Updated on December 10, 2021
This week’s minorities in cartoons entry is Catwoman (real name: Selina Kyle), the famous Batman villain. Selina first appeared in “Batman” (vol. 1) #1 (Spring 1940), and was created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane.
Catwoman’s origins have changed a lot over the years, especially in recent times (with Batman stories’ darker emphasis). Wikipedia summarizes the major versions.
In pretty much all versions, Selina’s noted for her cat burglar behavior and formidable fighting skills. Selina’s most prominent/associated weapon is a cat o’ nine tails whip. Said skills and intelligence make her a match for her main adversary, and occasional romantic interest, Batman.
Golden and Silver Ages
Catwoman reformed in January 1950’s “Batman” #62. She helped out Batman in a few subsequent stories, but turned to crime again in January 1954’s “Detective Comics” #203. After September 1954’s “Detective” #211, Selina vanished from comics for 12 years, not appearing again until “Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane” #70 in 1966. Some online claim the Comics Code’s implementation in the mid-50s might’ve been a reason for Selina’s long absence.
In the 1970s, it’s shown the Earth-2 Selina stayed reformed after “Batman” #62, and eventually married Batman. The couple had one daughter, the Huntress (Helena Wayne). Since Earth-2’s Selina never returned to crime, “Detective” #203 is the Earth-1 Catwoman’s first appearance. And no, the Earth-1/Silver Age Selina never really had her own unique origin story or back story. Presumably, Silver and Bronze Age flashbacks to/reprints of the Golden Age stories above were of the (extremely similar) Earth-1 versions of those events.
With 1987’s “Batman: Year One,” Selina gained a new origin story. Subsequent retellings of Selina’s childhood show she grew up with distant/neglectful parents, who both died during her childhood. Selina spent the remainder of her childhood and teen years growing up in various homes or on the streets, picking up her criminal skills. Miller’s “Year One,” keeping with the adult-oriented tone of modern Batman books, states as an adult, Selina was a sex worker before launching her Catwoman career. However, this aspect seems downplayed or dropped in later versions, as far as I can tell.
In 1993, Catwoman gained her first ongoing solo comic. Stories since the Bronze Age had started to present Selina as an anti-hero rather than an outright villain. However, her own ongoing series has likely cemented such as the take that’s stuck to this day. As such, Selina’s often hired to perform various missions or heists (both for heroes and villains). She also sometimes gets mixed up with, and helps, the extended Batman family.
In April 2015, “Catwoman” (vol. 4) #39 revealed that Selina’s bisexual. This garnered plenty of press, given Catwoman’s one of American comics’ most famous characters.
Catwoman’s appeared in most Batman media spin-offs since the 1960s. Selina’s pet Siamese cat, Isis (from “Batman: The Animated Series”), was seen in the mid-2000s “Krypto the Superdog” TV series as an enemy of Ace the Bat-Hound.
Among the more prominent actress to play Catwoman are Eartha Kitt (in the 1960s live-action TV series) and Halle Berry (in 2004’s “Catwoman” film). The “Catwoman” film is less-than-beloved, to put it mildly. Besides bearing zero resemblance to any other version of Selina, the film has a 9% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Meanwhile, Kitt’s Catwoman is still occasionally referenced; she appeared in recent “Batman ’66” comics (based on the TV show).