Of all of Batman’s enemies, Selina Kyle – AKA “Catwoman” – has been one of the most long-standing and recognizable villains in all of comics. Introduced in BATMAN #1 in 1940 alongside The Joker and Hugo Strange, Selina was first known simply as “The Cat,” a highly skilled thief who Batman let escape after becoming smitten with her. Since then, she’s been an on again/off again love interest to Batman/Bruce Wayne, sometimes friend, often times frenenemy. Catwoman’s appeared in several pieces of Batman multimedia through the years so let’s take a look at Catwoman’s animated appearances.
FILMATION BATMAN SERIES (1968 – 1969, 1977)
In both of the animated Batman series by Filmation, Catwoman was much like her live-action persona in the Adam West series. She was given no backstory, never shown outside her costume and often took part in outlandish schemes to defeat The Dynamic Duo. While she stole various pieces of famous jewelry, she also had an obsession with discovering Batman’s secret identity, undergoing such plots as spraying Batman with radioactive gas she could track or gifting him with a cat whose fur could emit radio waves to track him back to The Batcave. Rather than her classic black suit, she wore a green costume and, unique to the series, a gold costume later on. She was voiced by Jane Webb.
DC ANIMATED UNIVERSE (1992 - 2004)
Starting with BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES in 1992, Catwoman appeared sporadically throughout this animated series and its sequel THE NEW BATMAN ADVENTURES. In both series, Catwoman was depicted as an anti-hero who robbed from the rich and fine museums, but was a strong animal rights activist. While she was given no backstory, her alter ego of Selina Kyle was given a lot of significance. She was shown without the mask as much as she was in it and her relationship with Batman was given a lot of focus as well.
The series played off their romantic tension very well. In the episode “Perchance to Dream,” Bruce Wayne hallucinates a life where he isn’t Batman and is engaged to Selina Kyle, revealing her true feelings for her. Though she didn’t appear in any of the shows after, Catwoman was mentioned by name in BATMAN BEYOND. After Terry McGinnis fell for Ace, a member of the Royal Flush Gang, Terry asked Bruce if he ever developed feelings for any of his rogues. Bruce smiles and replies with “Let me tell you about a woman named Selina Kyle.”
Interestingly, the first design animator Bruce Timm came up with was influenced very much by Catwoman’s appearance in BATMAN RETURNS, but finding the all-black suit was too difficult to animate with BTAS’s dark backgrounds, he made the choice to make her costume mostly grey with black gloves and high heels. Throughout the DCAU, she was voiced by Adrienne Barbeau.
THE BATMAN (2004 - 2008)
Catwoman’s portrayal in THE BATMAN was much the same as the previous series – but with a stronger focus on her reputation as a villain. Catwoman often teamed up with other rogues to defeat Batman. Her alter ego as Selina Kyle is that of a charity fundraiser, scoping out possible heists for her other job. The romantic tension between Batman and Catwoman is played on a little bit, though never to the degree it was in BTAS or other media. Though there is an episode where she and Bruce Wayne go on a date, but only so she can steal something from Bruce. Much like the previous cartoons Catwoman is never given a backstory. Gina Gershon voiced her during the series.
BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD (2008 - 2011)
In this lighter Batman series inspired by the campy period during the character’s history, Catwoman appeared occasionally as a thorn in Batman’s side. Once again, she’s never given a backstory, but the chemistry between the two is still there.
In one episode, she holds Batman and Green Arrow hostage and flirts with Batman, but he doesn’t reciprocate due to her criminal history. Instead, he appeals to her to stop and rehabilitate from her life of crime. In other episodes, she teams up with various villains against Batman to rule Gotham City and/or the world. In a ‘what if’ story told by Alfred, he imagines a life where Bruce has retired from the role of Batman and marries Selina Kyle.
Since the series is influenced by the campy period, Catwoman’s costume is inspired by her comic book appearance at the time with a long purple dress, head mask and green cape. Nika Futterman voiced her throughout the series.
BATMAN: YEAR ONE (2011)
In 2011, WB Animation adapted the fan-favorite story BATMAN: YEAR ONE, written by Frank Miller and illustrated by David Mazzucchelli. This was a direct adaptation from page to screen, much like the live action films SIN CITY or WATCHMEN. As well as telling the origins of Batman and Commissioner Gordon, YEAR ONE also shows Selina Kyle’s beginnings into Catwoman for the first time in animation.
Selina is depicted as a call girl working in Gotham’s red light district until a violent encounter with a disguised Bruce Wayne, on a mission to scope out the various dangers of Gotham. After Bruce makes his transition into Batman, Selina leaves her life as an escort behind, punching her pimp out and taking Holly, a young girl whom Selina acts as a big sister to, with her. She later takes inspiration from Batman and dons her own costume, robbing from the rich and trying to make a name for herself, though gets upset when the media believes she is in a partnership with Batman.
Included on the DVD of YEAR ONE is a DC Showcase short titled CATWOMAN. In this short film, she’s on the hunt for a human trafficker and diamond smuggler who kidnapped several girls, including Holly. In both the film and the short, Eliza Dushku voiced Catwoman.