18 July 2012

Onscreen History of Catwoman

With buzz for the Dark Knight Rises building, its time to examine the history of Catwoman. Though Purrr-haps not the nemesis to Batman that is the Joker, Catwoman is nearly as iconic. In fact, Selina Kyle AKA Catwoman debuted in Batman #1 in the spring of 1940, the same issue which presented the debut of the Clowned Prince of Crime. While initially dubbed The Cat, the Princess of Plunder eventually re-dubbed Catwoman has served both as a Batman villain and sometimes love interest.

Julie Newmar was the first actress to strut her stuff as Catwoman in 12 episodes of the 1966 Adam West Batman television series.

Newmar's performance was followed by that of Eartha Kitt for 3 episodes of the Batman series.

Kitty toting Lee Meriwether would fill the Catwoman's 3rd life in the 1966 Batman motion picture which sprung from the TV series.

Even with three actresses playing the role of Catwoman during the live-action 60's run, the costume maintained a consistent look which would be modified and "greened-up" for the 1968 Filmation series Batman with Robin the Boy Wonder.

Selina received another major makeover, complete with an orange cat-head on her shirt, for her inclusion in the 1977 New Adventures of Batman Filmation series.

In 1992, Catwoman was thrust to the front of Batman's villains list, as the catburglar stole the show in Batman Returns. While Selina was one of the few villains during the 1990's to survive to the end of the a movie, she would not return in subsequent sequels.

Although toned down a bit from her movie performance, the Catwoman of Batman: The Animated Series, first appearing in the fall of 1992, was greatly influenced by the movie portrayal, right down to the blonde hair.

When Batman was redesigned for The New Batman Adventures series which began in 1997, Catwoman received a much less realistic look including a bleached white face. She would maintain this look for the brilliant short Chase Me which accompanied the 2003 DVD release of Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman.

Catwoman would appear with a very similar look during the 2000 Gotham Girls web series.

In 2002's short lived Birds of Prey series (the one pseudo-Smallville spin-off that actually got made) Catwoman, who was the mother of the Batman-sired central character Huntress, was briefly shown during the shows opening sequence. Notably, this Catwoman was described as having super powers. Nevertheless, she was killed in that continuity by the Joker.

In 2004, fans would be ashamed to admit if they saw the live action Catwoman movie. In clear case of "what were they thinking" recently revisited with the equally terrible 2010 Jonah Hex, the movie had little is anything to do with the world of Selina Kyle or Batman. Halle Berry portrayed Patience Phillips, resurrected in a manner reminiscent of Selina in Batman Returns - by cats. Although the movie was inarguably a disaster, the Catwoman character would prove resilient saving the rest of her 9 lives for another day.

In the fall of 2004, Catwoman (thankfully once again Selina Kyle) would join the rogue's list in The Batman donning her updated costume including her trademark goggles.

Although Selina would not appear in the pet-centric Krypto, the Superdog animated series, her pet cat Isis would.

Catwoman would make several appearances throughout the run of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. During Alfred's exploration into fan-fiction, Catwoman was depicted as the mother of future Batman Damian Wayne (a role filled in the comics by Talia Al Ghul)

Catwoman would also team up with Black Canary and Huntress to perform a controversial song Birds of Prey.

Later in the series run, Selina would opt for a new look, also inspired by a classic take from the comics.

Catwoman is about to experience an even greater resurgence in popularity in the year to come as she is slated to appear in fall of 2011's animated Batman: Year One voiced by Eliza Dushku.

Accompanying the film release will be an animated Catwoman short, which appears to be the last in the superb DC Showcase shorts line. The short will feature the same voice actress, but the modern Catwoman bod.

Of course the sultry Catwoman will be garnering even more Internet traffic in 2012 when Anne Hathaway depicts her in The Dark Knight follow-up The Dark Knight Rises.

Update July 2012

By incorporating animated shorts in the DC Nation block, the door was opened wide for new interpretations of the feline felon. The Aardman Animation claymation shorts, DC's World's Funnest included a hairball hacking Catwoman with a wee British accent.

Just in time to usher in The Dark Knight Rises, a reinvisioned Cat Woman made her debut in a series of shorts set in 1930 titled Bat Man of Shanghai. The first of these shorts is one of the best DC has has offered up.


  1. Technically Eartha Kitt came after Lee Meriwether but that's just details lol

  2. i love the controversy surrounding Black Cat and Catwoman -- essentially there's this idea that Black Cat is a rip-off of the famous pop-cultural icon, but her creators deny the claim, insisting that the black-suit worn by Selina Kyle came AFTER Black Cat sported it in 1979...

    But what this ignores is the fact that in the 60s Newmar, Meriweather and Kitt had already popularised the look: much earlier than BC's debut. It just goes to show that even if one didn't necessarily rip the other off, they're still coming from the same slice of popular imagination.