Catwoman facts for kids

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Selina with her then-sidekick, Catgirl (2010); art by Tony Daniel

Catwoman is a fictional character associated with DC Comics' Batman franchise and created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane.

The original and most widely known Catwoman, Selina Kyle, first appeared in Batman #1 (Spring 1940), where she was initially known as The Cat. She was an adversary of Batman, a whip-carrying burglar with a taste for high stake thefts. Modern writers have attributed her activities and costumed identity as a response to a history of abuse.

Since the 1990s, Catwoman has been featured in an eponymous series that cast her as an anti-hero rather than a villain. The character has also been written as one of Batman's possible love-interests, even helping him on occasion.

Recently, Selina Kyle has stepped out of the role of Catwoman, and her confidante, aide and protégé Holly Robinson has taken up the mantle. How long before Selina resumes the role, if ever, remains to be seen.

One of the most popular Batman characters, Catwoman has been featured in most other media adaptations of the character. Actresses Julie Newmar, Lee Meriweather and Eartha Kitt introduced her to a large audience on the 1960s Batman television series. Michelle Pfeiffer's rage and sexuality-driven portrayal of the character in 1992's Batman Returns was both popular and controversial .

In 2004, Halle Berry starred in a critically panned and financially disastrous Catwoman film, featuring a character resembling her comic book counterpart in no more than name.

Selina Kyle

Her name "Selina" derives from the ancient lunar deity Selene.

There have been many versions of Catwoman's origins and backstory seen in the comic books over the decades.

Eartha Kitt Yvonne Craig Batman 1967
Eartha Kitt Yvonne Craig Batman 1967

Golden and Silver Age versions

In Batman #62, it is revealed that Catwoman (after a blow to the head jogged her memory) is an amnesiac flight attendant who had turned to crime after suffering a prior blow to the head during a plane crash she survived (although in the final issue of The Brave and the Bold, she admits that she made up the amnesia story because she wanted a way out of the past life of crime). She winds up reforming and stays on the straight and narrow for several years, helping out Batman in Batman #65 and #69, until Selina decides to return to a life of crime in Detective Comics #203. Selina appears again as a criminal in Batman #84 and Detective Comics #211, her final appearance for many years (until 1966).

In the 1970s comics, a series of stories taking place on Earth-Two (the parallel Earth that was retroactively declared as the home of DC's Golden Age characters) reveal that on that world, Selina reformed in the 1950s (after the events of Batman #69) and had married Bruce Wayne; soon afterwards, the couple gave birth to their only child, Helena Wayne (the Huntress). In Brave and the Bold #197, the Golden Age origin of Catwoman given in Batman #62 is elaborated on, after Selina revealed that she never actually had amnesia. It was revealed that Selina Kyle had been the wife of an abusive man, and eventually decided to leave her husband. However, her husband had kept her jewelry in his private vault, and she had to break into it to retrieve the jewelry. Selina enjoyed this experience so much she decided to become a professional costumed cat burglar, and thus began a career that would repeatedly lead to her encountering the Batman.

The Earth-Two/Golden Age Selena Kyle eventually dies in the late 1970s after being blackmailed by a criminal into going into action again as Catwoman (as shown in DC Super-Stars #17).

Catwoman's first Silver Age appearance was in Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane #70 (November 1966); afterwards, she continued to make appearances across the various Batman comics.

Several stories in the 1970s featured Catwoman committing murder, something that neither the Earth-One or Earth-Two versions of her would ever do; this version of Catwoman was assigned to the alternate world of Earth-B, an alternate Earth that included stories that couldn't be considered canonical on Earth-One or Earth-Two.

Modern Age version

Tangled origins

Catwoman Lee Meriwether 1966
Catwoman Lee Meriwether 1966

A revision in Catwoman's origin, and the introduction of the modern version of the character, came in 1986 when writer Frank Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli published Batman: Year One, a revision of Batman’s origin. In the course of the story, the origin of Catwoman was also re-envisioned. A 5'7" Selina Kyle is reintroduced as a cat-loving prostitute/dominatrix who is inspired to become a costumed cat burglar when she sees Batman in action.

The 1989 Catwoman limited series (collected in trade paperback form as Catwoman: Her Sister's Keeper) by writer Mindy Newell and artist J.J. Birch expanded on Miller's Year One origin. Her Sister's Keeper explores Selina's early life as a prostitute and the start of her career as Catwoman. This is a dark and tragic period which culminates with Selina's former pimp Stan abducting and violently abusing her sister Maggie. Selina kills Stan to save her sister, and is able to do so with impunity.

Batman: Dark Victory, the sequel to The Long Halloween, implies that Catwoman suspects she is the long-lost illegitimate daughter of Carmine Falcone, although she finds no definitive proof of this. Selina's connection to the Falcone family is further explored in the miniseries Catwoman: When in Rome. Though more circumstantial evidence is added to the theory of Selina's Falcone heritage, no definitive proof is provided.

Portions of Her Sister's Keeper and the "Year One" origin conceived by Frank Miller remain canonical to Catwoman’s origin, while other portions have been dropped over the years. It has been implied that "Her Sister's Keeper" was rendered non-canonical by the events of "Zero Hour", and subsequent writers have rejected Miller's choice to make the post-Crisis Catwoman a prostitute. In an attempt to harmonize the various versions, some writers have posited that Catwoman, early in her career, pretended to be a prostitute in order to scam lonely men and rob them. However, characters associated with Catwoman's past as a prostitute have remained a part of her supporting cast. Holly, from Batman: Year One, and her sister Maggie (from Her Sister's Keeper) have appeared regularly in the Catwoman series.

Selina is the older of two sisters (Maggie being the younger) born to Brian and Maria Kyle. (Catwoman v.1 #0, which provided details about Selina's childhood, neglected Maggie's existence as the character was at the time, considered not to be part of the character's canonical past) Maria Kyle was a distant parent who preferred to spend her time with cats and committed suicide when Selina was very young. Brian Kyle, a drunken layabout angry at his wife for killing herself, disliked Selina for resembling her mother and eventually drank himself to death.

Selina took to the streets for a time (Maggie's fate at this point is not mentioned, due to the character being retconned out of existence at the time, though when writer Ed Brubaker reintroduced the character back into canon, implied that Maggie may have gone directly into an orphanage and promptly adopted), before being caught and sent first to an orphanage then later a Juvenile Hall (Catwoman v.1 #0), "where Selina began to see how hard the world could really be." (Catwoman Secret Files and Origins.) When she was thirteen Selina discovered that the Hall's administrator was embezzling funds and confronted her. In an attempt to cover up the illegal activities, the administrator put Selina in a bag and dropped her in a river to drown (like a cat). Selina was able to escape (Catwoman v.1 #0) and returned to the orphanage, where she stole documents that were sent to the authorities to expose the administrator's corruption as well as steal money on which Selina would use to live on now that she was back onto the streets.

When the money she stole from the corrupt orphanage administrator ran out, Selina found herself in "Alleytown - a network of cobblestone streets that form a small borough between the East end and Old Gotham." (Catwoman v.2 #12). Selina was taken in by "Mama Fortuna", the elderly leader of a gang of young thieves, and was taught how to steal. Fortuna treated her students like slaves, keeping their earnings for herself. Selina eventually ran away, accompanied by her friend Sylvia. However, the two had difficulty surviving on their own, and in desperation tried to support themselves by working as child prostitutes. Sylvia attracted at least one client; Selina apparently never did. The two drifted apart afterwards, with Sylvia blaming Selina for her negative experiences; she hated Selina for not inquiring about what had happened to her at the hands of her abusive first client.

In the Catwoman: Year One story (Catwoman Annual #2, 1998), Selina (now an adult) achieved some success as a thief. Following a disastrous burglary, however, she accepted an offer to "lay low" by posing as a dominatrix in the employ of a pimp named Stan. Their plan was to trick men into divulging information that might be used in future crimes. According to this storyline, Selina trained under the Armless Master of Gotham, receiving education in martial arts and culture. During this time, Catwoman was given her trademark cat-o-nine tails whip by a client, which Selina kept as a trophy of her time posing as a hooker.

Catwoman, the series

In 1993, following the success of Batman Returns and Selina Kyle’s prominent role in that film, Catwoman was given her first ongoing series. This series, written by an assortment of writers but primarily penciled by Jim Balent, generally depicted the character as an international thief (and occasional bounty hunter) with an ambiguous moral code.

Storylines included her adoption of a teenage runaway named Arizona, whom she briefly takes on as a sidekick; aiding the criminal Bane, followed by helping Azrael to defeat him; and Selina Kyle as a reluctant government operative. The series also fleshed out more of her origin, revealing her beginnings as an underage thief, her difficult period in juvenile incarceration, and the training she received from superhero Ted (Wildcat) Grant.

Moving to New York, Selina becomes corporate vice president then CEO of Randolf Industries, a mafia-influenced company, through blackmail. Her plans to use this position to run for mayor are ruined when the Trickster inadvertently connected Kyle to her Catwoman alter ego.

Lee Meriwether as Catwoman 1966
Lee Meriwether as Catwoman 1966

Selina then returns to Gotham City, which at this time is in the midst of the No Man's Land storyline. As Catwoman, she assists Batman against Lex Luthor in the reconstruction of the city. After being arrested by Commissioner Gordon, she escapes from prison. Later that year during the Officer Down storyline in the Batman titles, Catwoman is initially the chief suspect. Although later cleared, she displays increasingly erratic behavior throughout the story. Soon afterwards she disappears and is believed to have been killed by the assassin Deathstroke the Terminator, ending her series at #94.

Catwoman then appears in a series of backup stories in Detective Comics #759 - #762. In a backup storyline Trail of the Catwoman, by writer Ed Brubaker and artist Darwyn Cooke, private detective Slam Bradley attempts to find out what really happened to Selina Kyle. This storyline leads in to the newest Catwoman series in late 2001 (written by Brubaker initially with Cooke, later joined by artist Cameron Stewart). In this series, Selina Kyle, joined by new supporting cast members Holly and Slam Bradley (a character from the early Golden Age DC Comics), becomes protector of the residents of Gotham’s East End, while still carrying out an ambitious career as a cat burglar. This series met with critical and fan acclaim, especially for its first 25 issues .

During the Hush storyline (Batman #608-#619), Batman and Catwoman briefly work together and had a romantic relationship, during which he reveals his true identity to her. At the end, he breaks off their relationship when he suspects it has been manipulated by the villain Hush. In the JLA story arc Crisis of Conscience, Catwoman fights alongside Batman and the League against the old Secret Society, of which she had once briefly been a member.

Mindwiping revelations

Catwoman appears to be completely reformed, and her love for Batman true (although brash and unpredictable). However, she has learned her reformation was the result of a mindwipe by Zatanna, a procedure known to deeply affect and, in at least one case, physically incapacitate its victims. Zatanna gives no reason for her actions, but in a flashback it is shown that she had acted with the consent and aid of five of the seven JLA members who had helped her mindwipe Dr. Light and Batman. Catwoman's response to this revelation is unequivocal: she pitched Zatanna out a window. (Zatanna survives the fall.) Afterwards, she is seen covering her bed with past versions of her Catwoman costume.

Still unbalanced and uncertain of herself in issue #52 (the last issue before the jump to One Year Later), Selina is forced to decide whether to kill a supervillain. The Black Mask, in an attempt to "improve himself," threatens the most important people in Selina's life, from Slam Bradley to Holly. (The criminal had learned Selina's identity through his earlier alliance with Selina's childhood friend Sylvia, who still harbored a grudge against Selina). Still thinking that Selina adheres to a strict no-kill rule, Black Mask is caught by surprise when Selina shoots him in the head. The issue's "teaser" for #53 implied that this may have been Selina Kyle's last act as Catwoman.

One Year Later

Catwoman and Penguin 2007
Catwoman and Penguin 2007

Following the events of Infinite Crisis, the DC Universe jumps forward in time. "One Year Later" Selina Kyle is no longer Catwoman, has left the East End, and has given birth to a daughter named Helena (whose father is initially unknown). Holly takes over as the new Catwoman while Selina, living under the alias Irena Dubrovna, turns her attention to caring for her daughter. (Selina's alias was inspired by the name of the main character in the 1942 film Cat People.)

Though she takes her role as a new mother quite seriously, Selina dons the costume for a run through the East End some days after Helena's birth. Having understandably gained a few pounds, Selina finds that her costume is now a tighter fit. In addition, she is easily distracted by a common criminal. Although the situation is defused through Holly's opportune arrival, the fact that there are two Catwomen active in the city is caught on video. Selina returns home from her adventure to find that the mysterious movie aficionado Film Freak has deduced her alias, joined with Angle Man, and grabbed Helena.

After rescuing her daughter, Selina convinces Zatanna to mind-wipe Film Freak and Angle Man in order to preserve her secret identity. Following the procedure, Angle Man turns himself in to the authorities; Film Freak, however, embarks upon a murderous rampage. Ted Grant informs Selina that Holly has been arrested for the murder of Black Mask; Selina infiltrates the police station and frees Holly. Finally defeating Film Freak, Selina returns home to find that Slam Bradley has deduced that Helena is Sam Bradly's child, and therefore his granddaughter.

Holly Robinson

During the One Year Later storyline, Holly Robinson was trained by Wildcat and Selina Kyle and became the new Catwoman.

Skills, resources and abilities

Selina is an accomplished and gifted athlete. She was trained by the Armless Master in martial arts.


Catwoman, in her first appearance, wore no costume or disguise at all, and it was not until her next appearance that she donned a mask, which was a theatrically face-covering cat-mask that had the appearance of a real cat, rather than a more stylized face mask seen in her later incarnations. Later, she wore a dress with a hood that came with ears, and still later, a bodysuit with attached boots and either a domino or glasses-mask. In the 1960s, Catwoman's bodysuit was green in color, which was typical of villains of that era. In the 1990s, she usually wore a skintight purple bodysuit, before switching to a black leather outfit that recalls Michelle Pfeiffer's costume in Batman Returns.

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