The feline femme fatale is a veteran of the DC universe, making her first appearance in Batman #1, in the Spring of 1940, as “the Cat”.
A foil for Batman’s stoic heroics, Catwoman has a chequered past and is neither hero nor villain. Rather, she exists in a morally grey area at odds with Batman’s black and white approach to life and crime.
Catwoman has been a thief, reformed criminal, prostitute, mass murderer, and mother. She has no supernatural powers; she is a skilled martial artist and athlete, as well as possessing remarkable powers of stealth and disguise.
She flirts with the Dark Knight even as he hands her over to the authorities. Her close relationship with Bruce Wayne has grown organically and become even more entangled recently.
Catwoman’s mantle has been taken up by several women - Selina Kyle, Holly Robinson and Eiko Hasigawa, but Selina is the definitive iteration. She has been played by numerous actresses, most famously (or in some cases infamously) by Eartha Kitt, Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry, and Anne Hathaway.
Her character has been rewritten over the years but one thing remains constant: she is a stylish, independent woman who has suffered throughout a tough life in Gotham City.
Here are the 16 Worst Things That Happened To Catwoman.
16 Her Mother Committed Suicide
Catwoman’s origin has been through many revisions, but it is always framed with violence and tragedy. In Catwoman vol. 2, #69, Catwoman’s original backstory is fleshed out.
Selina’s mother, Maria Kyle, is distant and prefers to spend her time with her cats than her daughter. While Selina is still very young, her mother commits suicide. Her father, Brian, is an alcoholic and resents Maria’s death and is repulsed by how much Selina resembles her. He goes on to drink himself to death.
Selina takes to the streets to survive and ends up moving between orphanage and juvenile detention center. At 13, when she confronts the administrator of the detention center for embezzling funds, she is put in a bag and dumped in the river. She escaped, returns, robs the administrator of her favorite diamond necklace and leaves to begin her life as the stylish thief we recognize.
Her past is touched by trauma but it forms her complex, resilient character.
15 Her Sister Turned On Her
Selina Kyle discovers that she has a long-lost sister named Magdalene.
Maggie is a nun at the Immaculate Virgin Mission and reaches out to Selina despite the sisters having taken very different paths in life. Selina similiarly jumps to Maggie's aid when she is kidnapped by Selina’s abusive former pimp, Stan. Selina realizes the danger that her lifestyle poses to those she loves and leaves both Maggie and her friend Holly to the safety of the convent.
Years later, in a cruel effort to get to Selina, super-villain Black Mask captures Maggie and her husband, Simon. He drills out Simon’s eyes and feeds them to Maggie to drive her insane.
Selina rescues her but Maggie becomes convinced that her sister is possessed by a "Cat Demon." Maggie puts on her nun’s habit once more and begins calling herself "Sister Zero." She turns on her sister, now sure that violence is the only way to save her sister's soul.
14 Her Friend Holly Robinson Died
A sidekick, ally, and friend of Catwoman, Holly Robinson takes up the mantle of Catwoman when Selina gives birth to a daughter.
Her origin differs in line with Catwoman’s but she is first introduced in Batman: Year One as a juvenile prostitute who Selina looks out for on the harsh streets of Gotham.
In The Tin Roof Club, this version of Holly grows up to marry a wealthy businessman in New Jersey. She keeps in touch with Selina and has regular meetings with her at the Tin Roof Club. Selina hides an expensive brooch (stolen from a museum) with Holly but, when she comes to collect it, Holly says she gave it to her husband to keep safe. Soon after, Holly is shockingly killed in an explosion.
A distraught Selina discovers that it was organized by Holly’s husband so he could keep the brooch. Furious, Selina frames the husband for some murders of her own so he will be punished for his crime.
Holly’s death ends up being retconned during Zero Hour but the original death of her friend is no less harrowing for it.
13 She Was Taken Out By A Hitman
In the 2002 Birds of Prey TV series, Catwoman appears only in flashbacks.
In an alternative Gotham, Batman has abandoned the city. Oracle (Barbara Gordon) and Huntress (Helena Kyle) have formed a team to protect their city from various threats. In this version, Huntress is the daughter of Batman and Catwoman, who is also a metahuman. Catwoman had raised Helena alone, without telling her who her father was. Batman’s desertion is revealed to have been due, in part, to Catwoman’s sudden death at the hands of a mysterious hitman.
One night, Selina walks with her daughter and is brutally murdered by an assassin. Later this is revealed to be Clayface, hired by the Joker, but at the time it is a shocking mystery for Helena. Helena is then taken in by Barbara Gordon and the duo form a team to combat crime.
Although a solid set-up for the TV series, it is a lame end for our sleek hero.
12 Ivy And Harley Drugged Her To Reveal Batman’s Identity
In Gotham City Sirens: Union, Catwoman, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy make a home together.
Still weak from a previous encounter with villain Hush, Catwoman finds herself attacked by an up and coming criminal, Boneblaster. Poison Ivy rescues her and brings her to the Riddler’s house where she is living with Harley Quinn.
Catwoman suggests that the three girls begin working together and they settle into the abandoned Gotham City Shelter for Cats and Dogs. The tempestuous Sirens are never going to be totally at ease with each other. Ivy is suspicious of her new feline partner and decides to hit her with pheromone control to discover the real identity of Batman.
Fortunately for Batman, Talia al Ghul had already helped Catwoman repress Bruce Wayne's identity through meditation so his enemies could not take it from her. Although his identity remains secret, Ivy’s actions do drive a wedge between the women.
11 Kidnapped and trapped in a Mine Shaft
In Catwoman: Defiant, a disturbed mob boss named Mister Handsome is obsessed with destroying beautiful things. Unsurprisingly, he becomes obsessed with the beauty of Catwoman.
Mister Handsome's men capture Catwoman and he cages her in a mine shaft, shackled to a statue of Venus. She is left with a video feed of Mister Handsome’s face watching her and the sound of a beast coming to tear her apart, in a sick reference to Beauty and the Beast.
While trying to escape, Catwoman comes across Mister Handsome’s wife Mary, supposedly thrown into the mine when her husband no longer found her attractive. Mary offers to help Catwoman escape if she will murder Mister Handsome, which Catwoman happily agrees to.
Yet, Catwoman soon finds out that Mister Handsome is not what he seems. Mary had, in fact, already murdered her husband, as she knew he would kill her when he no longer found her beautiful, and taken his place. All she wanted was to be killed by someone as beautiful as Catwoman.
10 Catwoman (2004)
Imagine making a film so bad that most fans of the franchise don't consider it to be canon? The 2004 outing of Catwoman is so heinous that it won a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture and its leading lady even collected the award in agreement.
The idea of a spin-off movie came into being following Michelle Pfeiffer's fierce portrayal of the character in Batman Returns. Unfortunately, as Michelle was busy with other projects and raising her family at the same time, she was unable to reprise her role.
The movie went through development hell and eventually settled on Halle Berry to play the titular character. In this version, she is a meek artist and graphics designer named Patience Phillips.
In a plot that pits her against an evil cosmetic company (no, really) and has her brought back to life by an Egyptian Mau cat (for some reason), there is very little to link it to our Catwoman, besides the name.
9 Banned By The Comic Code Authority
Since her creation, Catwoman has been a regular of the Batman story. It might come as a surprise to know she was cut from his tale for almost a dozen years in the '50s.
In 1954 the Comics Magazine Association of America created the Comic Code Authority. This was an alternative to government regulation which allowed the comic publishers to self-regulate the content of comic books in the United States. Unfortunately, some of the regulations severally inhibited many comics, sending some out of business. Titles with "crime", "horror", and "terror" were forbidden. Nudity was definitely out, as was illicit sex.
Additionally, one of the criteria stated: "Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position which creates the desire for emulation."
Catwoman clearly violated that rule. She was written out of Batman's story until 1966, when she was brought back, proving that you can't keep a good criminal down.
8 She was Mindwiped by Zatanna
In Crisis of Conscience, it is revealed that the Justice League wiped Catwoman’s mind without her consent.
By this point in the story, Catwoman is almost fully reformed and her growing relationship with Batman feels true. She fights alongside the Justice League against the old Secret Society of Super Villains, of which she had once briefly been a member.
It comes to light that Zatanna, with the urging of some of the rest of the Justice League had wiped several other members’ minds, including Catwoman and Batman, for reasons pertaining to a complicated series of events in Identity Crisis. Catwoman didn’t care for complicated explanations.
When she found out that her mind had been wiped - her character perhaps changed against her will - she pitched Zatanna out of a window.
It meant that she could no longer trust her own choice to reform was not based on outside influence. She was made to doubt her own decisions and question her own redemption.
7 She Was Put In Solitary Confinement
In Catwoman #80 Kitten in a Cage, Catwoman is in jail. She is captured by Jim Gordon and the GCPD in a shocking display of aptitude and finds herself with no smart escape plan. When her insanity plea falls short, she is found guilty of all her previous crimes and sent to an all-female prison.
As expected, the writers could not resist playing to certain tropes.
Memorably, she gets into a nude shower fight with the other female inmates and is tossed into solitary confinement. The situation continues to worsen as she is whispered to by a voice from the cell next door, a curiously humorless Harley Quinn, who inspires Catwoman to plan to kill Commissioner Gordon.
Certain aspects of this story might sound appealing to an audience but it was definitely far from enjoyable for our feline criminal.
6 She Was Falsely Found Guilty Of 237 Counts Of Murder
In Batman: Rebirth, Catwoman is a convicted mass murderer.
She is incarcerated in the depths of Arkham Asylum, awaiting the death penalty for her supposed crime.
A terrorist organization named the Dogs of War had destroyed an orphanage, the "Thomas and Martha Wayne Home for the Boys and Girls of Gotham’", which Catwoman had been in and out of as a girl. The building had been wiped out, killing 163 orphans, 7 teachers, and a janitor.
Catwoman then killed 237 members of the terrorist group responsible by hunting them down one by one.
For the last 70 or so years of her character, she has been portrayed as an anti-hero and a thief, but never a murderer. Audiences did not believe she was responsible, despite her admitting to the crime multiple times.
It gradually becomes apparent that there is more to the story and that she is covering for someone she cares about.
5 5.Trapped On A Prison Planet with Joker, Lex Luthor, and BAne
In Salvation Run, the US Government organize a secret programme, spearheaded by Amanda Waller and the Suicide Squad, to trap the supervillains of the world and exile them to the distant planet Salvation. The villains transported include not just the supervillains, but also some morally grey characters - including Catwoman.
The Planet was chosen as it was supposed to be a harmless environment, with adequate resources for the villains to live out their days in a location where they could no longer harm anyone. Once there, they realize that the planet had previously been dormant but is actually inhabited by dangerous beasts.
To combat their new environment, the criminals form warring tribes led by the Joker and Lex Luthor. Catwoman keeps herself in the background and fights to survive on the death-trap planet.
4 The Joker Dressed Her Up As Wonder Woman
Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns is not a comic for young audiences.
In his violent and uncompromising version of the story, Catwoman is an aging, slightly overweight woman who runs an escort business. The rest of the cast also suffer grittier reboots and Gotham itself is trying to survive a dystopian near-future.
Catwoman suffers at the hands of the Joker, who uses a mind-controlling drug to get Catwoman to send one of her prostitutes to use the same substance on a Governor and a Congressman. One politician commits suicide but Batman saves the other. In retaliation, the Joker beats Selina, ties her up and gags her. Then, bizarrely, he dresses her in a Wonder Woman outfit, leaving her for Batman to find.
Why he chose Wonder Woman is debatable. In essence, it works to highlight the Joker’s insanity – or perhaps the writer's.
3 Forced To Put Her Daughter Up For Adoption
In Catwoman #53, Selina Kyle hangs up her cat-suit. It is one year after the events of Infinity Crisis and the expert burglar is now a mother.
Selina’s old friend, Holly Robinson, takes over as the new Catwoman while Selina puts her considerable talents towards caring for her daughter, Helena.
It isn’t long until Selina begins to question whether she should be raising a young child. Her past life as Catwoman unsurprisingly proves to be a danger to the child when criminals Film Freak and Angle Man deduce Selina’s new alias (she has been living as Irena Dubrovna) to kidnap her baby.
Although Selina and Holly rescue the child, Selina enlists Batman's help in faking the death of both herself and her daughter. Not happy that even this will keep the child safe, Selina puts Helena up for adoption.
Helena is duly placed with a new family and a distraught Catwoman asks Zatanna to erase her memories of her child. Zatanna refuses, saying it would be cruel to both mother and child, but it is obviously a heart-breaking decision to make.
2 Hush Cut Out Her Heart
Dr. Thomas "Tommy" Elliot was a childhood friend of Bruce Wayne. Elliot tried to kill his parents so he can inherit their fortune but his plan failed, partly due to the surgical skills of Bruce's father, Dr. Thomas Wayne. Elliot blames Bruce and plans his revenge. He returns with a bandaged face, now known as Hush.
Determined to be the one to kill the Batman, Hush tries to seduce Catwoman but she scratches off the bandages on his face. When she is horrified by what she sees beneath, Hush turns on her. He cuts out her heart, puts her on life support, and sends her off to the Gotham General Hospital.
This was in direct response to how, in a previous battle with Batman, the Joker had put a pacemaker inside Hush, effectively controlling his heart.
Batman recovers Selina’s heart and returns it to her, but it is thought she might never fully recover her previous physical prowess.
1 She Was Killed on Earth-Two
Selina Kyle in Earth-Two is Bruce Wayne’s wife.
Essentially, Earth-Two is a parallel world that was retroactively established to be the home of characters whose adventures had been published in the Golden Age of the comic book series. This acted as a way of ensuring any incongruities between characters were put to bed.
The Earth-Two Bruce Wayne differs from his Earth-One counterpart. In this continuity, he shares his identity with Catwoman and accepts that he loves her. Selina voluntarily serves prison time for her crimes and the two marry. Batman also retires and the couple have a daughter, Helena. The family live happily in Wayne Manor but all that happiness is cut short.
Bruce Wayne is called out of retirement and, during a fight, Selina is tragically shot and dies - perhaps proving the proverb that no good deed goes unpunished.
What other terrible things have comic and film writers done to Catwoman? Sound off in the comments!
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