Joanne Tumolo was one of the heirs of her family's munition business. She wanted no part of the business, or the traditional female role her family expected her to play.
In an as-yet-unwritten story, she became one of the Cat People. If it foreshadowed her disciple's transformation into Tigra, at a young age Joanne participated in a ritual that involved an injection and the summoning of a cat spirit with a mystic incantation. Once bonded, the resulting were-cat possessed a human intelligence and a cat's fur coat, claws, strength, speed, agility, and heightened senses. Unlike others who had participated in similar rituals, Joanne rejected the Cat People and repudiated her dual existence.
Joanne labored for years to give humans the powers of the Cat People through artificial means. In particular, as she made her way through college and became a physics professor, she sought to overcome the disadvantages placed in the way of her fellow women. Her efforts culminated in a series of conditioning treatments designed to allow any woman to totally fulfill their physical and mental potential.
However, due to lack of funds for her private experiment, she had to turn to a sponsor, Malcolm Donalbain. She thought it odd that the eccentric little man wanted to fund her, but attributed it to his fanaticism on physical fitness. The doctor's agreement came back to haunt her when Donalbain insisted that she accept his protogee, Shirlee Bryant, as their first test subject. Dr. Tumolo had planned for her lab assistant, Greer Nelson, to be the experiment's first subject. Greer persuaded her to continue by offering to undergo the treatments, in secret, alongside Shirlee.
Both women emerged from the series of treatments with superhuman physical and mental abilities, beyond Greer and the doctor's expectations. However, Donalbain misused Shirlee, turning her into a costumed villainess. Dr. Tumolo, who had gone to Donalbain's headquarters to call off the experiment before it had dangerous consequences, witnessed Shirlee's death in a fall and took one of the dozens of Cat uniforms as evidence for the police. Donalbain's henchmen exploded the doctor's lab, critically injuring her. Greer took the uniform and, possessed by a cold rage, used it to put an end to Donalbain and his plans.
The next day, Greer found that Dr. Tumolo had been taken to a local hospital and was surprised to be introduced to her nephew, Arthur Tumolo. The doctor's attorney, Ben Richards, informed Greer that the doctor had cut herself off from her family and her inheritance. Arthur arranged for his aunt to be discharged, but a suspicious Greer followed the ambulance to the warehouse district and, once again donning the Cat uniform, discovered he was a stooge named Broussard. He worked for a criminal genius nicknamed the Owl, who had relocated from New York City to Chicago in his attempt to gather the minds of scientists and business leaders in a machine. Leland Owlsley wanted to use the gathered minds to take control of the financial markets. While the Cat fought the Owl, Broussard took advantage of the distraction to take control of the gathered minds for himself. They were too strong for him, reducing him to catatonia. The Owl fled, but the damage was done. Dr. Tumolo's mind had disappeared into his machine.
Greer continued her adventures as the Cat while paying for round-the-clock nourishing care for her comatose mentor. One day, as she returned home, she interrupted an attempt by some Hydra agents to kidnap the doctor. She was surprised to see Dr. Tumolo rouse herself, but almost immediately after was shot with an "alpha radiation" pistol. The kidnappers fled, but Greer was mortally wounded. Dr. Tumolo told Greer that she could save her, but she would become one of the Cat People. She told Greer that the Cat People were a feline race of humanoids that had evolved, in secret, in parallel with humans, and that the doctor herself was one of them. This was untrue. The original Cat People were two ordinary house cats who were magically transformed into humanoids by a sorcerer named Ebrok. His fellow sorcerers followed his example, creating Cat People for their servants. They created too many, and had to suppress the ensuing rebellion of their servants by exiling them to another dimension, one the Cat People call the "Land Within." Only Ebrok's two Cat People escaped, by using magic amulets to give themselves the appearance of humans. The sorcerers kept one of the Cat People at their bidding, termed the Balkatar. The Balkatar was the only one who could travel between the two dimensions. When the sorcerers learned of the two escapees, Flavius and Helene attempted to use Ebrok's spell to create more Cat People but found the spell was blocked. Reasoning that if they couldn't turn cats into people, they could turn people into cats, they transformed a village girl into Tigra. Their fierce warrior woman defeated the sorcerers and, when Flavius and Helene summoned the Balkatar, mated to begin the second race of Cat People. Ever since, they had lived in secret amongst mankind.
Greer agreed, and was transformed into a second Tigra in a cave in Baja California. She enjoyed her new form so much that she abandoned her previous two identities. Dr. Tumolo attempted to counsel her, but Greer grew estranged from her old friend as she learned how often she had been misled. The doctor sacrificed herself, by projecting her astral self to warn Greer, to stop Tabur, a cat artificially evolved into a humanoid by the High Evolutionary. The effort succeeded, but at the cost of the doctor's life.