Jan 31 2011 4:00pm

I Am Catwoman, Hear Me Roar Giveaway

I Am Catwoman Hear Me Roar by S.J. ChambersI have a stash of Catwoman comics from the 90’s tucked away in my closet. For Batman week, I was going to re-read them to decipher who the real Catwoman might be, complete with pseudo-academic nuances like what she meant to nineties feminism and her role as an object of desire. But after a few issues, I realized that bringing all that to a comic series can become a labyrinthine task worthy of better scholars than myself. I also realized I wasn’t as interested in Catwoman’s symbolism or existentialism as much as which Catwoman is the best.

A question that may be forever open to debate.

Eartha KittWith the recent announcement of Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle in Christopher Nolans’ The Dark Night Rises, I thought it’d be fun to discuss our favorite Catwomen—be they Julie Newmar or Halle Berry (I promise, no hate will come to you if you admit it)—and what Anne Hathaway and Nolan’s intentions might be for Catwoman’s canon. Will she be the street-smart prostitute of Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One and Mindy Newell’s Her Sister’s Keeper, or the eco-terrorist vigilante like the 1990’s Catwoman/Knightfall tie-in? Maybe she’ll just go back to her roots to steal jewels and Batman’s heart? Who knows; Selina Kyle wears many masks.

I Am Catwoman Hear Me Roar by S.J. ChambersI’ll throw in that my favorite Catwoman is Tim Burton and Michelle Pfeiffer’s version. In Burton’s telling, Selina Kyle is an unglamorous working girl—a bit of a doormat who is walked over by her powerful boss Max Shreck, and life in general. She works hard, and tries to excel so much that it gets her thrown out of a window. Having lived a quiet and obedient life with little esteem, the resurrected Selina Kyle rejects all manners and customs, and goes on an anarchic rampage, destroying everything in her path, especially if its Shreck’s property.

And through all of this rage and volcanic anger, Michelle Pfeiffer plays Selina Kyle calmly, and takes everything in stride. She doesn’t try to sex it up more than necessary, and she doesn’t resort to hysterics. Pfeiffer and Burton’s Catwoman is sort of an all-purpose Everywoman version of the villainess, making her more sympathetic and relatable.

And… I like the stitching on her catsuit.

So, what about all you Bats and Kittens out there? Which Catwoman is the best?

To up the ante, I’m giving away four comic books from my personal Catwoman collection, including her first graphic novel, Defiant.

The Official Rules: To enter, just talk about who your favorite Catwoman is and why. You can post as many times as you like in the natural course of the discussion, of course. A winner will be randomly selected by noon EST, Friday 2/4. Please check your email Monday or Tuesday following; if we don’t hear back from the winner in 24 hours, another winner will be chosen.

S. J. Chambers is the Articles Senior editor at Strange Horizons. Her first book, The Steampunk Bible, co-authored with Jeff VanderMeer, will be out from Abrams Images in May, 2011.

Paul Lewandowski
1. Snowkestrel
I have to say that my favorite Catwoman has to be from Batman: The Animated Series (though I prefer the costume from the recent the Batman cartoon series instead).

I have always preferred to see Catwoman portrayed as the ultimate cat burglar- a sort of gender swapped Batman, asking the question what would someone with less morals do with those skills and those toys. When I got to see her in B:TAS, however, the idea of a Catwoman who has her own morals, an agenda, and an obsession with cats won me over.

She has been portrayed as a potential romantic partner to Batman over and over, and until this version, I never saw why this would be. Selena Kyle was suave, sophisticated, and yet had the same sort of dark side that we see in Bruce/Batman. While I don't have any problems with the idea of a Catwoman/Selena who has lifted herself out of prostitution, or even downtrodden corporate drudgery (or domestic drudgery, or white slavery, or mafia wife-ness or whatever terrible situation you start her from), I don't see any of those personas calling out to Bruce and finding that bond that goes beyond the forbidden-fruit/worthy-adversary/opposites-attract relationship. While those have their own levels of interest, they don't really lend to coming back for more again and again, nor do they lead to the sort of ongoing romantic tension that has been between these two characters for so long.

So there. My favorite, for what it's worth.

Your turn.
2. RanchoUnicorno
The Pfeiffer version has long been my favorite for two reasons:

1) I came of age in following all things Batman right around the same time as Batman Returns was released. She was my first Catwoman and thus became the standardized version against which all others were judged.

2) Although she is well outside of my age bracket and I am happily married, Michelle Pfeiffer is the idealized woman to me. She's the only woman that's not my spouse that gets a second glance from me. Go ahead, ask the missus - I'll wait.

As for the Hathaway decision, it's not who I would have picked, but I wasn't sure if Bale would work in the titular role, Caine as Alfred, or Ledger as Joker. Nolan has earned my trust.
3. JasonB
Eartha Kitt had the best purr to her voice.
tatiana deCarillion
5. decarillion
I think Julie and Eartha were the most sensuous of the actresses that I am familiar with, and I think that sensuality is key to that character. Halle might have looked more amazing than Michelle in costume, though.

I can't see Ann Hathaway in that costume, although she has a great bod. She's a lovely young woman, and I've enjoyed her acting, but I don't get the same sensuality from her as the icon Cats of the 60s...
6. Story Cottage
With all of its campiness, I need to go with Julie from the 60's TV show, but Michelle was great.
7. Alden Ash
I preferred the way her character was portrayed in the Animated Series. It seemed to fit Batman and the bat-world better.

I would guess that Nolan will use Hathaway as more of Selena the cat burglar without the costume and possibly never have her go by Catwoman. That is how she was originally in the comic and I think it fits his version of Batman's universe.
8. mirana
I'm with others here. Selina in Batman: The Animated series will always be my favorite. I do enjoy Kitt and Pfeiffer's renditions, though.
9. Sintha
How do you choose? Everytime I get ready to put a catwoman tattoo on my left leg to match my Harley on the right she changes personas! I'll probably be the only woman here that liked Jim Balent's catwoman, and let's face it, she was sexism personified, but there was something about all that glorious hair that I just loved. Next would be Halle Berry's costume designer and while Halle tried and tried to capture the duality of the femme fetale it never quite came across...probably because there was no Batman to play with.
Noneo Yourbusiness
10. Longtimefan
Eartha Kitt was my most favorite Catwoman. She was sensuous Catwoman who remained mysterious and alluring. Lee Merriweather was good but her "relationship" with Batman made her more vulnerable than independent. In a good way. (or am I confusing her with Julie Newmar?)

Michele Pfiffer is my second favorite but the movie had such a scattered plot that her excellent performance and character was overshadowed by the laborious second and third storylines that were not bad as much as they were just clumsy.

Plus the promise of a second appearance of a Pfiffer Catwoman never came to pass and that leaves me with a little dissapointment every time I rewatch the movie because I remember the hope I had after seeing it in the theater that a second movie would have a better plot and cement the character of Catwoman with a modern interpretation where she was not a thief or a whore but a wronged vigilante on the opposite side of Batman but not so far removed from the same motivations.
11. cnote56
Julie Newmar. The best Catwoman ever. She embodied the sum total of everything the Catwoman symbolized. Sexy. Defiant. Wounded. If you subscribe to feminism, she encapsulated the essence of the broken modern woman. She wanted power. She wanted love. But she failed in accomplishing this due to a man...a batman.
Dare I say, if we could take Julie Newmar, as Catwoman, and place her along side the modern assortment of Batmen, we might just find that - campy 60s storylines aside - she might just surprise us with her version of Catwoman. She became an icon from this role.
This kitten had claws. And she was puuuuurrrfect!
mike navratil
12. litarvan
Eartha Kitt for her voice *Purrrrr*
Michelle Pfeiffer for her overall performance.
Jim Beard
13. Jim_Beard
Its definitely Julie Newmar for me, the lady who set it all down for others to follow...


...huge props to Lee Meriwether, the Catwoman who's habitually slammed simply for not being Julie Newmar. Lee deserves much better for her fine performance in the 1966 BATMAN feature.

Madeline Ferwerda
14. MadelineF
Selena Kyle from Batman: the Animated Series. Snowkestrel has a brilliant comment up there! I would add that BTAS's Catwoman had a brilliant voice.

What I liked was that she was, perhaps, the most sane person in that series... Well, Commissioner Gordon and the cops were all pretty sane. So, most sane costumed person. She largely seemed to know where her towel was. Her attraction to Batman wasn't coming from a position of weakness; you could see her perhaps kicking herself for going for such a doof, but still grinning and self-possessed. The things she did largely made sense. Even dressing as a cat fits pretty well with catburglary as a lifestyle...
15. K. Sheppard
Hmmm, I'm torn between Michelle Pfeiffer's rendition and the character in the animated series. Of the former we had a terrific actress who carried out the character in an extremely nuanced manner given the relatively short amount of screentime she got; the animated character, on the other hand, was a well-rounded cat burglar and I loved her interactions with Batman.

I'm really looking forward to what Anne Hathaway and Christopher Nolan are going to bring to the character, though. While she's not the person I would have thought of first, I have yet to be disappointed in his casting and I've enjoyed all of her movies that I've seen. Much better pick than Angelina Jolie. ;)
Clifton Royston
17. CliftonR
Perhaps irrelevant to your question, but who broke her back in the comic cover pictured? Seriously, take a good look at that picture.
Neal Makely
18. elglin
I look forward to Hathaway's version; she's a fine actress. I think Kitt had the best voice for it (and the name fits so well!), but as a developed character, I have to side with those who have already picked the animated Catwoman.
19. Dr. Thanatos
I am ashamed to admit a lack of familiarity with the animated series; I grew up with the Adam West Batman and think of Eartha Kitt when I think of that "version" of Catwoman. Having said that, there's nothing like a lithe figure in skin-tight leather doing flips, coming up to face you completely at random, breathing heavily, then licking her hand and saying "meow."

Pfeifer does it for me!
Wes Samson
20. poemanderror
I tend to lean towards the Michelle Pfeiffer catwoman with the Catwoman from the animated series coming in a very close second.

The Batman Returns catwoman (aside from being ridiculously attractive) seems to match up with all of the other fractured personalities in the Batman mythos--Batman himself leading the pack. All of the characters in the Batman world act out due to obsessive desires for something--Poison Ivy's eco-protection, the Riddler's riddles, even if it's just chaos as you could attribute to the Joker. The Batman Returns Catwoman seems to fit into the mold.
Dovile Petrasiunaite
21. dova113
I'm only familiar with the movie versions, and I like Michelle Pfiffer's take on it the best, as she looks strong but also feminine.
22. dartgal
Eartha Kitt is the best catwoman ever.
Goetz Kruppa
23. goetznl
For me the favourite Catwoman can only be in comics, not in the almost always strange interpretations on the small or big screen.
The Series from 1993 to 2001 was the best, even though the nice art by Balent was often anotomically improbable or just gravity defying.
j p
24. sps49
My favorite is Julie Newmar. Mrowr!
S.J. Chambers
25. S.J.Chambers
These are great comments! And yeah...that cover is a bit bizarre, as were her endowments in the previously mentioned Balent. Whether for good or bad, a part of her persona is her sexiness and sometimes that became overly emphasized.
26. DJason
Originally she was called The Cat, and was a uncostumed cat burglar. She was not of high society but she moved within it and stole from it. She was that girl everyone knew once, who got away with things because she was pretty.

Eventually, she retired, and found she was bullied (and by implication, nearly raped) by the kind of men she once commanded. After needing Batman to protect her, she put on her old costume (then a kind of ballroom gown with a cat's head mask) and said, "No one laughed at me when I wore this."

Catwoman has always had that sort of dichotomy between her looks and power, between sneaking something past someone (socially or by picking locks) and power. In that sense she encapsulated and predated (30's to 50's) the feminist issues (60's to 80's).

We've all known little girls who got away with things just because they were pretty. We think they should achieve things without using looks. But who ever believes that they did that?

So far, actors have only really dealt with one side or the other. Newmar, Kitt, and Merriweather were the ones who got something past you. Pfeiffer and Berry both did the latter.

If Hathaway can do both halves she can redefine the part as thoroughly as Heath Ledger redfined the role of the Joker. Like him, she may go back to core (the original story showed the Joker as a murderous, clever planner) with a single, later update (The Killing Joke) and link to current practice (self scarring) as a pattern. If she can do this, she will probably get less acclaim than Ledger because she's a very pretty woman who probably just slept her way...

The character is still relevant.
27. A. Bumbry
Andrienne Barbeau's work on the animated series was great. She was a fully fleshed out character that wasn't insane like the movie version or silly like the Adam West shows versions.
Jacob Rainey
28. A.bumbry
I really don't think that any live action version has ever done there character justice I think Ann Hathaway might be able to pull it off.
Lucas Huntington
29. L.P.Huntington
I agree with the blogger, I loved Pfeiffer's Catwoman. She was kind of a tragic anti-hero. I saw her as this mousy woman, who was kind of a goody-goody, followed the rules, didn't color outside the lines, that sort of thing...and then some jerk pushed her out a window and she lost her mind. Michelle Pfeiffer is an excellent actress, but one character-type she truly excells at portraying is CRAZY (White Oleander, anyone?).
But it wasn't just her performance, which was incredible - it was the way that particular Catwoman's story was told. How could you not sympathize with her? How could you not root for her and Bruce Wayne to fall in love? I was sad that she didn't stay with Batman, but glad that she gave Max Schrek what he deserved.
I think Anne Hathaway will do a great job. As great as Pfeiffer? Hmmmm...that's a high bar. But between Hathaway's performances in Brokeback Mountain, Alice in Wonderland, and Rachel Getting Married...I think she's going to be more than fine...she could knock it out of the park.
30. Amanda Downum
I like many versions of Catwoman, but none will ever top Pfeiffer's for me. I was 12 when Batman Returns came out, and Pfeiffer and the stitched vinyl catsuit burned into my adolescent brain like nothing had before.
Ian Gazzotti
31. Atrus
I still think Lee Meriwether was a pretty great Catwoman.
32. sofrina
i'm not eligible for the contest, but i'll weigh in. first, i'd love to see what shannyn sossamon might do with the character ( she has the angelina jolie look without all the baggage. (and frankly, i could kinda see katie holmes in that part).

as for favorite catwoman, i don't really have one. it's the kind of character that can be enjoyed interchangeably. sort of like a beauty pageant. you like miss utah for her talent, miss hawaii for her hairstyle, miss new york for her evening gown and miss rhode island for her makeup. there is so much room to play as catwoman. ms. kitt had the voice, ms. newmar had the sex appeal and ms. meriwether...i don't recall but she had something. michelle pfeiffer had a certain point of view that struck a chord. you can't expect the dead to rise with all their marbles. when she rescues a woman in an alley, then pins her to the wall and says "you make it so *easy* for them, don't you?" that really struck me. you really do wish she weren't too damaged to work things out with bruce wayne.

on halle berry/patience philips: it really wasn't a bad movie. on seeing it, it was pretty clear that they'd gone for a take that most people just don't associate with 'catwoman.' it was part lighthearted chickflick, part action movie and part sf/fantasy (i'm still not sure which). the silliness seemed to be by design. it might have been more fun if sharon stone hadn't phoned her part in (maybe they should have cast pfeiffer in her role). the distance btw that and the selina kyle portrayals is in the camp. this one wasn't having..."big fun" with the character. there was a lot of posing and sneering, but no bonafide hijinks. and isn't that what the average person loves about catwoman, that she goes too far and has a ball doing it? the ultimate badgirl.
C.D. Thomas
33. cdthomas
Yeah, I'm down with Barbeau overall, simply because they treated Selina as the main female protagonist on a long-running show, and gave her storylines to match. She got to stretch in ways Newmar, Kitt, Merriweather and Pfeiffer didn't -- which, considering the stereotypical way Ms. Barbeau's live action career had gone, was mighty satisfying to see over the run.

But for pure face value, Miss Michelle -- her beauty and damage spoke to me more powerfully than Nicholson's Joker, and is damn near a match for Ledger's.

As for what they did to Ms. Berry, I blame a studio on drugs, and not the good ones....
34. ScottC
I have to go with Michele Pfeiffer for the overall win, but most of the others had their highlights and could take an individual win.
John Worth
35. mythrus
Julie Newmar hands down. I didn't like the show when it came out, I always thought of Batman as Ra's Al Guhl did i.e. the great detective and have never been a fan of Robin.
36. oneswellfoop
Hitting puberty midway through the Adam West Batman TV series, I had to deal with Catwoman through watery adolescent eyes in self-generated 3D and Julie Newman was the 3D-est. But her deadpan comic style (previously deployed wonderfully as the fembot in the short-lived sitcom "My Living Doll") matched the style of THAT Batman more than any actress since. The later recasting came as a shock. Yes, Eartha Kitt was more perfectly cat-like but this white boy growing up in a unintegrated suburb was not ready for a Black Cat. (In retrospect, she could've been seen as perfect if Julie hasn't set the tone)
Joseph Soler
37. travellinguist
Like Snowkestrel, I prefer the Catwoman from the Batman Animated Series, but from the first two or three seasons, when she was grey, dark and edgy, and very much a Noir character. I don't like my Catwomen too colorfully costumed, though Catwoman from "The Batman" is interesting, just not as cool.
What was amazing about this animated Catwoman from Seasons 1, 2, and 3, was that she was on a show targeted for young adults, and yet still managed to be sexy and play up the tension with Batman, which is one of the great romances(?) of the comic book world. They did this without actually making the show too mature for kids, nor too juvenile for us, high schoolers (as I was at the time). I love how she always ended up redeemed in these stories, ok not always, but almost always.
I am too young to know the Batman live action TV series Catwomen from the 1960s, but they were definitely sexy.
38. Waltlaw
For me, it has to be Julie Newma. The first cut is the deepest and she's in one of my favorite Batman movies!
39. LibraryFairy
I think Julie Newmar was the best Catwoman. I don't know if it was her sleek seductiveness on the small screen or just the familiarity of her showing up most often in my recollection.
Soemhow, though, I can't see Ann Hathaway as a Catwoman-Kitten woman, maybe. She's just too wide-eyed to pull off that edge a good Cat needs.
Sarah hans
40. sarahpanda
Personally I like Hush catwoman, from her costume to her attitude. I am a bit of a romantic though.

And here's me as Steampunk Catwoman (not-blurry pictures coming soon):
41. JoeG
I cannot agree with #11 cnote56 more ... Julie Newmar.
Andrew Ty
42. eldritch00
Had you phrased your question as "best Catwoman," I would have been unable to answer, but since it's "favorite," I'm picking Michelle Pfeiffer. Sentimental reasons abound (she was the Catwoman I grew up with), but if I had to pick a less subjective feature, I love how her different aspects--victim, avenger, loves the Batman, hates the Batman, etc.--don't seem to cohere. That instability of character is what draws me to her. She's inconsistent, almost as if she has no control over her many personalities.
43. chromiumman
i think i preferred the eartha kitt version, that purr in her voice was just perfect
44. thecaptain
There's something about Lee Merriweather's Catwoman; maybe it's her delightful con as Russian journalist Miss Kitka. But, as so many others, The Animated Series has a very special place in my heart. That Catwoman was quite the match for Batman. I love that she used her whip to soar through the air like Batman with his grappling-hook guns, and for me she wins because she seems to have really thought things out. I mean, she actually had claws! That cut through glass!
Sandi Kallas
45. Sandikal
I have to go with Eartha Kitt just because of her voice. Julie Newmar would be a close second.

I think what was appealing about the Michelle Pfeiffer version had more to do with the story and the way it was presented that her actual interpretation. It was all about script and direction.
46. Kevin M.
Julie Newmar is, to me, Catwoman. Plain and simple. Especially in her earlier appearances, you can just HEAR the purr in her voice.

B:TAS Catwoman is a close second, however, for all of the reasons listed by folks more eloquent than I up above.

I enjoyed Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman, and the stitching on the costume was great... but she's no Julie Newmar. Or even B:TAS Catwoman.

Halle Berry's costume was... interesting. Not bad, not wonderful, but... interesting lol. Halle Berry herself was pretty good, I thought, as Catwoman. Catwoman the movie, however... well, Halle was good as Catwoman.

I could never get past the huge goggles in The Batman, and I'm just not familiar enough with Eartha Kitt & Lee Meriweather to judge them (although Kitt's Catwoman shows up this weekend on The Hub, and I was greatly amused a couple of weeks ago when Meriweather showed up on the show as "John E. Carson's" daughter, dressed as Cleopatra.)

But to me... Julie Newmar *is* Catwoman. The look, the outfit, the ears, the purr, the flirtation with Batman, the callous disregard of and willingness to kill Robin ("You could take me under your wing, Batman. I know I could reform if you were my partner!" "I already have a partner, Catwoman." "Oh, right, Robin. Well, I can just have him killed.") Absolute perfection.
47. Ethan Nahte'
I agree with you about how Michelle Pfeiffer played the role. She's totally invisible but once she takes charge she's got everyone's attention. Quite honestly, when she's sitting astride Batman and licks him that is just one of the hottest scenes in action cinema.
S.J. Chambers
48. S.J.Chambers
I definetely avoided "best" because of exactly what Sofrina said: they all have something unique and endearing.
49. Andrew
Does it have to be a movie or TV Catwoman? Because by far the Catwoman I'm in love with is Adam Hughes' version based on Audrey Hepburn (talk about an explosive combination!) Yowza! How can one possibly not love her when she looks like this?

50. TommyO
Catwoman from the animated series! Most true to the nature of the character from the comic books.
51. SerialGod
Eartha Kitt is purrrfect and she sat the bar the catwoman of the time and all catwoman to follow.
52. Scotttheobtuse
Actually, you can't judge Catwoman properly out of context. The 60's tv version of Batman was so god-awful bad that Julie Newmar, Lee Meriweather and Eartha Kitt were swimming upstream all the way. Their individual portrayals were the best they could salvage from the train wreck that was that show. The Burton movie gave a much more complex canvas for Pfeiffer to paint her character on and boy, could she act! The scene that told me I should hang on because I was in for a REAL ride was when she walked through her apartment and broke the "o" and "t" from the "hello there" sign to leave it reading "hell here". My favorite scene is when she and Bruce realize who each other is and she says "do we have to start fighting now?" as she starts to weep. Halle was great in a not-so-great movie and I'll leave it at that.
Who knows what Newmar, Meriweather or Kitt could have done with a good Batman movie to work with? And by the way, even though I liked Heath Ledger, I did NOT like that version of the Joker as much as....well, Ledger didn't really look forward to trying to fill the shoes of Jack Nicholson either. But that is another discussion. Anne Hathaway?
Hmm..she did a great job on "Get Smart" as agent 99, so maybe she will be a great Catwoman. I've liked her in so many things....
To sum up; the Catwoman I liked best was Julie, Eartha, Lee, Michelle, Halle and Adrienne....yeah, that's the one.

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