Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Catwoman

Catwoman is a fictional character associated with DC Comics' Batman franchise and created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane.

The original and most widely known Catwoman, Selina Kyle, first appeared in Batman #1 (Spring 1940) in which she was known as The Cat. As an adversary of Batman, she was a whip-carrying burglar with a taste for high stake thefts. Modern writers have attributed her activities and costumed identity as a response to a history of abuse.

Since the 1990s, Catwoman has been featured in an eponymous series that cast her as an anti-hero rather than a supervillainess. The character has been one of Batman's most enduring love interests, and has occasionally been depicted as his one true love.

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. Michelle Pfeiffer portrayed the character in 1992's popular film Batman Returns. Halle Berry starred in a stand-alone Catwoman film in 2004, though the film features a title character bearing little resemblance to the comic book character. Catwoman is #51 on Wizard magazine's "100 Greatest Villains of All Time" list.

Batman #62 revealed that Catwoman (after a blow to the head jogged her memory) is an amnesiac flight attendant who had turned to crime after suffering a prior blow to the head during a plane crash she survived (although in the final issue of The Brave and the Bold, she admits that she made up the amnesia story because she wanted a way out of the past life of crime). She winds up reforming and stays on the straight and narrow for several years, helping out Batman in Batman #65 and #69, until Selina decides to return to a life of crime in Detective Comics #203. Selina appears again as a criminal in Batman #84 and Detective Comics #211, her final appearance for many years (until 1966).

In the 1970s comics, a series of stories taking place on Earth-Two (the parallel Earth that was retroactively declared as the home of DC's Golden Age characters) reveal that on that world, Selina reformed in the 1950s (after the events of Batman #69) and had married Bruce Wayne; soon afterwards, she gave birth to the couple's only child, Helena Wayne (the Huntress). In The Brave and the Bold #197, the Golden Age origin of Catwoman given in Batman #62 is elaborated on, after Selina revealed that she never actually had amnesia. It was revealed that Selina Kyle had been the wife of an abusive man, and eventually decided to leave her husband. However, her husband had kept her jewelry in his private vault, and she had to break into it to retrieve the jewelry. Selina enjoyed this experience so much she decided to become a professional costumed cat burglar, and thus began a career that would repeatedly lead to her encountering the Batman.

The Earth-Two/Golden Age Selena Kyle eventually dies in the late 1970s after being blackmailed by a criminal into going into action again as Catwoman (as shown in DC Super-Stars #17).

Catwoman's first Silver Age appearance was in Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #70 (November 1966); afterwards, she continued to make appearances across the various Batman comics.

Several stories in the 1970s featured Catwoman committing murder, something that neither the Earth-One or Earth-Two versions of her would ever do; this version of Catwoman was assigned to the alternate world of Earth-B, an alternate Earth that included stories that couldn't be considered canonical on Earth-One or Earth-Two.

A revision in Catwoman's origin, and the introduction of the modern version of the character, came in 1986 when writer Frank Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli published Batman: Year One, a revision of Batman’s origin. In the course of the story, the origin of Catwoman was also re-envisioned. Selina Kyle is reintroduced as a cat-loving prostitute/dominatrix who is inspired to become a costumed cat burglar when she sees Batman in action. In this story, Holly Robinson is introduced as Selina's roommate, a young runaway and prostitute Kyle has taken in.

The 1989 Catwoman limited series (collected in trade paperback form as Catwoman: Her Sister's Keeper) by writer Mindy Newell and artist J.J. Birch expanded on Miller's Year One origin. Her Sister's Keeper explores Selina's early life as a prostitute and the start of her career as Catwoman. This is a dark and tragic period which culminates with Selina's former pimp Stan abducting and violently abusing her sister Maggie. Selina kills Stan to save her sister, and is able to do so with impunity.

Catwoman also appears in the Knightfall saga, where she is approached by Bane's henchmen while robbing a house. Bane asks her to work for him, but she refuses, giving as her reason that Bane broke Batman. Later in the story, she boards a plane with Bruce Wayne to fly to Santa Prisca. She next appears in the KnightQuest saga.

Batman: Dark Victory, the sequel to The Long Halloween, implies that Catwoman suspects she is the long-lost illegitimate daughter of Carmine Falcone, although she finds no definitive proof of this. Selina's connection to the Falcone family is further explored in the miniseries Catwoman: When in Rome. Though more circumstantial evidence is added to the theory of Selina's Falcone heritage, no definitive proof is provided.

Portions of Her Sister's Keeper and the Year One origin conceived by Frank Miller remain canonical to Catwoman’s origin, while other portions have been dropped over the years. It has been implied that Her Sister's Keeper was rendered non-canonical by the events of Zero Hour, and subsequent writers have rejected Miller's choice to make the post-Crisis Catwoman a prostitute. In an attempt to harmonize the various versions, some writers have posited that Catwoman, early in her career, pretended to be a prostitute in order to scam lonely men and rob them. However, characters associated with Catwoman's past as a prostitute have remained a part of her supporting cast. Holly, from Batman: Year One, and her sister Maggie (from Her Sister's Keeper) have appeared regularly in the Catwoman series.

Selina is the older of two sisters (Maggie being the younger) born to Brian and Maria Kyle. Catwoman v.1 #0, which provides details about Selina's childhood, neglects Maggie's existence. Maria Kyle was a distant parent who preferred to spend her time with cats, and committed suicide when Selina was very young. Brian Kyle, a drunken layabout angry at his wife for killing herself, disliked Selina for resembling her mother and eventually drank himself to death.

Selina took to the streets for a time before being caught and sent first to an orphanage, then Juvenile Hall (Catwoman v.1 #0), "where Selina began to see how hard the world could really be" (Catwoman Secret Files and Origins). Maggie's fate at this point in the time-line is not alluded to. However, when Ed Brubaker re-introduced her into the comic, he implied that Maggie may have directly entered an orphanage and promptly been adopted.

When she was thirteen, Selina discovered that the Hall's administrator was embezzling funds and confronted her. In an attempt to cover up the illegal activities, the administrator put Selina in a bag and dropped her in a river to drown (like a cat). Selina was able to escape (Catwoman v.1 #0) and return to the orphanage where she stole documents exposing the administrator's corruption and sent them to the authorities. She also took the opportunity to steal enough money to live on before going back to the streets.

When the money she stole from the corrupt orphanage administrator ran out, Selina found herself in "Alleytown - a network of cobblestone streets that form a small borough between the East End and Old Gotham" (Catwoman v.2 #12). Selina was taken in by "Mama Fortuna", the elderly leader of a gang of young thieves, and was taught how to steal. Fortuna treated her students like slaves, keeping their earnings for herself. Selina eventually ran away, accompanied by her friend Sylvia. However, the two had difficulty surviving on their own, and in desperation tried to support themselves by working as child prostitutes. Sylvia attracted at least one client; Selina apparently never did. The two drifted apart afterwards, with Sylvia blaming Selina for her negative experiences; she hated Selina for not inquiring about what had happened to her at the hands of her abusive first client.

In the Catwoman: Year One story (Catwoman Annual #2, 1998), Selina (now an adult) achieved some success as a thief. Following a disastrous burglary, however, she accepted an offer to "lay low" by posing as a dominatrix in the employ of a pimp named Stan. Their plan was to trick men into divulging information that might be used in future crimes. According to this storyline, Selina trained under the Armless Master of Gotham, receiving education in martial arts and culture. During this time, Catwoman was given her trademark cat-o-nine tails whip by a client, which Selina kept as a trophy of her time posing as a hooker.

In 1993, following the success of Batman Returns and Selina Kyle’s prominent role in that film, 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.

Storylines included her adoption of teenage runaway, and erstwhile sidekick, Arizona; aiding the criminal Bane whom she later betrayed to Azrael; and a stint as a reluctant government operative. The series also fleshed out more of her origin, revealing her beginnings as a young thief, her difficult period in juvenile incarceration, and the training she received from superhero Ted (Wildcat) Grant.

Moving to New York, Selina becomes corporate vice president then CEO of Randolf Industries, a mafia-influenced company, through blackmail. Her plans to use this position to run for mayor are ruined when the Trickster inadvertently connected Kyle to her Catwoman alter ego.

Selina then returns to Gotham City, which at this time is in the midst of the No Man's Land storyline. As Catwoman, she assists Batman against Lex Luthor in the reconstruction of the city. After being arrested by Commissioner Gordon, she escapes from prison. Later that year during the Officer Down storyline in the Batman titles, Catwoman is initially the chief suspect. Although later cleared, she displays increasingly erratic behavior throughout the story. Soon afterwards she disappears and is believed to have been killed by the assassin Deathstroke the Terminator, ending her series at #94.

Catwoman then appears in a series of backup stories in Detective Comics #759 - #762. In a backup storyline Trail of the Catwoman, by writer Ed Brubaker and artist Darwyn Cooke, private detective Slam Bradley attempts to find out what really happened to Selina Kyle. This storyline leads in to the newest Catwoman series in late 2001 (written by Brubaker initially with Cooke, later joined by artist Cameron Stewart). In this series, Selina Kyle, joined by new supporting cast members Holly and Slam Bradley (a character from the early Golden Age DC Comics), becomes protector of the residents of Gotham’s East End, while still carrying out an ambitious career as a cat burglar. This series met with critical and fan acclaim, especially for its first 25 issues.

During the Hush storyline (Batman #608-#619), Batman and Catwoman briefly work together and had 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 villain Hush. This was the second time that Batman's true identity was shown to be known to her. In an early 80's story line Selina and Bruce had developed a relationship. The concluding story featured a closing panel in which she refers to Batman as "Bruce." A change in editorial team at that point, however, brought a swift end to that story line and, apparently, all that transpired during the arc. When Catwoman appeared again, no mention whatsoever was ever made of the notion that she had apparently figured out who Batman actually is.

In the JLA story arc Crisis of Conscience, Catwoman fights alongside Batman and the League against the old Secret Society, of which she had once briefly been a member.

Catwoman appears in Gail Simone's "Sensei and Student" story-arc in Birds of Prey. She is part of a group sent to rescue a U.S. senator from the Eurasian assassin Cheshire; during the mission, she saves Lady Shiva, who was bound and gagged in the trunk of a car wired with explosives by Chesire.

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 pitched Zatanna out a window (Zatanna survives the fall). Afterwards, she is seen covering her bed with past versions of her Catwoman costume.

Still unbalanced and uncertain of herself in issue #52 (the last issue before the jump to One Year Later), 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 criminal had learned Selina's identity through his earlier alliance with Selina's childhood friend Sylvia, who still harbored 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.

Following the events of Infinite Crisis, the DC Universe jumps forward in time. "One Year Later" Selina Kyle is no longer Catwoman, has left the East End, and has given birth to a daughter named Helena (whose father is initially unknown). 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 a tighter fit. 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 (whom she had bound and gagged with duct tape after beating them brutally) 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. Ted Grant 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 Slam Bradley has deduced that Helena is the daughter of his son Sam Bradley Jr., and therefore his granddaughter.

Batman asks Catwoman to infiltrate the violent tribe of 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 has since decided to become one of Batman's Outsiders. She quickly quit however and was replaced by Batgirl.
Like all other characters, Catwoman would have a new design during The New Batman Adventures. Her new in-costume animated appearance also changed when the show's animation style did, becoming more like the Michelle Pfeiffer version, with a black costume, slimmer build, and white face makeup. Details on her change are explored in Batman Gotham Adventures
In Salvation Run #2, Catwoman was sent to the Prison Planet. One addition to the mythos was giving Catwoman a personal black cat called Isis. She was her chief pet and appeared in the fist series and in The New Batman Adventures. As Catwoman's cat, she fought the dogs of Superman and Batman on Krypto the Superdog, a cartoon made by the same people who made the DCAU.

Catwoman, in her first appearance, wore no costume or disguise at all, and it was not until her next appearance that she donned a mask, which was a theatrically face-covering cat-mask that had the appearance of a real cat, rather than a more stylized face mask seen in her later incarnations. Later, she wore a dress with a hood that came with ears, and still later, a bodysuit with attached boots and either a domino or glasses-mask. In the 1960s, Catwoman's bodysuit was green in color, which was typical of villains of that era. In the 1990s, she usually wore a skintight purple bodysuit, before switching to a black PVC outfit that recalls Michelle Pfeiffer's costume in Batman Returns. In recent years, artists' depictions have usually alternated between these two costumes. Ed Brubaker, the writer behind the 2001 revamp of the character, has stated that Selina's current costume was inspired by Emma Peel's iconic catsuit [4]. It has a more high tech look, with domino-shaped infrared goggles on her cowl. Many of her costumes have been shown to incorporate retractable metal claws on the fingertips of her gloves and toes of her boots.

Holly currently uses the same costume Selina used prior to Infinite Crisis.

Catwoman was at various times portrayed by Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt in the live-action Batman television series of the 1960s, her first other-media portrayal. Lee Meriwether was cast in the 1966 Batman motion picture based on the television series, after discovering Newmar was unavailable.

In 2004, Catwoman, a movie starring Halle Berry, was released. This film's Catwoman bore little resemblance to the comic book version. Berry portrayed Patience Phillips, a woman who eventually became Catwoman after a near-death experience. Patience gained the powers from the Egyptian cat goddess Bastet through a gathering of cats led by an Egyptian Mau. The movie alludes to other women in the past who have been granted such cat-like abilities, particularly in a scene in which Phillips finds herself amongst a series of images of prior catwomen, including Pfeiffer's Batman Returns version of Selina Kyle. The film's story has nothing to do with Batman or Gotham City.

Berry won the 2005 Razzie award for worst actress in a film for her role as Catwoman, and accepted the prize in person. She was only the third Razzie winner (following director Paul Verhoeven, director of Showgirls; and Tom Green, star of Freddy Got Fingered) ever to do so. She brought her Monster's Ball Oscar with her for her acceptance speech.

No comments: