Cat Nipped

Gotham City at night belongs to Batman, but it doesn’t belong to him alone. Somewhere in the shadows lurks a stray cat that is yowling in fury and endless desire.

That yowling cat is Catwoman and she is an iconic and wonderful creation. As a supporting character, she compliments Batman perfectly (the flip side to the same coin, writes Paul Kupperberg). Yet, when given the opportunity, she can also step into the spotlight on her own terms.

The Catwoman/Batman dynamic is unique in the world of superhero comic books. Selina Kyle is a thief and an outlaw, and when she slips on her catsuit she’s the most dangerous of all urban predators. More than anyone else in the Bat’s rogue’s gallery, Catwoman makes Batman more human, and thus more interesting. Things get complicated on so many levels when these two creatures of the night bump into each other. It’s too bad this chunky collection of short stories doesn’t fulfill its war-of-the-sexes potential.

There’s some adventure and frisky fun here, but the assembled authors never seem to get a firm handle on the dynamic duo. In one story, for example, Batman foils Catwoman’s string of thievery with uncanny regularity. “You’re predictable,” he tells her at the scene of each crime. Yet in a follow-up story, Catwoman has no problem outwitting Batman at every turn. “Cats aren’t predictable,” he laments. Well, which is it? Is Selina Kyle trapped by her well-known cat obsession, or is she forever inscrutable?

And Batman doesn’t fare much better. The guy’s been around for over 70 years and writers are still trying to figure him out. In some of these stories he’s the master detective, in others, he’s the Dark Knight, and in a few he’s Adam West. One writer even tries to compare him to saxophonist Archie Shepp. The comparison doesn’t stick, however. Batman may dispense justice like a raging Shepp solo, but he’s too white and uptight to carry the weight of the jazzman’s Afrocentric black power politics.

Together or apart, Batman and Catwoman have proven to be a resilient and multi-faceted pair. Looking back, we actually have a tremendous fondness for some of the various interpretations, reboots, and costume changes each character has suffered throughout the years. But in this case, we blame the editor and his lack of editorial guidance for the book’s haphazardness. And what’s more, we can’t help but feel an opportunity has been missed. Catwoman is a character who has found success in comic books, TV shows, movies, and Halloween parties. But in prose she’s been a bust. Someday someone will get it right. We hope.

[The Further Adventures of Batman, Vol. 3: Featuring Catwoman / Edited by Martin H. Greenberg / First Printing: March 1993 / ISBN: 9780553560695]

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Marvel/DC, Short Story Collections and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.