WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Batman #79 by Tom King, Clay Mann, Seth Mann, Tomeu Morey and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
Did Batman first meet Catwoman on a boat, or on the street?
The pair have playfully debated that question periodically throughout Tom King's run on Batman. But in Tom King, Clay Mann and Seth Mann's Batman #79, the debate has been settled.
And curiously, a third location has entered the discussion.
They Met on a …
The debate began in King's Batman #15, when Bruce and Selina had a romantic rooftop rendezvous. Their moonlit romp not only strongly indicated the seriousness of their growing relationship, but highlighted an interesting ongoing disagreement between the two. Considering their long history, one would think the single aspect the hero and villain could agree upon is where they first encountered each other. But, that just isn't so.
So -- where did they first meet? According to Batman, it was on a boat. Specifically, a cruise ship, where a disguised Catwoman -- then simply just called The Cat -- had orchestrated a jewelry heist, which was ultimately foiled by the Dynamic Duo. The story goes back 80 years -- all the way back to Bob Kane's story in Batman #1, in fact.
Catwoman has a different story, though. According to Selina, the two first met on the street before their days as either Catwoman or Batman. Bruce, disguised as one of Gotham's homeless, crosses paths with Selina, who's working as a prostitute, when he has an altercation with her boss. That story doesn't go back quite as far -- it happened in Batman #404, part one of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's "Year One" arc.
So, who's right? As it turns out, they both are.
The Original Batman #1 is Canon After All
How is that possible, though? How could the two meet for the first time -- twice? Is it due to some kind of continuity glitch, affecting the characters' histories, and memories, differently? Or is there some kind of more fundamental explanation?
"Year One" has long been considered canon, and has been the modern basis for Batman's origin. The arc was intended to give the Dark Knight a new and modernized beginning in the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths. Prior to Crisis, the Golden Age Batman was considered to be a different character altogether -- the Batman of Earth-2. And that Batman had already died before Crisis even took place.
The events of Batman #1, and those of Batman #404 nearly 50 years later, therefore didn't even take place in the same continuity. King's run on the title during the Rebirth era, however, indicates otherwise. Batman's recollection aligns with that of his pre-Crisis counterpart, whereas Selina's matches modern continuity.
It's not a continuity error, though. There's a far simpler and all too logical reason for the seeming disparity.
Details, Details …
Bruce explains his position to Selina as his recovery in the tropics draws to a close. In his mind, their first meeting was on the boat -- as Batman and Catwoman. But he acknowledges her insistence they met on the street was also correct -- albeit as Bruce and Selina, as neither had yet adopted their costumed identities.
So, Bruce first met Selina on the street, as she has long proclaimed. But Batman first met Catwoman on a boat, as he's been insisting.
It sounds like semantics, but there's actually a deeper meaning to his explanation. For their very first encounter as civilians, he describes himself as "not fully formed … not yet Batman." Bruce, nor Selina for that matter, had yet become the individuals they are now.
Once Bruce had vowed to fight crime as The Bat, he had excluded any kind of happiness for himself as a condition of fulfilling that vow, as he discussed with Selina last issue. When he later met Catwoman, then -- as Batman -- he had already closed himself off from the possibility of any kind of relationship with her.
In both cases, neither Bruce nor Batman was whole.
A Boat, a Street, or a … ?
His mindset, though, has been rapidly changing. As he's been recovering with Selina's help, Bruce has come to understand that, as Batman, happiness can be his. Bruce Wayne can be happy man, and Batman can still be Batman -- the two are no longer mutually exclusive in his mind. And as Bruce/Batman gains this understanding, now he is whole.
With this realization, which has enabled Bruce and Selina to reconcile, he's neither just the Bruce Wayne from that street, nor just the Batman from that boat. He's now a man whose two sides are on the verge of living harmoniously for the first time in his career. He is once again a different man -- does this enable he and Selina to meet again for the first time? A third first meeting?
As a matter of fact, it does.
They met on the beach. And this time, they both agree.
Yes, now that the reason for the previous disagreement has been resolved, it just as quickly becomes a non-issue. The Bruce and Selina readers now see before them didn't meet on a boat or a street.
The moment is a defining one for the Dark Knight. Batman no longer sees allowing himself the happiness of a personal relationship conflicting with his role as a crimefighter. And Bruce Wayne can genuinely live a happy life, rather than simply exist as façade who only comes out during Batman's downtime.
The emotionally strengthened Batman returns to Gotham with Catwoman at his side in Batman #80, on sale Oct. 2.