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Comic Book: Catwoman

Catwoman is a fictional character associated with DC Comics' Batman franchise. Historically a supervillain, the character was created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, partially inspired by Kane's second cousin by marriage, Ruth Steel. Kane, a frequent movie goer also mentioned that Jean Harlow was a model for the design. The character first appeared as The Cat in "Batman" #1 (Spring, 1940). The code name Cat-Woman (sic), and the first of her cat-suits were introduced in issue #2. Her civilian identity of Selina Kyle was introduced in subsequent appearances.

The character had regular appearances in the Batman titles for much of the Golden Age, both as a villain, and as a reformed criminal (or at least attempting to reform.) She disappeared from the franchise for over a decade in "Detective Comics" #211 (September, 1954), for fears that her depiction violated the recently introduced Comics Code. In 1966, over a decade later, the character was revived for the Batman television series.

The character turned popular again and revival in the comic books soon followed. Starting with "Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane" #70 (November, 1966). Where she uses magic to turn Superman into a cat. Lois Lane then gets to fight Catwoman to rescue her love interest. Regular adventures of this version continued to the 1980s. With an Earth-One version of Catwoman firmly established, the DC staff then reintroduced the original as part of the Earth-Two Alternate Universe. Or at least its backstory. According to "DC Super-Stars" #17 (November, 1977), the Golden Age Catwoman eventually married Batman. She was killed while performing One Last Job. Her daughter Helena Wayne, donned the cape of the Huntress to avenge her death.

Post-Crisis, Catwoman got a revamp in the Batman: Year One storyline (1987), which established a new background for Selina as a former prostitute who learned martial arts and the art of burglary to improve her life. She got a mini-series of her own in 1989. Then a regular Catwoman series started in September, 1993. From the 1990s until 2008, Catwoman featured in an eponymous series that cast her as an anti-hero rather than a supervillain. In 2009 this was replaced with a Gotham City Sirens title that put her in a morally-ambiguous team with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. In 2011 this was dropped and a new ongoing Catwoman title (again casting her as more of an anti-hero than a villain) began as part of the New 52 universe-wide revamp.

Outside of the comics, the character has featured in a multitude of Batman-related media. She was a recurring villain in the iconic Adam West Batman series, famously portrayed by several different actresses including Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt. She was a major character in Batman: The Animated Series and appeared as a villain in both The Batman and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. The character was featured in Bat Man of Shanghai, a series of Wuxia-inspired Alternate Universe shorts on the DC Nation block that reimagined Catwoman as a Chinese thief in the 1930s. For the Animated Adaptation of Batman: Year One, she was voiced by Eliza Dushku.

On the film front, the character was portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer in the 1992 film Batman Returns. In 2004, a standalone Catwoman movie starring Halle Berry was released, but the movie was a flop that had little in common with the comic character. She is played by Anne Hathaway in 2012's The Dark Knight Rises, although she's only ever named on screen as "Selina Kyle" and "The Cat", with the name "Catwoman" only being used in merchandise and other supplemental materials - perhaps to sever ties from the aforementioned Halle Berry flop or possibly just because of the trend in both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and The Dark Knight Saga that Comic Book Movies Don't Use Codenames.

She has also appeared in numerous video games, specifically featuring as a playable character in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, both Lego Batman games, Batman: Arkham City, and Injustice: Gods Among Us.

The character has been one of Batman's most enduring love interests. Many modern writers have also interpreted her activities and costumed identity as a response to a history of abuse.

This series provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents
  • Action Girl: One of the earliest examples thereof in comics.
  • Animal-Themed Superbeing: Except for the super part. She's skilled enough for Roofhopping, sure, but she has no superpowers.
  • Anti-Villain: One of the earliest examples thereof. Mixes traits of all types.
  • Anti-Hero: All of her heroic appearances have elements of this. Yeah, Catwoman is kind of... complicated.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Catwoman has difficulty believing her sister is possessed by a demon.
  • Arch-Enemy: Black Mask became this to her in her 1990s/2000s solo series.
  • Badass Normal
  • Betty and Veronica: The Betty to Talia Al' Ghul's Veronica.
    • Of course, their definition of "merits" seems to stray pretty far from the actual meaning of the word.
  • Big Bad: Surprisingly, she's shown to have become this to Batman by the time of Batman Eternal, having single-handedly taken over the entire criminal underworld of Gotham, from grifters to supervillains.
  • Black and Gray Morality: Even as an Anti-Hero she tends to do some ethically questionable things, but she's got nothing on some of the villains she goes up against.
  • Byronic Heroine: A very Rare Female Example.
  • Cat Girl: Duh.
  • Classy Cat-Burglar: One of the most triumphant examples thereof.
  • Combat Pragmatist: As an unofficial member of the Bat-Family, it kind of comes with the territory.
  • Comic Book Fantasy Casting: Adam Hughes draws her as Audrey Hepburn (example).
  • Continuity Snarl: No one is quite sure what Catwoman's backstory really is. Is she an orphan turned thief, an amnesiac air stewardess, a prostitute, a socialite, a product of an abusive marriage, the daughter of Carmine Falcone, or some combination thereof?
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Subverted, really. In most incarnations, she knows about this, and steals for thrills more than anything else.
  • Dating Catwoman: the Trope Namer. Though from her side of the relationship, shouldn't it be "Dating Batman"?
  • Deadpan Snarker
  • Death Seeker: Controversially introduced as an element of her personality for the New 52 version.
  • Dominatrix: In at least one version of her backstory, she worked as one before becoming a thief, and supposedly picked up her preference for whips after using them on her "customers". Though not all writers like to acknowledge that bit of her backstory, her current costume design (skintight black latex, with a whip for a weapon) still pretty clearly invokes a Dominatrix vibe.
  • Duct Tape for Everything: In the Pfeifer run, she carried a roll of duct tape on her person. It came in handy during her fight with Zatanna and she frequently used it to restrain enemies and hostages.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: In her first appearance, she was billed as "the Cat" but didn't wear a cat-themed costume, just a green dress, although she did disguise herself as a much older woman for a few panels. She also shot a guy, which was retconned out as she had a stated no-kill policy basically through the Bronze Age.
  • Easily Forgiven: Averted with Zatanna. Selina still hates her for the events of Identity Crisis (or more precisely, her actions thereafter).
  • Femme Fatale
  • Fix Fic: Chris Dee's Cat Tales series Fix Fics every piece of bad Retcon inflicted on her in the past thirty or so years of comics — the Wangst-filled past as a ghetto prostitute, the string of Squicky non-Bat love interests and the infamous goggle-wearing costume change are cleanly slate-wiped as the machinations of a low-brow tabloid, to which the real Catwoman responds in a... unique... way. The series has evolved into an Alternate Universe Fic with over 50 stories.
    • Of course, YMMV on how "bad" any of those retcons are.
  • Give Her A Normal Life: Helena
  • Go Karting with Bowser: The entire Gotham City Sirens series is this. Either that or her relationship with Batman... or both.
  • Heel-Face Revolving Door: An established part of her personality that seems to work for her.
  • Hello, Nurse!
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: An element of her past that has been in and out of continuity since Frank Miller added it.
  • I Have Many Names: Has gone through quite the aliases. Before her secret identity was finally revealed in Batman #62, she had gone by the names of Marguerite Tone, Elva Barr, Belinda, and Madame Moderne. In the One Year Later story arc, she uses the assumed name of Irena Dubrovna to hide her identity, which in turn provides a Shout-Out to the character in the 1942 film Cat People.
  • Indy Ploy: The New 52 version of Selina uses these a lot. In fact she straight out admits she doesn't plan but handles most things by the seat of her pants.
  • Karma Houdini: In her very first appearance (when she was still The Cat) Batman straight out allowed her to escape his custody, even foiling Robin's attempt to stop her... solely because he had the hots for her.
    • Once Catwoman became an antihero, Batman started looking the other way when she does her thing, since she protects Gotham in her own way.
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: The "kindhearted" part my not be obvious, but she has at least a dozen cats, all of which she loves. She frequently donates money she obtains from her heist to animal shelters.
  • Legacy Character: Holly Robinson briefly took over as Catwoman.
  • Maid Impersonation Infiltration: Selina poses as one in The Dark Knight Rises to steal Bruce's fingerprints and his mother's necklace.
  • Master of Disguise: Each of her solo series have shown Selina to be extremely good with disguises and infiltration jobs.
  • May-December Romance: with several men including Wildcat, and Slam Bradley Sr.
  • Morality Pet: Holly Robinson.
  • Most Common Superpower: Depending on the Artist. She was one of the most exaggerated examples at one point, but has since gone back to something more realistic.
    • Jim Balent's tenure as the artist on her 90s solo title stands out as the most ridiculous example.
  • Ms. Fanservice: And how!
  • Mugged for Disguise: Often done by Selina when she needs to go undercover as part of a heist.
  • Private Detective: Slam Bradley, a legacy character from the earliest issues of Detective Comics. He's pretty much straight out of the 1930s.
  • Right Through the Wall: An issue of the New 52 Catwoman series has Selina fighting a cop in his apartment. In order to avoid arousing suspicion, she covers the cop's mouth and begins making loud, sexual noises so that the neighbors think there is simply some rough sex going on, rather than a brutal fist fight.
  • Rival Turned Evil: She-Cat
  • Save the Villain: Parodied at the end of the "Relentless" arc. Black Mask has blown up the community centre Selina funded, tortured her brother-in-law to death and driven her sister permanently insane, had one of her best friends run over with a car, and announced his desire to torture her to death. After a brutal fight, Selina kicks him off the balcony of his penthouse, but he manages to grab hold of the parapet with one hand.
    Black Mask: Help... Help me. C'mon, you won, OK. Help me up.
    Catwoman: God, you're even crazier than I thought. (stands and watches as he loses his grip and falls)
  • Stripperiffic: Especially since she began wearing black leather catsuits. Treated literally in the DC Showcase animated short in which Catwoman impersonates a stripper - and all she has to do is go on stage in her regular costume and take it off.
  • Stuffed In A Fridge: Catwoman writers seem to enjoy using her to subvert the trope.
    • Hush tried to use her to get at Batman by cutting out her heart. In retaliation, she steals every last cent he has.
    • Likewise, her response to Black Mask torturing her sister was to kill him.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: For most of her career, Catwoman has tried to avoid killing anyone (one of the reasons the creators were able to make her into more of a sympathetic villain and it was easy for her to cross into hero territory, even being accepted by the moralistic likes of Superman). But when it comes to really reprehensible people like Black Mask, she will do so (although not without regret, as the spoiler-protected example continues to haunt her for many issues afterwards).
  • True Love Is Boring: Why Selina and Bruce have never been happy together. And why Selina possibly can't find someone else.
  • Vapor Wear: Certain artists draw her costume in such a way that there's no way she's wearing anything under it. Guillem March is a big offender.
  • Whip It Good: She's specifically mentioned on more than one occasion that she picked it because she didn't want a weapon that would be easy to turn against her if she was disarmed.
  • Woman in Black

Works that she has appeared in:


Cat Shit OneAnimal Title IndexCB Bears
ShazamDC Comics CharactersThe Creeper
Two-FaceTop One Hundred Comic Book VillainsThe Kingpin
The SpectreThe FortiesThe Joker
Captain Mar-VellSuper HeroCloak & Dagger

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