This week’s minorities in cartoons entry is Catman, a minor Batman villain. Catman’s real name is Thomas Blake.
Blake first appeared in “Detective Comics” #311 (January 1963). Catman was created by writer Bill Finger and artist Jim Mooney.
Blake’s backstory states he was a big game hunter (of big cats) who’d grown bored of both hunting and his wealthy lifestyle (said wealth also having dwindled). Deciding he needed a new challenge, Blake turned to crime, which saw him become “Catman.” Aping Batman’s style, Catman had his own utility belt, razor-edged boomerangs (“catarangs”), and a pair of steel claw-tipped gloves. Blake claimed his costume, made of an ancient African cloth, gave him healing powers or “nine lives.”
Needless to say, Catman proved to be a failure as a criminal. He was repeatedly defeated by Batman, and in later years, Green Arrow as well. By the 90s, Blake was regarded by the heroes and villains as a washed-up, out-of-shape, third-rate threat.
Blake retooled himself into a more formidable figure, starting in 2005’s “Villains United” miniseries. Blake spent time living among an African pride of lions and getting back in shape. Catman eventually became an antihero, and joined the villain-dominated version of the team the Secret Six.
Blake was revealed as bisexual during writer Gail Simone’s run on various DC books in the 2000s and 2010s. While mostly inferred by Simone, the New 52 revamp of “Secret Six” fully confirmed such.
Catman’s appeared in a few Batman animated TV series and video games. The name “Catman” has also been used for a few unrelated-to-Blake characters.
In “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” (and its spinoff video game), Catman made several appearances. Thomas F. Wilson (Biff Tannen of “Back to the Future” fame) voiced Blake.
Catman appeared as a cult leader in “The New Batman Adventures.” Scott Cleverdon voiced Blake.