Once a villain…..?
Selina Kyle, otherwise known as Catwoman, began her life in comics as a villainous cat burglar who would fight Batman at the drop of a hat. Over the years her character gained such popularity (thanks in part to the 1966 tv show) that slowly, she began to soften and become more morally ambiguous. This led to a strange relationship with Batman based on lust and mutual respect where Batman would often come into conflict with his own morality in order to relate to Selina. She is pretty much a full on anti hero now, she’ll bend the rules but she always fights for the overall good. Doesn’t mean she can’t have fun and use her skills to steal from the rich elite of Gotham….not like they’ll miss it anyway right? Ok let’s get going….
10. Birds Of Prey: Batgirl/Catwoman: Year-2003
I love Batgirl….I love Catwoman, so a team up story between the two of them is great reading for a fan like me. John Francis Moore writes this murder mystery where the titular characters meet while investigating the same serial killer. This leads to a surprisingly poignant character study of Catwoman and her long standing hatred and history with the injustices of women. Darick Robertson of Transmetropolitan fame is a fantastic artist and he gets to have fun here with emotions flying and tensions building. It’s clear that there is a good rapport between the characters here but there is also a lack of trust on the part of Barbara (Batgirl) due to Catwoman’s past as a villain. It makes for a great examination of their history and relationship together as they couldn’t have had more different upbringings. Selina being from the proverbial wrong side of the tracks and forced to fend for herself from a young age. Barbara on the other hand grew up with a hero cop father in a loving environment. I do enjoy comics that examine long standing character’s relationships and between two of the best female characters in comics it makes for an interesting read.
9. Wild Ride: Year-2003
The first year of Brubaker’s run was a tough one for Selina so she decides to take her friend Holly on a road trip around the DC universe. What follows is a fun, cameo filled adventure that deviates from Brubaker’s previous, grimmer stories and has fun with the characters. Captain Cold amusingly turns up as well as HawkMan and HawkGirl. So much fun and the art from Cam Stewart, Nick Derington and Guy Davis. is great. Holly is unaware that despite the fun they are having on the road, Catwoman has an ulterior motive and is struggling to keep It from her best friend. Slam Bradley is involved…..Slam Bradley should be involved in everything. Anything with Slam Bradley gets a thumbs up from me.
8. When In Rome: Year-2004/05
When superstar creative team Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale finished their work on The Long Halloween and Dark Victory left some plot points involving Catwoman’s story with several holes, so they decided to fill those voids with this miniseries. Catwoman travels to Italy to learn more about her heritage, her mother being the priority and while she’s there she she finds a connection to the Maroni crime family. Catwoman has unfinished business with the Maroni’s and goes about trying to settle it. There is a lot of hi-octane scenes in this story which are punctuated by necessary down times where Selina has time to go shopping and walk around town. This may sound like a negative but in the hands of Loeb it ends up being really fun with witty dialogue and beautiful art as usual from Sale. There is a lot of Catwoman’s sexual side in this story with her flirting, kissing and showing her body off but it’s done in an empowering way where she’s the one in control. She has always been a character who uses her sexuality to get what she wants. It works for her and it’s entertaining watching her hold whoever she wants in the palm of her hand. Loeb and Sale rarely step a foot wrong when they are together and while this is no sweeping epic like some of their work, it is a pleasant and entertaining story that has art that is a pleasure to look at.
7. I’ll Take Manhattan: Year-1999
Set just after the awful crossover “Cataclysm” where Gotham has been hit by a devastating earthquake and Batman has decided to wander off and find himself when his city needs him most. People dying, gangs running riot but na , emo Batman needs to figure himself out and listen to Hawthorne Heights. Ridiculous stuff that led into the much better crossover “No man’s Land” where a now completely run down and cornered of Gotham is a playing ground for different factions all vying for power and territory. After returning home from a trip to Paris, Catwoman decides she needs a change of scenery and so tries to see what she can get from The Big Apple. Turns out it’s quite a lot since in no time no time she’s in a high powered job on Wall street and running for Mayor. ……This story is nuts! Maybe why I like it so much. It’s the definition of a crime caper. Devin Grayson had a fun, enjoyable take on Catwoman and I’m not going to say having a woman’s mind writing Catwoman is better because to me any good writer will get the character. It just so happens that Grayson is female but more importantly she’s a good writer and she writes a great budding kinship between our titular mischief maker and fellow con-man The Trickster which makes sense as they both share the same hobbies and possess the same skills. Fun fun fun.
6. Selina’s Big Score: Year- 2002
Darwyn Cooke who appeared on my Batman stories list as well, takes on the artwork and the storytelling for this crime adventure. Selina has returned to Gotham after a failed heist has left her broke and with her reputation in tatter. This leads her to fake her death and assemble a team of master thieves to take on a new heist that she is sure she can pull off with the right team. Will she ever learn?. A nice touch from Cooke sees Selina and her team hunted by Slam Bradley, a private detective that knows that Selina isn’t dead. Slam was one of DC comics first fan favourites, appearing in the pre-Batman days of detective comics and it’s such a cool tip of the hat to history to bring back a barely used character. I love things like that in comics. Also brought back by Cooke is Selina’s one time mentor/lover Stark who she must win over again to gain his services. Using her charm is Catwoman’s strong point so it’s nice to see that in play here. It doesn’t really need to be said but the art and paneling is superb here and unlike many modern day comics the storytelling is camp in the best way possible. It’s fun, crazy adventure that plays out like a 70s caper movie.
5. Defiant: Year-1992
Check the state of that pose. Catwoman’s first graphic novel was released in 1992 no doubt to cash in on the movie Batman Returns which was released in the same year and starred Michelle Pfeiffer as the feline fatale. Inventive writer Peter Milligan wrote the story in which Catwoman and Batman are on the hunt, trying to track down Mr Handsome and his model army. Mr Handsome is a villain who enjoys buying beautiful pieces of art and other things of beauty just so he can destroy them……..ok. Struggling to rip any information from members of the model army, Catwoman decides to use herself as bait so she and Batman can infiltrate his headquarters. Things however go wrong and Catwoman finds herself in more danger than she suspected. Milligan is a great writer of dialogue and his take on Catwoman is excellent. She’s witty, flirty and not to be trifled with whereas Batman is written completely as the straight man here. The Ernie Wise to Catwoman’s Eric Morcambe if you will. However lame the villain might be (and the twist at the end is nothing earth shattering) it’s nice to see villains like this every so often. It’s just fun, there’s no major crossover event happening where the whole of the DC universe is at risk. They need to stop a crappy villain so they go about getting the job done……fun ensues. This is complimented by wonderful sequential art from Tom Grindberg. A good time overall.
4. Heart Of Hush: Year-2008/09
I debated this one as Catwoman is incapacitated for most of the story due to an attack from Hush. Hush had been fairly nondescript since his debut in the self titled arc but boy did he make a statement here. Hush manages to capture Catwoman in an attempt to destroy what Batman loves. Using kind of on the nose but brutal symbolism, Hush literally removes Catwoman’s Heart and places it into a machine that keeps it going but it will slowly die if not replaced in time. …..Jeeeez we know you had a sad childhood Hush but settle doon!. Paul Dini wrote this five part story and quite frankly managed to create more of a character in Hush than Jeph Loeb did in his 12 issues. Not to say the Loeb arc was bad (it’s on my Batman list) but it certainly wasn’t a character study of the villain he was introducing. Although technically Catwoman isn’t the star of the show here it is still a major …..MAJOR part of her history having gone through one of the most horrendous ordeals seen in DC comics. Hush is shown to be willing to hurt more than than Batman’s friends in his quest to break him….he also performs surgery on himself to look exactly like Bruce Wayne in an attempt to usurp his life. This guy really does have a bit of an obsession doesn’t he? The ever reliable Dustin Nguyen is on the art here and it’s solid work as always from him. An essential read for those exploring major Catwoman moments.
3. The Catfile: Year-1994
I read this when I was just a wee Kinker and have a very special place in my heart for it due to me being a big nostalgic dumpling. Having said that, it’s not just nostalgia that gets it on the list (although it’s placing might be due to bias) it’s also a really fun tale and absolutely what Catwoman should be all about. A shady government agency has kidnapped Selina and are needing her for her considerable skills in order to steal a ancient relic in Europe. They stuff a cyanide capsule inside her arm and blackmail her into obeying their every word. If there is one thing she hates it’s not being in control…..especially when men are in control of her so she must find a way to beat the system. This was the beginning of Chuck Dixon’s run on the comic and in the 90s he was the master of creating interesting stories for Batman family characters outwith Batman himself. This is another one that would make for a really fun movie…..directed by John Woo……..what’s he up to these days? On the brew? Gies a call John.
2, Anodyne: Year-2002
After Catwoman’s 1st ongoing series ended, she was left in a sort of limbo, occasionally turning up in other character’s books and generally just becoming an afterthought. Enter one of my favourite writers Ed Brubaker (Daredevil, Captain America, Criminal) who was given the task of launching volume two of an ongoing series in an attempt to bring back some legitimacy to the character within the DC universe. Brubaker’s run went on to become a critical success and is largely considered to include some of the fan favourite Catwoman stories ever. It all started here when Selina had faked her own death in an attempt to leave her alter ego behind her but when local prostitutes are being murdered she is drawn back into the crazy life of the Catwoman. Darwyn Cooke pencilled this story and created a new, brilliant costume (THE GOGGLES, ZEY DO NUSSING!) which has become iconic now. A new direction and a new start for Selina as one of the best crime writers in the game takes her from the shadows and into the shining light of popularity. Great start to a superb run.
1. Only Takes A Night: Year-2004
Catwoman comes home one night to find Batman waiting for her outside. He’s delighted that rumours of her death are untrue and uncharacteristically smiles and tells her how relieved he is. Catwoman asks if they can drop the gimmicks for a night and hit the town as Bruce and Selina. Throughout the issue we see the couple at the movies, eating at a restaurant and walking together, They top the night off by sharing her bed together (more tastefully the the new 52 reboot which had them going to town like Antony Worrell Thompson at a cheese shop). This is from Brubaker’s run again and is only a single issue but what an unbelievably sweet and simple little tale of two people with so much pain in their lives just dropping everything and allowing themselves to smile. I can’t explain how weird it is seeing Bruce act so romantically and genuine. This isn’t one of his floosies he uses to keep up appearances as the billionaire playboy. This is as real as it gets, Bruce is stripped down to his soul with pain pouring out of him, allowing room for a little happiness….something the poor guy never gets. It’s so beautiful and Brubaker gets my sincerest thanks as pathetic as it sounds but a character I grew up with who gives everything for other people and no writers ever give him any joy. Brubaker forgoes action in favour of providing the tortured lovers a night free of the constant demons they usually have to fight. Elsewhere in the issue, Slam Bradley (yaaaaas!!) is meeting with his son in an attempt to mend their relationship while admitting he has feelings for Selina. There is a similar story from Doug Moench that came out in 1986 called “A Night On The Town” which was also great but I prefer Brubaker’s take on the idea. Sorry for gushing so much but a story so utterly beautiful and real just hits me hard and I am in love with this issue. So there…..
Done, done and on to the next one. Thanks to my good lady for the request and as always if you have any questions, debates or requests you can catch me @swing_kinker or the site’s twitter @BigGlasgowComic I look forward to your feedback. Cheers folks, I’ll be back soon.