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BAT-MAN'S GIRLFRIEND: THE CATWOMAN

By Tom Mason

The Joker's success opened the floodgates for the creation of a almost endless Rogue's Gallery of villains to fight Batman. Most of them eventually were declared criminally insane. This made it easy to store them away in Gotham's Arkham Asylum, a place where they would never be put to death for their crimes, and also be able to escape with ease when needed for a new storyline in the many Batman adventures.

The CatOne of the most famous of the Batman foes was and is, Catwoman. Batman #1 (Spring 1940) saw the first appearance of a young woman known only as The Cat. Even though she wore no special costume as yet, Batman was so taken by her that after her stolen loot was recovered, he let her get away! She started out as a cat-burglar out for the money and was a departure from Batman's usually insane foes. She was conceived as a high class cat-burglar. Her real name was Selena Kyle. Here again we had yet another character inspired by the movies Kane remembered. Jean Harlow had impressed Kane in his youth. Kane's memory had retained Harlow's image as the personification of feminine pulchritude and sensuality.  Later, when he was thinking of creating Catwoman, he had Harlow's image in mind but changed Catwoman to a brunette because e thought that dark hair would be more slinky and feline than a blonde. Once again, Catwoman was a collaboration between Finger and Kane. They both felt that Batman needed a semi-romantic interest in his life, giving the strip some needed sex appeal.  Catwoman emerged as a somewhat friendly foe, a cat-burglar who committed crimes but also was a romantic interest in Batman's rather sterile life. She was somewhat similar to Batman but different in the fact that she was a was on the opposite side of the law compared to Batman. The two of them played a kind of cat and mouse game between each other.  She was never a murderer or an entirely evil person like the Joker. Batman was eternally trying to reform her and bring her over to the side of law and order. Kane made her association with cats a counterpoint to Bruce Wayne's fixation with the symbol of the bat. He made her a Cat-woman, and her fickleness and capriciousness served to illustrate Kane's chauvinistic opinion of women which he admitted to.  Many years later, the Batman legend admitted to a sexual relationship between the two that resulted in the birth of a daughter who would grow up to become the Huntress, a member of "The Birds of Prey," which would spawn their own comic
magazine as well as a short live-action television series.

Julie Newmar as Catwoman from BATMAN (season one)

In the sixties camp TV series, Catwoman was personified by the seductive Julie Newmar in a costume that appeared painted on. She was an immediate hit in the role. A feature film was made during the hiatus between the first and second season. Newmar who was unavailable to play the film roll, the producers then went to Lee Meriwether. She made an attractive Catwoman and fitted the costume well, but she did not have that sexual tension that Newmar was able to bring to the character. As the second and third seasons of Batman plodded along Julie Newmar was again absent, she was ultimately replaced by Eartha Kitt.

Eartha Kitt Lee Meriwether

Catwoman #1Today in comics Catwoman alternates between a high class thief, and a dark heroine.  Her costume has changed many times and at one point in her career she seems to have visited a plastic surgeon (depending on the artist) and had breast augmentation that left her with new bullet-boobs jutting out of a skintight costume.

With the success of Tim Burton's 1989 big budget feature film Batman, Burton introduced Catwoman in the sequel Batman Returns. In it, Michelle Pfeiffer played Selina Kyle, the film gave her a new origin. Nearly killed by her boss Max Schrek, she is rescued and revived by alley cats and is out for revenge. She sews together a skin tight outfit and becomes the Catwoman.  Her meetings with Batman fan the fire between them and they play a bat and cat game between them.  

Michelle Pfeiffer from the film Batman Returns

At the end of the film, it is thought she is dead, but is she?  It seems that plans for a solo Catwoman film were on course only to be derailed at the last minute. But with the success of super-heroes in films of late, there is talk of the film once again being on the front burner with many names being mentioned for the part. Ashley Judd was just one of them. *The Catwoman film is currently in production featuring Halle Berry as Patience Prentiss an all new unrelated to the Batman universe. 

Two incarnations of Catwoman from Batman the animated series.

In the early 90's, Warner Brothers television animated series Batman The Animated Series, she is much more feline and slender with a Cheshire cat grin and was originally voiced by actress Adrienne Barbeau. In the animated series she has become an animal activist of sorts, as well as returning to her roots as cat burglar. When confronted with fighting the bad guys, she often chooses to join with Batman to bring them to justice.  At one time Warner
Bros considered an animated series spin-off for Catwoman, but that idea never got pasted the few preliminary sketches done by series creator Bruce Timm.

Today, Catwoman still is continuing in her own comic series from DC, and often guest-stars in the many Batman publications, attesting to her perennial popularity.

By Tom 'The Crimson Collector' Mason

 
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