Six weeks ago, Batman popped the question to Catwoman in Batman #24, and we still don’t know if she said yes. During San Diego Comic-Con, Batman writer Tom King remained steadfastly mum on what could potentially be the biggest superhero engagement of the decade, but he did allow two things.
First, that we will find out whether Selina Kyle accepts Bruce Wayne’s proposal in Batman #32, hitting shelves in early October. And second, that what happens next — regardless of that outcome — will be something completely new for the 75-year-old character.
King recalled a moment shortly after he’d accepted the task of becoming the next regular writer on Batman, following two lengthy, indelible runs from Grant Morrison and Scott Snyder.
“Mark Waid had lunch with me,” King said, “and he’s like ‘Do you realize that more stories have been written about Batman than any other character — fictional, religious, nonfictional — in the history of anything? ... You just have to write the next one.’
“And then I fainted,” he joked.
His run on Batman, which he envisions as lasting about 100 issues, is an attempt to do just that: Tell a story about Batman that no one has ever told before. And that story begins with “the idea of happiness, of him trying to find peace.”
“Because everyone here probably has lost some sort of loved one, has had some sort of tragedy happen to them,” King said to reporters at DC Comics’ press breakfast. “And for all I know, you guys probably don’t go out at night, dress as a bat and fight people, right? That’s a little insane, to do that.
“The idea is, why ... did that touch him in such a way, and is it possible for him to get over it? Is it possible for Batman ever to grieve? And of course it’s a story about all of us and how we turn the tragedies in our lives, and the accidents, into the triumphs.”
It all comes from the heart of Batman’s origin story: That it is his grief that motivates him to try to save Gotham and the world. King characterized his run on Batman as broadly consisting of two arcs so far, one about Bruce’s relationship with his mother, one about his relationship with his father. At the end of these arcs, he has realized that his parents are at peace, and would want him to find happiness.
Batman #24, the issue in which Batman proposes to Catwoman, represents Bruce acting on that realization, by turning to what King says is “the one thing that’s given him joy” in his adult life: Romantic love.
“That may be an incredibly honest, wonderful decision,” King said. “It may be something actually true to who he [actually] is and not true to who [he is because] his parents died. Or maybe [it’s] another level of insanity, and he’s just covering up his pain with emotion and love.”
What followed Batman #24 was a new storyline entirely, The War of Jokes and Riddles. In it, Batman is narrating a story from early in his career, one of a super villain gang war between the Joker and the Riddler, during which he says he made an unspeakable decision — one that he needs Catwoman to know about before she decides whether to accept his proposal. To King, Jokes and Riddles will also answer that question of exactly what motivated Batman to propose: Was it his pain? Or was it his healing?
Catwoman’s answer will be revealed in Batman #32, and in Batman #33, the next arc of the series will begin, which King calls “the best Batman arc I’ve ever done.” The title, he says, is A Dream of Me.
King was able to describe the events of the next arc to press at San Diego, he says, because regardless of how The War of Jokes and Riddles turns out, it’s going to be huge for Batman.
“If he gets engaged, it hits Batman on one level, right?” he said. “‘Holy crap, I’ve never been engaged before, I’ve been here 75 years, more stories have been written about me than anything’ ... If he doesn’t get engaged, if she says no, if she says that ‘Your past is too much to overcome. What you just confessed in Jokes and Riddles is the most horrible thing I’ve ever heard, and I can’t be see with you,’ that’s also something you’ve never seen from Batman before — and he’s destroyed.”
In A Dream of Me, Batman will leave Gotham on a quest that will alarm all of his friends and family, from the Robins right up to the Justice League.
“In his mind he’s entered someplace he’s never gone,” King said, “and now he’s going to go off on a mission that’s completely illegal ... He’s doing it on his own because he hit that emotional breaking point, or happy point, [so] that he has to move on with this.”
And as he gets deeper and deeper into his journey, his allies begin to show up and try to rescue him from himself — potentially even members of the Justice League. But King particularly highlighted the reaction of Bruce Wayne’s children, Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake and Damian Wayne, Robins or former Robins all. For Damian, the fact that his father proposed marriage to a woman who isn’t his mother is a particular shock, but all of the Robins have a question they want answered: Is Batman finding peace, or just finally going crazy?
“And because this is comics,” King added, with humor, “the way they try to determine that is to punch him in the face.”
Art for A Dream of Me will be from the pen of Joëlle Jones (Lady Killer) who he praised for being able to craft both emotionally effective personal scenes, and also “disgusting” violence. According to King’s description, the arc will draw from a well of visual tropes from Batman’s classic globe-trotting adventures — riding horses through the desert, shirtless, hair on his chest, a sword in hand — he name dropped the work of legendary Batman artist Neal Adams.
But even with all that traveling, King thinks of A Dream of Me as being about the character’s interior journey first and foremost.
“With what Scott’s doing in Metal,” he said, referring to Scott Snyder’s Batman-centered summer crossover event, Dark Nights: Metal, “and the idea of exploring Batman through the biggest, boldest stories you’ve ever scene, involving the entire DC Universe — and then what we’re going to do ... which is sort of go inside the mind of this character and explore how he relates to you and how he’s a hero — I think you’re going to see both sides of what makes him the ultimate American archetype in this weird world we live in.”