What did Cat say when Bat popped the question?
Some local comic book fans are frustrated because they can’t yet read Catwoman’s answer to Batman’s recent marriage proposal.
The Dark Knight first met his feline frenemy in June 1940. The third of the four stories in the 54-page (and 10 cents) Batman #1, he and Robin captured the beautiful jewel thief the Cat, as she was first known. The smitten Batman, who had to remind himself of his (now long-forgotten) fiancé Julie Madison, let the Cat escape. “Wonder if I will run into her again,” he mused, to the Boy Wonder’s disgust. Batman and Catwoman have run into each other many times since, fighting and flirting for decades before becoming occasional lovers. Last June, in Batman #24 (more about that numbering below), scripted by former CIA operative (yes, really) turned acclaimed comics writer Tom King, Batman finally proposed to Catwoman. In Batman #32, released Oct. 3 (the book is currently published twice a month), she gives him her answer. That issue has been flying off local store shelves and in at least one case, hasn’t made it to them yet.
“They don’t have it,” said University of North Carolina at Greensboro student Ben to his girlfriend Sarah, who waited with her fluffy dog outside Parts Unknown: the Comic Book Store at 906 Spring Garden in Greensboro.
“I’ve heard USA Today supposedly spoiled it,” Ben said to me, “but I want to find out by reading the actual comic.”
Sarah sighed. “Acme Comics sold out, too,” she said.
Parts Unknown owner John Hitchcock didn’t actually sell out. “The distributor shorted us this week,” he said, “but we hope to have it next Wednesday.”
Jermaine Exum, the venerable “Lord Retail” who’s managed Acme Comics at 2150 Lawndale for 21 years, told me in an email that his store received a shipment, but some copies were damaged, and he quickly sold all the undamaged ones. As his orders for the coming week are already invoiced, he said it would be “two weeks at best” before he received more.
He also said newcomers shouldn’t start with the new issue, but with King’s Batman #1 (the 2016 comic with that numbering, not the one from 1940). Exum doesn’t expect noncollectors to buy each of those 31 individual issues from him; he just wants them to read King’s entire run, which IO9.com called “a perfect jumping-on point” for newcomers, something that is affordably done online via Kindle or Comixology. Or, for those wanting physical books and to support local businesses, purchase the three inexpensive trade paperbacks that collect the first 24 issues of King’s “Rebirth” series, and then the remaining back issues or the upcoming fourth collection.
King’s first issue of Batman being labeled #1 is an example of an industry practice that began in the 1990s, when publishers discovered first issues sold extremely well, even for characters that had been around for decades. They then realized it wasn’t necessary to launch an additional series, as Marvel did in 1991 by publishing both X-Men #1 and The Uncanny X-Men #281 in the same month, to have a new #1.
Exum said publishers’ motives aren’t purely mercenary. “I was fine starting Amazing Spiderman with #318, but many of today’s readers aren’t okay with that,” he said. “So publishers sometimes slow down the train to let new people on while not rebooting (relaunches and reboots are not the same things).” While he understands the frustrations of older readers, he made the good point that the story inside matters more than the number on the cover. King, he said, has written an excellent story.
I can believe that. I’ve read King’s terrific military crime series The Sheriff of Babylon, about the repercussions of a murder near Saddam Hussein’s former palace in 2003 Baghdad, which was inspired by King’s own experiences as a CIA counterterrorism operations officer in Iraq (but, King has emphasized, is not autobiographical, which would be illegal). Before signing an exclusive contract with DC, King wrote Marvel’s excellent The Vision, in which the android superhero became the Avengers envoy to the White House and moved into the Alexandria suburbs with a family of his creation. It owed as much to John Cheever as Stan Lee.
At Exum’s recommendation, I’ve caught up with King’s Batman. I now know what Catwoman said to Batman’s proposal, but you should find out by reading the actual issues. Unlike those fiendish archvillains at USA Today, Yes! Weekly isn’t going to spoil it for you.
Ian McDowell is the author of two published novels, numerous anthologized short stories, and a whole lot of nonfiction and journalism, some of which he’s proud of and none of which he’s ashamed of.