Catwoman made her first appearance in 1940 in Batman #1, the same issue as the Joker. Over the years, she's toned down her wanton criminal acts and taken to a more peaceful path, but we cannot forget that this is the woman who once helped turn each member of the United Nations into tiny piles of rainbow-colored dust, antagonized Batman for years, and also low-key ran an entire crime family while occasionally stepping out to make out with another lady that dressed like Catwoman. In short, she's got a bit of a past.
While her considerable contributions to the world of comic book crime are often overshadowed by her relationship with that one guy that dresses like a bat whose name I'm forgetting at the moment, Catwoman is first and foremost a career girl and deserves to be acknowledged as such.
Declared war on the fashion industry in Batman '66 - “Catwoman's Dressed to Kill”
Eartha Kitt Catwoman is different from any other, because she is the person who just went, "Hey, I'm Eartha Kitt first and Catwoman second. This is me as Catwoman, not the other way around." Personally, I think Kitt's individuality reflected the overall outlook of Selina Kyle pretty well, and the third season hugely benefits from her presence. I also love Julie Newmar (more on that later), but Kitt is a delight and shakes up the status quo of this very strange series. In Season 3, Batman and Catwoman no longer flirted with one another because an interracial flirt wouldn't be allowed on television, but also because Batman should be so lucky. If ever there was a person out of Batman's league, it's Eartha Kitt's Catwoman.
Catwoman interrupts a fashion show intended to honor Batgirl as the best-dressed superhero simply because she thinks Batgirl is a jerk and doesn't deserve to win anything. Right off the bat, I admire her dedication. Her first move is to drop a static electricity bomb that makes all the models have poofy, frizzy hair. Do you see what I mean? Eartha Kitt Catwoman is amazing.
Furthermore, Catwoman hits up Commissioner Gordon to be like, “Hey, heads up, gonna ruin that next fashion show y'all got planned,” and she does. She tries to steal a dress laced with gold, then escapes by running into the women's dressing room, where Batman and Robin can't follow because they're gentlemen!
Oh, the '60s. Such a beautiful, innocent time on television.
Drugged and enslaved Robin in Batman '66 - “That Darn Catwoman”
Everyone always wants to ask “who's your favorite Catwoman?” like they're asking something simple (like "who's your favorite Batman"). Unlike Batman, each Catwoman is as different and unique as a snowflake, and they vary across the board personality-wise in a way that makes them seem barely even connected to one another save their unifying passion for cat-based puns. For example, if you place Anne Hathaway Catwoman next to Eartha Kitt Catwoman next to Michelle Pfeiffer Catwoman, you will realize that none of them are even remotely the same, yet all of them are undeniably Catwoman. Asking which one is the best is like asking someone to pick their favorite star in the sky.
That being said, Julie Newmar did absolutely slay as Catwoman for the first two seasons of Batman '66. There are many great Newmar episodes, but the one with perhaps the best crime is, of course, the one where she ever so slightly drugs and enslaves Robin the Boy Wonder.
This two-part episode features pop singer Lesley Gore, who had sung “It's My Party” a few years before and helped to define teen angst for the early '60s. In this episode, she plays Catwoman's sidekick Pussycat (um, yes? Did you have a question?). Lesley Gore would later come out as a lesbian, which isn't directly relevant to the story except for the fact that she looks at Julie Newmar like she's the second coming of Christ while we're supposed to believe she's falling in love with Robin.
After Pussycat drugs Robin at Catwoman's behest, Robin becomes an angry young teenager and starts committing crimes and punching cops, then fainting and sleeping it off like the sweet baby angel he is. Meanwhile, Catwoman keeps calling people up, like, “Listen, I need more money, I need Batman like yesterday.” Batman finally shows up after Catwoman commits five or six major crimes, and Robin beats him up. Seriously!
This episode is truly bonkers, and the turns it takes are myriad, but after Pussycat turns Robin down, Catwoman traps Batman in a giant mousetrap and, why not, drugs him too. Everyone starts acting like violent jerks, and Pussycat takes off to pursue her successful career as a rock musician, which is weird because it's also what Lesley Gore herself did. I wonder if that was planned, or... ?
Pretended to be Batgirl's ally then crushed her dreams of friendship in Batman: TAS - “Batgirl Returns!”
Batman the Animated Series was a great show overall, but one of the best episodes was "Batgirl Returns." The story begins with an overworked Barbara Gordon having a sexy dream about Batman that is interrupted by Dick Grayson. Not joking, that actually is how the episode starts. Dick asks her if she wants to go get pizza with him, and she turns him down because she's buried under homework. However, when she sees that there's been a robbery at a local museum, she decides to investigate as Batgirl.
At the museum, she encounters Catwoman, who criticizes the thief (or thieves) for being careless. When Batgirl tries to call her out for the crime, Selina sneers, disgusted anyone would associate her with such sloppy work. Catwoman professes that she admires Barbara and proposes that they work together. Considering the fact that most of her first appearances in comics and television involve her getting chastised by either Robin or the Batman, Barbara is probably just stoked someone is being nice to her, and she agrees.
WHICH IS WHY IT'S ALL THE MORE HEARTBREAKING when it turns out Catwoman was just setting Barbara up to do all the work, at which time she was going to steal the statue for herself. This happens after they bond in a seedy bar, after they ride on Barbara's motorcycle, and after they crack the case together. It is soul crushing. To her benefit, Selina does maintain that she respects Barbara, but then pretty much states the equivalent of, “you should have known I was going to bite you, you knew I was a snake.”
What's worse is now Barbara is back to having to hang out with Dick Grayson. Come on, Selina! You're playing with people's hearts.
You know, catnapping, Catwoman's Catnapping Caper - Kellogg's Pop-Tarts
Let's face it: if you're going to call yourself Catwoman the cat thief, every now and then, you're going to have to steal some cats.
According to my research, back in the day cool stuff could happen. For instance, you might open up a box of Pop-Tarts and find you'd been gifted with a sick mini-comic starring Batman and Catwoman. Nothing cool like that happens to me now when I eat Pop-Tarts, but at least I can still reflect on the time when it happened to someone else years before I was born. Much like the famed Hostess Cupcake ads of the '70s and '80s, in which a supervillain would steal millions of Hostess Cupcakes and then get busted by a hero, this story... isn't really like that, because Pop-Tarts don't even make an appearance. Nope, this story is all about Catwoman stealing cats.
First off, Catwoman orchestrates the catnapping of two cats, one named Whitey, the other named Tab. Batman is investigating because it is one slow-as-hell news day. Tab doesn't have a tail, and I need you to make a mental note of that because it's going to come up later. Okay, later is now. It turns out Catwoman specifically stole a cat with no tail so she could attach a gas cylinder in its place and gas the guards at a local museum that just received a “mummy full of jewels.” You cannot believe how many questions I have about this 16-page mini-comic.
Catwoman gets away the first time, but later she's found out when she pets a cat in the dark and Batman sees the sparks. Yes! She is defeated by petting a cat! It is amazing. Batman makes a couple puns, and that's a wrap.
Brainwashed Lois Lane into thinking she was Catwoman and turned Superman into a cat - Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #70-71
Catwoman hadn't shown up in Batman for a while by this point, mostly because she was literally too sexy for the Comics Code. Her villainous nature and her cat-pun-based flirting made her too risque for DC for over a decade. When she finally returned to comics, it was in Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane, and it was the best. Lois Lane and Catwoman are a great match-up as friends or as foes, and this is one of their earliest encounters.
By page one, Catwoman has unleashed several jungle cats on Clark Kent and is yelling at them to rip him to pieces just because he knows Superman. This is the first I've heard of any feud with the Super-family, but alright, I'm here for it. Lois goes to a place called Phoenix Castle which is a zoo, but also a castle. A bird drops a bomb and gasses her, she passes out and wakes up to nearly being mauled by a tiger. For Lois Lane, that just means it must be Tuesday, but then she gets hypnotized by Catwoman into believing that she herself is Catwoman, and you know what that means. It must still be Tuesday. Anyway, Catwoman tries to get Lois to kill Superman, which obviously doesn't happen, but as always I admire both her creativity and her tenacity.
This story goes for over two issues and it is just great. I know this era of Catwoman isn't for everyone, but I love her weird green cape and purple bodysuit, I love her cat puns, and I love the big tough henchmen who she forces to wear these cute little cat masks so they always look like grumpy kittens. Also, can you believe she almost got Lois to kill Superman? Hats off once more, Selina Kyle.
Broke into an excessively booby-trapped house just to say “yeah, I did that” - Catwoman V.2 #25
Catwoman V.2 #25 is a weird comic. I know I say that about comics a lot, but you have to understand: it's always true. This is seriously the most consistently baffling medium ever to exist. It's one of those comics I read with a great deal of initial enthusiasm, but then by the end I had to close the book and stare out a window for a while trying to piece together what I had just read. There are some Alice in Wonderland references that don't go anywhere, there's a dead billionaire introduced with no rhyme or reason, there's an appearance from Robin the Boy Wonder, and there are two guest-stars who, if you picked up just this comic and read it by itself, you would be very confused about in terms of where they came from. I've been reading comics my whole life, and I also didn't know who they were.
The story is as such: Selina chills outside of a big house, thinking about breaking into it. Then she does. Pretty straightforward, but wait, there's more. Next, she encounters a series of booby-traps, while the two previously-mentioned unknown characters also break in through the basement. Meanwhile, an alarm is tripped, so a likewise extremely random hitman shows up to protect the house. Also Robin. Robin assures everyone at the Batcave that he's just going to see who it is that's breaking into the house (breaking news: it's Catwoman. It's always Catwoman). He follows Selina inside, however, and the whole crew meets up in the center of the house. And then nothing happens. That's it! Nothing happens! They all just agree to go home.
There is a little “womp womp” moment at the end of the story in which we discover there was a treasure hidden inside the house all along and Selina had pretty much walked right past it, but this is a story that was big on ideas and small on follow-through. The real essence behind this issue, though, is that Selina Kyle will break into a building just because you tell her not to, and that's something we can all admire.