It seems that Batman just is never all that lucky in love. Romance is never easy in the world of comics, what with all the retcons and other nonsense. You never know when your best gal is going to end up stuffed in a fridge or when you’ll have to sell your marriage to Azreal to save Aunt May. But some superheroes are lucky enough to get girlfriends as iconic as themselves. What Superman story would be complete without Lois Lane? What is Spider-Man without Mary-Jane? Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman are still going strong decades later.
However, for the Dark Knight, things just haven’t worked out. After nearly eighty years of fighting crime on the mean streets, Gotham’s most eligible bachelor remains quite eligible. Even his main nemesis, the Joker, has Harley-Quinn. One looks at Batman and sees a man living in the world’s greatest man-cave. He hangs with adolescents decades younger than him, and lives a reckless vigilante life, the only authority figure being an old butler. This is a guy who badly needs a female touch.
Somehow the World’s Greatest Detective just can’t find a steady gal. Let’s look back at the women who have been most important in Bruce Wayne’s life. And how it never worked out.
Julie Madison first appeared only four issues after Batman himself, all the way back in 1939. She actually pre-dates fundamental characters like the Joker, Alfred, and even Robin. But while they became important figures in Batman’s life, Julie only lasted two years.
Like most heroines of the Golden Age of Comic Books, Julie Madison really had only one job: getting kidnapped. This she did very well, causing Batman to rescue her. As a character, she was not terribly interesting. Julie was engaged to Bruce Wayne but disapproved of his lazy playboy lifestyle. Plus she was more interested in Batman, who believe it or not, was a more respectable figure in the 40’s. In 1941 she dumped Bruce to the curb to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. Julie bounced back very well, marrying into European royalty a la Grace Kelly. Batman replaced Julie with a virtually identical character, Linda Page, in an equally short relationship.
Julie Madison has rarely returned in Batman media since. Her biggest reappearance in the past fifty years was in Batman & Robin, where she was played by Elle McPherson for about all of thirty seconds of screentime. Even there Bruce ignored her for the more interesting Poison Ivy.
Batman’s next major love interest arrived in 1948. Vicki Vale is a reporter for the Gotham Gazette fascinated with Batman. She actually suspected that Bruce Wayne and Batman might have been the same person. Unfortunately, Vicki was easily fooled – being just a woman and all. Women in comics have not had an easy road. In the early 1960s Vicki Vale was dumped from the comics by new editor Julius Schwartz. That left doting elderly Aunt Harriet as Batman’s main feminine representative for a long while.
Also no, Vicki Vale is not Lois Lane at all. Why do you ask? She’s just a completely unrelated ace reporter with an alliterative name involved with a superhero. No connection at all.
Luckily for Miss Vale, she is far better remembered than Julie Madison or Linda Page. She’s been returning to the comics on and off now for fifty years. Whenever Batman needs a default normal female love interest, Vale typically fills that role. When Frank Miller needed to shove a character into shameless lingerie for All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder, Vale was the volunteer. More prominently, Vicki would appear in Tim Burton’s Batman film played by Kim Basinger. She also appears in some animated films, the Batman Arkham games, and has a big role in the currently running Batman Telltale series.
Silver St. Cloud
Silver St. Cloud first appeared in the comics in 1977. The fair-haired socialite appeared on and off in Batman comics for about a decade. Silver is notable for being the first of Bruce Wayne’s “normal” girlfriends to figure out his secret. Also Silver may have popped Bruce’s cherry, being the first woman he was ever shown in a sexual relationship with. Comics by the 70’s had lost the chastity of the Golden Age, allowing for more sexual explicit moments. Silver St. Cloud even saves Bruce Wayne’s life when she notices that Hugo Strange has been impersonating Batman.
Unfortunately, Silver St. Cloud was just not willing to deal with the complications of dating both Bruce Wayne and Batman at the same time. Bruce was so hurt by losing her he even considered retiring the Batsuit. Not that DC would ever let him. Silver would show up in the comics again a handful of times until she was killed off in 2010.
Modern viewers also would know Silver St. Cloud from the Gotham TV series. A teenaged version of Silver is played by Natalie Alyn Lind and dating little pre-Batman Bruce Wayne. This Silver is something of a villain, manipulating Bruce in an evil conspiracy.
Not all of Batman’s best love interests are in comics continuity. Rachael Dawes (Katie Holmes, Maggie Gyllenhaal) appears in the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight Trilogy as Bruce Wayne’s childhood best friend. Despite being a damsel in distress character, Rachel is doing all she can to fight crime without a costume. She is a District Attorney in the corrupt Gotham City, fighting against the Falconi mafia family.
Unfortunately, Bruce and Rachel never manage to get past first base. At this point, Batman’s issue with women is an old pattern. When Bruce returns to Gotham, she sees only a dumb playboy. But when she discovers his dual identity as Batman, she realizes he is too lost in his masks to ever really commit. So she moves on to Harvey Dent. Rachel claims she’s willing to wait for Bruce to snap out of himself, but how serious was she?
Rachel can’t wait for Bruce to grow up forever, can she? Worse, the Joker kills her. Bruce does not take it well.
Talia al Ghul
At this point, Batman has tried the good girls. It just doesn’t work. Maybe what he’s really after is a bad girl?
Talia is the daughter of Ra’s al Ghul, the immortal warlord and nemesis of Batman. Ra’s actually hoped for Batman to marry Talia and inherit his evil empire. Turns out a prospective step-dad forcing a family business on you is a lot to take in at once. The relationship has struggled ever since. Talia first appeared in 1971 as a member of Ra’s criminal empire and served him loyally for decades. She’s a formidable warrior in her own right and capable of going it alone as a supervillain without her dad. In recent decades things have gotten more complicated, with mind control and betrayals tearing a wedge in the al Ghul family.
Batman and Talia have had a complicated relationship, to say the least. But there’s the elephant in the room: Talia and Batman have a son. The continuity is blurry about how it came to be but it ain’t pretty. Damian Wayne, a current Robin, was the result either way. You’d think that having a son would make Bruce Wayne mature a bit, but no such luck. Talia herself is not all the great of a mom either. When Damian disappoints her, she creates an evil clone of her son that murders the original.
Talia has appeared in Batman: Arkham City, the DCAU, and the Nolan film series.
Speaking of the DCAU, let’s discuss Andrea Beaumont. She was Batman’s love interest from the terribly underrated Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. With all the trouble with women Bruce Wayne has had, it makes sense that he would take a page out of Jerry Seinfeld’s book and try dating himself. Unfortunately when you’re already damaged goods, the kind of women you meet typically end leaving you pretty heartsick.
Andrea Beaumont met the Animated Series version of Bruce Wayne at college. While Bruce was already committed to his career of crime-fighting, Andrea offered something different. She was beautiful and his equal in every way, even knowing martial arts. Unfortunately, Andrea’s father fell in deep with the mob. Her engagement to Bruce had to be called off when they escaped to Europe. Her father did not run far enough and was murdered. Furious over the life that she lost, Andrea committed herself to revenge.
Years later Andrea returned to Gotham as the shadowy supervillain called the Phantasm. She hunts down and kills everybody who destroyed her family and her future. On her list is one Jack Napier, AKA: The Joker. While Andrea’s choice of theatrics made her a great pair for Bruce, unfortunately, she chose her obsession over her love life. She goes down in flames to take the Joker with her. For once Bruce Wayne got a taste of his own medicine. He was just not weird enough for this one.
Only one lover in all of Batman’s long lives has managed to endure: Catwoman. Selina Kyle was first introduced in 1940 in Batman #1, the very same comic that gave us the Joker. She was a femme fatale thief that even then enamored the Caped Crusader enough to let her go. In the decades since Catwoman and Batman have flirted with each other on opposite sides of the law. It’s a white-hot romance complete with handcuffs. Batman and Catwoman unleash their sexual tension on each other in nocturnal brawls. Then usually the unsuspecting Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle have a tamer relationship during the day. It’s a good dynamic that’s kept the romance fresh over a long period.
While over the decades Batman has turned darker and more broody, Catwoman has turned into a lighter anti-hero. She’s enough of a hero these days that she has her own comic series and even got her own movie. She is such a force in the Batman mythos that every adaptation of Batman has to include a Catwoman at some point. Actresses like Michelle Pfieffer, Eartha Kitt, Anne Hathaway, and [regrettably] Halle Berry have played her.
According to at least one alternate continuity, Batman and Catwoman even tied the knot and had a daughter. But their lives and identities being so complicated, neither have managed to commit the relationship canonically. Instead, Catwoman is just Batman’s friend with benefits. Maybe someday they can be something more?