Monday, October 02, 2017

Real Name: Selina Kyle
First Appearance: Batman #1 (June, 1940)
Fight Club Ranking: #34

Featured Fights:
- vs ELEKTRA: Marvel versus DC #3 (Apr 1996)
- vs ABOMINATION: DC versus Marvel #4 (Apr 1996)
- vs POISON IVY: Batman #611 (Mar 2003)
- vs HARLEY QUINN: Batman #613 (May 2003)
- vs BATMAN: Solo #1 (Dec 2004)
- vs CHEETAH: Catwoman: When In Rome #4 (Mar 2005)
- vs BATMAN: JLA #118 (Nov 2005)
- vs BATMAN: Batman: The Mad Monk #1 (Oct 2006)
- vs TRIPLE THREAT: Catwoman #63 (Mar 2007)
- vs CHEETAH: Catwoman #78 (Jun 2008)
- vs JASON TODD: Batman: Battle for the Cowl #2 (Jun 2009)

As a general rule of thumb: I don't like hard reboots.

Movies, video games, comics... Contemporary culture is rife with do-overs and remakes, ranging from the utterly ill conceived -- to the passable, but largely unnecessary.

You have to make a real mess to actually need a hard reboot in serial fiction. It's almost by definition a submission of total and utter failure, and is best thought of in those terms. That was basically the case in 2005 with Batman Begins: a justifiable revival of Batman on the big screen, eight years after Batman & Robin rendered the idea unpalatable, if not unprofitable.

Christopher Nolan's new entry into an already fractured adaptation process was actually sold within the framework of a contemporary trend of prequels. It offered the untold story of Batman's origin. Its Joker epilogue was even discussed as a plausible allusion to Tim Burton's 1989 Batman, as much as teasing a prospective sequel. It wasn't necessarily designed to be the template for a generation of ill conceived imitators and an eroding, colourless cultural apocalypse. It just worked out that way.

I'm drawing a long bow in today's Hero of the Week, even if it's revisiting common themes persisting on the blog. How this relates to Catwoman is in the big questions raised by news Selina Kyle has recently become engaged to be married to Batman in DC Comics.

This won't be the first time Batman and Catwoman have said "I do".

The pair were hitched in the reality of Earth-Two in the late 1970s. It was the culmination of their relationship in almost forty years of publishing: part of an aging counterpart continuum to the modern Silver Age, designed to maintain and advance the Golden Age heroes on their own Earth.

The Bat & Cat spawned a precursor to today's Huntress: a vigilante daughter named Helena Wayne. She took up the costumed fight for a new generation when her mother was murdered by a former associate. Eventually all of this was undone by the hard reboot of Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Earth-Two had its fans and Crisis created many headaches in the decades that followed, but it was always somewhat justifiable for advancing the mission to create a definitive DC Universe. After all, the DCU as we know it wasn't planned. Many characters joined through corporate acquisitions, and were created completely disparate from one another, without a plan to be everlasting cultural icons.

Crisis brought it all together in one place, at a time when refining the definitive vision of characters was still a work in progress. Much of what was done in the eighties is still underlying in modern incarnations. Minor adjustments along the way restored and refined elements decided upon in the eighties, to create what I would argue was close to a definitive DCU in the 2000s.

Then came the much maligned New 52 and a reprisal of the line-wide reboot with no real purpose, and few benefits. A self-made problem, an arbitrary breaking of the chain, now half-heartedly being addressed with the current Rebirth initiative. Results have still been very mixed, and Batman's proposal is one of the elements that raised a lot of questions about Rebirth's actual intent.

Eighty years of publishing tells us DC Comics is at its best when their heroes are iconic and instantly recognizable. Changes may occur over time, but the framework for advancement is limited within a clearly understood centre of the characters. Efforts to challenge this only divide the audience, create repetitive storytelling, and produce ever diminishing returns. Verisimilitude fading.

So, can Batman and Catwoman be married without plunging the DC Universe towards another unwanted wiping of the board?

Doomsday Clock and the expected intrusion of the Watchmen universe is keeping an apocalyptic feeling about DC Comics, who've spent far too long selling the world on the concept of their own death. One hopes Geoff Johns is returning to his best to create a way forward that is iconic and positive, but will he need to break everything to do that? Can another break really make things stronger?

The Batman/Catwoman romance has been enjoyable in the past, but it raises some big questions about the future of DC Comics as we know it. Maybe they won't really get married. Maybe it's just a passing story. Or maybe it's another cheque written that can't be cashed. A foolhardy decision that can only end in the kind of total and utter failure that leads a company to need a hard reboot.

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