Saturday, July 28, 2012
On July 20, 2012 the feature-length film The Dark Knight Rises will premiere. In honor of the new film from Warner Bros. I'll be doing a list of my top ten favorite comic book stories featuring the featured feline fatale herself, Catwoman!If you haven't already, be sure to check out History of Comics On Film Part 4, 10, 18,19, 33, 40 and 48 which all feature everyone's favorite dark knight detective!
10. Batman Confidential #17-21
"The Bat and the Cat"
Fabian Nicieza and Kevin Maguire
When Catwoman steals Commissioner James Gordan's coded notebook in the presence of his daughter Barbara, all bets are off and very soon Batgirl is hot on her trail. Catwoman certainly doesn't make it easy on her, and steers the chase straight into the Gotham Hedonist Society. Kevin Maguire's pencils convey the appropriately expressive embarrassed face of Batgirl as she refuses to be deterred by such a tactic.
Eventually after a bit of back and forth playing capture the flag with said notebook, Fabian Nicieza has Catwoman and Batgirl's first meet turn into an team-up between two rivals that is dripping with animosity.
Before you know it, Batman himself becomes involved and even the Riddler is hired by the Russian Mob as a Cipher for Gordon's secret notebook. Riddler leads Batgirl to Arkham Asylum where she goes through a gauntlet of inmates, only to find Catwoman waiting for her on the other side.
There's some pretty nice foreshadowing of The Killing Joke and by the story's end Catwoman and Batgirl seem to at least share a grudging respect for one another. All in all, a pretty fun ride from start to finish.
9. Catwoman (1993) #66-71
"I'll Take Manhattan"
It's always nice to get a female take on Catwoman and you definitely receive that from writer Devin Grayson. Even though Jim Balent might just be the consummate pin-up girl artist of the 90's, I certainly don't hold that against the artist who's probably penciled the most issues of Catwoman that I can think of. The beginning of this storyline takes place after the Cataclysm event in the Batman related titles where a massive Earthquakes left the city a veritable No Man's Land for the next two years of publications. After a brief one issue detour in Paris, Catwoman decides to switch locales at this point and takes her sly shenanigans to Wallstreet and the Big Apple.
Catwoman's not even there for very long and before you know it Selina Kyle is the CEO of a huge Wallstreet firm and looking to run for Mayor of New York City.
My favorite part of Catwoman's little excursion is the relationship she develops with one James Jesse a.k.a. The Trickster. Con Artist extraordinaire and member of Flash's Rogue's Gallery, it's a wonder these two were never paired up before this!
Most folks (this means you Loeb!) who take the easy route feel compelled to construct a leading man who is somehow comparable to Batman. I've always felt like this was a mistake because then you simply end up with a guy who has Bruce Wayne's good looks, but can never live up to the passion Selina shares with the Dark Knight Detective. With the Trickster you've got someone who can be a true match for Catwoman in the realm of con-artistry. In fact he surpasses Catwoman in a skill where Batman wouldn't even think to compete with her.
8. Hitman #15-20
"Ace of Killers"
This pick may take some explanation. If you are familar at at with writer Garth Ennis' take on most super-heroes, you can easily tell he doesn't generally hold them in high regard. Especially if they aren't the lead character in the book he's writing at the time. All one need do is look to how Wolverine gets his genitals blown off at the hands of the Punisher for proof of that particular claim.
This would be compounded in "Confederacy of Dunces" where not only did Wolverine end up on the "WHUT Train" (as I like to call it), but Daredevil, Hulk and Spider-Man made up the remaining dunces Punisher squares off against. And when you are the lead in a Garth Ennis book, no matter your background, you are virtually unstoppable.
This brings us to Hitman. This excellently written book would follow the trials and tribulations of one Tommy Monogan, Gotham City hitman with telepathy and x-ray vision. You couldn't get past the first issue without Tommy throwing up all over Batman's boots.
Can't stand the innate stupidity of the Fraginist Fragola to ever Frag a Fragger? Hitman had your back.
If you always harbored some grudge against Kyle Rayner for taking Hal Jordan's place as Green Lantern, you may have gotten a slight chuckle when Kyle is made out to be a classless douche with no wallet in the pages of Hitman.
Even Superman, in a way, is made a fool of...as Tommy cheers the Man of Steel up in a moment of doubt, only to carry out a hit on his Target a few moments later.
So perhaps you'll come to appreciate how truly awesome the sex appeal and power of Catwoman can be, as when she guest appears in a Garth Ennis written Hitman storyline....Tommy and his buddy for life, Nat the Nat are tripping all over themselves. Catwoman is that rare exception to the Ennis rule of "you can't beat me or make me look like a fool in my own book!"
That's really all I have to say. Now go read some fucking Hitman already!
7. Catwoman (2002) #20-24
"Wild Ride" is my second favorite arc on Brubaker and Stewart's run on Catwoman. It's basically Selina and her sidekick Holly's road trip around the DC Universe. First up in "Other Cats", Holly gets some training from Ted Grant, otherwise known as the Justice Society of America member Wildcat.
Then it's off to Keystone City in "Cold Day In Hell" for a caper with Captain Cold at the Flash Museum.
The next chapter "Meanwhile" focuses on a meeting between the two men in Catwoman's life while she's out of town, Private Investigator Slam Bradley and Batman. Slam Bradley's also another great choice as a leading man for Selina Kyle that doesn't scream poor man's Bruce Wayne. Even though he's got a soft spot for the dames, Slam's gruff, streetwise and a scrappy fighter.
In "Opal At Night" Selina and Holly are visiting Starman's hometown Opal City.
Finally in "History" their last stop is in the town of St. Roch, home to the Hawks, Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Wildcat introduces Selina to his fellow Justice Society pals so Catwoman can get the benefit of Carter Hall's archaeological know how. However while Hawkman doesn't exactly take to a girl like Selina who's not exactly on the up-and-up, Kendra Saunders (the current Hawkgirl at the time) and Selina do share a night of female bonding on the town together.
6. Batman #355
"Never Scratch A Cat"
The first time I read this story was inside the second volume of the Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told, which focused on villain movie moguls of the day Penguin and Catwoman.
The minutia of the comic from writer Gerry Conway and the supporting cast members such as Mayor Hill, Rupert Thorne and Artero Reeves may offer a slightly skewed familiarity to fans who grew up with Batman The Animated Series. However, Catwoman on the other hand is a jilted lover and hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
Jealous of Bruce Wayne's new relationship with Vicki Vale, Selina proceeds on a dangerous offensive against them both. The issue is also notable for acknowledging that somewhere along the way in the Pre-Crisis continuity that Catwoman discovered that Bruce Wayne is Batman.
After this point it was commonplace to see Catwoman drop by the BatCave for tea and scones. Well, not exactly, but you get the idea.
5. Catwoman: Selina's Big Score/Catwoman #28-30
"Larceny Loves Company"
"The Great Plane Robbery"
This listing is one of those cop-out two way tie listings. But as far as I'm concerned Chuck Dixon's and Jim Balent's three-part caper story where Catwoman has a group that she needs to work with Ocean's 11 style is really her first "Big Score" anyway. Darwin Cooke's original graphic novel is pretty great as well, so I just decided not to choose between the two and include them as the same listing.
In the Dixon penned story, wealthy lawyer Troy Cavanuagh hires Catwoman to head up a team of thieves to retrieve the information in a select safety deposit box that will give all the participants ten million dollars apiece. Once Catwoman agrees to the job, she is introduced to the rest of her motley crew.
I like the handle Dixon has on action based stories and since this is billed as the first time Catwoman has ever operated with any kind of crew on a heist I figure it's a story that rates a mention. It's fast-paced and entertaining, even if Slyfox is some kind of shady clone of Wildstorm's Grifter.
Conversely in "Selina's Big Score", Selina herself is putting together the crew to pull off one huge heist that should set them all up for life. This money will put Selina back into the game in Gotham City after her fall from grace at the conclusion of her previous series. Of course I might say that the character Stark, the gruff old hitman who has a thing for Selina, at least shares that much in common with Dixon's Slyfox. Though Stark seems to have more of a moral code guiding his actions than Slyfox ever did.
This original graphic novel would introduce long-time DC character Slam Bradley into the world of Catwoman. Introducing the classic hard-boiled P.I. into Selina's world is probably the single best thing that happened to the character in a long while. While the heist aspect is part of the allure of the story, I think the back stories of all the various cast of characters is the most engaging aspect of this piece. It also makes it hard to leave off this list just because Catwoman has run a heist with a crew of colorful characters before.
4. Batman #392
"A Town On The Night"
If you were ever a fan of Catwoman and Batman as a crime-fighting duo or as a couple in the Pre-Crisis era, this story form Doug Moench and Tom Mandrake would be the one for you.
A cute tale of the myriad attempts of the two to have a nice quiet romantic night on the town, but coming across crimes in progress every step of the way. Ironically the narration sets the story immediately after the events of Crisis On Infinite Earths, but I guess the creative team hadn't gotten the memo that things were eventually going to return to the status quo of bad girl tempting good guy. By story's end even Commissioner Gordon is convinced of Catwoman's merits to the cause.
3. Detective Comics #569-570
"Catch As Catscan" and "The Last Laugh"
So as I mentioned in the previous listing, the loving and healthy relationship that Batman and Catwoman had finally realized after many years was soon to be on the chopping block. Frank Miller's Batman: Year One would be coming out shortly and editorial decided that keeping Catwoman as a law abiding partner and lover of Batman would simply confuse the kiddies. This two-part story from Mike W. Barr attempts to rectify the situation by having the Joker hire Dr. Moon to brainwash Selina back into living her old criminal lifestyle.
I have to admit that I was sad to see the Batman-Catwoman partnership dissolved in such a manner, but it's a real privilege and treat to see Alan Davis pencil Catwoman in what is my very favorite costume of hers.
2. Catwoman (2002) #12-16
Again we return to the writer/artist team of Ed Brubaker and Cameron Stewart and my personal favorite story from their run on Catwoman. Catwoman's supporting cast from Leslie Thompkins to Holly Robinson are excellently developed and a boon to the comic book. Slam Bradley kicks so much ass, it's not even funny.
Invariably Catwoman's territoriality over the East End of Gotham put these people she loves and cares about in serious jeopardy. Even her long lost sister Maggie who has recently returned to Gotham isn't safe from the machinations of Black Mask.
Catwoman's first major confrontation with Black Mask would shape so much of the title for the remainder of its run, from planting the seeds of Holly taking the mantle of Catwoman to a certain lead character abandoning the mantle because she was with child. I never really took Black Mask very seriously before this book. But here, he is made over into such a reprehensible villain and you just can't wait for Selina to clean his clock.
1. Brave & The Bold #197
"The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne"
If this excellent piece from writer Alan Brennert and artist Joe Staton wasn't the number one pick on my Catwoman Top Ten list, you can be damn sure it would have had a place on my Batman Top Ten list. I first read this story as part of the Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told compilation, but I liked it so much that I went out and tracked down the original Brave & The Bold issue it hailed from anyway!
I've made no secret that I have a fondness for when the hero and the "bad girl" get their happy ending, and the bond between the Catwoman and Batman of Earth-2 certainly is solidified here if anything else. Ironically it's the fear gas of the Scarecrow that makes Batman believe all his allies have vanished, however in turning to his old foe for help in his time of need he would discover his future wife!