The Real Catwoman Disappears from DC Comics
Taste and attraction are by their very basis a matter of perspective. Catwoman is one of my favorite women from the DC Universe. A lot of people who really don't understand Catwoman are under the impression that she's strong and popular becasue she's so sexual. I say, I find her sexy because she's strong. That's maybe a case of over-sharing about what I like to see in a woman. A detail that draws me to her is her confidence, and she has no problem being the aggressor in a relationship. She's always been cool in the same way Batman is. She used to be a self-actualized woman who trained and made herself special. She doesn't need powers in a universe filled with them.
The grand DC Comics reboot has given us a new Catwoman who has been stripped of her inner strength in the way she's often denied a working zipper on her catsuit. While we were all confused by her recent behavior since CATWOMAN #1. I think people were open to see what new origin she'd be given one year after the universe was set back to step one. What we were given by writer Ann Nocenti was an erratic and sloppy rehash of Tim Burton's BATMAN RETURNS. I also feel it's worth mentioning that this is also the origin used in the Catwoman porn parody, KATWOMAN XXX. (I only know that becasue I watched the trailer.)
I think her origin was well told in BATMAN: YEAR ONE. A lot of readers were offended by the idea that Selina had ever worked as a prostitute as part of her origin. It didn't bother me. Gotham is a dark and corrupt city, and she didn't have the advantages that came with Bruce's station in life. That doesn't mean she was weak or taken advantage of in any way she didn't allow. Stan, the pimp, couldn't control her, and the most important part is that she chose to leave that life. She was the one in control of her destiny. The same way Batman chose to follow his path. This will be her origin to me.
BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY did an impressive job of delving into Selina's motivations. While I thought the dialog got a bit cheesy for her at times. The interview tapes of her psychological sessions with Dr. Strange revealed they really put some thought into her personality and history. Just to give you an idea of how much I've played this game. On one of Catwoman's combat challenge maps I ranked 183rd on the PSN leader boards, and I wasn't even trying to get on the boards. I was just playing around.
We should have seen the trouble on the horizon when we saw the first cover for CATWOMAN #0. The New 52 Selina wasn't in control of anything in her life. She was manipulated and abused by everyone. Her confidence doesn't come from her choices or experience. It came from being licked by magical cats in an alley way. Selina doesn't need such an overly complicated origin or special powers. Why can't people just be content with her being a human cat burglar? Something I always have to roll my eyes at in reboots is that so many writers get this idea in their head a more complicated origin means it's more interesting. If you aren't thinking of a character's motivations you're just going to make a jumbled mess, and that's what we now have. Yet we're expected to accept this as canon. Nocenti is now implying that Selina Kyle isn't even her real name.
It shows you that just becasue you put a woman writer onto a heroine comic it doesn't mean a thing if she has no understanding of who the character is. It's a sad thing in an industry when talented female creators work so hard to prove themselves. You can even see this behavior in artists. Hands down, the artist that understands Selina best is Adam Hughes. He knows it isn't about how much flesh you expose. It's all in her personality. I'd love to hear his thoughts on this new origin.
It can be amazing the kind of insight you can get when you go back and read the words of a writer before you see the outcome of what they've created. I would very much suggest that everyone go back and check some of Sara's interview with Ann Nocenti in the article "The Problem With CATWOMAN".
" She has an origin issue coming out, we're going to remind readers of why she ticks the way she ticks…so that when that comes back into play…I think I will probably deal a certain amount with what drives her to want the most glittery things she can find. What is the compulsion to be a master thief? Especially because sometimes she just clearly does it for kicks. It's not like those noir robbers that do it because they want he cash. With her it's got more to do with some inner turmoil -- she will never be happy no matter how many jewels she gets. "
- Ann Nocenti (July 2012)
Reading this and what came out of Nocenti's CATWOMAN #0 reveals what she had planned for Selina. Rather than a fun loving, adventure junkie. The New 52 Selina was changed into a schizophrenic kleptomaniac who holds jewels with the same fixation that Smeagol clutches the One Ring. I'm expecting Nocenti to put Selina in heat some time by the end of her run....if the series lasts that long.
A scene that caught my eye that exposes Nocenti's complete lack of understanding of Selina was when she's invited to a club and tries to sell herself as a pre-med student, but the handsome, young journalist calls her out on her lie saying that no doctor would have such dirty hands. In this scene, she then runs off crying. The Selina that I know wouldn't run off in tears like some heartbroken, high school girl. This is what I think the real Selina would have done to someone who had embarrassed her so publicly:
Selina would have been angry but kept her cool. With a coy smile and a chuckle, she would admit that she was busted. She would turn flirtatious then slowly and seductively slipping her fingers between his as she says, " I may not be pre-med, but I do have a fair bit of experience with 'anatomy'... I might even be able to teach you a few things.". Just as this journalist is getting his hopes up that he's going to get lucky he replies, "Oh, what could you teach me?". Leaning in, Selina tightening her grip and whispers seductively, " For example,... It only takes five pounds of pressure to break a man's wrist.". As he's off guard by such an odd statement, Selina swiftly twists her hand and breaks the man's wrist and three of his fingers in the process. She turns to walk away as he's screaming in pain on the floor, and everyone in the club is standing around confused. She says coldly, "Good luck dealing of your editorial load with a broken hand, jerk.". She storms out of the club angry at herself -- not crying -- for being so easily revealed for such a stupid mistake and swears to get better. However, she suddenly stops and gets more angry at herself for having not thought to lifted his wallet before she left him back there.
That's how I see the real Selina reacting.
One of the most blatantly offensive scenes in Nocenti's version of CATWOMAN has to be in the internal dialog Selina has while she thinks she's falling to her death, She seems happy to die. Happy that she's at least worth enough to someone to murder. That's beyond low self esteem. That's clinical depression.
The thing that has me worried is that it's this kind of aimless writing that got the VOODOO comic canceled. Sadly, that might be what we really need for her now. Cancel this abomination, then get a writer to restart and wipe this embarrassment away the same way they did for the whole "baby" issue. DC called CATWOMAN #0 "The secret origin of Selina Kyle!". I'm pretty sure many of us had wished this origin had remained a secret.