by John Wells
In the fall of 1938, Julie Madison met the man of her dreams. He was a tall, dark criminology student, she an aspiring actress. By the time of their graduation from college that next spring, they'd fallen madly in love and, even as Julie headed for New York and Broadway, she had managed to stay in touch with her man on the telephone.
Awakened from a sound sleep at 3 a.m. one morning, Julie's eyes sparkled after he told her that he needed to ask her a question, one that he'd have to deliver in person the next week. She'd answer "yes" in an instant, of course. Julie Madison returned to her slumber with visions of her soon-to-be fiancé running through her mind, unaware of the secrets and passions that Bruce Wayne was hiding from her.
She got a particularly vivid hint several weeks later when she awoke from a trance to find a man in a bat-suit staring at her. It seems that Julie, mesmerized and in a bathrobe, had just attempted to murder a man on behalf of someone called the Monk. A glassy-eyed physician suggested that the raven-haired young woman take a vacation, perhaps an ocean voyage. It was Bruce Wayne who waved goodbye as Julie set sail but it was The Batman who would serve as her guardian angel.
From the Atlantic Ocean to the streets of Paris to a castle in Hungary, The Batman defended Julie Madison from becoming a slave of the Monk, a peculiar hybrid of vampire and werewolf. In the end, the villain was destroyed by a silver bullet fired by a gun-wielding Batman (these were the Dark Knight's formative years, obviously) and a grateful Julie thrust her arms around her rescuer's neck, oblivious to his true identity. "I don't know who you are, but you saved my life and I shall be forever grateful!"
The fifth Batman story (in 1939's Detective Comics # 31) may be best remembered for writer Gardner Fox's introduction of the Batarang and the Bat-Gyro (a precursor of the Batplane) but it was also the first appearance of Bruce Wayne's fiancée, Julie Madison. The adventure with the Monk continued through # 32 and then, as quickly as she was introduced, she was gone, save for a brief mention in the first panel of # 34's installment.
Batman writer and co-creator Bill Finger brought the character back in a cameo at the end of # 39's episode and established Julie as a budding movie actress in issue # 40's installment. Here, we learned that she had a small role in the remake of the Basil Karlo (read: Boris Karloff) film, "Dread Castle." The cast and crew found themselves
terrorized by a villain dubbed Clayface, who was ultimately exposed as a resentful Karlo. Once again, Julie Madison owed her life to Batman (and his newly-acquired partner, Robin). "Ho! Hum!" she sighed. "If only Bruce was so dashing!"
The stage was set for a sequel in Detective # 49 (dated March 1941). Ironically, thanks to Clayface's murder of the star of "Dread Castle," Julie's own role in the film was expanded and she "took the public by storm," a phrase that inspired her studio's publicity agent to rename her "Portia Storme."
A storm of another sort was taking place in Bruce's household, where Julie was admonishing him to "find a career instead of being the public's number one playboy!" Tired of Bruce laughing off her suggestion, she reluctantly broke their engagement. "I'm not walking out on you, Bruce. Anytime you decide to change your ways, I'll come back to you gladly!"
Though left unspoken in the story, one can speculate that Julie might also have resented Bruce's starting a family without her, when he took Dick Grayson as his ward in Detective # 38. This adds a touch of irony to # 49's conclusion, which involved Julie dressing up as Robin to help Batman and the real Boy Wonder capture an escaped Clayface.
Ultimately, though, Julie Madison's removal from the series probably stemmed from Bill Finger's decision to introduce a new girlfriend for Bruce Wayne, nurse Linda Page, in Batman # 5, published only weeks after Detective # 49. Finger may have wanted to use a love interest for Wayne that he had created himself. Or perhaps he'd only remembered Julie after the Linda Page story was completed -- and quickly concocted a prequel in which she was written out of the series.
Whatever the reason, Julie's existence would not be acknowledged again until 1968's Batman # 208, a reprint giant spotlighting the women in Batman's life. In a framing sequence by E. Nelson Bridwell, Gil Kane and Jack Abel, Julie's role in the first Clayface was reprised. In the early 1970s, that story was actually reprinted in the hardback Batman From the '30s to the 70s and Bridwell himself selected Julie's debut from Detective# 31 and 32 for 100-Page Super-Spectacular # DC-14.
In 1977's World's Finest # 248, writer Bob Haney brought back Portia Storme with a twist that was inspired by the life of actress Grace Kelly. Here, we learned that Portia had left her acting career behind to marry the king of Moldacia and became the country's ruler upon her husband's death. She and several other world figures had been replaced by clones (until the intervention of Superman and Batman) rendering the anticipated reunion of Bruce and Julie midway into the story something of a cheat.
Recognizing this fact, Haney penned a sequel for the summer of 1978 in WFC # 253. Soon after learning that Princess Portia was planning to marrying Prince Jon of the neighboring country Tybern. Jon was also a double for Julie Madison's old boyfriend and, when the prince disappeared, Bruce Wayne was drafted to Tybernian loyalists to impersonate him in hopes of drawing out the kidnappers.
Princess Portia herself wasn't fooled for an instant. "I love Jon and he is a marvelous man...but he does not kiss like you!" With Portia now in on the plot, the wedding proceeded on schedule with Bruce still filling in for Jon. Only after the ceremony was completed did Superman track down the real prince, who decided to marry Portia for real in the palace, albeit secretly. "Two weddings in one week could confuse my subjects -- !" With a gentle goodbye kiss, Julie Madison left Bruce Wayne's life again.
A few years later, in 1980's Detective Comics # 496, writer Michael Fleisher penned a continuation of the Basil Karlo/Clayface storyline, which again gathered the principals of the "Dread Castle" crew -- including Julie Madison! Just before publication, someone recalled the Princess Portia development and realized that the monarch of a European nation probably wouldn't be milling about on a yacht full of actors. In a hastily re-lettered sequence, actress Julie Madison became caterer Rita Morgansen.
Julie Madison's next appearance, in 1986's Secret Origins # 6, was also her chronologically earliest. Here, Roy Thomas and artists Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin sketched in the details described in the first two paragraphs.
Julie Madison apparently remains a part of the current Batman mythos, having appeared in the inevitable retelling of Basil Karlo's history (1989's Secret Origins # 44). More recently, her name appeared on a Gotham billboard touting her featured role in "The Three Faces of Eve" (2001's Catwoman # 92). Otherwise, her role has been restricted to stories set outside traditional Batman continuity, such as Batman: Master of the Future (occurring in the late 1800s), Superman & Batman: Generations # 1, Batman: Dark Knight Dynasty and Michael Gilbert's amusing story in Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight # 94 (1997).
In the latter, several people stranded in an elevator claim to have met The Batman, each recalling a different period in the hero's history. An elderly woman named Julie Madison described her meeting with The Batman and the Monk of nearly sixty years earlier. "You said you met Batman in 1939 ?" sneered one of the others. "Why, he'd be almost eighty years old by now!"
Julie Madison belatedly joined the Batman film franchise in 1997's "Batman and Robin" movie. In a film already over-stuffed with characters crying out for attention, Julie Madison (played by Elle MacPherson) was little more than window dressing, a fact exemplified by the fact that she was omitted from the comics adaptation entirely. In her only notable scene in the movie, she broke up with Bruce over his failure to commit to marrying her. It seems that some things never change.
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This piece is © 2002 by John Wells
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