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Created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, Catwoman made her first appearance in Batman #1 in 1940.
The vigilante’s true identity is Selina Kyle, a morally ambiguous anti-hero who began as a member of Batman’s Rogues Gallery.
But later, Catwoman would work alongside Batman and other heroes, even becoming a love interest for her former enemy.
Years of training have turned her into an Olympic level gymnast and acrobat and these skills, coupled with a mastery of the martial arts, have made her a formidable physical opponent.
Despite beginning her career as a burglar, Kyle eventually reformed and began protecting Gotham City on her own terms. Her new role, along with her almost superhuman abilities, has led to her becoming an almost fully accepted member of the Batman Family of heroes.
During her time as a villain, Catwoman was a member of The Injustice League and Secret Society of Super-Villains. More recently, she has fought alongside The Birds of Prey, The Outsiders, The Gotham City Sirens and even the Justice League.
Catwoman’s close friend Holly Robinson has also taken the role when Kyle was temporarily out of commission.
Catwoman’s Early Life
Selina Kyle’s early years were defined by tragedy.
When she was just a child, her mother committed suicide and her father, who had driven her to it through his abuse, drank himself to death soon after.
She then lost contact with her sister, Maggie, when she was sent to the Sprang Hill Juvenile Detention Center.
After escaping detention, she tried her luck pickpocketing at a carnival but failed in the effort. This turned out to be good luck as the man who caught her ran the fair and offered her work as part of his crew.
Selina agreed and joined the carnival, where she would learn contortion, gymnastics and the subtle arts of sleight of hand and trickery. With these new skills, Kyle became a much more effective pickpocket.
After she lost her mentor due to a tragic accident, the future Catwoman left the carnival to try her luck on the streets of Gotham City as a petty criminal.
In a moment that changed her life, the by then grown Selina Kyle was awakened to the news that Batman had been cornered by police nearby, in Robinson Park.
Along with her friend Holly, she went to see what was happening and watched the hero escape. Seeing Batman in action gave her the idea that she too could reinvent herself as a creature of the night.
When Selina returned home she was beaten by Stan the Pimp who had her and Holly under his thrall. She then decided she needed a new line of work and left, taking her friend with her.
After fashioning a costume patterned after her love of cats, Selina Kyle reinvented herself as a cat burglar.
While not a metahuman, Kyle has honed her body to a degree of perfection only matched by the likes of her former nemesis and sometime lover, Bruce Wayne.
She has been trained in the martial arts by the Armless Master, Richard Dragon, and in boxing by the older hero Wildcat, but she is just as adept at making an escape as she is at standing and fighting.
Catwoman learned other skills to aid in her illegal endeavours that have helped he in her newer role as a vigilante. She is a master of both seduction and disguise, having learned to use the weaknesses of her marks to succeed as a criminal.
Her stealth also aided her work as a thief and has helped her to effectively use the element of surprise in her more heroic endeavours.
Weapons of Catwoman
Over her career, Catwoman has used two main weapons, with more recent versions of the character favouring retractable claws and a bullwhip.
The claws can be used in climbing buildings, fighting armoured opponents and have even allowed her to rip through steel and open a car door.
Early on, the 12-foot whip the then villain carried was hidden on her person in a backpack or, more implausibly, in her boot.
Golden and Silver Age
Simply referred to as ‘The Cat’, a mysterious burglar and jewel thief, Catwoman first appeared in the Spring of 1941 in the first issue of Batman.
She had disguised herself as an old woman for a caper but used her skills of seduction to undermine Batman, who may have prevented her capture by blocking his sidekick Robin from stopping her.
She reappears in the 2nd issue, which also features The Joker, and in the third, when she appeared for the first time in a fur mask, managing to escape each encounter.
This Selina Kyle, later designated the Earth 2 version, eventually dies after being blackmailed back into action in DC Comics Superstars #17, printed in December 1977.
The Silver Age Catwoman on what was called Earth 1 made her first appearance in late 1966, debuting in Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane #70-71.
When writer Frank Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli filled in Batman’s origin story in 1987’s Batman: Year One, readers were introduced to a much darker background for Selina Kyle.
Kyle was working as a dominatrix for Stan the Pimp and sheltering one of his adolescent victims, Holly Robinson.
At one point Selina got into a fight with Batman after he grabbed Holly, who had stabbed him during a fight with Stan but was knocked out.
She soon left her pimp’s employ, donning a catsuit as a costume and targeting Gotham’s wealthiest men as a cat-burglar.
She is rescued by Batman after a failed attempt to rob the gangster, Carmine Falcone, but resents the hero’s intervention when she is portrayed as his sidekick by the media.
In a 1989 limited series called “Her Sister’s Keeper”, written by Mindy Newell and illustrated by J.J. Birch, the character’s Batman: Year One origin was expanded upon, further exploring her life as a dominatrix and later transformation into Catwoman.
The story reaches its climax when Stan the Pimp kidnaps and beats Kyle’s sister Maggie, who has become a nun. In order to save her sister, Catwoman kills Stan.
Read more about the DC Comics Universe and characters in our DC comics explained page.
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