While gender diversity in comics has steadily been improving in recent years, there has always been one woman who has stood above the rest in fame and personality.
For 75 years, Catwoman has proven to be quite the thorn in Batman’s side both legally and emotionally. She’s gained the status of an anti-heroine as she does some bad things in order to do some greater good (mostly though she just looks out for herself).
She’s also been the star of her own comic book series and feature film, though the latter proved to be a box office failure and is considered one of the worst comic book films of all time. Even with a failed film, Catwoman has still remained a very popular character with a wealth of stories.
Here are nine stories from comics, film, animation and even video games in Catwoman’s vault you should check out. You may ask why nine stories and not ten, and, well, it seemed appropriate given cats and their nine lives.
BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY & ARKHAM KNIGHT
In the BATMAN: ARKHAM video games, Catwoman plays a small role in ARKHAM CITY and ARKHAM KNIGHT as a playable character. In Arkham City the player takes control of her as she attempts to rob Hugo Strange and Two-Face, but of course things get a little complicated for her. During the course of her story campaign she briefly teams up with Poison Ivy, robs Strange’s vault and chooses to help Batman again over following her self-preservation.
In ARKHAM KNIGHT, The Riddler captures Catwoman under the false pretense he wants to hire her for a job. Riddler sets an explosive collar on her neck, using her as a tool to humiliate and defeat Batman once and for all. The pair must work together to solve a series of death traps set by Riddler in order to save her life, though she makes it clear she doesn’t need Batman’s help and that she’ll be getting even with the neurotic villain. Through dialogue given when the player interacts with her, the feelings they share for each other are evident and they share a tender moment once The Riddler side missions are completed. Her portrayal in the games paints her as a professional thief who loves talking back and poking fun at the other villains. Her report with Batman and the rogues are the best parts of her missions and there’s no denying its fun to play as Gotham’s leading femme fatale in the series. In both games Grey Griffin voices her.
CATWOMAN: DARK END & RELENTLESS (by Ed Brubaker and Cameron Stewart)
In the early 2000s writer Ed Brubaker joined the CATWOMAN title to help revamp it. Not only did he do this, but he ushered in quite a memorable run on Catwoman’s solo books from 2001 – 2004 as a gritty crime drama. The most significant stories of his run were “Dark End of the Street” and “Relentless,” both giving focus to Catwoman’s supporting cast and the dangerous world of Catwoman’s area of Gotham City.
“Relentless” is considered a highlight of Brubaker’s run as it puts Catwoman up against the mobster Black Mask and through a personal wringer. Fed up with how much Catwoman had interfered with his operations, Black Mask discovered the heroine’s identity and attacked her loved ones, starting with an orphanage she cared for and continuing by capturing and torturing her sister Maggie and the young Holly Robinson. Catwoman went on to rescue them, though not without great personal cost.
Throughout his run, Brubaker displayed a great understanding of her character while Cameron Stewart provided the art for both stories. His rendition of Catwoman was one of the inspirations for her look in the ARKHAM games, the animated series THE BATMAN and Chris Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT RISES –the latter being a mix of this and the classic costume from the 60s television series.
BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES - “The Cat and the Claw”
Catwoman’s introduction into the DC Animated Universe was in the first season of the much-loved BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. Unlike most of the other rogues in the series, her introduction actually merited a two-part episode. Her very first scene showed her stealing a rare jewel (with help from her cat Isis) and coming into contact with Batman. Though she’s a professional thief who also enjoys the thrill of the chase, she’s a good-natured woman who uses her time and resources as a socialite to protect endangered animals and raise money for charity. She also ended up allying herself with Batman in order to stop international terrorist Red Claw.
“The Cat and The Claw” gives a perfect (or purr-fect) display of what makes Catwoman such a great anti-hero. A prominent factor in this and following episodes was the emphasis it gave to Selina Kyle. Prior to this Selina Kyle was never given any thought in a television series, but she appeared out of the costume as much as she appeared in it throughout this show. Catwoman and Batman’s romantic feelings for each other were always played upon as well. In the episode ‘Perchance to Dream’ Bruce imagines a life where he never was Batman and is engaged to Selina. Though it is cheesy by today’s standards, it still is a good Catwoman story to watch, especially to introduce young ones to the character. Adrienne Barbeau voiced her in this series and THE NEW ADVENTURES OF BATMAN.
THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD - “The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne” (by Alan Brennert and Jim Aparo)
Before DC Comics rebooted their titles for the first time with CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS in the middle of the 80s, they wanted to give a good send off to some of their heroes from the Golden Age, the 1940s and 50s version of their characters, otherwise known as Earth 2. In this one-off story, Batman suffers from the effects of Scarecrow’s latest fear toxin, making him imagine he’s losing everyone close to him. He convinces Selina Kyle, who has retired as Catwoman, to help him catch Scarecrow.
During the case, the two reconnect by telling each other the pain and feeling of helplessness that drove them to become Batman and Catwoman. Batman also realizes his true fear is ending up alone, finding that he’s delved so much into his persona of Batman he’s entirely neglected Bruce Wayne and, with Selina’s help, discovers that identity again. With the capture of Scarecrow, Bruce decides to marry Selina and they have a daughter, Helena Wayne, who becomes eventually Huntress.
This story gave a great send-off to the Golden Age version of these characters, but it also did an excellent job deconstructing Batman and Catwoman’s relationship and what makes them both perfect for each other. It’s easy to see where the inspiration for the ending of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES or the BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD episode “The Knights of Tomorrow” came from after reading this story. It’s a touching tale about accepting grief and moving beyond it, a worthy lesson for Bruce Wayne to learn.