And we can all name the various members of the Batman Family at the drop of a cowl, right? Nightwing. Robin. Batgirl(s). Oracle. Jim Gordon. From years gone by, Batman Family members have included Ace the Bathound and Bat-Mite. Heck, throw in Spoiler and Azrael, RIP, if you want. And since no family is complete without Michael Caine, don't forget Alfred. But like any family, there's some black sheep: there's members of the Batman family we don't hear about much, who never get invited to Christmas dinner. Meet, as they say, The Batman Family. From the cover of Batman Family #3:
Oh yes! Batwoman. Both a classic and now a new Batman family member, the new one with a "kicky new difference" that, I dunno, all the kids will enjoy or something. But Kiteman? What, is he Batman's second cousin on Martha Wayne's side or something? Do you think he periodically bangs on the door of Stately Wayne Manor and Alfred lets him sleep on the couch for a few days? Kiteman's not even a Wayne...he's actually a Brown. Charlie Brown, to be precise. Good ol' Charlie Brown. How Bruce hates him!
Okay, I'll allow Batman of the Future to be a member of the Batman Family, because, as they say, you can choose your friends, but you can't choose your space-helmeted future descendants. But let's do some family-spotting on the cover sidebar of Batman Family #2:
Alfred? Of course. The most valuable member of the Batman Family. Vicky Vale? More a supporting guest-star than a family member, unless you happen to be a Baldwin brother, I guess. And I don't think I want to see any members of my family skipping about like this:
Cluemaster? That's a member of the Riddler Family, not an honorary Wayne. And the Mystery Man? You can't depend on a mystery man family member: he never tells you when he's showing up for the family reunion picnic, and whenever it's time to chip in for Aunt Harriet's birthday gift, Mystery Man is nowhere to be found.
And from the cover of Batman Family #4:
Elongated Man can be in The Batman Family, no problem. He and Bruce probably enjoy swapping detective tips over Thanksgiving dinner, and let's face it, poor Ralph could use a family member's shoulder to cry on right about now. But The Phantom General? The guy's a freakin' Nazi, Bruce! There aren't enough Wayne Foundation donations to the B'nai Brith that'll erase you introducing this guy as your family at your next party. But, what the hey, let's let Fatman be in the family. Bruce's family is no exception to this rule: everybody's family has a fat man. Mine is Uncle Louie. Granted, Uncle Louie pulls dimes out of my ear and slips me bubblegum behind Aunt Brenda's back, and Batman's wears a big-and-tall cowl. But I say it here and now: the modern twenty-first century Batman needs a Fatman, and I'd clap my hooves together with glee if someone told me he's going to return in a future issue of 52. After all, someone has to eat all those untouched sandwiches Alfred brings down to the Batcave.
Want to learn more about the Batman Family? Don't even bother going to your local libraryinstead, H. from the ever-fun blog The Comic Treadmill has an excellent and entertaining summary of some early Batman Family issues here and here.