Catwoman Then and Now: How Different Is She Really?

Posted by No_Name_ (12593 posts) - - Show Bio

I'm a big believer in allowing the writer, once they get an opportunity to write a character, to actually write that character. I think that once a creator takes over a book he should be able to take some creative liberties with the characters, story lines and what have you; and tell the story through his own eyes because (lets face it) everyone sees and reads characters differently.

The voice I have for Batman when I read Batman (which happens to sound a lot like Kevin Conroy) might be very different than the voice you have for Batman when you read Batman. Maybe your Batman laughs a little bit more, whereas mine doesn't laugh at all. Anyway, my point is, we all have different perceptions of what a character should sound and act like, and not all versions of a character should sound and act the same.

Different writers and artists have different perceptions of the same character, which is why when their version of said character differs from the one we envision, we (as readers) might not be so crazy about the characterizations. That's exactly the issue I think a lot of people have had with the relaunch of the CATWOMAN series by Judd Winick, for example. How much has her character changed? What has changed, and is it blatant? Subtle? Have the changes made to Catwoman been good?

== TEASER ==

A few days ago, Tony wrote an 'Off My Mind' where he discussed whether DC should have taken bigger risks with the relaunch of their comics. I don't know about you, but I think they have already made some pretty bold moves ranging from altering some of their character origins to significantly increasing the amount of violence and sexual content in their books. Particularly in CATWOMAN.

Readers have been very vocal about the changes that have been made to Catwoman's character, and while I don't necessarily think the changes have been altogether bad (the first two issues did have some redeeming qualities), her current incarnation is still incredibly different from her previous portrayals. If you were to compare Winick's current CATWOMAN to Darwyn Cooke's CATWOMAN: SELINA'S BIG SCORE (2002), for example, you'll see that while the character is still Selina Kyle, she's very different.

CATWOMAN #1

The first two issues of Winick's CATWOMAN have portrayed Selina as reckless with one goal in mind: revenge. If you've been reading the story then you already know that Selina has been hot on the heels of a Russian mobster who violently attacked and killed a friend of hers, and she has made it her mission to make him hurt. This is very different from the portrayal of Kyle in Cooke's book, CATWOMAN: SELINA'S BIG SCORE. In that series, Selina's goal was not to enact revenge on an adversary who did her wrong, but to get her hands on a huge sum of cash. In fact, robbing people has generally been Selina's primary motive over the years in most of her stories, so the fact that Winick relaunched her book with a "revenge theme" is rather interesting. Does this mean that this version of Selina will be more compassionate now then she was then?

CATWOMAN: SELINA'S BIG SCORE

Winick's Selina is seemingly reckless in her behavior, something that the character absolutely isn't in Darwyn Cooke's BIG SCORE. Cooke's Selina is more self aware, a little (ok, maybe a lot) more materialistic. She knows exactly what she wants, and she has a solid understanding that while it may not come easy, she's ready (and rather willing) to suffer the casualties to get what she wants. The above panel is pulled from Cooke's series and serves as an example of how emotionally detached Selina is. Her focus is to "get the gold," something starkly different from her goal in Winick's CATWOMAN.

In fact here, Selina seems incredibly thoughtful and cautious. She's tactful and mindful about who she brings into the fold and maintains an understanding that not everyone will get out alive. But she's also sort of okay with that. In Winick's CATWOMAN, however, Selina is far more reckless; visiting her friend's home and putting her in danger. She doesn't quite realize that her actions can have some really serious repercussions, and that her choices aren't only putting herself in danger but that she's endangering the lives of the people closest to her as well.

Romantic detachment is evident in both books. In Winick's first two issues Selina has a very close relationship with a friend of hers (who you can see in the panel above), and she is also clearly (albeit "casually") involved with Batman. In Cooke's BIG SCORE, however, Selina gathers a group of people she is completely detached from -- with the exception of "Stark," who basically taught her everything she knew. Although she says she doesn't love him (above) many of the scenes in the book contradict that statement, and the reader will likely see right through her "tough" exterior.

One thing that has been consistent with nearly all of the "New 52" titles is how much DC has upped the ante on the amount of violence in their books. In the first and second issue alone, Catwoman is seen getting beat up, beating people up, and the only friend of hers that we've met so far has been murdered. Needless to say, the creative team behind this book has been anything but subtle when it's come to the content and gratuitousness amount of violence in the current CATWOMAN series so far.

Darwyn Cooke mastered the art of subtlety in his CATWOMAN: SELINA'S BIG SCORE, and that's what made so much of that book interesting. The fact that Cooke forces the reader to use his or her imagination when it comes to reading adds something very special to the story. The panel above, taken directly from the book, is a good example of that. Yes, the scene is very violent, but Cooke captures the element of suspense and you can almost feel what the character is experiencing panel by panel.

There's no question that one of the characteristics that makes Selina stand out is this element of sexuality that she possesses. She's sexy and provocative, but it's depicted in two very distinctly different ways in both series. Winick's CATWOMAN is very much in your face, and some of the scenes are no holds barred -- it's pretty obvious what is going on. Cooke's Catwoman is very different, however. Yes, she's attractive and provocative and sexy but again, it's subtle. Cooke is all about subtlety, and he leaves a lot of the the scenes and character interactions up to the reader's imagination. It's obvious that the relationship between Selina and Stark was a romantic one at some point, and may even have been rekindled to an extent during the Cooke's BIG SCORE. While this relationship is implied through the dialogue and the characters' body language, it's still something left up to the discretion of the reader. This makes it one of those stories that you could go back and read over and over again because Cooke allows the story up to be interpreted in a variety of different ways.

Needless to say, CATWOMAN: SELINA'S BIG SCORE is a completely different from the current CATWOMAN series we have now. Not only does Cooke's Catwoman have a definitive "crime noir" feel, but it's more subtle in both the amount of violence and sexuality that the reader is exposed to. Winick's current Catwoman series is very different. His Selina seems inexperienced, reckless and the violence and sex is very prevalent in the story. On of my concerns is that the latter elements my only concern is that may overshadow the evolution of Selina's character. These stories are coming from two very different places and have two very different styles. What do you prefer as a reader? Are you enjoying DCs current CATWOMAN series, or would you prefer that the character return to more subtle, crime noir roots?

#1 Posted by MetropolisKid41 (515 posts) - - Show Bio

Interesting take on the character, don't mind it really at all except for one thing. We've been told Batman Inc is still in play in the New 52, yet she doesn't know that Bruce is Batman. THat doesn't make sense, I hope they'll clear this up here somehow relatively soon. Other than that I've enjoyed it.

#2 Posted by The Impersonator (5618 posts) - - Show Bio

Since they have decided to relaunch the DC, it's necessary to make those changes.

#3 Posted by Wattup (646 posts) - - Show Bio

I miss the last Catwoman series, which I think was Volume 3 and had like 70 or 80 issues. Some of the best stories involving the character EVER came from that run.

Meow. 8 (

#4 Posted by Mutant God (3075 posts) - - Show Bio

wonder if her kid still exists

#5 Posted by HexThis (915 posts) - - Show Bio

Well Winnick's Catwoman is still in the mindset of being a care-free thief, she hasn't explored the depth of her feelings for Batman or even Bruce Wayne the way Selina had with Cooke's incarnation so the two are really at different points in their lives. I think where Winnick is coming from is the 90's Selina Kyle which seemed heavily influenced by Batman Returns, instead of her just being the occasional villain who swoops in making purring noises there were more examples of pathos and inner-struggle which something you also see in the BTAS (Cat Walk in particular). I still love incarnations previous to that but they were far less emotional and intense (with maybe a couple minor exceptions).

I really loved Cooke's Catwoman and I really do hope that as Selina grows that her character can sort of resemble Cooke's Catwoman a little bit more but I like that right now she's just really messy and disorganized.

#6 Edited by ticklefist (29 posts) - - Show Bio

Well said, HexThis

#7 Posted by -Vigil- (380 posts) - - Show Bio

Catwoman has never changed enough for me to like her, but I may just be stubborn.

#8 Posted by Fantasgasmic (1033 posts) - - Show Bio

Maybe I haven't been keeping up with Catwoman as closely as others, but I think her new52 personality is almost the same as her old personality, just rewound to before Heart of Hush, and her knowing Bruce is Batman.

And I love her for it. Or, you know, her creative team.

Everyone knows Catwoman and Batman should and will end up together, but that would be boring. I already wrote a blog about how the Bat/Cat sex scene was in missed the mark by including that splash page, but making it on panel instead of off panel isn't a huge change to me. It's like in TV shows where your 2 main leads are obviously supposed to be together, you can't put them together in season 1, or even season 2 because as much as the audience wants to see them as a couple, there would be nowhere for them to go.

#9 Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus (6836 posts) - - Show Bio

In truth I'm the kind of person that finds merit in a different range of interpretations. Whether its the materialistic-gold digger Selina we see in Darwyn Cooke or the vengeance seeking type of Selina we see with Winnick. One way or another its different facets of a character that frankly is like an onion, with multiple layers that we constantly peel away at in order to understand more fully. So that's why I think either writer's slant we see are just as good as the other. Happens that way with any writer taking on a comic book character if you ask me I like em both, but that's just me. Its all about what one's personal taste is.

#10 Posted by Psykhophear (251 posts) - - Show Bio

The version I have for Catwoman is the Jim Balent one, with the purple catsuit and long curly hair. That to me is what defines Catwoman. Anything after that I just ignore it completely.

#11 Posted by battyfan1 (203 posts) - - Show Bio

i love her character no matter what........but i do miss the 1990s catwoman ......and i am liking winick's take on her for now.....

the relaunch is about her early years, so i don't mind the flaws, the recklessness and violence......or sex with bats....lols

#12 Posted by Danial79 (2325 posts) - - Show Bio

I'm new to Catwoman as far as comics go, but I don't see her portrayal in Winick's book as any different than in Batman Returns, or more recently, Arkham City, and I'm really liking the new series :)

#13 Posted by SirSparkington (336 posts) - - Show Bio

The Brubaker/Cooke Catwoman stuff will always be the golden standard for future Catwoman books. That being said, while I don't think Winick's stuff is completely terrible, I do think he needs to tone down and class it up a bit. The SEXY SEXY CATWOMAN stuff is overshadowing anything good in that book.

#14 Posted by BlackArmor (6138 posts) - - Show Bio

I think they were trying to emphasise her recklessness in the new series to make her seem yonger

#15 Posted by difficlus (10632 posts) - - Show Bio

@Mutant God said:

wonder if her kid still exists

she has a kid?

#16 Posted by Rise2Ragnarok (139 posts) - - Show Bio

Iv'e really enjoyed the new series so far. I was one of the people who didn't believe that the new Selina was a huge change from her older character, but to each their own. I'll be sticking with the new series myself and looking forward to the fun read every month.

#17 Posted by Mask of Tengu (208 posts) - - Show Bio

How bout we go back to the continuity... :P

#18 Posted by hellogan (54 posts) - - Show Bio

The new Catwoman series has a really good feel for me... It was one of the New 52's that made me actually waiting for the next book to come out. I've always felt that the physical violence in comics of the past has been to subtle. No matter how far your imagination can take you. It brings the characters more to life and closer to some of the more harsher reality's of the modern age. As far as the sexuality. Well, we have all known Selina to be one of the most provocative characters, subtle or not. As far as for this series I think it flows with the writing stile. However, it doesn't hurt to leave some things to the imagination.

#19 Posted by Yumulu (757 posts) - - Show Bio

Brubaker Catwoman was bold, this 52 one is just easy fan service formula, nothing to see here move along.

#20 Posted by RainEffect (3240 posts) - - Show Bio
@Fantasgasmic said:

Everyone knows Catwoman and Batman should and will end up together.

No. No. No. 
 
Catwoman is a thief, something that Batman has devoted his life to fighting. Bruce's parents were murdered by a thief, so why in the hell would he opt to spend his life with one?
 
Man, I could rant at you, but it's not really your fault if you've been brainwashed. I'll just save it for a blog.
#21 Edited by Nasar7 (157 posts) - - Show Bio

Sure current Selina is hugely different from Cooke's but maybe not so much different from her character in, say, When In Rome. Just a lot more explicit and way less implied, aided by a realistic art style. That her cartoonish oversexualization in the new series is causing this much stir really shows how puritanical our culture remains at its core. As for me, I am enjoying this book for the plot and the character insights in her relationship with Bruce, not more Selina T&A; (although I don't find anything especially distasteful about it). Still it might get tiring in the future if they continue to push this angle so hard. And for the love of God, her breasts are drawn way too huge, reaching power girl levels of ridiculousness.

#22 Posted by Wonder Princess (138 posts) - - Show Bio

I am really enjoying the new direction and look forward to seeing how this goes. Catwoman has been on of my favorite characters for years and I have loved all the different versions, admittedly some more than others. :)

#23 Edited by Eyz (3042 posts) - - Show Bio

My favorite interpretation of Catwoman still his Darwyn Cooke's. Both in the writing and the artwork :P

@Fantasgasmic said:

Maybe I haven't been keeping up with Catwoman as closely as others, but I think her new52 personality is almost the same as her old personality, just rewound to before Heart of Hush, and her knowing Bruce is Batman.

She knew of Bruce from waaay before that, back in the original HUSH storyline.

And Bruce's and Selina's interaction was so much better thanks to that.

#24 Posted by Saren (25056 posts) - - Show Bio

@RainEffect said:

@Fantasgasmic said:

Everyone knows Catwoman and Batman should and will end up together.

No. No. No.

Catwoman is a thief, something that Batman has devoted his life to fighting. Bruce's parents were murdered by a thief, so why in the hell would he opt to spend his life with one? Man, I could rant at you, but it's not really your fault if you've been brainwashed. I'll just save it for a blog.

Because spending his life with a terrorist is a better decision from the morality standpoint?

Also,

Moderator
#25 Posted by RainEffect (3240 posts) - - Show Bio
@CitizenBane said:

@RainEffect said:

@Fantasgasmic said:

Everyone knows Catwoman and Batman should and will end up together.

No. No. No.

Catwoman is a thief, something that Batman has devoted his life to fighting. Bruce's parents were murdered by a thief, so why in the hell would he opt to spend his life with one? Man, I could rant at you, but it's not really your fault if you've been brainwashed. I'll just save it for a blog.

Because spending his life with a terrorist is a better decision from the morality standpoint?

Also,

I didn't mention Talia al Ghul, monsieur! I thought about that before I went to mention her and I was like "Er ... master thief or master terrorist/assassin? Yep, better off just saying Catwoman is not Bruce's ideal woman." Also, I'm assuming the scans you provided are from Morrison's retcon? Because the Talia I know is the one who puts Damian before both Ra's AND Bruce. 
 
Besides, he's a little sod.
#26 Posted by entropy_aegis (15434 posts) - - Show Bio

@RainEffect said:

@CitizenBane said:

@RainEffect said:

@Fantasgasmic said:

Everyone knows Catwoman and Batman should and will end up together.

No. No. No.

Catwoman is a thief, something that Batman has devoted his life to fighting. Bruce's parents were murdered by a thief, so why in the hell would he opt to spend his life with one? Man, I could rant at you, but it's not really your fault if you've been brainwashed. I'll just save it for a blog.

Because spending his life with a terrorist is a better decision from the morality standpoint?

Also,

I didn't mention Talia al Ghul, monsieur! I thought about that before I went to mention her and I was like "Er ... master thief or master terrorist/assassin? Yep, better off just saying Catwoman is not Bruce's ideal woman." Also, I'm assuming the scans you provided are from Morrison's retcon? Because the Talia I know is the one who puts Damian before both Ra's AND Bruce. Besides, he's a little sod.

Morrison created Damian.

#27 Posted by squiDc00kiE (3 posts) - - Show Bio

Jeph Loeb's Catwoman has to be my favorite. Long Halloween or Hush, she seemed like a real person in those. Not a comic book character.

#28 Posted by Mayo88m (246 posts) - - Show Bio

Selina isn't out for revenge on the man who she attacked in the bathroom. She wasn't there for him at all, as a matter of fact she thought he was dead previously. She just takes the opportunity to attack him when she sees him, just to add icing to the cake. She was actually at the place to gather intel on what they were saying about the painting she had stolen. She then uses what she learned to set the two mob groups up, but once again the addition of the man is only icing on the cake for her. That's hardly her having a one track mind, or being reckless I think. If anything it shows her as a calculating individual.

#29 Edited by Mutant God (3075 posts) - - Show Bio
@difficlus: yeah she had a kid with sam bradley jr. but because criminals were going after her she decided to give it up for adoption.
#30 Posted by victoriancuckoo (228 posts) - - Show Bio

I kind of loved Catwoman #2, she's kind of loose but in a fun way, it gives a Sin City quality to Gotham as all these masked oddballs are running around town committing various degrees of crimes.

#31 Posted by Glaucus (32 posts) - - Show Bio

@RainEffect:

Just because somebody has different opinion from you doesn't mean that he/she is brainwashed.

I am also a fan of the Bruce Wayne/Batman and Selina Kyle/Catwoman relationship.

Selina Kyle/Catwoman has history of reforming and even becoming a crimefighter.

Unlike the other rogues in Batman's gallery, Catwoman is a gray type and that is what is even confusing but also attractive to Batman. It's not just her sex appeal but that she's different from all the other rogues in his gallery. Bruce Wayne/Batman sees good in Selina Kyle/Catwoman in spite of her being thief/criminal. He even told her that deep down she's a good person in Brubaker Catwoman #1. Bruce Wayne/Batman has even helped Selina Kyle/Catwoman stay hidden and move on with her new life. Because of him, Leslie became Selina's doctor and friend. It was because of Leslie's friendship, Selina was with Bruce at the opera in the Hush series.

A big part of Catwoman's being very sexy is that she's very intelligent. Even Judd Winick said that. eing sexy is not necessarily about big boobs and sleeping around. Sexy can be about having a great mind and communicating in a way that entices other minds.

I just believe that Selina is a person who sees shades of gray and is ambiguous. This is what makes her highly complex.

Deep down, she's a good person but makes mistakes. She definitely has her flaws just like everybody else does. Definitely Batman saw that she was a good person. He even found her confusing. He even asked her how she can disregard societal laws but yet casually risk her life to save others. This was in the issue where Joker revealed why he made Catwoman a killing magnet which including him saying that Batman and Catwoman are made for each other and that there is true love between them. Catwoman's gray approach to life challenged Batman's black and white perception of the world. She wasn't evil nor was she insane. This led to him not even really attempting hard to arrest her and turn her over to the police. He even helped Selina stay hidden after she was believed to be dead. He didn't want her to be killed nor arrested. Selina even asked him why did he help her, and he responded that she is a good person deep down inside and wanted her to see that. Of course, there was a strong connection between them. There was a strong mutual attraction between them that they tried to fight. Catwoman covered it up through her flirting and teasing. Batman covered it up through his discipline and reserve and his sense of duty. It was only until Catwoman reformed that Batman allowed himself to get close to Catwoman.

Selina is a very strong,independent woman, and she doesn't want to be dependent on anybody. She's been dependent on people before, and it led to some bad things. She definitely doesn't want to be controlled by others in any way. She definitely doesn't want to answer to any man. I actually see her as feminist type that has a disregard for the patriarchy because she doesn't trust it. There is corruption among the police and the wealthy.

#32 Posted by Glaucus (32 posts) - - Show Bio

I really like this article written about Catwoman:

CREATED IN 1940 as a love interest for Batman, Selina Kyle originally debuted alongside the Joker in Batman issue #1 as the Cat. "She was a kind of female Batman, except that she was a villainess and Batman was a hero" (Kane 107). Inspired by screen temptress Jean Harlow, Selina was a glamorous, ball gown-wearing cat burglar. A former heiress suffering from amnesia, she was a sympathetic criminal who "was never a murderer or entirely evil like the Joker....she was put into the strip for both the boys and the girls, as a female counterpart to Batman" (Kane 107, 108). Designed for females to relate to and males to lust after, the Catwoman filled a void in Gotham City and quickly became a recurring character.

Like Batman, the Catwoman operated outside the law within her own code of morality. She predated the creation of Alfred, the Penguin, and even famous heroines like Wonder Woman, Miss Fury, and Black Cat (Robbins). Catwoman broke the glass ceiling of the comic industry and raised the bar for future female characters. From their first battle in Batman #1, the caped crusader has uniquely allowed her to escape (Boichel 9). Selina Kyle became a foil to Batman, a reflection of his own dark desires and need for healing, as well a Jungian anima to his animus. Catwoman resembled "the shady ladies of Will Eisner's comic strip The Spirit , who harbor soft spots in their hearts for the hero and are never really bad" (Robbins 34).

NO MATTER WHAT origin is used to explain her criminal motives, there are characteristics present in each Catwoman incarnation. Roberta Pearson and William Uricchio's in-depth analysis of the fluctuating Batman mystique explores the ability of our folk heroes to shift identities. Together they explore on Jim Collins definition of "superheroes as an assemblage of intertextual representations rather than a set definition" (Collins 180). Pearson and Uricchio conclude that as long as the four traits of Batman myth remain consistent, multiple writers may expand the character how they choose (Pearson, Uricchio 186). They refer to this floating signifier phenomena as character elasticity. Likewise, I posit that Catwoman must have nine traits to be recognizable to her fans:

1. cat motif

2. physical prowess

3. whip

4. independent nature

5. dangerous sexuality

6. cunning intellect

7. refusal to kill

8. attraction to Batman

9. cannot be caught, tamed, or killed

As long as these traits remain present, the dozens of writers contributing to Selina's stories over the last sixty years have expanded her mythology like a rubber band. Character elasticity is unique and essential component of aggregate narratives. Because the many Batmedia have different authors, "they appeal to disparate but often overlapping audiences by presenting different incarnations of the superhero simultaneously" (Collins 180). Thus fans will accept multiple visions of Catwoman. This point is crucial, because fans are the ultimate character authority, the judge and jury that has killed many a comic myth.

There are several extraordinary elements to the Catwoman myth that defy the sexist stereotypes found in most of modern media. Unlike token females who must be represented as perfect, Selina is not virtuous, gentle, or whitewashed by a lack of human frailties. Selina Kyle is always portrayed as a very complicated woman, full of conflicting emotions and desires, and not afraid to change her mind. She admits when she is wrong but does not accept patriarchal punishments. Rather, she operates under a self-regulated morality kept in delicate check by her own will. Though operating outside the laws of gender and society, she is never punished for her transgressions.

Indeed, she is almost impossible for the law to catch, and always escapes. This is unheard of in fiction, where even feminist authors like Kate Chopin and Margaret Atwood unilaterally kill the female heroine who can not be reprocessed back into society. Instead Selina is championed as a female trickster, an insouciant who laughs at society's rules and wins (Landay 206). This unpunished insolence might not be so astonishing if the behavior was confined to the underground world of comics. But this phenomenon continues in every Batmedia form. The last image of Batman Returns is of Catwoman eclipsing the Batsignal in triumph, free to roam Gotham once more. Catwoman is the first highly visible female character in modern media to escape the wrath of patriarchy.

http://www.aboutcatwoman.com/cat2.html

#33 Posted by iLLituracy (13494 posts) - - Show Bio

I like how this topic became about Batman. :3

#34 Posted by DarthShap (875 posts) - - Show Bio

I think the main difference is that Cooke, Brubaker and Dini are great and classy writers. Judd Winick...not so much.

#35 Posted by kerfvalerio (11 posts) - - Show Bio

Wow. This is very informative. I doubt Wikipedia has this info. Thanks! I'm kinda new to comic books and wanted to know more about the batman series.

#36 Posted by ticklefist (29 posts) - - Show Bio

@SirSparkington: I think the Brubaker/Cooke stuff is the gold standard for Catwoman for people that don't normally like Catwoman.

#37 Edited by Glaucus (32 posts) - - Show Bio

I like all versions of Catwoman.

I thought there were some touching stories of her in the Silver Age.

#38 Posted by chipsnopotatoes (330 posts) - - Show Bio

@ticklefist said:

@SirSparkington: I think the Brubaker/Cooke stuff is the gold standard for Catwoman for people that don't normally like Catwoman.

Good insight. Noticed that too.

#39 Posted by chipsnopotatoes (330 posts) - - Show Bio

@Glaucus: @Glaucus said:

I like all versions of Catwoman.

I thought there were some touching stories of her in the Silver Age.

I liked her pre-Crisis stories too.

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