Until the mid-1980s, the DC Universe had two Earths. The modern superheroes of the Justice League lived on Earth-One while the Golden Age superheroes from the 1940s lived on Earth-Two. Characters who were around in both eras, like Batman, had a separate version on each Earth. And The Brave and the Bold #197 shows us what became of the Golden Age Batman on Earth-Two.
The story is framed as an older Bruce Wayne looking back on a turning point in his life, when he had been the Batman for fifteen years and was beginning to lament how empty the Bruce Wayne side of his life had become. What life does he have to look forward to after Batman, other than a very lonely one?
The Scarecrow strikes, and his fear toxins heighten Batman’s anxieties to the point that he hallucinates all his allies vanishing, leaving only a reformed enemy to turn to—Catwoman. As they partner to apprehend the Scarecrow, they learn more about each other…and Catwoman helps Batman learn something about himself.
Namely, he acknowledges the fear that’s consumed him since his parents’ murder. It’s driven him to build a life where he’d never have to form a real emotional connection with anyone again and thereby never truly have to experience another devastating loss. He overcomes this fear by letting Catwoman—or more specifically Selina Kyle—into his life, and they spend the next twenty years happily married.
Actual emotional growth and an actual, fitting ending for the character. At least the original Batman got to experience those. This story’s inclusion in The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told collection is no mistake.
Writer: Alan Brennert
Penciler: Joe Staton
Inker: George Freeman
Cover: Jim Aparo
Publisher: DC Comics
How to Read It: back issues; included in The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told (TPB)
Appropriate For: ages 10 and up