Selina Kyle, better known as Catwoman, has more than a few things in common with her purr-ferred pets. She’s independent, mysterious, and she’s not afraid to use her claws.
As a vigilante antiheroine and integral part of the Bat-family, Catwoman has been a mainstay of the DC Comics universe for over 70 years (except for that decade she wasn’t, of course). She’s been many things over that time, from a notorious burglar to a mass murderer to a mom and a mentor and then right back to a thief again, with pit stops bordering on being a superhero herself a few times.
Simultaneously one of Batman’s best known adversaries and longest-lasting loves, Catwoman has been a consistently inconsistent presence in the Dark Knight’s life for over half a century.
Occasionally a villain, sometimes a hero, and usually both, Catwoman often does the wrong things for the right reasons, creating a complicated and combative relationship between herself and Batman – though, with their recent engagement, things have become decidedly uncomplicated. (Or at least as uncomplicated as things can be when you’re wearing skin-tight leather and jumping off rooftops.)
In that spirit, let’s uncomplicate a few more things about everyone’s favorite feline felon. Here are the 16 Things You Never Knew About Catwoman.
16. She Was the Heir to the Calabrese Crime Family
During the “Keeper of the Castle” arc, Selina Kyle finds out that she’s the daughter of Rex Calabrese, head of the Calabrese crime family, at which point she hangs up her jumpsuit and dives head-first into being a mob boss.
Like many a misguided superhero before her, she decides that by taking control of the mob, she’ll be able to take control of all crime in Gotham, thereby lessening the chance of rampant violence. However, things do not go as planned.
For starters, not all of the other criminal organizations are willing to play ball, and Catwoman ends up going to war with Black Mask and his people. Then, just as the dust is settling on that, more headaches spring up in the form of the Yakuza, another Catwoman, and a missing Batman, all of it leading Selina to give up on the mafia and become the one and only Catwoman once again.
15. She’s a Ninja
One night, during an otherwise uneventful museum heist, a young Selina Kyle’s thievery is interrupted by a ninja. The totem she’s in the process of stealing, it turns out, has some significance to the ninja, Kai, and he’s less than pleased that Selina’s gotten her paws all over it. A brawl ensues, assuming you can call Kai beating the crap out of a young woman a “brawl.”
Not about to let a savage butt-whooping slow her down, Selina follows Kai back to his dojo. She’s found out, but the Armless Master, leader of the dojo, is impressed with the young woman’s zeal and takes her on as a student. In a matter of weeks, she surpasses Kai, eventually embarrassing him so hard he quits ninja-ing and becomes a mercenary, going by the name Hellhound.
Later, because mastering one fighting style is never enough, Selina goes on to train with Wildcat, former member of the Justice Society of America and legendary boxer of bad guy’s faces.
Presumably she learned to use the whip by watching Indiana Jones movies.
14. She’s Got a Daughter (or Two)
On Earth-2, the most popular of DC’s alternate timelines, Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne have not only married but raised a daughter, Helena, also known as the crossbow-wielding Huntress. Originally appearing in 1977, the otherdimensional Huntress was unceremoniously killed off during 1986’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, though she’s since been brought back into the fold during the “New 52” initiative.
Meanwhile, in the main DC continuity, Selina also has a daughter named Helena, though this time it wasn’t with Bruce Wayne and she isn’t fighting crime as Huntress. In fact, this Helena’s still a baby and, after realizing it’s hard out there for a thief, was given up for adoption by Catwoman and promptly forgotten.
Of course, Batman and Catwoman are, as of this writing, engaged, for reals, in the comics, so who knows what other version of Huntress the future holds…
13. She Had a Sidekick
The youngest member of the Falcone criminal empire, Kitrina Falcone teamed up with her uncle, Mario, using her natural agility and adeptness at escape artistry to find and document the weak points of various fancypants buildings, allowing Mario to rob them later.
Eventually, though, Mario decides that Kitrina’s maybe a little too good at what she does and tries to have her killed. Catwoman intervenes and, since Kitrina clearly wasn’t going to go back to the Falcone family, trains her as her sidekick, Catgirl.
Together the two women fight the Reaper, at which point Catwoman realizes that a) Kitrina’s a terrible sidekick and b) Catwoman doesn’t really want a sidekick anyway.
Trying to convince Kitrina to hang up the spandex, Catwoman instead inspires Catgirl to run off unsupervised and try to take down her uncle. In completely over her head, Catgirl gets shot, at which point she decides maybe her mentor was right and heads off to boarding school, never to be mentioned again.
12. She Stole From A.R.G.U.S.
A.R.G.U.S. is DC’s answer to S.H.I.E.L.D., a government agency acting as support and clean-up for all the meta-humans running around, specifically the Justice League. Originally run by Steve Trevor, A.R.G.U.S. helped to build and supply the Watchtower, as well as Belle Reve prison, before the agency was taken over by Amanda Waller and became a whole lot more sinister and Amanda Waller-y.
In addition to lending a helping hand, A.R.G.U.S. also has a bunch of secret facilities, like the Black Room, scattered around the globe, holding various superhuman and supernatural paraphernalia, including Eclipso’s black diamond and the Monster Cutter blade.
Catwoman, always game for stealing impossibly-guarded gems, decides to make the diamond her own. She successfully breaks into the Black Room, becoming one of very few people to do so, and steals what turns out to be a dimensional shard. Hijinks – and extradimensional possession – ensue, until Catwoman is finally able to ditch the diamond and gain control over herself again.
11. Zatanna Wiped Her Mind
During “Identity Crisis,” it was revealed that Zatanna had wiped the mind of Dr. Light after he assaulted Sue Dibny, the wife of Elongated Man. Batman, showing up late to the party, objects, and has his mind wiped too. It was a big huge deal, and a big huge betrayal.
Later, though, it was revealed that Zatanna kind of did this thing all the time, including to Catwoman.
Turns out, the backwards-talking magician not only wiped Selina’s mind, but also altered it to make her more heroic, all at the request of the Justice League. Indeed, Catwoman’s whole turn as the “savior of the East End” wasn’t her own idea – and neither was her and Batman falling into a committed relationship.
Batman figures out what went down and Zatanna’s forced to come clean, explaining the whole situation to Catwoman, woman-to-woman. In response, Selina tapes up Zatanna’s mouth, tosses her through a window, and then has a full-on existential freak-out.
10. She Fought Elektra (and Lost)
The year 1996 saw comic publishing heavyweights Marvel and DC come together for an epic crossover, the appropriately named DC vs. Marvel Comics miniseries. The plot, if you could even call it that, was as follows: two omnipotent gods handpicked heroes and villains from opposing publishers to duke it out and see who was really the best. The end.
Among the many battles featured in the series’ pages was a showdown between Catwoman and Elektra. The fight was, to put it kindly, ridiculously one-sided, with Elektra slicing Catwoman’s whip in half and then doing like her boyfriend Daredevil and dropping the feline-costumed anti-heroine off a roof.
Anti-climactic brawls aside, DC vs. Marvel did well enough that the two publishers decided to keep up the teamwork and join forces for the Amalgam Universe, where those same heroes that had just fought were smooshed together into new characters. Catwoman and Elektra merged to become the assassin Catsai, because they weren’t even pretending this wasn’t a blatant, cash-grabbing publicity stunt.
9. She Used to Dress Up Like an Old Lady (and an Actual Cat)
Before she was Catwoman, Selina Kyle was the Cat, and, lacking a skin-tight body suit and goggles, she dressed up like an old lady to steal stuff.
Appearing in Batman #1 (along with the Joker, though in different stories), Catwoman was a far cry from the thief we know and love today. In a fake wig and glasses, Selina sneaks onboard a yacht to steal an emerald necklace, only to run afoul of Robin, who’s already there undercover as a steward. Robin calls Batman for back-up, only for the Cat to escape before they can bring her in.
Two issues later, she shows up again, this time as Cat-woman. Out of the old lady get-up, she’s now in a yellow dress and cape, with a creepily lifelike cat’s head mask. And while the cat’s head was toned down a bit, the cape and dress were part of Catwoman’s costume for a good long while.
She didn’t really become Catwoman as we know her today until 1966’s Batman series, when Julie Newmar’s jumpsuit and eye-mask became so iconic that the comics were actually forced to adapt to the television show, long before Harley Quinn showed up.
8. She Had Her Heart Ripped Out (Literally)
Tommy Elliot was a childhood friend of Bruce Wayne’s, who, over the years, turned homicidal and evil, eventually fully committing to supervillainy under the name Hush. He teamed up with Riddler to drive Batman insane, then, after that convoluted plan failed, went solo.
Still a fan of elaborate plots, though, Hush decides, during the appropriately named “Heart of Hush” storyline, that he’ll get plastic surgery to look like Bruce Wayne, then kill the real Wayne and take his place.
Before he can get to the killing, however, Catwoman discovers his nefarious scheme, slicing open his bandages to find Bruce Wayne staring back at her. Before she can do any further damage, Hush cuts out her heart, keeping her (and her organ) alive with some tech from Mr. Freeze.
Batman swoops in and delivers Selina to Dr. Mid-Nite, before literally fighting for Catwoman’s heart. Successfully defeating Hush, he brings the heart to Dr. Mid-Nite, he saves Catwoman’s life, and then she hunts down Hush and delivers him to Nightwing and Robin for safekeeping.
7. Everyone Hated the Catwoman Movie (Even Halle Berry)
The 2004 movie Catwoman was an astoundingly awful movie: Selina Kyle was renamed Patience Phillips for reasons no one was sure of, Catwoman was oversexualized and underwritten, her costume was never finished, and everything else was equally terrible.
The “film” lost $20 million dollars for the studio and was absolutely devastated by critics, with Roger Ebert listing it as one of his most-hated movies, while Arizona Republic’s Bill Muller suggested that star Halle Berry should return her 2001 Academy Award as a punishment for unleashing Catwoman on the world. The movie received seven Golden Raspberry nominations and currently sits at 9% on Rotten Tomatoes.
However, no one hates the movie as much as Halle Berry herself. Arriving at the Razzies ceremony in person, Halle Berry went up on stage with her Best Actress Oscar for Monster’s Ball in one hand and said: “First of all, I want to thank Warner Brothers. Thank you for putting me in a piece of s**t, god-awful movie. You know, it was just what my career needed. I was at the top and Catwoman just plummeted me to the bottom!”
6. She’s Owned Two Nightclubs
Despite being a cat burglar and vigilante who could presumably borrow money from Bruce Wayne anytime she needed, Selina Kyle has, on occasion, still felt the need to make a little extra cash, legally. As such, she’s actually owned her own nightclub… twice.
The first one, the Tin Roof Club, appeared during a four-part story in Action Comics #611-614 in 1988. It’s explained that she bought the lounge for “extra income,” and also to snoop out possible targets to burgle.
Hearing about a fancy Egyptian brooch, Catwoman steals the jewelry, gives it to her friend, watches her friend explode, drowns her sorrows at her bar, avenges her friend’s murder, and then celebrates at her bar once again, after which The Tin Roof Club is promptly forgotten forever.
The second nightclub, called the Egyptian, was the legal front for the Calabrese crime syndicate, and became Selina’s when she took over from her father as head of the mob. Perhaps stemming from her earlier foray into small business, Selina found the club “boring” and it’s rarely been mentioned since.
5. She’s Had Several Origins
First appearing in Batman #1 as the Cat, the character who would become Catwoman was simply a jewel thief dressed up like an old lady, though one of some renown, as Batman’s heard of her through his underworld connections.
Ten years later, in Batman #62, it’s revealed that Selina Kyle is an amnesiac stewardess who turned to a life of crime after suffering a blow to the head during a plane crash. In 1983’s Brave and the Bold #197, however, she admits this was all a lie. What really happened was that, as she was fleeing an abusive husband, she broke into his private vault to retrieve her jewelry and enjoyed it so much that she became a cat burglar.
Then, in 1987’s Batman: Year One, Frank Miller decided that Selina was really an abused prostitute that was inspired to not be a prostitute by Batman, because Frank Miller is awful.
The 1992 Batman Returns, meanwhile, ignored all of Catwoman’s previous origins, this time making Selina a mistreated secretary who, after being thrown out a window, rises from the near-dead as a patriarchy-smashing Michelle Pfeiffer – an origin which was adapted into comics’ canon during 2011’s New 52, as well as Fox’s Gotham.
4. There’s Been More Than One Catwoman
Even ignoring Halle Berry’s Patience Phillips – which, seriously, you really should – there have still been multiple Catwomen over the years. Obviously, Selina Kyle is the gold standard, but twice her friends have picked up the cat-suited slack while she was otherwise indisposed.
During the “One Year Later” follow-up to “Infinite Crisis,” Selina’s given up on Catwoman, hiding out in Gotham’s East End while she takes care of her daughter Helena. Her old friend, Holly Robinson, meanwhile, has taken on the Catwoman mantle, prowling the rooftops in Selina’s stead.
Later, during “Keeper of the Castle,” while Selina’s running the Calabrese crime syndicate, Eiko Hasigawa, daughter of a rival Yakuza boss, takes over the role of Catwoman. While this was initially done without Selina’s knowledge, much less permission, the two women eventually form a partnership, on the streets and between the sheets.
Off the pages, meanwhile, Catwoman’s no slouch either– three different actresses played her during the ’60s (Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt, Lee Meriweather), with Michelle Pfeiffer reinvigorating the character in Batman Returns, followed by Anne Hathaway and Camren Bicondova in live action, with Adrienne Barbeau, Gina Gershon, and countless others on the animated end.
3. She’s Killed a Bunch of People
Catwoman has, traditionally, been portrayed as someone who adheres to a strict “no killing” rule, something that helps her stay on the good side of Batman and the Justice League. Turns out, though, that she’s murdered just a ton of people.
First, the 1970s. Under writer Bob Haney, Catwoman was regularly shown as a run-of-the-mill supervillain, murdering folks without a second’s hesitation. Later retcons shifted all of these killings to the Catwoman from Earth-B, an alternate reality where DC buried all of their continuity errors.
Later, after the “Infinite Crisis” story wrapped, Catwoman shot Black Mask in the face. Despite the fact that he had tortured her sister and generally been a monumental a-hole, she still struggled with her decision and was even haunted by it for some time.
2. She Was Banned by the Comics Code Authority
The 1950s weren’t a great time for comics. Fredric Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent was released, accusing the comic book industry of fostering juvenile delinquency and other outrages.
The book caused a panic, then a Senate hearing, and ultimately led to the creation of the Comics Code Authority, a draconian set of regulations for what was – and, more likely, wasn’t – allowed to be printed in the pages of a comic book.
Among the sinful and morally reprehensible things banned? Catwoman. Because she was never punished for her crimes, because she made those crimes look cool, and because she flirted with Batman, she was found in violation of the CCA and shelved until the 1960s.
Catwoman’s last appearance for over a decade was in Detective Comics #211 in 1954. She was replaced as Batman’s love interest by the newly minted – and most assuredly not a criminal – Batwoman, Kathy Kane.
1. She’s Become A Feminist Icon
Other than Wonder Woman, Catwoman is easily DC’s most famous and well-regarded female character. As an independent antiheroine and equal to Batman, Selina Kyle embodies several feminist ideals – something that’s even more impressive once you consider how misogynistic her two most prominent creators were.
In his 1989 autobiography, Batman and Me, co-creator Bob Kane discusses Catwoman’s creation, ranting: “You always need to keep women at arm’s length. We don’t want anyone taking over our souls, and women have a habit of doing that.” Frank Miller, meanwhile, retconned her origin into that of an abused sex worker in The Dark Knight Returns, because Frank Miller’s fundamentally incapable of writing a woman who isn’t an abused sex worker.
Thankfully, future interpretations didn’t have a problem ignoring those two idiots – specifically Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman in Batman Returns.
Catwoman writer Ann Nocenti says of Selina’s arc in the movie: “She realizes she was locked into a non-feminist life as a downtrodden secretary. And she just rips that to shreds.” Tor’s Leah Schnelbach seconds that, explaining: “She begins the film as an underpaid assistant … and she ends it as an anti-patriarchy terrorist.”
Or, to quote Ms. Kyle herself: “I am Catwoman. Hear me roar.”
Can you think of any other interesting facts about Catwoman? Meow at us in the comments!
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