Mary Jo Duffy – Writer
Jim Balent – Penciler
Bob Pinaha – Letterer
Dick Giordano – Inker
Jordan B. Gorfinkel – Editor
Dennis O’Neil – Editor
DC Comics – 1993
With the recent upheaval in the current Catwoman book, (check out the review section for more info), I thought it would be a good time to take a walk through history to the first monthly ongoing series starring everyone’s favourite feline femme fatale.
Things were a little bit different back when the series started in 1993. Following the massive success of Death of Superman, DC thought it would be good idea to try to replicate the idea. This time though, instead of killing the hero they would cripple him. This would also mean that the hero could be replaced by a more violent version, a version, that editors would later say was wanted by the comic reading public. The hero chosen to be literally thrown under the proverbial bus was Batman. This chain of events had a polarizing effect, some fans loved Az-Bats as he would come to be known and others would hate him. Along the way however, thanks in part to her inclusion in Knightfall, Catwoman graduated into her own book.
Issue one went some way to establishing the settings. For the first arc, no cat likes to be collared, became a bit of a theme as Selina looks for a way from out of Bane’s control. There is no real concept of good or bad in play, especially in the early issues of the 94 issue run, where Selina’s mis-adventures tend to be generated by other people’s impact and influence on her own nefarious activities. The fact that the reader sides with Selina whilst she commits these crimes, maybe says more about us than we would expect, at least going some way to answer that age-old question, “why doesn’t Batman just throw her in jail?”
The first 14 issues were written by Jo Duffy, who portrayed Selina as a straight up thief, but who also had a somewhat ambiguous moral code, unless there was a stray involved, either cat or human. Looking back, Duffy’s inclusion may have been an attempt by DC to diversify their writing core; having a female character being written by a woman is still considered a must have (see Swords of Sorrow for an example), or it might have been to deflect some of the sexism charges hurled at the book. Whatever the reason, Duffy’s Selina was smart, sassy and sexy who was not against using her feminine wiles to get what she wants. Later issues fell into the hands of Bat-God writer Chuck Dixon whose work on the Batman universe over that period of time had a huge impact.
Catwoman also boasted some of the best cheesecake art of the time. Jim Balent’s clean line work added curves onto curves and he wasn’t afraid to have Selina in all sorts of positions as the action moved, at a pretty fast pace through the panels. Critics will say that Selina would be seen in odd stances allowing Balent to further emphasize her figure and possibly over sexualized her. However, its easy to cast aspersions, but to do so correctly, you need to look at the market place at the time. Some will say ” best of a bad bunch” is not a defence and I am not actually defending Balent’s work. I loved his work on Catwoman. With this book you knew what you were going to get. For those who complained about his style I would say, if you don’t like it, don’t buy it. Still, running for 94 issues must have meant that plenty of people agreed with me and liked the book. If I was actually going to defend this book, I would challenge you to find a non sexualized version of Catwoman anywhere.
Detractors of this book will say its a book for its time, style over content. I would argue, that a book like this would be a welcome relief today with some of the most watered down versions of certain classic characters currently in print. Was it puurrfect (I couldn’t help it)? No it wasn’t. Was it a fun read and a welcome aside to the Batman universe. Yes it was.