How Batman/Catwoman Will Redefine the Dark Knight for a Generation

Batman writer Tom King tells us what we should expect from Batman/Catwoman, his most ambitious work with the Dark Knight to date.

“If you think Vision changed Vision forever, Batman/Catwoman will change Batman and Catwoman forever,” writer Tom King says of the 12-issue limited series that will conclude his four-year run on the character. While King has spent 85 issues physically and emotionally breaking the Dark Knight, it’s these final 12 issues that could very well define his run. 

For those who haven’t been paying close attention, King took over writing duties on Batman in 2016 during DC’s Rebirth relaunch. It was no easy task, especially since King had some very big shoes to fill — Scott Snyder had just finished a five-year run of amazing, fan-favorite stories with the character. But King soon made the book his own, turning his take on Batman inward in order to ask big questions about the Dark Knight. Could Bruce ever find happiness without Batman? Could he ever truly love someone?  

This is King’s modus operandi. He dissects characters we know and love, breaks them down, in order to discover something new about them. In his Vision miniseries, the book that arguably put the writer on the map, King gives Marvel’s superhero android a new challenge: a dysfunctional family to love and protect (it doesn’t go well). In what many consider to be his magnum opus (Mister Miracle), King questions whether there’s anything the titular hero can’t escape, all while hinting that the New God has been trapped all along. 

With Batman, King zeroed in on the Caped Crusader’s decades-long love affair with Catwoman. Bruce’s marriage proposal to Selina was a status-quo-shattering moment for the character, and when their engagement fell through (thanks to the machinations of King’s main villain, Bane) it broke the Bat. Since issue #50, King has been rebuilding Batman, who spends much of the next 30 issues questioning whether he’s worthy of love or a life beyond the violence of Gotham City. It’s an unexpected, raw, and beautiful direction. 

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But that’s all just been lead up to Batman/Catwoman, which King describes as “a lot more ambitious.” Originally set to be the final arc of the writer’s planned 106-issue run, the limited series focuses in on the central relationship of King’s Batman with a much bigger scope than can realistically be attempted on a book that ships bi-monthly.

“I never got to go as deep into Batman as I do in Mister Miracle or in Vision,” King tells us at NYCC 2019. “The reason why [is] because Batman was twice monthly and the artists had to constantly shift and it was wonderful to do it that way because that was like old school comics, just get to the deadlines, get them out.”

While King has enjoyed the company of many great artists during his time on Batman, including Mikel Janin, David Finch, Lee Weeks, Jorge Fornes, Joelle Jones, John Romita Jr., and Tony S. Daniel, the writer explains “you have to have a consistent artist for 12 issues” to go as “in-depth” as he did with Mister Miracle and Vision. And King knows what he’s talking about: it’s in these shorter maxi-series that King has produced his most critically-acclaimed, award-winning work. (Go read these books, folks!)

Joining King on Batman/Catwoman is the brilliant Clay Mann, who just recently collaborated with the writer on Heroes in Crisis, the 9-issue DC event series that showcased just how stunning and captivating Mann’s pencils can be. Having an all-star partner-in-crime like Mann along for the ride allowed King to change his original outline for his Batman/Catwoman story into something bigger.

“My outline was based on a double shipping thing and a constantly shifting artist. I was like, ‘Let’s make this bigger and deeper…even more impactful,'” King says. “This is my chance to do my Dark Knight Returns, to do something that defines and redefines this character for a generation.”

While King might not be ready to divulge more details about Batman/Catwoman‘s story, we already know one big detail: it’s going to feature the DC Universe debut of one of the Dark Knight’s most beloved rogues, the Phantasm. First introduced in the Batman: The Animated Series movie, Mask of the Phantasm, the Phantasm is becoming a canon Batman villain, thanks to Mann. It was the artist’s idea to include her in the story, according to King. DC has released promo art that teases the Phantasm as a major foil for Bruce and Selina (unsurprising, considering the villains’ romantic past with the billionaire), but how this all plays out remains to be seen. 

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There’s also been speculation that Bruce and Selina’s daugher, Helena, will appear in the maxi-series, especially after King teased the character’s return on Twitter. The offspring of Batman and Catwoman first appeared in Batman Annual #2 in a potential future where the heroes grow old together. It’s not so far-fetched to assume that King will return to one of the themes that runs through both Mister Miracle and The Vision: parenthood. Raising children is one of the ways King likes to experiment with his subjects, and the writer confirms that his new Batbook will be as experimental as his past maxi-series.

“Clay and I are trying a whole new way of telling the story that we’ve never done before. We’re borrowing from a bunch of different ways. We’re collaborating differently than I’ve ever collaborated. Clay is deeply involved in the story process and he’s a brilliant storyteller. It will be the best looking book on the stands,” King says. “And when it’s done, you’re going to hopefully have something like Watchmen or New Frontier that you can have on your shelf for the rest of time.”

There’s still a long road ahead for King, who is just at the beginning of the work: “I’ve written the first three scripts already and it’s maybe the best thing I’ve ever written, so I hope it’s good.”

What else can King tell us about how Batman/Catwoman will redefine these characters? Well, for one thing, King’s been planning a big change in the status quo for quite some time. Earlier this year, the writer teased a shocking twist that would “change the character for a generation.” But that was back when he was going to write 106 issues of Batman. But now that his run is ending a bit earlier, with December’s #85, is that big twist still in the works?

“Yes, I would say that the change is still coming and that it’s going to be in Bat/Cat.”

Batman/Catwoman #1 hits shelves in January. 

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John Saavedra is an associate editor at Den of Geek. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @johnsjr9 and make sure to check him out on Twitch.