The New Catwoman
This week in EW: Our giant summer movie preview, featuring The Dark Knight Rises.
DOES THIS MEAN WE HAVE TO START FIGHTING?
Incidentally, child-me didn’t understand that she meant “fighting” as in arguments between romantic partners (you know, witty joke!). Child-me was like BATMAN AND CATWOMAN ARE GOING TO RUMBLE! SCRATCH OUT HIS EYESSSSS! How time sorts things.
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Were it 1992 and I saw this, my incessant hemming and hawing to my mother about how someone should probably get me the Catwoman action figure right now please don’t you think, Mom?!?!?!?!?! would start now. Older and wiser, I’ll instead spend a bit of time belly-aching about how yikes I hope they clean up that sculpt before going into final production. But then, obvo, I’ll be totally obsessed until I am in possession of all of the Catwoman tie-in merch.
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Will Siouxsie and the Banshees be on the soundtrack for this one, too?
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After the first official photo of Anne Hathaway in costume as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises spread across the internet this morning, we all had a lot of opinions! My initial reaction was to go cold and spit poison, but a little bit of thought on the matter cooled me down.
All arguments that she’ll probably have a much more cat-like costume elsewhere in the film aside, Catwoman is actually the character Nolan has the most visual license with. In the 71(!) years since she debuted in Batman #1, Selina Kyle has been visually reimagined more than any of the Caped Crusader’s other iconic rogues. While some looks have lasted longer than others (and an even smaller number becoming zeitgeist), there are certain expectations for how Catwoman should look. No matter what Nolan gives us, though, he’ll merely be taking part in a long tradition of giving the Feline Fatale a glossy new coat. So: A History.
From Batman #1 in 1940. For this caper, she was known only as “The Cat” (the Selina Kyle identity was yet to be established). A glamorous jewel thief, she spent most of the story disguised as an elderly woman, but her sexy legs gave her away to Batman, leading up to this iconic reveal.
For her next few appearances (also 1940s) she took the cat persona to a literal level with these get-ups. The caption in the first frame says it all.
The 1950s brought us what became Catwoman’s first iconic look, which she wore until DC had to wipe her from the canvas under the newly established Comics Code (ladies behaving badly were a big no-no!) During this time, we learned all about Selina Kyle’s past as an amnesiac flight attendant who turned to crime when she couldn’t remember her past. She retired for a bit (after being cured), but didn’t follow the straight-and-narrow for long. Also, somewhere along the line, she copped to the fact that she made up the amnesia story. But who knows what Earth all of that took place on. Anyway! As far as I’m concerned, this is the Catwoman costume. Not that it’s necessarily the best of the bunch, mind you. But when someone whispers that sweet name into my ear, this is the incarnation I envision. It eventually made its other-media debut in 2008 on Batman: The Brave and the Bold, which made me very happy.
Let out of the kennel at last in 1966, Catwoman briefly wore a version of that 1950s costume, only with pants. Here she is bedeviling Lois Lane (in that lady’s eponymous comic).
1966 also saw the debut of ABC-TV’s Batman, which was a high-camp adventure in slipping innuendos past the censors. (Also, did you know that the iconic “Pow”, &c. animations served the very utilitarian purpose of disguising how much the cheaply-made sets shook during fight sequences?) Julie Newmar was the first to don this sexed-out style, but Lee Meriwether and Eartha Kitt quickly followed. This, I would posit, is Zeitgeist Look #2, and it is excellent. (Not seen here is the domino mask she sported outside of her lair.)
The costume from the TV show was quickly… erm… adapted for the comics. Why green? I don’t know! Lots and lots of people tell us that this color was “typical” of costumed villains during that decade, but whatever.
Here she is in an animated iteration of that costume, from The Batman/Superman Hour. Next!
Oh, god, never mind, no, not next! This is from The New Adventures of Batman and, honestly, just be glad that this isn’t what Hathaway is going to look like in the movie. Yikes!
New for the 1970s: this Catwoman-a-go-go discocat classic, which, okay. This is the first time a tail was a part of her ensemble, which I’ve always considered the most impractical of design features. If you spend time running from the law, maybe don’t have something dangling from your back end that is easy to grab. Also of note are her quite literal cat-eyes. Improbably, The Brave the Bold put Catwoman in this costume for a recent episode. It looks much better here.
The long-running look from the ’50s returned for the 1980s, with different boots and an additional high-slit up the front. It was a welcome return, but this graphic pretty well illustrates how impractical leaping from rooftop to rooftop is in a dress, sexy slits or not.
In 1985, DC did a lot of continuity tinkering after completing their Crisis on Infinite Earths maxiseries. Batman’s origin story was retold in the now-classic Batman: Year One, which also gave us a new spin on Catwoman. Rather than the jewel thief/amnesiac air hostess she had once been, she is now a prostitute living in Gotham’s seedy East End. After seeing Batman in action early in his career, she is inspired to become Catwoman. The result was this grey catsuit, replete with tail and whiskers.
This bitch needs no introduction. In terms of what the laypeople recognize as “Catwoman”, this is definitely it (tied perhaps with the 1966 TV catsuit). No one can deny the allure of Michelle Pfeiffer in contrast-stitched, suffocatingly skin-tight vinyl.
On to the curious case of Catwoman’s costume[s] in Batman: The Animated Series. The original character design (far left) was an explicit nod to the 1966 catsuit, but corporate mandate jettisoned that idea in favor of something a bit more in line with Michelle Pfeiffer’s look in Batman Returns. What resulted was the rather tame costume seen second from left. Going into the series’s second season, the producers wanted to alter Catwoman’s appearance to the design seen fourth from left (which, oddly, is a more appropriate answer to that Michelle Pfeiffer problem), but their request was denied for merchandising reasons. They finally got their wish when the series relaunched in 1997 with an across-the-board design overhaul. This jaunty, ethereal Catwoman turned out to be my favorite in the Bruce Timm DCAU.
Catwoman got her first ongoing monthly in 1993, clad in something of an update of the 1950s costume, courtesy of Jim Balent. For me, this ranks up there with the costume that inspired it, and gets extra points for practicality. Things that I love: Catwoman’s hair exposed; purple. Also: Was anyone else tantalized and scandalized by Catwoman’s body being embossed on this cover? Basically the first time I ever touched a boob.
A throwback to the Year One costume for a 1995 annual. Not quite as effective as…
Batman: The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale played off of Year One in its storytelling, so it’s appropriate that their Catwoman wore a costume that descended from that book’s grey tailed-and-whiskered suit. It’s purple, so I love it, but I also like the very odd and very fun addition of the bangles. If she has to hide her face, she might as well do something to make herself feel pretty. Please also note: THOSE ABS.
Ed Brubaker revamped Selina’s look for the 2001 relaunch of the ongoing monthly, eschewing a traditional cowled mask for infrared goggles. The sleek, Emma Peel vibe of this is very nice, but I hate those fucking goggles. Also: the zipper down the front of the costume has been the cause of much ire from fans. Though zipped and professional here, it’s often pulled down low. Nothing says “stealth” like heaving cleavage glowing in the moonlight!
2004’s The Batman brought us this riff on the Brubaker costume. I thought the character designs for this show were all kind of janky, so it’s no surprise that I’m not very fond of this. Goggles! Outrageously outsized ears! One interesting contribution is the cowl neck on the suit, which can be pulled up to obscure Selina’s face.
And now we’re here. So, what do we think? In the grand scheme of things, is this really as bad/wrong/huh as we originally said?
This is an official picture from Warner Bros, so I don’t feel bad posting it and it is far from spoiler-y. The pictures spies have been taking though here in Pittsburgh, that may reveal some story points, won’t be showing up on this site. Sorry gang, I just respect the filmmakers far too much.
Slit. My. Fucking. Wrists. What have they done to her? I already hate the goggle costume Selina’s been prancing around in for the past decade, and if what’s on her face here is Nolan’s version of that, I will die. Of course, this looks like the techno-space where we were first introduced to the Batmobile, so maybe she’s just dicking around with new Wayne Enterprises technology that will later be adapted into something… better? BUT ALSO WHY IS SHE THERE? If this movie reduces her to a mere sidekick for Batman whose identity as Catwoman is entirely owed to and dependent on Bruce I… just… I can’t. Catwoman is one of the most perfect, nuanced, and developed characters in the Bat books and I am never less than flummoxed by the butchery she’s subjected to in other-media adaptations. And, like! Especially the Catwoman we know from Year One and The Long Halloween (both of which Nolan’s cribbed liberally from) is perfect for the current Batuniverse. Idon’tknowIdon’tknowIdon’tknow. OH GOD IT HURTS! (I’ll take the time to say that, if the pics we saw of Marion Cotillard crouched on a tumbler looking bad ass in some vaguely Eastern garments do indeed mean she’s actually playing Talia al Ghul, I am at least happy about that.)
I’ve changed my mind about all of the above (aside from the Cotillard excitement). A knee-jerk reaction to one publicity shot does not an informed opinion make. I am very much looking forward to seeing Catwoman join the Nolan franchise and I imagine that whatever iteration of the character we receive will make sense in that context (which is a pretty good context!). I expect that the character made it into the movie because Nolan & Goyer & company have viable ideas for her; I also sincerely doubt that those ideas would be a total re-imagining or bastardization. Deep breath, release. All will be fine.
Batman: The Long Halloween #10, September 1997, cover by Tim Sale
Happy 4th of July - Bat/Cat Style
A sneak preview (well more of a behind the scenes) of the next DC direct to video animated film Batman: Year One. Very, very excited to see one of my favorite comics come to life, and apparently very faithfully. Fingers crossed that this is great!
Cool cool cool.
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My mother had this book when I was a child and it lived on the shelf in the guest room. I kept a few of my own things in there, so I would often come across it. It scared the shit out of me. I was the kind of kid that was really obsessed by things that scared me, but no amount of looking at it ever made the terror subside. Also (and please note, I never licked this book), this image totally had a phantom taste to it, and if I looked at it too soon before a meal I wouldn’t have an appetite because I could only taste Trouble in the Brasses. Obvo I was even more insane then than I am now. Anyway, I’ve never even read a word of the actual book, but I still think about it often.
I had a similar problem with this Batman Returns trading card. My mother refused to let me see the movie in the theater, but I was a Batmaniac so I ended up with most of the tie-in trappings anyway. But not only was this image so fucking frightening to six-year-old me, I also had a hard time accepting that this Catwoman’s secret identity wasn’t Miss Kitka. Lots of confusion and unbridled fear! Anyway, the problem was resolved one day when I really had to go to the bathroom but this card was on the counter—I was too afraid to walk past it. I ran to my mother and, I’m sure, bawled about it, so she promptly tore the damned thing to shreds. True to form, I proceeded to be really pissed that she ruined a piece of precious Batman ephemera and regret its destruction to this very day (even though the last time I saw of even one of those cards was probably in 1994). Anyway, I guess it all worked out because I did end up peeing.
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