Every superhero ever created has a fair share of supporting characters associated with them, from allies to enemies. However, we can all agree that Batman has probably the biggest number of equally popular allies and villains. While some characters associated with Batman are strictly either heroes or villains, some characters can be both or something in between. One such character is Selina Kyle, better known as Catwoman. So, in this article, we will explain whether Catwoman is a hero or a villain and her complex relationship with World’s Greatest Detective.
Catwoman is widely known as a master thief and a criminal in DC Comics. She was initially created as a supervillain and Batman’s enemy. However, as years passed and her complex love-hate relationship with Batman developed, she became more of an anti-heroine. She can’t really be deemed a true supervillain since most of her crimes are small-time things like thieving and breaking and entering. And although Batman had to arrest her several times because of that, Catwoman eventually grew to become more of an ally to Batman because although she’s morally flawed, she was never depicted as a bad person, which she proved more times than she ever depicted herself as a common criminal.
The relationship between Batman and Catwoman is one of the most complex relationships you can find on the pages of any superhero comic book. And that complex relationship wasn’t absent in almost every adaptation where the two of them meet. From the legendary ‘Batman: The Animated Series,’ to movies and the acclaimed ‘Batman: Arkham’ video game series. But just like the comics, adaptations often tend to depict Catwoman as a hero rather than a villain. Why? Because it just works better that way when the two of them always need to team up against some mutual enemy.
Catwoman started her career as a villain, but not a supervillain
Every comic book reader knows how long of a history Batman has. He first appeared as a comic book character over eight decades ago, and Catwoman isn’t a much younger character either. She first appeared in ‘Batman’ #1 in April 1940. She was known only as “The Cat” back then.
Bob Kane and Bill Finger, creators of Batman and Catwoman, wanted to create a character depicted as a femme fatale who would be like Batman’s friendly foe. Because even though she is depicted as a thief and Batman’s adversary, Catwoman isn’t a killer or some ruthless criminal like the Joker or Batman’s other villains, which makes her more appealing and compassionate among the readers.
Catwoman has frequently appeared in the comics since her debut, but her characterization often caused her to walk on a thin line between hero and villain. However, the original Selina Kyle, who existed during the Golden Age of comic books, eventually married Bruce Wayne, and they had a daughter Helena Wayne.
After her mother’s death, Helena decided to follow in her parent’s footsteps, becoming the Huntress.
What is Selena Kyle’s origin story?
Catwoman’s origin story isn’t as core-established as Batman’s. We know how Bruce’s parents were killed and how that triggered him to become a crime fighter. However, Catwoman’s origin story was changed several times, and in some cases, her origin story was skipped entirely to create a more mysterious background for her character.
In 1950, ‘Batman’ #62 depicted Catwoman as a flight attendant who was suffering from amnesia after she survived a plane crash, although it was later revealed that she made up the part with amnesia to get away from her life of crime.
During the 1970s, Catwoman was depicted as a murderer, but that version was later assigned to the alternate timeline that isn’t canonical to past incarnations of the character who had a strict no-killing rule.
A very important part of Catwoman’s history happened in 1987 when New Earth Catwoman was introduced during the ‘Batman: Year One’ storyline. This incarnation of the character was introduced as a cat-loving prostitute who was inspired to become a cat burglar after she saw Batman in action.
While she was once again depicted as a criminal, Selina refused to work for Bane after he broke Batman in the 1993-94 ‘Knightfall’ storyline, indicating once again that Selina isn’t a bad person despite her villainous characterization.
In ‘Batman: Dark Victory’ in 1999-00, Catwoman suspects that she is the illegitimate daughter of Carmine Falcone. This storyline later inspired Selina Kyle’s storyline in Matt Reeves’ 2022 movie ‘The Batman,’ in which Zoe Kravitz played Selina.
Selina’s path from Batman’s villain to lover
In 1989, Catwoman had her own four-issue mini-series ‘Catwoman’ Vol 1, but with the start of Volume 2 in 1993, Catwoman had her own comic book series ever since. Her own series is currently on Volume 5, which started publishing in 2018.
These standalone stories further helped to establish Catwoman as an anti-heroine. While there was never any doubt that sparks were flying between them, Batman and Catwoman continued playing that on-off relationship game until the Rebirth continuity.
In ‘Batman’ Vol 3 in 2016, Selina was arrested for the murder of two hundred terrorist soldiers and was sentenced to death. While investigating to prove her innocence, Batman discovers that she took the fall for her close friend Holly Robinson (who was also Catwoman’s roommate in ‘Year One’).
After Batman freed Selina from Arkham Asylum, they finally started a real romantic relationship, which eventually led to Batman’s proposal in ‘Batman’ #24.
However, another twist happens when Catwoman realizes that Bruce can’t be happy with her and devoted to his crimefighting call at the same time. Fearing that Gotham would lose its protector if he tried to find happiness, Selina leaves Bruce on the wedding day.
Luckily, Batman and Catwoman later reunite and give themselves another chance. Although they aren’t legally married, they remain a committed couple, both with and without their masks. This has also set up the 2021-22 spin-off limited series ‘Batman/Catwoman,’ in which the titular couple faced off against Phantasm.
Batman/Catwoman relationship is equally complex in live-action and adaptations
Writers of animated and live-action adaptations never tried to back away from the challenge of depicting the complex relationship between Batman and Catwoman on both big and small screens. We still remember how the ‘Batman Returns’ movie depicted Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman with Michael Keaton’s Batman.
Twenty years later, Christopher Nolan introduced us to Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman, and ten years after that, Zoe Kravitz debuted as Catwoman in Matt Reeves’ ‘The Batman.’ All of these incarnations have in common that they were introduced as secondary antagonists (okay, Kravitz’s not as much), but in the end, they allied with Caped Crusader when it was needed the most.
And when we’re talking about the adaptations, we can’t forget the legendary ‘Batman: The Animated Series,’ which provided us with Batman and Catwoman’s relationship in the best way possible.
Although she appeared in only eight episodes of the series, those episodes depicted Catwoman’s entire path; her first meeting with Batman, her initial criminal activities, her arrest by Batman, their team-up against Roland Daggett, her team-up with Batgirl, her saving Batman from Joker’s trap, and then Batman quickly returning the favor, in ‘Almost Got ‘Im.’
What are your thoughts on Batman/Catwoman relationship? Do you prefer Catwoman as a hero or as a villain? Let us know in the comments.