Catwoman, First Lady of Crime
(first published Winter 1999 issue of Once Upon A

People can argue for days over the greatest superhero: Superman, Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, Green Lantern, Batman, maybe the Hulk. But when it comes to female super-villains there can be only one name at the top of the list: Catwoman. The whipsmart sexy foil to Bruce Wayne’s Dark Knight first seduced comic fans in 1940.

She debuted without a costume as the more simply named “Cat”. Batman's first words upon seeing her were “Hmmm, nice legs.” Followed shortly by the even less politically correct “Quiet, or papa spank.” And that pretty well set the tone for their tormented tug of love and war. Soon she returned in a rather ridiculous cat costume comprised of a fuzzy full cat head mask. The costumed cat burglar saved Batman’s life when she first crossed his path and his luck hasn’t been the same since. Then came Batman #62, which not only showed us Catwoman was more compassionate than your average criminal but a knock on her head caused her to recall she was actually a kind, law abiding flight attendant who would never dream of a life of crime.

The boy wonder had his suspicions early on when Batman let the feline felon escape. And so the tension between rivals and lovers began. Selina tried the straight and narrow life, for several years running a pet store. But eventually the idea that Batman had defeated her because she was a woman and the jeering of her former partners in crime riled her back into action as a feline fatale.

Like her namesake Selina had many lives. Considering all the re-inventions of her origin she could be well on her way to exhausting the fabled feline nine. She has in her nearly sixty year history been a pet shop owner, a flight attendant, a convict, a police informant, a government agent, a foster mother to a homeless street kid, and a donor to the nuns at her local church.


On Earth II Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle got married (Brave and the Bold #197, Superman Family #211) and Selina confessed the truth about her origin, revealing that her "amnesia" was just another scam. Her previous husband was abusive and vindictive. Selina was determined not to leave their marriage without her favorite jewelry. So she broke into his home and his safe to lift the jewels. Selina got a huge rush out of her inaugural run as a cat burglar and adopted the hobby and the persona -- but she knew that Batman would never love her if he had known the truth, thus the memory loss.

More recently in Detective #404 Frank Miller put a new twist on Catwoman’s background. He not only gave her short hair but her occupation was as a prostitute and her sexy black leather outfit was a bondage ensemble – a tool of her trade.

Catwoman has always been a woman of conflicts. She is a criminal but not a killer. She takes pains to preserve life and is often heroic. Her true love is her worst enemy. She has a sister who is a nun and a brother Karl who’s a criminal -- a brother she helped Batman apprehend. Her inner conflicts mirror Batman’s and that’s how we know they were made for each other.

Her various accomplishments run from the silly to the sublime. She has changed the Bat Signal to a Cat Signal. She seduced Superman in the guise of Lois Lane. She rejected marriage proposals from the Penguin and turned Superman into a Supercat that must obey her. She gathered a group of women ex-cons to form the Feline Furies. She sleeps in an Egyptian bed, encrusted with rubies, dedicated to the cat-headed goddess Bast. She is an accomplished chef of Persian cuisine, a student of Greek tragedy and a master (or is that mistress?) of Tibetan massage.

Throughout all her many lives the feline femme fatale continues to evoke admiration, lust, sympathy and respect. Wizard magazine named her the sexiest woman in comics (Wizard #32). On the page, on the screen and in the heart of Bruce Wayne she reigns supreme among women criminals.

--Daniel DeFabio

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