheap grab for cash, and it’s a systemic virus in the blood of the business, honestly.
In the past three months, there have been 3 major events that have been HEAVILY marketed only to be an ultimate letdown, with the Batman #50 only being the most recent. X-Men Gold #30 in June ended with a similar situation, with Kitty Pryde leaving Colossus at the alter, though there WAS still a wedding, and one that made perfect sense for anyone who had been reading either the Rogue & Gambit title or Astonishing X-Men. To their credit, they promised a wedding and did deliver a wedding, but it was ultimately another bait and switch to many fans, since much of the marketing did directly aim at Kitty and Colossus actually going through with it, though the #30 Noto cover does a decent job at cluing the reader in to the result. Before that, in May we got the Amazing Spider-Man #800, which promised and absolutely epic showdown between Red Goblin and Spider-Man, with a major death somewhere in the mix. Granted, the marketing for this one was a good bit vague, but it once again is another “major” issue wherein the status quo for the characters involved remains mainly unchanged. Dan Slott spent roughly 10 issues making sure readers were nervous as hell for Norman Osbourne’s return, only to have him once again harmless and out of the picture by the end. As for the death, fans of Eddie Brock (like myself) may be upset, but Eddie’s presence in the comics recently has been fairly minimal at best. It would be like killing of Silk at this point: Someone that once had some interest but has been ultimately sidelined indefinitely for editorial reasons. Eddie’s death too, while heroic, is ultimately sudden and feels like one of those “well, it has to happen” kind of things.
The more these companies keep pushing stories only to be afraid of changing too much, the more they alienate their readership. We don’t need a death or a wedding every 5 issues, we’re fine with normal comic stories on the regular. But when you promise a status quo change or some sort of new level added to the hero or the dangers they face, we expect some return on that. There are so many comics being produced right now, and so many damn variants and exclusives, that comics simply CAN’T afford to alienate readers. Focus on the story, focus on getting good writers and artists on your work (please stop hiring Thony Silas) and give the readers something to keep them compelled. Most importantly, DON’T be afraid to shake things up. Make a major change and leave it to the writers to figure out where it goes from there.
As for the fans, feel free to be turned off and disgusted, but reach out to creators and discuss what you did or did not like about things. We can help dictate the course of the things we love, maybe not specifically but in a sense, if we just remain civil. Don’t send hate to Tom King or the DC staff. Just let them know you didn’t like it. More importantly, accept that the things you love may never go the way you exactly want them too, but that doesn’t mean they’ll always be disappointing, and if they are, just hope that they get better as time goes by. Let’s just avoid the toxic fanship that seems to be blowing up these days. Let’s give Tom a chance to recover or somehow tie everything together.