It’s no small secret that the world of comic book superheroes has been something of a boy’s club and that statement rings especially true for the Golden Age villains. Although it was previously mentioned that Superman’s first powered villain, the Ultra Humanite, did transfer his mind to a woman’s body the world of Golden Age comics just couldn’t conceive of female mad scientists, gangsters, or Nazi soldiers.
In that case I do think it’s kind of ironic that the Golden Age would wind up giving birth to one of the most iconic female villains of all time, one who would prove to be one of Batman’s most intriguing and beguiling rogues: Catwoman.
Origin and career:
Selina Kyle was created by the original creators of the Caped Crusader: Bill Finger and Bob Kane. She appeared in the very first issue of June 1940 in a short story entitled “The Cat”.
In her story Dick Greyson, the first Robin, disguises himself as a steward aboard the yacht of a wealthy socialite named Mrs. Travers. After a drawn out showdown where a group of gangsters attempt to rob the passengers on board it is eventually revealed that Mrs. Travers was actually a famed jewel thief named “The Cat”.
While The Cat attempts to persuade Batman to join her in her life of crime Batman nobly refuses and vows to take her in. However she manages to escape at Batman simply lets her go, thus starting one of the longest and most painfully drawn out love/hate relationship in comic book history.
The Cat would go on to appear in the very next issue, this time dressed in a hood and cape. She managed to escape being caught by the Batman again by offering him information on the whereabouts of the Joker.
In the next issue she appeared sporting a cat mask along with her cape.
And Batman allowed her to escape on account of his feelings towards her.
Their cat and mouse game would continue and the two would develop even deeper romantic feelings towards each other as time went on and in Batman #10 Catwoman would adopt her more traditional black jumpsuit.
And Catwoman would adopt several personas and disguises to flummox the Dark Knight. However, things would come to a head in Batman #15 when Batman learned that Catwoman had been impersonating a woman he liked named Linda Page, leading to the Batman actually arresting Catwoman for the first time.
For a while the two would follow a familiar pattern of Catwoman attempting to reform, reverting back to crime, Batman stopping her and letting her escape, and the two of them sharing a romantic tension that was almost unbearable. However, Catwoman accidentally hit her head in The Brave and the Bold # 62 in 1950 and reveal that her actual name was Selina Kyle and she was actually a former stewardess with amnesia who simply thought she was Catwoman.
Batman wanted to help her and Selina vowed to hang up her costume for good, even going as far as to help Batman apprehend one of her former criminal acquaintances. Sadly it was revealed five years later that this had also been a ruse.
Catwoman’s final Golden Age appearance was in 1954. After retiring as Catwoman Selina came roaring back after an unflattering article about her past life was published. After making off with a shipment of diamonds she actually managed to catch Batman but eventually relented, let him go, and surrendered to the police.
So what happened?
The Comics Code happened.
Andthe Comics Code juuuust couldn’t stand having a femme fatale who was capable of being a bad guy with any sort of emotional complexity.
However all was not lost. When DC comics re introduced the old Golden Age heroes and villains in a parallel dimension known as Earth 2 in 1961 Selina and Bruce re started their romantic relationship and in 1987 the two were actually married and had a daughter named Helena Wayne.
However, the two were heroes and it is verifiable comic book law that super heroes never get a happy ending. Selina was found out by a former criminal acquaintance named Silky Cernak and black mailed her into helping him commit a robbery. Batman managed to stop them but not before Selina caught a bullet and fell to her death. She died in Batman’s arms.
Their daughter Helena would go on to become the costumed hero Huntress.
Catwoman would go on to become one of the most popular female figures in comic books. She would undergo various re imaginings and various changes to her backstory as time went by that are far to numerous to talk about here but one thing still remains: she is and forever will be one of Batman’s greatest rogues and his first and greatest love.