Today is Batman Day, celebrating all things relating to the Dark Knight of Gotham City, one of DC Comics’ most iconic comic book characters. Today is also Saturday, or rather Caturday, the weekly celebration of all things cat-related.
Batman, aka Bruce Wayne, first appeared in Detective Comics #27, published in 1939. Catwoman, real name Selina Kyle, made her debut just a year later in the pages of Batman #1. Both characters were created by writer Bill Finger and artist Bob Kane.
For nearly eight decades the grim vigilante Batman and the sexy thief Catwoman have had an adversarial relationship with heavy romantic undertones. There was a mutual attraction from the start, one often undermined by the fact that Bruce and Selina have typically been on opposite side of the law.
Since this year Batman Day falls on Caturday, I am taking a quick look at the history between Batman and his longtime frenemy Catwoman.
Creator credits in the Golden Age of comic books were unfortunately often sparse, but the GCD credits the cover artwork to Batman #65 (June-July 1951) to Win Mortimer, Lew Sayre Schwartz & Charles Paris. Whoever drew it, it’s a nice cover. Both it, and the story inside by Finger, Kane, Schwartz & Paris, demonstrate that right from the start Batman never knew if each time he met Catwoman she would turn out to be an enemy, an ally, or something in-between.
“The Jungle Cat-Queen!” is an exciting tale written by Edmund Hamilton and drawn by Dick Sprang & Charles Paris, and appeared in Detective Comics #211 (Sept 1954). Catwoman plays a variation of “The Most Dangerous Game” with Batman and Robin on a jungle island. Sprang is considered the quintessential Batman artist of the 1950s. I first read this one in the excellent collection The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told.
(Pay no attention to the contratually obligated Bob Kane byline. Kane had nothing to do with this comic, or any other Batman story published after the early 1950s. Unfortunately he loved to take credit for other people’s work. At least nowadays we have a much better idea of who did what.)
Batman #197 (Dec 1967) written by Gardner Fox and drawn by Frank Springer & Sid Greene sees Catwoman determined to marry Batman… whether he wants to or not! Yeah, this one certainly won’t win any awards for progressive depictions of woman! This was pretty typical of DC’s Silver Age superhero comics, the target audience for which was pre-teen boys. Oh, well… nice artwork by the underrated Springer & Greene, at least.
For an entertaining, in-depth look at Batman #197 by someone who read it when it first came out I highly recommend heading over to Alan Stewart’s excellent Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books.
Okay, this is certainly better! Batman #256 (May-June 1974) by writer Denny O’Neil & artists Irv Novick & Dick Giordano, has Batman and Robin investigating whether or not Catwoman has committed a murder at the circus. Selina is innocent, of course, since she’s no killer, but she is planning to “liberate” the tigers from the circus, so she can return the large cats to the natrual world. While Batman disapproves of Catwoman’s larcenous activities, he nevertheless admires her strong love for animals.
DC Super Stars #17 (Nov-Dec 1977) featured the origin of the Huntress, heroine of Earth 2 and the daughter of the Golden Age Batman and Catwoman. This story, written by Paul Levitz and drawn by Joe Staton & Bob Layton, opens with the wedding of Bruce & Selina, who at least in this dimension found love & happiness together for two decades, until tragedy eventually struck. It’s a great story, so go find a copy and read it!
Meanwhile, back on Earth 1, Batman and Catwoman were still doing their will-they-or-won’t-they dance. Mike W. Barr was one of the writers to delve into their rocky relationship, as witnessed in this scene from Detective Comics #569 (Dec 1986) expertly illustrated by Alan Davis & Paul Neary.
In the post-Crisis, post-Zero Hour, post-whatever other reality-altering mega crossovers DC has thrown our way in the past 30 years, Batman and Catwoman still had that mutual attraction going. After numerous encounters that saw them working in various permutations of friends and foes, they finally officially became a couple in Batman #611 (Feb 2003) written by Jeph Loeb, with art by Jim Lee & Scott Williams.
I am generally not a huge fan of Lee’s work. I find his style too busy and hyper-detailed. Having said that, this is a beautiful splash page which has become an iconic image.
Of course, the course of true love never runs smooth, or words to that effect. Batman and Catwoman’s ongoing relationship has hit quite a few speedbumps. One of the reasons for this is that the two come from very different backgrounds: Bruce is a millionaire, and Selina grew up on the streets of Gotham City’s poorest neighborhoods. As a result the two have often disagreed over matters of crime, punishment and justice. This was expertly illustrated in Batman / Catwoman: Follow the Money (Jan 2011) written & illustrated by Howard Chaykin. It’s an enjoyable story, and I recommend searching out a copy.
I know a lot of people were upset that Bruce & Selina did not actually tie the knot during writer Tom King’s current run on Batman. But, honestly, as you can see from the above, they already bicker like an old married couple, so at this point it’s really just a formality!
I am going to close out with the cover artwork for Batman: Gotham Adventures #50 (July 2002) which features the animated incarnations of Bruce & Selina. Illustrated by the late, great, much-missed Darwyn Cooke, this image is a beautiful snapshot of the relationship between Batman and Catwoman.