When his parents were gunned down under that unforgiving streetlamp, Bruce Wayne's life was changed forever -- and that included his social life. The boy who traveled the world training mind and body to fight the superstitious and cowardly was practically forced into the persona of a feckless playboy. Because that performance protected his secrets, it became as vital to Batman as caped-and-cowled theatrics. Thus, while Bruce has pitched his woo countless times over the years, often it's been somewhat less than sincere.
Sometimes, though, the feelings are real; and the most dangerous man on the planet finds himself wondering whether he might actually be ready to share his life with a special someone. Batman has paired off in all sorts of situations; not just with supermodels, femmes fatale, or the brave and bold, but with old friends from childhood and kindred spirits encountered almost by chance. As Valentine's Day approaches, here are 16 women worth ignoring the Bat-Signal for.
16 WONDER WOMAN
Created by William Moulton Marston and appearing first in "All Star Comics" #8 (Winter 1941), Princess Diana of Themyscira is both this list's highest-profile character and its least likely entry. The idea that she and Batman might pair off arose out of Joe Kelly and Doug Mahnke's 2002-03 "JLA" arc, "The Obsidian Age." In it, the two shared one last kiss (in Late December 2002's issue #74) before striding into a no-win situation.
The "Justice League" animated series also teased a Batman/Wonder Woman romance in episodes like 2003's two-part "Maid of Honor" and 2004's one-off "This Little Piggy." (In the latter, Batman's confession of love freed Wonder Woman from Circe's spell.) With Martian technology showing Diana some possible futures, Kelly and artist Chriscross brought the subplot to a close with January 2004's "JLA" issue #90, as the two agreed simply to be good friends. Still, with so much history between the two as colleagues and star-crossed lovers, that may not remain forever.
15 RACHEL CASPIAN
At the time, readers of "Batman: Year Two" (June-September 1987's "Detective Comics" #575-78) probably knew from the title that Rachel Caspian's relationship with Bruce Wayne wouldn't last past the arc's final issue; a recurring theme in many of Bruce's whirlwind romances. Rachel -- created by Mike W. Barr and Alan Davis -- was planning to be a nun, and didn't know her father Judson was Gotham's ultraviolent pre-Batman vigilante called The Reaper.
Neither of these things were especially good omens for any future she might have had with Bruce, but they bonded over trying to understand the human condition, and were happy enough to get engaged. Still, at the end of the arc, Batman unmasked the Reaper before the latter's death and Rachel learned about her father's secret soon thereafter. Distraught, she decided to make up for the Reaper's sins as a bride of Christ, while Bruce rededicated himself to his own unique calling.
14 JEZEBEL JET
Writer Grant Morrison and artist Andy Kubert introduced Jezebel in October 2006's "Batman" #656 as an almost obligatory object of Bruce's flirtation. She was an impossibly-rich African ex-supermodel, and their romance grew deeper over the first few arcs of Morrison's epic Bat-tenure. Eventually she learned Bruce's secret (yet another recurring theme of his lady loves) and was poised to become as important to him as anyone else in his life... which made her eventual betrayal all the more devastating.
Jezebel was part of the Black Glove, the secret society devoted to chaotic-evil debauchery that did its best to destroy Batman. Still, in what may have been a weird interpretation of "it's not you, it's me," Batman explained he had been using her to uncover the villains' plans. While she survived the Black Glove's defeat, she wasn't so lucky when she went up against another of the Masked Manhunter's old flames; and Talia al-Ghūl had her killed.
13 SHONDRA KINSOLVING
We can only imagine how overcrowded with physical therapists the greater Gotham City area must be, so it's not surprising that an exhausted Bruce Wayne would pick one who'd already worked with his neighbor, Jack Drake. Dr. Shondra Kinsolving was created by Doug Moench and Jim Aparo and first appeared in July 1992's "Batman" #481, where she became involved in a spat between Maxie Zeus and his deranged ex-henchwoman.
After taking on Bruce as a client, she ministered to him when his back was broken by the nefarious Bane, and the two became romantically involved. At the end of 1994's mega-arc "KnightQuest," she healed Bruce's broken back with the convenient, near-magical psychic powers she'd had since childhood; but the effort caused her to regress into a childlike state. Fortunately, by the time of 2002-03's "Hush" storyline, she was back to her old self, even assisting Dr. Tommy Elliot in emergency surgery on Bruce.
12 NATALIA KNIGHT/NOCTURNA
Created by Doug Moench and Gene Colan and appearing first in September 1983's "Batman" #363, Nocturna was one of the more prominent characters introduced in the heavily-serialized Bat-books of the mid-1980s. She started off as the pilfering partner and adoptive sister of Anton Knight, aka Night-Thief. However, when Batman sent Anton to prison, she reformed somewhat.
Soon she became intimate with Bruce Wayne and developed maternal feelings for Jason Todd. After adopting Jason, she suggested that Bruce marry her in order for him to stay in Jason's life. Eventually, Anton, who had his own complicated feelings for Natalia, got out of prison and tried to woo her, but he didn't take her rejection well; not one, little bit. Changing his nickname to "Night-Slayer," he tried to kill Natalia but was captured by Catwoman. Nocturna was last seen flying away in an out-of-control hot air balloon, wounded from Anton's attack.
11 LINDA PAGE
The first (but not the last) of Bruce Wayne's old friends on this list, Linda Page debuted all the way back in Spring 1941's "Batman" #5 and was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. Linda was also the first Bat-girlfriend to make it to the movies, in 1943's "Batman" serial. A debutante who knew Bruce from their one-percenter social circle, Linda decided to give back by volunteering as a nurse. Needless to say, she was a good soul.
In "Batman" #5's "Crime Does Not Pay," right after meeting up with Bruce again, she ran afoul of some gangsters -- what are the odds? -- and was rescued by Batman and Robin. She and Bruce dated for two years, but she never learned the secret. Not surprisingly, that contributed to their breakup in February-March 1943's "Batman" #15, when Bruce appeared to be spending time with another woman (a disguised Catwoman, who Batman was trying to reform).
10 JULIE MADISON
Julie Madison was the first of Bruce Wayne's paramours to appear in the chronicles, just four issues after Batman himself, in September 1939's "Detective Comics" #31. Created by Gardner Fox and Bob Kane, she was also part of the first Bat-epic, a two-parter which introduced the Batplane and Batarang, and saw Batman fight vampires and werewolves. However, she didn't get lost in the shuffle.
While she was only in a handful of Golden Age stories (her last was in March 1941's "Detective" #49), modern creators have embraced her, so to speak, as a link both to the Golden Age and to the possibility of Bruce's happiness. Roy Thomas and Marshall Rogers used her in their retelling of the Golden Age Batman's origin, she was in Matt Wagner's two retro-styled Batman miniseries, and most recently she romanced a mellower (and amnesiac) Bruce in Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's final "Batman" arc.
9 VESPER FAIRCHILD
Talk-radio host Vesper Fairchild had a very '90s meet-cute with Bruce Wayne in March 1997's "Batman" #540: Their on-air banter included his asking her out, which is a very Bruce Wayne thing to do. Vesper was created by Doug Moench and Kelley Jones and appeared frequently in "Batman" for over a year, but when Gotham was devastated by an earthquake, she disappeared from the book.
When writer Greg Rucka and artists Shawn Martinbrough and Jesse Delperdang brought her back in late 2001, it was good news-bad news. She and Bruce were closer than ever, and she even learned the big secret -- but it wasn't meant to be, because her death (courtesy of assassin David Cain) kicked off the "Bruce Wayne: Murderer" and "Bruce Wayne: Fugitive" arcs. Coming during a period when the Bat-books were rebuilding the status quo (along with the rest of post-quake Gotham), Vesper's murder was an unwelcome aftershock.
8 ANDREA BEAUMONT/PHANTASM
According to the animated movie "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm," Bruce Wayne met Andrea Beaumont in a graveyard while they were each having conversations with deceased parents. (Her dad was still alive.) Bruce fell so hard for her that he was ready to abandon his costumed-vigilante plans, but right after Bruce proposed, she had to flee the country with her mobster father. In fact, when Carl Beaumont was murdered, Andrea crafted her own masked identity, the Grim Reaper-esque Phantasm, specifically to hunt down the men who killed him.
In other words, Andrea -- created by Alan Burnett and Bruce Timm -- was a loose mash-up of the Caspians from "Batman: Year Two." This time, of course, Bruce's love interest was also the take-no-prisoners vigilante who could fight Batman to a standstill (and who defeated the Joker along the way). Many years later, Amanda Waller and Andrea clashed over the "Batman Beyond" project.
7 SASHA BORDEAUX
Created by Greg Rucka and Shawn Martinbrough, Sasha Bordeaux came into Bruce Wayne's life in December 2000's "Detective Comics" #751. Hired by Lucius Fox to be Bruce's bodyguard, she presented a unique challenge to Batman's secret identity. After a while, she discovered the secret and asked Batman to train her. (If nothing else, it would make her feel useful.) She even got a mask, jumpsuit and assortment of gadgets so she could go on patrol with him; and the two grew very close.
When Bruce was framed for murder, she went to prison to protect him, and afterwards joined Max Lord's Checkmate organization. There she was infected with the OMAC virus, which only partially affected her. Staying with the UN-reorganized Checkmate, she fell in love with its White King, Mr. Terrific, and became its Black Queen. After several years in limbo, Rucka has brought her back in "Wonder Woman" much to her fans' delight.
6 KATHY KANE/BATWOMAN
Kathy "Batwoman" Kane was emblematic of the Bat-books' 1950s tone. Created by Edmond Hamilton and Sheldon Moldoff for September 1956's "Detective" #233, Batwoman was a wealthy ex-circus star without either childhood trauma or a desire for righteous vengeance. She just decided to fight crime for the heck of it (and besides, Batman was kind of cute -- such was the mentality of yesteryear).
Because it was the '50s, Batman and Robin discovered her secret and then scolded Kathy for alleged recklessness, but for the next several years, she was a regular supporting character. In February 1963's "Batman" #153, Batman finally returned her affections when they were both near death. After they recovered, though, he tried to play it off as trying to "make [her] last moments happy ones." Batwoman enjoyed a brief mid-'70s revival before being murdered by the League of Assassins, and during Grant Morrison's run was revamped memorably in "Batman Incorporated."
5 RACHEL DAWES
The list's only character without a real comics counterpart, Rachel Dawes was played by Katie Holmes in 2005's "Batman Begins" and by Maggie Gyllenhaal in 2008's "The Dark Knight." She was Bruce Wayne's childhood friend who stayed in Gotham as a prosecutor while Bruce traveled the world learning how to grapple, jab, growl and skulk. Accordingly, Rachel represented the life Bruce desperately wanted but couldn't have as long as Gotham needed Batman.
She was always one of Bruce's closest confidants, learning the secret after Batman rescued her from the Scarecrow. However, as such, she also knew that Bruce would never be able to let go of "Batman." Her ill-fated romance with Harvey Dent complicated her relationship with Bruce; and her death and Harvey's disfigurement led ironically to Batman's retirement. Still, despite Bruce's later flings with Miranda Tate and Selina Kyle, Rachel would always have a special place in his heart.
4 VICKI VALE
Debuting in "Batman" #49 (October-November 1948), Vicki Vale's first stint in the supporting cast lasted almost exactly 15 years, until October 1963's "Detective" #320. Created by Bill Finger and Lew Sayre Schwartz for a story called "The Scoop of the Century," Vicki was a reporter whose alliterative name and persistent poking around Batman's secrets probably seemed very familiar.
She made a comeback almost 20 years later, and from 1982 to 1986, she competed for Bruce's affections with the likes of Nocturna and Catwoman. However, she made the big time in 1989's "Batman" movie, where she was played by Kim Basinger and had a Prince song named after her. By then she was more of a photojournalist than an investigative reporter, although, thanks to Alfred, the movie Vicki did learn Bruce's secret (see what we mean about recurring themes?). In the early '90s, "Comics Vicki" rode the movie's coattails, but after the New 52 reboot, she's barely been seen.
3 SILVER ST. CLOUD
Created by Steve Englehart and Walt Simonson (and perhaps drawn most memorably by Marshall Rogers), businesswoman Silver St. Cloud first appeared in June 1977's "Detective" #470. By issue #476, it looked like she had left Gotham City for good, but what an impression she had made. Silver stood up to the evil Doctor Hugo Strange when he held Bruce and Alfred captive; she kept calm when Batman and Deadshot literally crashed her business-machine expo.
She also said nothing when the Darknight Detective tried to figure out whether she'd deduced his secret identity. (She had.) After seeing Batman fight the Joker, she confronted him, telling him tearfully that she loved him, but that she couldn't handle not knowing what each night might bring. Silver proved popular enough to return a few more times; and was influential enough to appear in screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz's first draft of the movie which became "Batman" '89.
2 TALIA AL-GHŪL
Writer Denny O'Neil and artist Bob Brown introduced the "Daughter of the Demon" in May 1971's "Detective" #411, a month before her father's debut. Since then -- including animated and live-action adaptations -- Talia al-Ghūl has played both villain and hero. She loves Batman regardless, and frequently he has reciprocated. She also represents a life Batman can never have, specifically one as the head of a vast criminal empire... as unlikely a path for him as that would seem to most.
However, as the mother of Batman's son, Damian Wayne, Talia reminds readers that the possibility of that life -- for Damian if not for his father -- continues to loom large. Indeed, as the onetime CEO of LexCorp and a leader within supercriminal organizations from the Secret Society to the world-devastating Leviathan, Talia has commanded vast resources, if not outright armies. Still, whether as a formidable enemy or powerful ally, Talia's destiny seems linked to that of her "beloved."
1 SELINA KYLE/CATWOMAN
Speaking of destiny, it would take a lot to dislodge Selina "Catwoman" Kyle from this list's top spot. Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, Selina appeared first in Spring 1940's "Batman" #1 as a simple jewel thief nicknamed The Cat. Not long afterwards, though, she donned a distinctive purple-and-green caped costume to bedevil the Dynamic Duo with cat-themed crimes and theatrics that mirrored their own in many ways.
Over the years -- including 20 years' worth of her own ongoing series -- she's been everything from an amnesiac flight attendant to a dominatrix, a mother and a Justice Leaguer. (She even defeated Prometheus after he'd taken down the entire League.) Since the early '80s, she's been more hero than villain; but regardless of era or backstory, her flirtatious nature and practical morality have charmed audiences of all kinds. While multimedia successes have guaranteed her longevity, with or without Batman we're eager to see where the comics take her next.
Who's your favorite Bat-girlfriend? Let us know in the comments!