Catwoman was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, partially inspired by Kane’s cousin, Ruth Steel. Kane, a frequent movie goer, also mentioned that Jean Harlow was a model for the design.
The original and most widely known Catwoman, Selina Kyle, first appears in Batman #1 (Spring 1940) in which she is known as The Cat. She is an adversary of Batman, known for having a complex love-hate relationship with him. In her first appearance, she was a whip-carrying burglar with a taste for high-stake thefts. For many years Catwoman thrived, but from September 1954 to November 1966 she took an extended hiatus due to the newly developing Comics Code Authority in 1954. These issues involved the rules regarding the development and portrayal of female characters that were in violation of the Comics Code.
Since the 1990s, Catwoman has been featured in an eponymous series that cast her as an antihero classy cat burglar rather than a villain. The character has been one of Batman’s most enduring love interests.
A popular figure, Catwoman has been featured in most media adaptations related to Batman. Actresses Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, and Eartha Kitt introduced her to a large audience on the 1960s Batman television series and the 1966 Batman motion picture. Michelle Pfeiffer portrayed the character in 1992’s Batman Returns. Halle Berry starred in a stand-alone Catwoman film in 2004, which was a box-office flop, and bears little to no resemblance to the Batman character. Anne Hathaway portrayed Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises.
Catwoman’s origin—and, to an extent, her character—was revised in 1987 when writer Frank Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli published Batman: Year One, a revision of Batman’s origin. She works as a prostitute in order to survive and wants to break away from her abusive pimp (and former boyfriend). She witnesses his crimes and, because of an event that occurs to her sister, fears for her sister’s life and begins to study self-defense and martial arts. Her teacher inspires Selina to become more than what she has been and she realizes that prostitution is no life for her, or for Holly.
Holly Robinson is a young runaway who idolizes Selina, but is much too young to be on the streets as far as Selina is concerned. Selina shares her home with Holly after she takes her in. As the story progresses Selina is led to a bit of burglary, she dons a catsuit costume that her now former pimp gave to her the day that she told him she was out of the business. After costuming herself so as not to be revealed, she gets a taste for burglary and begins to do it in more of a Robin Hood way than an actual thief. This is, however, how she runs into Batman. After a small confrontation, she begins to be inspired to stay in her costume and become the “Catwoman” after seeing Batman in action with others. Selina gets the idea that, if there is a “bat”, why can there not be a “cat”?
The 1989 Catwoman limited series, written by Mindy Newell and with art by J.J. Birch, expanded upon Miller’s Year One origin. This storyline, known as “Her Sister’s Keeper”, explores Selina’s early life as a prostitute and the start of her career as Catwoman. The story culminates with Selina’s former pimp, Stan, abducting and violently abusing her sister Maggie, who, in contrast to Selina, is a nun. Selina kills Stan to save her sister, and gets away with it. Most of this is revealed in the former series, but is expanded upon in “Her Sister’s Keeper”.
Catwoman (vol. 2) #69, which provides details about Selina’s childhood, neglects Maggie’s existence. Maria Kyle is a distant parent who preferred to spend her time with cats, and commits suicide when Selina is very young. Her alcoholic father, Brian, is cold to Selina for resembling her mother (whom he resents for dying), and eventually drinks himself to death. To survive, Selina takes to the streets for a time before getting caught and sent first to an orphanage, then juvenile hall, “where Selina began to see how hard the world could really be.” Maggie’s fate at this point in the time-line is not alluded to. However, when Ed Brubaker reintroduces her into the comic, he implies that Maggie may have directly entered an orphanage and promptly been adopted.
When she is 13, Selina discovers that the hall’s administrator has been embezzling funds, and she confronts her. In an attempt to cover up her crime, the administrator puts Selina in a bag and drops her in a river to drown (like a cat). She escapes and returns to the orphanage, where she steals documents exposing the administrator’s corruption. She uses these to blackmail the administrator into erasing “Selina Kyle” from the city’s records, then steals the administrator’s diamond necklace and escapes the orphanage. Selina eventually finds herself in “Alleytown - a network of cobblestone streets that form a small borough between the East End and Old Gotham.” Selina is taken in by Mama Fortuna, the elderly leader of a gang of young thieves, and is taught how to steal. Fortuna treats her students like slaves, keeping their earnings for herself. Selina eventually runs away, accompanied by her friend Sylvia. However, the two have difficulty surviving on their own, and in desperation try to support themselves by working as prostitutes. The two drift apart afterward, with Sylvia coming to resent Selina for not inquiring about what had happened to her at the hands of her abusive first client.
In the Catwoman: Year One story, Selina (now an adult) achieves some success as a thief. Following a disastrous burglary, however, she accepts an offer to “lie low” as a dominatrix in the employ of a pimp named Stan. They plan to trick men into divulging information that might be used in future crimes. According to this storyline, Selina trains under the Armless Master of Gotham City, receiving education in martial arts and culture. During this time, a client gives her a cat o’ nine tails, which Selina kept as a trophy.
Batman: Dark Victory, the sequel to The Long Halloween, implies that Catwoman suspects she is the illegitimate daughter of mafia boss Carmine Falcone, although she finds no definitive proof. Selina’s connection to the Falcone family is further explored in the miniseries Catwoman: When in Rome. Though the story adds more circumstantial evidence to the theory of Selina’s Falcone heritage, establishing that the Falcones’ secondborn daughter was put up for adoption in America, it also supplies no definitive proof. During The Long Halloween, Selina (out of costume) develops a relationship with Bruce Wayne, even leading her to save Bruce from Poison Ivy. However, this relationship appears to end on the Fourth of July when Bruce rejects her advances twice—once as Bruce, and once as Batman. She leaves him for good and also leaves Gotham for a while in Batman: Dark Victory, after he stands her up on two holidays. When the two meet at an opera many years later, during the events of Hush, Bruce comments that the two no longer have a relationship as “Bruce and Selina”.
Catwoman also appears in the Batman: Knightfall saga, where she is approached by Bane’s henchmen while robbing a house. Bane asks her to work for him, but she refuses, as she is repulsed by the criminal who “broke” Batman. Later in the story, she boards a plane with Bruce Wayne to fly to Santa Prisca. She next appears in the Batman: Knightquest saga, where Azrael is masquerading as Batman. She is one of the few to recognize that Batman is an impostor, later being present when the true Batman returns to the fold as he struggles against his successor, his willingness to save even criminals confirming his true identity for Selina.
In 1993, Catwoman was given her first ongoing comic book series. This series, written by an assortment of writers, but primarily penciled by Jim Balent, generally depicted the character as an international thief (and occasional bounty hunter) with an ambiguous moral code. Story-lines include her adoption of teenage runaway, and erstwhile sidekick, Arizona; aiding Bane, whom she later betrays to Azrael; and a stint as a reluctant government operative. The series also fleshes out more of her origin, revealing her beginnings as a young thief, her difficult period in juvenile incarceration, and her training with Ted “Wildcat” Grant.
During the Batman: Hush storyline, Batman and Catwoman briefly work together and have a romantic relationship, during which he reveals his true identity to her. At the end, he breaks off their relationship when he suspects it has been manipulated by the Riddler and Hush. This is the second story to establish that she knows Batman’s true identity. In an early 1980s storyline, Selina and Bruce develop a relationship. The concluding story features a closing panel in which she refers to Batman as “Bruce”. A change in the editorial team at that point, however, brought a swift end to that storyline and, apparently, all that transpired during the story arc.
In the Justice League story arc “Crisis of Conscience”, Catwoman fights alongside Batman and the Justice League against the old Secret Society, of which she had once briefly been a member. Catwoman appears to be completely reformed, and her love for Batman true (although brash and unpredictable). However, she has learned her reformation was the result of a mindwipe by Zatanna, a procedure known to deeply affect and, in at least one case, physically incapacitate its victims. Zatanna gives no reason for her actions, but in a flashback, it is shown that she had acted with the consent and aid of five of the seven JLA members who had helped her mindwipe Dr. Light and Batman. Catwoman’s response to this revelation is unequivocal: she duct-tapes Zatanna’s mouth shut and pitches her out a window (Zatanna survives the fall). Afterward, she is seen covering her bed with past versions of her Catwoman costume.
Still unbalanced and uncertain of herself in issue #52, Selina is forced to decide whether to kill a supervillain. The Black Mask, in an attempt to “improve himself,” threatens the most important people in Selina’s life, from Slam Bradley to Holly. The villain had also previously tortured Selina’s sister Maggie by drilling out her husband’s eyeballs and feeding them to Maggie, which drove her insane. Black Mask learns Selina’s identity through his earlier alliance with Selina’s childhood friend Sylvia, who still harbors a grudge against Selina. Still thinking that Selina adheres to a strict no-kill rule, Black Mask is caught by surprise when Selina shoots him in the head. This action continues to haunt her throughout the One Year Later storyline, and it is suggested that this might have been the first time she had ever directly taken a life.
Following the events of Infinite Crisis, the DC Universe jumps forward in time. After One Year Later, Selina Kyle is no longer Catwoman, she has left the East End, and has given birth to a daughter named Helena. The father of her new daughter is initially unrevealed; however, Batman demonstrates great concern for the child and at one point asks to have Helena stay at his mansion. Selina attempts to live a safe and somewhat normal life, and gives up her more dangerous ways of living as Catwoman. Holly Robinson takes over as the new Catwoman while Selina, living under the alias Irena Dubrovna, turns her attention to caring for her daughter (Selina’s alias was inspired by the name of the main character in the 1942 film Cat People).
Though she takes her role as a new mother quite seriously, Selina dons the costume for a run through the East End some days after Helena’s birth. Having understandably gained a few pounds, Selina finds that her costume is now tighter. In addition, she is easily distracted by a common criminal. Although the situation is defused through Holly’s opportune arrival, the sight of two Catwomen active simultaneously in the city is caught on video. Selina returns home from her adventure to find that the mysterious movie aficionado Film Freak has deduced her alias, joined with Angle Man, and grabbed Helena. After rescuing her daughter, Selina convinces Zatanna to mind-wipe Film Freak and Angle Man in order to preserve her secret identity. Following the procedure, Angle Man turns himself in to the authorities; Film Freak, however, embarks upon a murderous rampage.
A twist occurs when Wildcat informs Selina that Holly has been arrested for the murder of Black Mask. Selina infiltrates the police station and frees Holly. Finally defeating Film Freak, Selina returns home to find that Bradley has deduced that Helena is the daughter of his son Sam Bradley, Jr., and therefore his granddaughter (although it is still strongly hinted that Bruce Wayne may be the father).
Batman asks Catwoman to infiltrate the violent tribe of the Bana Amazons during the Amazons Attack! crossover. Posing as a criminal, Selina gains the Bana’s trust and thwarts a terror attack aimed at causing mass casualties in Gotham City.
Selina questions whether she should be raising a daughter when her life as Catwoman has already proven to be such a danger to the child. After enlisting Batman’s help in faking the death of both herself and her daughter, Selina puts Helena up for adoption. A month after Helena is placed with a new family, Catwoman asks Zatanna to erase her memories of Helena and change her mind back to a criminal mentality. Zatanna refuses, judging that such an act would be cruel to both mother and daughter. She tells Selina that she could never reverse Selina’s mindset, since she was on the path to becoming a hero on her own. Believing she can no longer function as a criminal, Selina decided to become one of Batman’s Outsiders. She quickly quits, however, and was replaced by Batgirl.
Later, in Detective Comics, uncertain if she should pursue her “relationship” with Batman, Selina talks with Bruce about Jezebel Jet, his current girlfriend, and then has a pep talk with Zatanna, whom she believes is also courting Bruce. Zatanna confirms and admits her feelings, adding that she has since chosen to forget them, but encourages Selina to open her heart to Bruce before Jet is able to “seal the deal.” Hush eavesdrops on the conversation, targeting both women as a way to hurt his enemy, Bruce Wayne.
In Detective Comics #848 (November 2008), Hush attacks Selina, surgically removing her heart. She is delivered anonymously to a Gotham hospital. Batman receives word of her situation, and while he goes in search of Hush, he leaves Selina in the care of Doctor Mid-Nite, who is considered the superhero community’s chief doctor.
Batman recovers her heart, and Dr. Mid-Nite restores it to her body; however, the doctor also makes a prognosis on whether she can still return to her former life swinging through rooftops. While Selina is still in a coma, she encounters Zatanna, who apologizes for not warning her about Hush. She tells Selina that she was so happy about her relationship with Bruce that she ignored the other warnings in the cards. Zatanna gives her a little bottle supposedly containing aloe vera for her post-op scars. It is hinted that there is a little magic in there to help Selina with her recovery. Selina is sad that she might end up alone again. In the meantime, Bruce enters the recovery room and, believing her unconscious, launches into a soliloquy. He ends by telling Selina that he will always love her, when she opens her eyes and reveals to him that she was awake all the time and heard his confession.
During the events of Batman R.I.P., Selina and Bruce’s romance lasts only for a night because Bruce must continue to pose as Jezebel’s lover to bring down the Black Glove. While still recuperating, she pulls off one more heist and exacts her revenge on Hush. With the help of a few allies on both sides; Oracle, Holly Robinson, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, Penguin, and Slam Bradley, Selina taps into Hush’s assets, leaving him penniless and suffering from wounds inflicted by Batman.
In September 2011, DC Comics relaunched all titles, deemed The New 52, which rebooted the DC Universe continuity. Catwoman’s monthly title now focused on Selina’s earlier days as Catwoman, but not her origins. The series begins with Selina frantically escaping from unknown masked men who are invading her apartment. After flitting from rooftop to rooftop, Selina looks back just in time to see her apartment blown apart by explosives. She turns to her informant, Lola, who often supplies Catwoman with information and various jobs. In this instance, Lola tips Selina off to an unoccupied penthouse where Selina can lay low for a few weeks, as well as a job stealing a painting from Russian mobsters. For this job, Selina infiltrates a Russian club by posing as the bartender. There, she recognizes a man from her past, who murdered her friend as a teenager, and Selina quickly takes her revenge. Once her cover is blown, Selina dons her Catwoman outfit and fights her way out of the club, making quick work of the Russians. Back at the penthouse, Batman visits concerned about Selina’s well-being. It is revealed through Selina’s inner monologue that she and Batman have had sexual encounters with one another before, and the premiere issue ends with yet another of these encounters. It is hinted throughout the series that they continue to have a complicated relationship and Joker even approaches her and warns her to stop being a love interest to Batman in his efforts to make him stronger in the Death of The Family story arc.
Be sure to follow us if you like the blog!