For the first time in DC Comics history, Batman has been described as a self-harming adolescent. In Tom King’s Batman #12, the caped crusader pummels his way through hundreds of soldiers, struggling to make his way to Catwoman and her new ally, Bane. The text juxtaposed with the action is a confessional letter Bruce Wayne wrote to Selina Kyle, presumably before the events of the comic, and in it, Wayne describes a ritual he enacted in order to become Batman.
“I was ten,” Batman says in the comic. “I got one of my father’s razor blades, and I got down on my knees. I put the metal against my wrist. The edge scratching cold. The blood on my hand.”
“I don’t think it’s been written this way before,” Tom King tells Inverse, “but I spoke with Scott Snyder, and we agreed that it made sense. A lot of writers feel that way, that when Bruce Wayne made his vow and became Batman, he had to kill Bruce Wayne off.” According to Batman in the comic, he sliced his wrists and prayed to have the pain of his parents’ death taken from him.
Batman is certainly no stranger to hating himself; there’s a reason Lego Batman is all about Bruce Wayne breaking out of his self-imposed loneliness cocoon and allowing the Bat family to support him. As King puts it, the only character in Gotham who can truly understand what Batman feels is Catwoman, and in King’s current Batman series, Catwoman has betrayed him horrifically.
When asked if Batman and Catwoman are better off avoiding each other, King is hesitant to pass judgment. “As much as two people are able to help each other, I think these two can,” he says, though he points out that Bruce and Selina’s backgrounds are way more different than most fans realize. “He defers to the police a little too much, and she sees through that. She wasn’t raised a rich kid like he was, so she can almost see the matrix.”
Though King doesn’t seem to believe a history self-harming and ritualized pain weakens Batman, he does point out that Selina Kyle fought her way to adulthood, and into vigilantism, without the help of the Bat family, Alfred, and all the comforts Bruce Wayne’s immense fortune gave him. It’s a testament to her resilience, King says, that Catwoman is “almost as good at what does as Batman is, if not better.”
Batman #12 is available now.