The Joker could barely keep a straight face as he told Lansing Batman and Capitol City Wonder Woman they could say “I do.”
It was a real wedding, with a Tom Arnold introduction (“I got married in Michigan once”), Amazon bodyguards and the Fairy Godmother and Poison Ivy among hundreds of guests.
The cast of characters:
- The groom: Lansing Batman, aka Bruce Wayne, aka Shamus Smith.
- The bride: Capital City Wonder Woman, aka Diana Prince, aka Katie Whittaker (and the newest aka is Katie Smith).
- The Joker: Scott Milam.
How do you tell the story of Lansing Batman and Capital City Wonder Woman getting married?
With lots of zings, bang-booms and comic references?
Let’s cut out the banter and pull off the masks.
Smith and Whittaker got married on Sunday at the Capital City Comic Con in downtown Lansing.
It was a big moment for the comic con and for the their family. The convention, which had paused for two years during the pandemic, was back in a big way at a far bigger venue and has graduated from bringing one vocal talent at the last show to more than a dozen actors and voice actors.
The Smith and Whittaker families, as big as they each were, have also grown.
Their collective nine children served as the wedding party, alongside Amazon guardians and ushers such as Darth Vader, Deadpool and Beetlejuice.
To help close out the comic con, hundreds of superhero fans, their friends and family and random curious people witnessed the nuptials.
Arnold, joking about his four successful marriages as an officiant, and four marriages of his own that ended in divorce, encouraged the crowd to support the superhero couple.
The backstory of the Wonderbat wedding
Smith and Whittaker met at a Grand Rapids comic con about seven years ago.
He, dressed as Batman, was walking away. She, at her first comic con wearing her just-finished first Wonder Woman costume, yelled out to him to take a picture.
While it would take years for that bat-calling to become a relationship, Whittaker said that yelling changed her life.
They took a picture and began talking. Smith had recently started going to hospitals dressed up as Batman to cheer up kids and wanted to do more.
They found an existing group, the League of Enchantment, and things snowballed from there.
Years later, with Smith now leading the group and Whittaker doing the paperwork to make it a full-fledged charitable organization, each would go through a divorce. After an awkward conversation with each other – do we stay friends or do we risk the League and start a relationship? – they began dating.
Smith proposed at a comic con, also in costume, but for their wedding they were a touch more traditional.
Whittaker wore a Wonder Woman-inspired dress with gold bracelets, smaller than her full costume cuffs.
Smith wore a fine jacket worthy of Bruce Wayne.
Lansing area costumed crusaders wear deeper stories than fandom
For Whittaker, Wonder Woman reasserts her strength. By the time she was a teenager, Whittaker was nearly 6 feet tall.
“I was very tall, very quickly,” she said. “It turned into being called Amazon.”
Whittaker was never drawn to the Wonder Woman portrayed by Lynda Carter, but was pulled in by Gal Gadot’s version, starting in 2016.
“A warrior princess, she was powerful and strong and feminine. I took the struggles of my past, the bullying of my height and made it so the pain was worth it. I can be powerful and strong no matter what.”
That’s the message Whittaker tells kids these days, whether it’s in a classroom or a hospital.
They can be strong. They don’t have to have cookie-cutter looks or abilities. They can be a hero themselves.
There’s a lot more to the capes and cowls and bracelets Whittaker and Smith wear. They’re part of the League of Enchantment.
It’s a charity group that helps kids in need.
One of the drivers of the league’s success is the partnership of Whittaker and Smith.
Smith’s origin story is darker.
He came to Batman after nearly killing a child in a 2015 car wreck. Smith was found to not be at fault and the child is, the last Smith heard, doing well.
Smith grew up reading comics, especially Batman and he saw the heroes often went through trauma and this was the kind of trauma that changed both lives.
He and the child had been fans of Batman.
Smith began to suit up, for a benefit dinner for the child and for Halloween in his neighborhood. That began to grow, he started to visit sick kids.
By the time of the Grand Rapids comic con, about seven years ago, he was well on his way to being a heroic figure for sick kids.
Joining the League, and then joining together with Whittaker, has helped.
His post traumatic stress disorder symptoms, which had been happening up to 10 times a year, are now so rare he doesn’t remember if the last one was was last October or the year before.
There are 100 members in the League, throughout Michigan with a branch in Chicago and others percolating in Arizona and elsewhere. They visit with hundreds of kids a year, often at one of the worst moments in a child’s life, when hope is low and a person in a costume giving them encouragement can pack a big zing.
On the surface, they just get dressed up in quality superhero costumers and simply talk at the kid’s level, answering questions in character.
They’re not street fighting, they’re not administering medication.
But it can be life-saving and, as in comics, it is not always as simple as it seems.
One of the first big events for the League was to visit a whole wing of children at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, shortly after Smith and Whittaker first met.
“Going to a hospital visit, it’s not an easy thing,” Smith said. “You don’t know what state the child is in. You’re also there to visit the parents, the nurses and the doctors and the rest of the hospital staff. They’re all dealing with grief and loss and hope.”
Whittaker said she likes to watch the parents, who will light up when their child smiles, it may be the first smile in a long time and when both a parent and a child smiles, that makes the dozens of visits every year worthwhile.
And that’s a bit of what they wanted for their wedding.
In their vows, they joked about their heights, Wonder Woman stands a good six inches above Batman and they agreed it’s a good fit.
Before they could kiss at the end of their custom vows, however, there was one Joker prank left.
Milam pulled out a small stool from behind the stage.
With a Batman sticker on the side, Smith turned it so the sticker faced the hundreds gathered for that moment, he put one leg up and kissed his bride.
It’s the beginning of new series.