Cool For Cats: A Tribute To Selina Kyle, Catwoman
On this day in 1940, DC Comics published Batman #1, which, as well as being the first appearance of The Joker, also featured the first appearance of the character we would come to know as Catwoman. Selina Kyle has been one of the most versatile characters in not only Batman’s canon, but the whole DC Universe. She’s been a hero, a villain, an ally, a lover, and for over twenty years she has been a leading lady in her own right.
Catwoman was created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane and originally appeared as simply “The Cat” or “The Cat-Woman” --- it eventually evened out from there. The character was allegedly based on the actress Jean Harlow, according to Bob Kane --- as well his cousin, Ruth Steele.
Catwoman was brought into Batman’s life to add more sex appeal and shake up Batman’s rather staid personal life, but she disappeared from comics pages for over ten years due to the Comics Code’s rulings regarding the portrayal of female characters. This version of the character was eventually ruled as the Earth-Two incarnation, and when the concept was revisited decades later, she had married Batman and together they had a daughter: Helena Wayne, The Huntress.
Catwoman’s origin was always a mess of contradictory stories, from amnesiac flight attendant to victim of domestic abuse, but Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s classic “Year One” story from 1987 established a definitive version of the character. In the story, Selina Kyle is a dominatrix who seeks a way out of her life of sex work, so turns to burglary to fund a new life for her and Holly Robinson, a runaway in her care. Inspired by the theatrics of Batman, she decides to become the Catwoman.
The character is not only one of the most enduring characters in comics, but also in film and TV adaptations, right back to Batman’ 66. Over the years she’s been played by Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, Eartha Kitt, Michelle Pfeiffer, Adrienne Barbeau, and Anne Hathaway, among others.
A young Selina Kyle even appears in the television show Gotham, portrayed by Camren Bicondova. Halle Berry also starred in a live-action Catwoman film in 2004, although did not play Selina Kyle and is pretty much Catwoman in name only.
Catwoman’s first solo series debuted in 1989, which expanded on Miller and Mazzucchelli’s origin as present in “Year One”. Her first ongoing series began in 1993 and since then Catwoman has been a fairly consistent fixture in DC Comics’ publishing line-up.
In 2002, after a six month break in publishing, Catwoman returned in a much lauded new series by Ed Brubaker, Darwyn Cooke and Michael Allred. The new creative team focused heavily on the crime noir aspects of the character, updating her costume considerably to something sleeker and better suited to cat burglary.
The new creative team also move Selina away from Batman somewhat, even giving her a new love interest in the form of Sam Bradley, son of a Golden Age character of the same name; and the couple eventually have a child in the form of Helena Kyle. Holly Robinson was reintroduced around this time, and even became Catwoman for a time following Selina’s pregnancy and childbirth.
The New 52 incarnation of Catwoman has been fairly consistent with what we know of the character, although in a move that was seen by many as a long time coming, Selina was confirmed as bisexual in 2015’s Catwoman #39 by Genevieve Valentine and Garry Brown. The creative team introduced a new love interest for Selina in the form of Eiko Hasigawa, a Yakuza heiress who stepped into the role of Catwoman when Selina retired to focus on her new role as a mob boss.
Catwoman is one of those rare characters, introduced as a supporting character or villain, that are able to outgrow the protagonist to become a leading character in their own right. No matter what role Catwoman finds herself in, it seems to fit like a glove, and no matter what role she takes on in the future, no doubt she’ll steal the show, along with all of the jewels.