The original and most widely known Catwoman, Selina Kyle, first appeared in Batman #1 (Spring 1940) in which she was known as The Cat. As an adversary of Batman, she was 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-heroine rather than a supervillainess. The character has been one of Batman's most enduring love interests, and has occasionally been depicted as his one true love.
A popular figure, Catwoman has been featured in most media adaptations related to Batman. Actresses Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, and Eartha Kitt introduced her to a large audience on the 1960s Batman television series. Michelle Pfeiffer portrayed the character in 1992's popular film Batman Returns. Halle Berry starred in a stand-alone Catwoman film in 2004, although only loosely based on the Batman character. Catwoman is #51 on Wizard magazine's "100 Greatest Villains of All Time" list.
There have been many versions of Catwoman's origins and backstory seen in the comic books over the decades.
Batman #62 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 reforms for several years, helping out Batman in Batman #65 and #69, until she 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, she gave birth to the couple's only child, Helena Wayne (the Huntress). In The 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 Selina 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 made her first Silver Age appearance 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 nor 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.
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.
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. Some elements of Her Sister's Keeper remain clearly noncanonical, however, such as references to her father only recently dying.
Selina is the older of two sisters (Maggie being the younger) born to Brian and Maria Kyle. Catwoman (vol. 1) #0, which provides details about Selina's childhood, neglects Maggie's existence. Maria Kyle is a distant parent who preferred to spend her time with cats, and commits suicide when Selina is very young. Brian Kyle, an alcoholic, is cold to Selina for resembling her mother (whom he resented for dying), and eventually dranks himself to death.
Selina takes to the streets for a time before being caught and sent first to an orphanage, then Juvenile Hall (Catwoman (vol. 1) #0), "where Selina began to see how hard the world could really be" (Catwoman Secret Files and Origins). Maggie's fate at this point in the time-line is not alluded to. However, when Ed Brubaker reintroduces her into the comic, he implies that Maggie may have directly entered an orphanage and promptly been adopted.
When she is 13, Selina discovers that the Hall's administrator has been embezzling funds and confronts her. In an attempt to cover up the illegal activities, the administrator puts Selina in a bag and drops her in a river to drown (like a cat). Selina escapes and returns to the orphanage, where she steals documents exposing the administrator's corruption. She uses this information to blackmail the administrator into erasing "Selina Kyle" from the city's records, then steals the administrator's diamond necklace, and escapes the orphanage (Catwoman (vol. 1) #0).
Selina eventually finds herself in "Alleytown - a network of cobblestone streets that form a small between the East End and Old Gotham" (Catwoman (vol. 2) #12). Selina is taken in by "Mama Fortuna", the elderly leader of a gang of young thieves, and is taught how to steal. Fortuna treats her students like slaves, keeping their earnings for herself. Selina eventually runs away, accompanied by her friend Sylvia. However, the two have difficulty surviving on their own, and in desperation try to support themselves by working as child prostitutes. Sylvia attracts at least one client; Selina apparently never does. The two drift apart afterward, with Sylvia coming to resent 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 City, 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.
Batman: Dark Victory, the sequel to The Long Halloween, implies that Catwoman suspects she is the long-lost illegitimate daughter of Mafia boss 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.
Catwoman also appears in the Knightfall saga, where she is approached by Bane's henchmen while robbing a house. Bane asks her to work for him, but she refuses, as she is repulsed by the criminal who broke Batman. Later in the story, she boards a plane with Bruce Wayne to fly to Santa Prisca. She next appears in the Knightquest saga.
Storylines included her adoption of teenage runaway, and erstwhile sidekick, Arizona; aiding the criminal Bane whom she later betrayed to Azrael; and a stint as a reluctant government operative. The series also fleshed out more of her origin, revealing her beginnings as a young 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 connects Kyle to her Catwoman alter ego.
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.
During the Hush storyline (Batman #608-#619), Batman and Catwoman briefly work together and have 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 Riddler and Hush. This was the second time that Batman's true identity was shown to be known to her. In an early 80's story line, Selina and Bruce had developed a relationship. The concluding story featured a closing panel in which she refers to Batman as "Bruce." A change in editorial team at that point, however, brought a swift end to that story line and, apparently, all that transpired during the arc. When Catwoman appeared again, no mention whatsoever was ever made of the notion that she had apparently figured out who Batman actually is.
Catwoman appears in Gail Simone's "Sensei and Student" story arc in Birds of Prey. She is part of a group sent to rescue a U.S. senator from the Eurasian assassin Cheshire; during the mission, she saves Lady Shiva, who was bound and gagged in the trunk of a car wired with explosives by Chesire.
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 duct-tapes Zatanna's mouth shut and pitches her 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, 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 villain had also previously tortured Selina's sister Maggie into a catatonic state and murdered Maggie's husband, earning Catwoman's ire. Black Mask 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. This action continues to haunt her throughout the "One Year Later" storyline, and it is suggested that this might have been the first time she had ever directly taken a life.
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 sight of two Catwomen active simultaneously 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 the daughter of his son Sam Bradley Jr., and therefore his granddaughter.
Batman asks Catwoman to infiltrate the violent tribe of Bana Amazons during the Amazons Attack! crossover. Posing as a criminal, Selina gains the Bana's trust and thwarts a terror attack aimed at causing mass casualties in Gotham City.
Selina questions whether she should be raising a daughter when her life as Catwoman has already proven to be such a danger to the child. After enlisting Batman's help in faking the death of both herself and her daughter, Selina puts Helena up for adoption. A month after Helena is placed with a new family, Catwoman asks Zatanna to erase her memories of Helena and change her mind back to a criminal mentality. Zatanna refuses, judging that such an act would be cruel to both mother and daughter. She tells Selina that she could never reverse Selina's mindset, since she was on the path to becoming a hero on her own. Believing she can no longer function as a criminal, Selina decided to become one of Batman's Outsiders. She quickly quit, however, and was replaced by Batgirl.
In Salvation Run #2, Catwoman is sent to the Prison Planet. She allies herself with Lex Luthor in an attempt to return to Earth, and mistakenly ends up on an alternate universe-Earth where Catwoman is a notorious villain. It is later revealed that this Earth is a creation of her own mind, and she has not left Prison Planet. When accused of being a traitor by Luthor, she reveals Martian Manhunter is posing as Blockbuster, which would soon lead to the hero's death.
Using the trust she regained in Luthor's eyes, she's able to earn a passage to the "real" Earth, in a jury-rigged teleport machine built by Luthor for letting the villains escape. On Earth, she resumed being a hero, with occasional lapses into thievery by commission, for the thrill of it and limiting the damages.
Uncertain if she should pursue her "relationship" with Batman, she talks with Bruce about Jezebel Jet, his current girlfriend, and then has a pep talk with Zatanna, who she believes is also courting Bruce. Zatanna confirms and admits her feelings, adding that she has since chosen to forgo them, but encourages Selina to open her heart to Bruce before Jet is able to "seal the deal". Hush eavesdrops the conversation, targeting both women as a way to hurt his enemy, Bruce Wayne.
The current volume of Catwoman concluded with issue #82, and details a cat-and-mouse chase between Batman and Catwoman across Gotham city rooftops. Following the end of her solo series, Selina has been slated to appear as a series regular in Batman's Detective Comics title.
In Detective Comics #848, Hush attacks Selina, surgically removing her heart. She is delivered anonymously to a Gotham hospital.
Fittingly, Catwoman is a master thief possessed of unsurpassed stealth and cunning. An expert at both low- and high-tech heists, she is Gotham City's finest cat-burglar.
Many of her costumes have incorporated retractable metal claws on the fingertips of her gloves and sometimes on the toes of her boots. On rare occasions, she has also sported a cat's tail.
Holly Robinson uses the same costume Selina used prior to Infinite Crisis.
Two 1990s prose novels feature Catwoman: The Further Adventures of Batman: Volume 3, Featuring Catwoman, a short story collection by various authors (publs. 1993, edited by Martin H. Greenberg), and Catwoman: Tiger Hunt, by Lynn Abbey and Robert Asprin, publs. date 1992. Both novels portray a Batman: Year One- influenced Catwoman who wears a gray cat costume and was once a prostitute.
Catwoman also made a small cameo in Kingdom Come, mostly accompanying the Riddler; she is predominantly seen, but not much heard in the series. She is not dressed in costume, but appears in the very dress she first wore in Batman #1 as 'The Cat'. According to the novelization by Elliot S! Maggin, she ran a multibillion dollar cosmetics company.
In the all-digital graphic novel Batman: Digital Justice, which is set some time in the future long after the original Batman has died, Sheila Romero, a.k.a. the hit pop music star Gata (the Spanish female noun for "cat") and daughter of the mayor of Gotham City, is jealous of the new Batman, James Gordon, because media coverage of his activities have been cutting into her airtime. Setting out to learn as much about Batman and his enemies as she can, Gata becomes the new Catwoman. Near the end of the story, Gata and her followers face off against Batman, but the two later fall in love, and Maria Romero, a.k.a. Madame X, tells Sheila that she is really a clone of Maria. Maria confesses that she had planned to transfer her brain into Gata's body, but she couldn't bring herself to do it because she loved her "daughter" too much. Maria then dies in Sheila's arms.
In the Elseworlds title Catwoman: Guardian of Gotham, Selina Kyle is the daughter of millionaires Thomas and Martha Kyle. Walking home after seeing the film Cat People, Selina, a young girl, chases after an alley cat and watches in horror as her parents are gunned down by a robber. Selina learns that the crook has stolen a ring she found in a Crackerjack box and had given to her mother. Years later she becomes Catwoman, the defender of Gotham City, operating out of a Catcave beneath Kyle Manor, aided by a young maid named Brooks. Her major enemy is a psycopathic criminal named Batman, who murders her entire rogues gallery to get rid of the competition.
In Batman: Bloodstorm- the sequel to Batman & Dracula: Red Rain, where Batman was forced to become a vampire to save Gotham from an attack by Dracula - Selina is turned into a were-cat after being bitten by one of the remaining vampires while the vampire was in a wolf form. Hunting for the monster that transformed her, Selina encounters Batman as he hunts for the remaining vampires, the two subsequently joining forces to eliminate the vampire horde. As they fight together, Batman finds that Selina's selfless love for him allows him to control his thirst for blood that had begun to consume him, but she sacrifices herself to save him from the Joker- who had become the leader of the remaining vampires after Dracula's death - taking a crossbow bolt to the heart that the Joker had fired at Batman.
In Howard Chaykin's Dark Allegiances, Selina Kyle becomes a film star under the stage name of Kitty Grimalkin. Prior to becoming a star, she was an alcoholic whose actions during one of her "blackouts" were recorded into an underground porn film. The stills from the film are used to blackmail her into stealing information from Wayne Enterprises.
In Batman: Shadow of the Bat Annual #2, Vikki Vale, a reporter for Wayne Media, is Catwoman. She is hired by Anarky to steal information, but she gets caught and is tortured by Jonathan Crane, whom she calls a "demented scarecrow".
In Frank Miller's All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, Catwoman expresses an interest in the Joker's unrevealed plans. She also appears to be involved in prostitution, as she advises the Joker that "...even I don't play that rough".
Catwoman was at various times portrayed by Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt in the live-action Batman television series of the 1960s, her first portrayal in a medium outside comic books. Lee Meriwether was cast in the 1966 motion picture spinoff which was produced after the series' first season after producers learned that Newmar was unavailable. An uncredited fourth actress played Catwoman as part of a cameo villain team-up in "The Entrancing Dr. Cassandra", the penultimate episode of the series.
Mysteriously revived by alley cats after Shreck pushes her out a window, Selina Kyle's repressed rage allows her to transform into the clever supervillainess Catwoman. Shortly following her transformation, she joins forces with The Penguin. As a masked vigilante operating under the guise of a theatrical public identity, Catwoman finds a reflection of herself in Batman. In the ballroom scene, to Siouxsie & the Banshees' "Face to Face," the two masked crimefighters, Batman and Catwoman, dressed as their alter-egos, Bruce and Selina, discover their dual personalities, thus exposing one of Burton's main themes — duality — in the film. In the film's climax, she electrocutes Shreck by kissing him with a Taser in her mouth; Batman never finds her body. She is seen one last time at the end of the film, looking at the Batsignal in the sky.
When Tim Burton was set to direct Batman Forever, his intention was to use The Riddler as the main villain and possibly have Catwoman return. As Burton was replaced, this never came to pass. She was briefly mentioned by Dr. Chase Meridian, stating she has done her homework on Batman, that he likes tough girls, and asks if she needs skin-tight leather and a whip. Alyssa Milano is expected to play catwoman int he sequel to the dark knight.
Berry won the 2005 Razzie award for worst actress in a film for her role as Catwoman, and accepted the prize in person. She was only the third Razzie winner (following director Paul Verhoeven, director of Showgirls; and Tom Green, star of Freddy Got Fingered) ever to do so. She brought her Monster's Ball Oscar with her for her acceptance speech.
In the TV movie Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt, Julia Rose appeared as Catwoman and the young Julie Newmar. Both Julie Newmar and Lee Meriwether appeared in the TV movie as well.
Her first animated appearance was with Batman in segments of the 1968 series The Batman/Superman Hour wearing her green costume of that time period. In this series, she was voiced by Jane Webb. She also appeared in four episodes of The New Adventures of Batman cartoon in the 1970s, in which she was voiced by Melendy Britt.
Catwoman appeared on Batman: The Animated Series wearing an all gray outfit that has never been seen outside that series. Voiced by Adrienne Barbeau in both 1992's Batman: The Animated Series, and its revamp in The New Batman Adventures (as well as the 2000s online animated series Gotham Girls), Catwoman is shown to be a socialite and animal rights activist, which attracts the attention of Bruce Wayne when he's not contending with her as Batman. Catwoman also flirts with Nightwing in "You Scratch My Back". However, at the end of the episode, it's revealed that she was just using Nightwing in order to steal an artifact. In many of the episodes featuring Selina, she is accompanied by her assistant named Maven, who aids both of Selina's identities. She also is shown to keep many cats, among those is her favorite cat Isis.
Initially Selina had blonde hair, coinciding with the release of Batman Returns, in which she was portrayed by blonde actress Michelle Pfeiffer. In the revamp, she appears to have shorter black hair. Whether her hair was dyed or her natural color was never made clear in the series itself, however in the episode "Tyger, Tyger", Selina becomes a cat/woman hybrid and her hair (or rather fur) is blonde. In the related comic book series, it is explained that after learning that her hair dye was tested on animals, she drops the brand and tries, unsuccessfully, to change the views of the manager of the company.
In Batman Beyond, Bruce mentions Selina to Terry McGinnis after his first encounter with Ten from the Royal Flush Gang. Terry also mentions her in "Epilogue" when he tells Bruce that she loved him, but he gave up on her, due to his persistent devotion to "the mission" rather than people.
There were plans for a second Batman Beyond DTV movie that would have featured Catwoman, but was rejected.
Finally, in a seven-minute short film called Chase Me (written by Paul Dini and released with the Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman DVD), Batman catches her stealing from one of Bruce Wayne’s buildings and apprehends her.
Like all other characters, Catwoman would have a new design during The New Batman Adventures. Her new in-costume animated appearance also changed when the show's animation style did, becoming more like the Michelle Pfeiffer version, with a black costume, slimmer build, and white face makeup. Details on her change are explored in Batman: Gotham Adventures #4./
In the comic series Batman Adventures, Selina is featured in issue #10, in the back up story she breaks into a vault at the Wayne Manor during Bruce's New Year's Ball. After she has left the scene, Bruce states to Robin and Alfred that he felt betrayed by her for doing so; stating that after Selina was unmasked, he was the only one of Gotham's high society not to shun her. But he is reassured of her friendship when he finds she has stolen nothing and has left him a card stating her New Year's resolution is to stay on the right side of the law. After Robin questions her sincerity, Bruce states that he believes she will keep her vow.
One addition to the mythos was giving Catwoman a personal black cat named Isis, who appears in the first series and in The New Batman Adventures. As Catwoman's cat, she fights the dogs of Superman and Batman on Krypto the Superdog, a cartoon made by the same people who made the DCAU.
Catwoman has also appeared on The Batman, voiced by Gina Gershon. Her design is slightly altered, having large, almost mouse-like ears and large orange goggles that resemble cat's eyes. Another modification is her hood, which can be pulled up to hide the lower half of her face. Catwoman is also given exaggerated claws on her gloves. The rest of her suit is black, with the exception of her red "paws". She carries her whip around her waist that hangs like a tail. In her civilian identity of Selina Kyle, she has long black hair and blue eyes, instead of her more traditional green eyes. She flirts heavily with Batman, and in her first appearance stole his utility belt, accidentally gaining control of a giant bat-robot and wrecking the Batcave. Notable events involving her have been her team-up with the Penguin (even flirting with him lightly), her fight against Rag Doll, and her attempt to help Batman against the Joker. She is later caught by Rumor, but gets away.