Saturday, July 05, 2008

Critically acclaimed comic books, critically received feature films, and now an appearance in in the upcoming video game crossover - Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe. Catwoman really does have nine lives!

Having made her first appearance in 1940's Batman #1; it's easy to forget that this thoroughly modern woman, Selina Kyle, is actually one of the enduring properties of DC's Golden Age of comics!

Catwoman has danced a line between villainness and anti-heroine, earning her the attentions of comics master artist, Darwyn Cooke, whose 2001 revamp of the character launched Catwoman back into respected realms recognised by fans and critics alike!

Catwoman's successes, however, date much farther back! A trio of beauties personified one version of the role in the 1960's camp-laden Batman television series. Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt, and Lee Meriwether defined the black catsuit for an entire generation, but come the nineties, it would be Michelle Pfeiffer who would renew Selina Kyle's edge in Tim Burton's 1992 Bat-sequel, Batman Returns.
So successful was Catwoman's return to the screen that a spin-off film was quickly formulated, ultimately emerging as the reviled 2004 flop, which starred X-Men actress, Halle Berry.
While this completely removed version of the character is said to have been a major contributor in undermining the successes of female feature vehicles, Catwoman has endured on and off the page!

Rumors of Selina Kyle's inevitable emergence in the Christopher Nolan franchise bubble as that series continues to distance the brand from previous incarnations. Angelina Jolie marks but one of the many names bandied about as a potential (and more accurate) version of this femme fatale whose importance as an icon of popular culture rivals Wonder Woman!

Marvel versus DC #3 (April 1996)
"Showdown of the Century!" Marz/Castellini

In the wake of Batman Returns it was a logical succession to see the success of Burton's reimagining prompt renewed interest in the comics verison of Catwoman. 1993 saw the unlikely launch of a series dedicated to the villainess whose moral code as an international thief was vague, at best. It was arguably this era that laid the crucial groundwork for the contemporary revival of the character as a more overtly heroic presence in the East End of Gotham City.

Despite the positives that spun-out of the era, the nineties has a lot to answer for. The underlying feminist empowerment of Selina Kyle may have been outwardly undermined by Jim Balent's designs built around globular breasts and a purple catsuit. When it came time to cross DC's properties over with the Marvel Universe, Catwoman was petrified in her meeting with Elektra, reflecting visual and character directions.

Solo #1 (December 2004)
"Date Knight" Cooke/Sale

The relationship between Catwoman and Batman is classic by design, but still exceptionally unique. Underlying romantic and sexual tensions between the two served as much of the tension in Catwoman's 1992 big screen debut in Batman Returns.

By the original definition of 'pre-Crisis'; Catwoman and Batman became openly romantic, eventually siring the Silver Age Huntress, Helena Wayne. It was, however, less than a decade before the 1985 crossover erased that piece of history from the canon. Their romance was rekindled, however, under the influential eyes of Ed Brubaker and Jeph Loeb, who successfully embroiled their complex affair in the intrigue of surrounding storylines and supporting characters.

This issue of Solo features a Darwyn Cooke script playing with the strong and contrasting characteristics of the two.

Catwoman: When in Rome #4 (March 2005)
"Thursday" Loeb/Sale

Flash forward a decade and Catwoman is renewed as a major property in comics and as a presence in the Batman universe. The development of the nineties continued into the new decade of Catwoman!

Jeph Loeb, one-half of the team behind The Long Halloween, proved capable of extending his influence to Batman's rival by creating a gravity that saw exploration of Catwoman's history; her relationship (including a canonized romance) with Batman; and new rivalries with other established elements in the DC Universe.

Spinning out of Long Halloween and Dark Victory; Loeb and Sale take Catwoman to Italy where she made her first acquaintance with the iconic Wonder Woman villain, Cheetah! This rivalry would eventually lead to a controversial reprisal in 2008, but precedent began here!

Catwoman #63 (March 2007)
"Paperweight" Pfeifer/López

Following in the footsteps of Darwyn Cooke and Ed Brubaker is no mean feat, but Will Pfeifer proved capable of furthering the development of Catwoman's corner of the DC Universe, while also redefining it under his own terms.

With Pfeifer Catwoman became editorially linked with the rest of the DCU in a way she had not under the previous guard. Though initially jarring, it is arguably the culmination of the investment put back into a character that deserves a place among the pantheon of heroes.

Under Pfeifer; Catwoman's moral ambiguity and relationship with the villain community has been explored to some of the greatest depths, as seen here as she negotiates a test before working with Lex Luthor and the Calculator!

Catwoman #78 (June 2008)
"The Long Road Home" Pfeifer/López

And here it is: the cover that made headlines!
Inside; Catwoman finds herself stranded on a distant planet with some of the most murderous and criminal scum of the DCU! The situation makes for strange bedfellows as Catwoman finds herself forced to use her guile and wits to form an alliance with her arch-rivals, the Soviety super-soldiers, Hammer and Sickle!

The alliance does little to protect Catwoman from other rivals ready to take advantage of the duplicitous role Catwoman serves on the planet of villains. Thus, it's a cat-fight royale as Selina ties up with Cheetah, as pictured on the Adam Hughes cover! I'm not inclined to deny Hughes' dubious history of pin-ups, but if you ask me, the only concern here is that the interiors couldn't match that ferocity! Mreow!

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