ID: I’m going to be uncharacteristically provocative and just drop this research bombshell: you have a bastard son.
B: I suppose that’s technically true.
ID: And I know who the baby mama is. Daughter of the infamous ecoterrorist and founder of the League of Assassins, Ra’s al Ghul. Wait. He’s her father. The baby mama is Talia, his daughter.
B: That’s… less accurate, on account of a questionable legal technicality.
B: We were married at the time of his conception. Technically.
ID: Okay, there’s a story, there.
B: I was captured by the League of Assassins, and drugged. It’s called ‘groom kidnapping,’ colloquially Pakaruah shaadi. A form of nonconsensual marriage.
ID: Wait, isn’t that an Indian thing?
B: We were in India at the time.
But the first time I met Talia was during a power struggle within Ra’s organization; she saved my life, then. We had a connection. Maybe that’s just because we both grew up in the shadow of determined, successful men, and spent our childhood training, our entire lives in preparation. We were both intelligent, capable, beautiful- mostly I mean her, on that last one.
The fact that she was Ra’s daughter added a whole Romeo and Juliet angle that I think just made it
B: Forbidden. Taboo. Which made it hotter, I guess. It created tension, even more tension on top of the fact that… I’m trying to figure out how to say this without coming off as a complete douche bag, but… I could kill you in a moment with my bare hands. I can outsmart most people- even those with enhanced minds. Back in the day I could bench over 600 lbs.
B: And Talia is basically my female equivalent. And if you’re talking psychological damage, she might even be more than my equal.
ID: Sounds kind of like a dig.
B: It isn’t. When you get a certain level of damaged, you stop being able to really relate to people who haven’t suffered traumatically. The people I know the best, the ones I really relate to, all have personal, familial tragedies. I think it helps you put your own experiences into perspective. So finding a woman with problems comparable to mine, was nice.
We had a longstanding flirtation. In fact, India wasn’t the first time we hooked up. But that time, we were, like I said, technically married. Which made me less cautious than I might have otherwise been. And I knocked her up.
For a long time, Ra’s had been trying to make me his successor, which meant taking over his League of Assassins and also marrying his daughter. And I wasn’t happy, when I found out I’d been forcibly married. But I also… I loved Talia. Her father was cruel, and manipulative, maybe even evil, but the moments I had with her were so perfect. And I’d never even really thought about being a father, and finding out I was going to be… it was probably the happiest day of my life. Because it was something that wasn’t part of the plan, part of my obsessive quest to protect others. It was something selfish, something that was just mine. And maybe it was even a way out for me.
By that point, my first Robin was all grown up, and I thought maybe it would be okay for me to retire. Maybe the world could make it with a different man running around in a pointy-eared cowl. And there was a part of me that thought I could use the League of Assassins. They were already heavily trained martial artists highly skilled in stealth. I thought it might be a viable start to an organization of international batmans, a Batman, Inc., if you will.
But I wasn’t the only one vying for Ra’s mantle. Unbeknownst to me, I had a rival in the League. He attacked me- attacked both of us- at dinner. I fought him, but he would have killed me had Talia not shot him. And as a result of the attack, Talia had a miscarriage.
We mourned together, and it was the closest I’d ever been to those moments after my parents’ death- only I wasn’t alone, this time. And I probably would have stayed with her- not in India, obviously, but with her. But she had a change of heart. She told me I wasn’t the same man when I was married to her. I wasn’t going to survive the life her father wanted for us- and I was no good to her dead. So we dissolved the marriage.
ID: But, that isn’t the end of the story, of course. Because little Damian didn’t die.
B: No. I wonder if that was her father’s doing or not. Maybe that was how he planned to get his successor- not to use me, as I was, but to mix my genes with his family’s.
Maybe Talia simply had second thoughts. Maybe she wanted to let me go, because she didn’t want me if it had to come from her father’s goons dragging me to her.
Whatever the case, I suspect she didn’t know about Damian, either. Because I don’t think she would have chosen to raise him in the League of Assassins. And if she had, I guarantee you, he would have learned compassion much more thoroughly. But that’s the story of how I lost Damian. His mother, on the other hand, never went far.
Because her father’s ambition never stopped. And so she and I had lots of opportunities to bump into each other
ID: ’s uglies. Sorry, couldn’t resist.
B: I don’t suppose you could. But I think ours became a love that was unrequited out of necessity. To be with her, I was going to have to stop being Batman. And for her to be with me, she was going to have to abandon her father. And I don’t think either of us was prepared for that.
But years later, after the earthquake, I lost hope. I was a man in a bat costume. The world was in chaos, and all I could do was hurl batarangs at it. That’s why I went to Washington to ask for help. The things I usually did to tackle a problem, weren’t going to work. So I tried to do something else- possibly something more grown up. But because of Luthor’s grip on the political conversation at that point, nothing came of it.
So I went away empty-handed, without a plan of action. And for me, not to have a plan- I was rudderless. Talia found me, in my hotel room. I was drunk- actually drunk. And she sobered me up, and convinced me to go back to Gotham. In retrospect, she was working with Luthor by that point, and probably knew something was afoot. But the important thing was she found me, in a moment of weakness, and helped me get back up.
ID: So wait, Talia finally had a chance to have you to herself, when you’d already lost the taste for being Batman, and she pushed you back into the costume?
B: Yeah. I think she knew that she could have me, but that what she’d have was a shell. I couldn’t be happy having failed Gotham; I couldn’t retire then. I had to be standing, on my feet, first. Maybe it was just her same MO: letting me go, and hoping I’d return to her in my own time.
ID: Well, you’re not Batman anymore. So why haven’t you gone back to her?
B: Not to cheapen our relationship, but that feels a little like asking a man why he ordered the steak and not the lamb.
ID: Actually, given your more recent proclivities, it’s like asking a man why he’s ordered the salad after being offered the steak and the lamb.
B: Cute. But I think it comes down to the fact that I used Bruce Wayne as a distraction and a deflection. By being boring, and shallow, and vapid, in my “personal” life, only people who read gossip columns cared, and even then, only superficially. But coming out- even only half out- that would have led to all kinds of questions, and increased scrutiny. I’ve always been, curious, I guess might be the worried, about the same sex. I’ve experimented, sure- it’s not like these are my first forays- but for the first time I feel freed up to test those other waters, without endangering the people I care about.
Which isn’t to say that I’m going to never eat meat again
ID: I can’t but feel that our metaphor was accidentally backwards.
B: Just that right now I’m feeling more like a salad. Maybe, as in noneuphemistic dinners, it’s just an appetizer, but right now that’s what I’m craving.
ID: Okay, to get back to Talia for a second, here’s something: you had unprotected sex with her.
B: She was my wife.
ID: Not my point. Presumably, back then, you weren’t HIV positive, or riddled with the AIDS. But since your love life, using very vague timelines in my head, crossed over that threshold, there must have come a point when you had to stop her and demand that you use protection.
B: I’m Batman. I always use protection
ID: Nice PSA
B: outside the context of monogamous, long-term relationships- and since Talia wasn’t usually either of those things, pretty much all the time. But it did come up. Because I think there’s a responsibility, there, to be forthright, and honest, and just extra cautious. We were kissing, and she reached for my utility belt, and I just stopped her, and said, “I’m HIV positive.”
And she said, “I know,” and went back to kissing me. Which made sense. I told you, she’s as close to me having a ‘my other half’ as I’ve ever been. And I would have known if she’d tested positive.
ID: Doesn’t that strike you as a bit of a violation?
B: It might be. I don’t know. Honestly, I’ve always been an information junky. Because information is what’s kept me alive, doing dangerous and potentially stupid things, for most of my life. I rarely stop and consider the morality behind it. I think there are probably still people in my life who would be offended by that. But it’s who I am. I’m not trying to justify it, rationalize or say that that makes it okay. If you’re offended you’re offended. But that’s just who I am. I don’t think I could change it, even if I felt I needed to. It’s a compulsion to know, to be prepared.
ID: And yet they used to call Clark the Big Blue Boyscout.
B: As far as preparedness goes, Clark never had a thing on me- though he did wear more blue.