I 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.
With 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’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.