Spoiler warning: This article will discuss plot elements from Batman No. 50, released Wednesday, July 4, as already revealed by The New York Times this weekend. Do not read further if you do not want to be spoiled. No, really.
For the second time in two months, The New York Times has spoiled an upcoming comic book issue centering around a superhero wedding; just weeks after it revealed that Kitty Pryde and Colossus were not getting married, this weekend it also revealed that Batman and Catwoman’s wedding wasn’t going to happen, either.
Unlike the X-Men spoiler, which raised eyebrows but little outrage — perhaps because the story subbed in other characters getting married instead, with Rogue and Gambit tying the knot ahead of their new comic book series Mr. and Mrs. X — the Batman reveal prompted complaints from fans and comic book retailers alike across social media and in private forums. This led to both a follow-up Times piece and the author of the original story giving an interview in which he admitted that, given the opportunity, he would approach the subject differently.
Also seemingly upset? The writer of the issue, Tom King, who took to Twitter twice across the weekend to obliquely comment on what was unfolding.
Ugh. Batman 50 spoilers are now out there. Ignore/avoid them (or try to) and read the issue.
— Tom King (@TomKingTK) July 1, 2018
Im pissed about things and excited about other things. I have no idea how to comment on anything without spoiling everything.
Batman 50 is still out Wednesday. I’m incredibly proud of the issue; I hope you pick it up. You have questions; the answers are there.
— Tom King (@TomKingTK) July 1, 2018
It’s hard not to share King’s frustration, for a simple reason: There’s a lot more to the Batman story than what the Times story suggests. Consider, for a moment, that King has previously stated (actually, more than once) that his Batman run will last around 100 issues, and that it’s all one big storyline; the 50th issue is therefore, by definition, not an endpoint. What happens — or, really, doesn’t happen — in the issue isn’t an end in and of itself, but something that will resonate and inform subsequent issues moving forward. And, yes, Catwoman is getting her own comic book series after jilting the Dark Knight, but it’s comics; characters cross over and interact between series all the time. The idea that King isn’t planning for Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle to interact again is almost ridiculous.
Thinking of King’s Batman run as a ~100 chapter story, it reframes the narrative of the engagement in some way. After all, Batman only proposed in No. 24, with Catwoman’s answer not being given for another three months; with the engagement from proposal to split only a quarter of the overall run, it’s clearly not what the story is about overall. So, what is it about?
One suggestion from King, from last year, is that it’s about whether Batman can be happy. “You add happiness to Batman; you’re creating conflict. Because he as a character is fueled by pain,” King explained in an interview. “He turns pain into hope, so what does a machine that turns pain into hope do when it’s fed happiness? When it’s fed joy? You give joy to Superman and he’s like ‘Yay, more joy in my life,’ that’s just another day. You give joy to Batman and it’s like ‘What am I supposed to do with this?’”
This is something supported not only by Batman No. 50 itself — wherein the character tells Catwoman that his happiness with her makes him believe he can be “more than a boy whose parents are dead” before discovering he’s been jilted — but the potential arc of what’s to come. Readers have seen Batman being happy (and how that made everyone react; it’s worth noting that Batman No. 49 featured the Joker trying to convince Catwoman not to go through with the marriage because he believed Batman was only the product of misery), and now they’ll get to see what a heartbroken Batman looks like, too, for comparison.
All of this is, of course, assuming that the split is even real. Early in King’s Batman run, there’s a plot thread where Catwoman seemingly betrays Batman to oversized villain Bane, before a reversal reveals that it was all a fake-out to lull the bad guys into a false sense of security. Who’s to say that that element isn’t a micro preview of what’s going to happen in the larger story, by the time it’s over?
There are legitimate reasons to be upset about the Times spoiling Batman No. 50 three days before its release — not least of which the fact that it was spoiled three days before release. For those who had their heart set on a June 2018 wedding between Batman and Catwoman, it’s undoubtedly a disappointment, as it may also be for anyone under the impression that anything in superhero comics is permanent. (In a genre where death is only temporary, a relationship ending is even less long-lasting, let’s be honest.)
For everyone else, though, the apparent split between the characters should be seen as a beginning — not only of the new Catwoman series, which debuts the same day, but of the second half of Tom King’s Batman story, which investigates the character under a more emotional microscope than he, or we, are used to. Who knows? Maybe No. 100 will feature a surprise wedding that no one sees coming.