Favorite Female Characters In Literature # 1: Catwoman

Favorite Female Characters In Literature # 1: Catwoman

So… we’ve reached Number One.  And it’s Catwoman, because she combines my love for thieves, for mysteries, for good guys on the wrong side of the law, and for sexy-as-hell ladies. Did I mention she’s brainy, and very much doesn’t need a man in her life, and isn’t written so that she’s constantly talking about how she doesn’t need a man in her life? Did I mention she’s full of sass, and never concerned with proving she’s as good as a man? In short… she’s been written like a woman, not a female version of a man, and that’s damned pleasing.

I’m not exactly sure when my love of Catwoman first began. Was I reading comics, first, or was I watching reruns of the Batman television show, where a trio of different actresses were instilling a love of the character, and a few choices fetishes, into my young mind? I suppose it’s not important; what’s important is that she grew into a complete character in my mind, with a wealth of personality traits, and… in a complete rarity, a group of writers and artists eventually came into control of her character, and brought exactly what I wanted to see to the character… as if they’d dipped into my mind and granted my wishes. Writers Greg Rucka and (especially) Ed Brubaker immediately come to mind, and artists like Cameron Stewart and Javier Pulido. Amazingly talented folks.

I’m not going to do a huge write-up of the Catwoman character and why I like her. After so many of these blog posts, I think it’s quite evident what I like in female characters, and reiterating it here would just be clumsy. Here, finally at number one, I’m just going to say a few things, and then let Selina have the spotlight.

But, having talked about great Catwoman writers, what exactly are the elements that make a great Catwoman writer? What traits make her who she is? For me, it’s simple… she has no need to prove herself, and she’s still doing it. Her life is one that could have crushed her, but it didn’t. She enjoys the lure of crime, but doesn’t want anybody to get hurt. She’s comfortable with who she is, but that doesn’t mean she’s not constantly striving to be better. She’s comfortable with criminals. She’s comfortable with heroes. She’s comfortable with the rich. She’s comfortable with the poor. She’s comfortable shouting. She’s comfortable with silence. She’s comfortable with men. She’s comfortable with women. She’s always balanced on the absolute verge of falling completely away, but… she’s comfortable.

After so many decades of her character, the whole world knows her, and there’s no better way to describe her than… she’s Catwoman.

Standing out in a crowd can be difficult, so however you go about it, do it with bravado. That's the Catwoman way.

Batman # 1... the 1st appearance of Catwoman. Are Batman and Robin grinning at each other because they're about to start hanging out with a slinky she-thief, or is this the last vestiges of male innocence before Batman gets a bad case of girl cooties?

A page from Batman # 1, when Catwoman was known as the Cat. A couple of leggy panels, and that classic first panel. "Quiet, or Papa spank!" Oh Batman... you're so cute when you think you're the dominant one in the relationship.

Catwoman tries to persuade Batman by use of full body press. I'll be honest with you, this would have been the end of my own crime-fighting career.

Somehow able to understand that Catwoman was a winner, despite how depictions of sultry / naughty women have never ever before been deemed popular, the editors made sure Catwoman was in the second issue of Batman as well. Love that dramatic cover! Robin is certainly the terror of the criminal underworld, ever since that night when he was pondering his future, when suddenly a footstool came flying in through the window.

Batman and Robin enjoy the hell out of some running on the cover to Batman # 3, which is Catwoman's third appearance. She's in costume for the first time in this issue, albeit no more than a fur mask.

Catwoman's 1st ever costume. It is not sexy. Decidedly not.

Even Dave Stevens couldn't make that cat-headed costume sexy. DAVE STEVENS.

More dumb costuming. This is from Batman # 210. Perhaps if Selina had saved some of that extra fabric from her boots, sleeves and mask, she could have worn more than a one piece bathing suit for her costume. Worse, this is from a "man-hater" storyline, and I despise such things. If a writer decides to pen a strong female character, and gives her a trait of "she hates men!"... then the author ISN'T writing a strong female character, they're writing a weak male's fear.

Original art to the cover of the above comic. I have the same look of horror whenever a gang of attractive women in catsuits attack me.

Can't do a Catwoman post without including this two page comic strip with Batman, Robin, and Catwoman. Colleen Coover (my celestial wife) did this up for fun one day.

Page two. Shoot! She got away!

If I'd been in charge of this comic, the blurb would have been, "Catwoman BITCH SLAPS Robin! Is he going to CRY? Does Batman CARE?"

It's impossible to talk about the character of Catwoman without talking about the bounty of talented / beautiful women who have portrayed her in film and on television. Let's do that for a bit, shall we?

First... my personal favorite. Julie Newmar. When I think of the old Batman television show, SHE is the first thing I think of. Then I think of Batgirl. Then I think of the other women who played Catwoman. Then I think of that guy who played King Tut. Then Batman doing that Batdance. Then Robin in those shorts, and how many times he got laid because of that role. Then I think of him laughing. And that makes me think of the guy who played the Riddler. That pretty much sums it up.

Julie Newmar. Picture her having just stripped off her Catwoman costume. You're welcome.

The Great Detective determines that girls are prettier than boys.

A Bruce Timm drawing of Catwoman, as portrayed by Julie. It's okay if I just call her Julie, right? Then everyone will think I'm friends with her. I want to be friends with her.

Another Bruce Timm drawing of Catwoman, as portrayed by my CLOSE friend, Julie.

Eartha Kitt... the HUSKIEST Catwoman of them all. When Julie Newmar spoke, she made you want to do whatever she asked. When Eartha Kitt spoke, it didn't MATTER what you wanted... you just did what she said.

Eartha about to unleash sex as a weapon.

Some Eartha Kitt inspired art. When I was searching online for images, I was really happy to find that talented artists were drawing not only just Catwoman, but famous portrayals of her character.

Let's take a break from actresses for a bit. Here's more of Colleen Coover's art. This one was a commission piece, to my memory, and it depicts two of comics' most intriguing thieves in a rare team-up.

Ooo. Found another piece of Catwoman / Black Cat artwork. They're not acting quite as friendly in this one. Still... ahem... pardon me... kind of sexy, though.

Above art by Rubio.

A Batman splash page, featuring Catwoman and Catman in a cat-fight. I can't help but think of Batman as the new boyfriend, suddenly caught in an argument between his girlfriend and her ex-boyfriend. Man... that's just never a good scene.

Back to the actresses. Here's Lee Meriwether! Golly... Adam West was sure living the good life.

A color image from the same photo image. Since she was playing a cat-related character, I like to think her quizzical / timid expression in this photo is because she rememered she has to be nice because she can't figure out how to open the tin of cat food.

Urrrk! And now, the train wreck. Halle Berry was the unfortunate recipient of a master's level course in how to screw up one of the easiest and best costumes in all of superhero-dom. Catwoman's costume is simple and utilitarian, and makes her look both strong and seductive at the same time. And so of course the makers of this student project film decided to make her look like a tawdry background dancer in a 90's era pro-meth music video. I can't imagine an outfit more designed to make a woman look tasteless, and I can't fathom how they were able to make HALLE BERRY look unattractive. Simply amazing.

Look! They made a kid's Halloween costume out of it, just in case you have no common sense or decency or any taste whatsoever. Do you need to please Pedobear? Need to scar a child for life? Then THIS is the costume for you!

Haven't seen Anne Hathaway's portrayal of Catwoman, yet. I'll be honest, I'm not a fan of Nolan's Bat-movies in the ieast. I find them to be shot full of plot holes, and Batman to be way too close to Inspector Gadget, and everything is about action rather than character, so that I feel like Batman is one step away from turning into a Transformer and having Michael Bay hang some balls off the back of his utility belt. That said, I AM a big fan of Anne Hathaway (she makes my brain go funny) and... obviously... I'm a big fan of Catwoman, as she's here as my number one most favorite female character in all literature.... SO... I'll probably break down and see the movie at some point. After it's in the 2nd run theaters and I can grab pizza and wine and nod off during the boring non-Catwoman parts.

Three glasses of wine and I'll be standing up and declaring my love to the movie screen. Four glasses and I'll need to be pried away from the screen.

Here's some Anne Hathaway inspired Catwoman art. Nice job of capturing her elegance, and that lurking sassiness of both Hathaway and Catwoman.

Above art by Benjamin Anders.

Because internet.

I've been doing a fair amount of cosplay photos during this series of posts, largely because it's always nice to see what the characters would look like in the flesh. This time, however, after so many actresses, there really isn't any need for cosplay photos. Still, I'll just leave this one here, shall I? My reason for this is that it's the only image in this style of Catwoman's costume. Also.... I mean... those eyes, right? And that very definite Catwoman smile.

A dead ringer for the above cosplay girl.

This was one of the few character redesigns I could really get behind. One of the things I love about Selina is that she's kicking ass in a world rife with superpowers, of which she has none of her own. This costume made her seem less like a superpowered being with the requisite costume, and more like a woman who cobbled together something to disguise her identity. It made her more real.

One of my favorite issues. Because Hawkgirl. Because Catwoman and Hawkgirl. Because Hawkgirl is one of THE undervalued characters in comics.

Darwyn Cooke style sheet for Catwoman. I love how he sums it all up in the top right. Selina SHOULD be, sexy, stylish and strong, but she should NOT be a sleazy fashion bitch. Also, a bit farther below, she does NOT wear "F-me" pumps.

The costume model sheet. I love how she's mostly just standing around, looking Catwoman-y.

Bruce Timm draws the slinkiest damn women. I love Timm's art, and his women, but I would have liked to have seen a bit more life in the drawing. Selina's expression is that of a cosplay girl posing for the 1200th photo.

A simple, elegant, weightless Catwoman by the artist Jock.

Throughout the years, there have been a number of ridiculous depictions of Catwoman. Here's one of them. It's the cover art to Catwoman #13, by Guillem March, who actually IS (despite this cover) an excellent artist. This one, though, became an internet sensation of how NOT to depict women. In particular, don't bend and distort just to get all the "good parts" in the image. Seriously, the more you look at this thing, the worse it gets.

What's great about Guillem, though, is that he didn't step away from the controversy. He admitted he'd really screwed up, and even made fun of the drawing himself several times on the internet. This piece isn't necessarily connected, but I like the message behind it. And, again, I'd lke to add that Guillem definitely IS a fantastic artist. He's high on my list of artists I'd like to work with!

Here's Guillem again. Cutting loose this time on the cover to Catwoman #2. I love this cover. Love the male and female differences in their respective bodies, and while both bodies are highly idealized, they're feasible. I wish Catwoman could have been a bit more dominant on her own cover, though. I've decided that the scene ends with Batman hogtied to the gargoyle, his bat-pants fluttering away in the darkness.

It's a good pose for Catwoman, but people would start to talk if Batman did it.

A classic Catwoman cover / storyline, as she returns to comics after a long absence. And, in case you don't notice, that's Superman down there in the cage, transformed into "Superpussycat." That... is... story.... GOLD! Also, I would like to thank the fetish gods for having Catwoman battle Lois Lane. There's just no way it could get better than that. I mean, the only thing that could be better than this is if they were BOTH dressed as Catwoman.


I like to think that the cat is terrified of how weirdly stiff Batman looks swinging through the air. Still a classic cover, though. Reminds me of the old pulp novel covers. I like to think there's a mad scientist Wal-Mart out there somewhere, where they sell bathing suits and glass cages together in sets.

More Darwyn Cooke art... with Selina as a blonde. I'm surprised this doesn't happen more often in comics. There's no way Selina wouldn't be a master of disguise.

Ooo. Almost done. Better sneak in one last piece of Darwyn Cooke art.

And... that's it for my series of blog posts detailing my personal top 25 favorite women in literature. Congratulations, Catwoman, you win all the prizes you haven't yet stolen.


#25: Scarlet Witch

#24: Chance Falconer

#23: Vampirella

#22: Tigra

#21: Jean Grey

#20: Kitty Pryde

#19: Janet van Dyne

#18: Mary Jane Watson

#17: Hermione Granger

#16: Death

#15: Modesty Blaise

#14: Black Widow

#13: Sue Storm

#12: Fantomette

#11: Millie (the Model) Collins

#10a: Blonde Phantom

#10b: Betty & Veronica

#10c: Lois Lane

#10: Wonder Woman

#9: Nancy Drew

#8: Burma

#7: P’Gell

#6: Supergirl

#5: Emma Frost

#4: Batgirl

#3: Maggie

#2: Mary Marvel

#1: Catwoman


I’ve been thinking about women, lately. Women characters in comics. Women creators in comics. Female characters in literature. And pretty girls riding around on bicycles or walking along the sidewalk, etc, etc. Because of this, I’ve decided to make An Entirely Useless List. Why is it entirely useless? Because it’s my top 25 female characters from comics and literature, and such lists change at whim and at a breakneck pace. It’s IMPOSSIBLE to quantify favorites… the term favorite is far too malleable. A list of my best friends from high school, for instance, would not include anyone with whom I’m currently in contact. Times change. Still… I’m making the list. Why? I suppose I just like thinking about women.


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5 Responses to Favorite Female Characters In Literature # 1: Catwoman

  1. I just imagined Christian Bale’s Batman doing the “Papa spank” line. It became even scarier.

  2. Paul Tobin

    You have struck terror into my heart. I shan’t sleep tonight.

  3. Great pick. She’s a fab character for all of the reasons you describe.

    Plus: her relationship with Batman. Is there a better double-act in comics? It’s a timeless structure: two people who have appraised each other perfectly, who also know and observe the unspoken rules of their relationship. Rather than an ongoing monthly tease of “Will they, or won’t they?” it’s a case of “They won’t. Because they’re too smart not to know what would happen if they did.”

    Writing Catwoman is playing the game at expert level. You don’t get the “cheat” of a good or a bad character alignment. You have to throw her into a situation and carefully suss out what result she’d want to get. You also need to be ready to deliver the honest answer, even if it doesn’t cast Selina in a very good light.

    She’s also a charter definition of a street-level character. The sum total of everything she really cares about is north of this street but south of the park, starting from this avenue and ending at the river. During an alien invasion, she’s not singing out her whip to hitch a ride on a passing scout ship to fight the monsters. She’s trying to help a friend’s Mom who unwisely chose to leave a stalled subway car and try to walk through the dark tunnels to safety after the whole power grid was shut down.

    Or just as likely: she realizes that the power to the whole city is off and every goody-good is distracted, which makes this the perfect time to lift a pair of jewel-crusted Etruscan gold bracelets from this museum she’s been casing, to sell to this guy she knows.

    “Catwoman” was one of the main casualties of the “New 52” reboot. I bought the first issue of her new series, but the last page kind of removed my interest in following the book further. For all I know, that wasn’t really Batman and the writer was just messing with the reader’s expectations. But the sight provoked such a strong response of “This is not a version of Selina that works for me” that my curiosity died.

  4. Paul Tobin

    We agree on absolutely everything you said there. Everything. I think the “unspoken rules of their relationship” is especially well-stated. Batman and Catwoman might want each other more than anything else, but it’s not who they are, and more importantly… it’s not who they HAVE to be.

  5. Pingback: Women of Action | Bionic Woman | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment

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