But, now I'm back and to make up for my horribly long hiatus, I have brought you one hell of a scans-heavy post. The scans-heavy post to end all posts.
Dr. Von Fangirl Now Proudly Presents: The Ultimate Catwoman Origin
"How did I get to be so brave?" Selina asks herself in a fear toxin induced haze above.
It's a fair question. But to answer it, we have to look at its deeper roots--roots that lie in a question of motivation. What compels a seemingly ordinary individual like Selina Kyle to don a mask and stalk the night?
For Bruce Wayne, it took seeing his parents murdered in front of him; Jonathan Crane, a lifetime of ridicule and pain; Harley Quinn, all-consuming obsessive love. All the best heroes and villains in every medium, from literature to film to comic books, have traceable motivations for their behavior. It humanizes them and makes them easier for us, the audience, to understand and sympathize with.
For Selina, there was no one defining moment--at least, not in the way that there was for Bruce Wayne. Instead, it took numerous experiences, some positive and some negative, conspiring to strengthen her, both inside and out. A series of misfortunes, teachers, mistakes to learn from and some very lucky twists of fate to put Selina Kyle in the position for the stars to align just right for her to become the Feline Fatale we all know today.
If you were to wander into a comic shop and ask the clerk behind the counter why Selina became Catwoman, chances are they wouldn't be able to tell you in great detail. Not because she doesn't have a detailed history, but because most of the comics that touch on her origin stories are out of print--and have been for a long, long time. In fact, this problem isn't limited to just the clerk in the comic shop; so little information is available online regarding Selina's origins that there is no way to get a complete picture of who she is from any source.
As a result of this, there's some very wrong info floating around. People remember events wrong, or misrepresent them, or misinterpret them, or they've heard it from a friend-of-a-friend. However the bad information is created, it then gets spread around until it starts to look like fact.
People who don't like Selina's origin as a dominatrix, for example, state over and over again that the events of Batman: Year One have never been confirmed by other sources, or that they've been contradicted by Catwoman: Year One. Others say that she never trained with Ted Grant, or that she couldn't possibly be as skilled as she is in the art of hand-to-hand combat because we never saw her training with anyone, or that it doesn't make sense for a dominatrix to suddenly have mad cat burglary skillz.
Up until now, there's never been any way to dispute these statements, no matter how incorrect they are. Personally, every time I see them, I get hopping mad because I know better. But, that's me. I've been collecting Catwoman's appearances for ages; I've been reading her stories for fifteen years; I can't expect everyone else to track down every single issue just to find out what really makes Selina tick.
One of the underlying reasons I started this blog was not just to spread love for Catwoman around, but to serve as an educational resource. About eighty percent of Catwoman’s post-crisis comics appearances remain uncollected, including all of her 90‘s solo-series (except four issues in ‘The Cat File‘--which is out of print). This means the only way you’ll find them is by scouring back issue bins--and even then, you might not know what to look for. If you ever want to read Selina’s complete origin story, it’d take forever to track everything down and piece it together.
Thus, after nearly nine months of preparation, searching, research and hard work, I have compiled the most complete post-crisis Catwoman origin in history. Since I own about four hundred of Selina’s four hundred-sixty comics appearances published since the crisis--indeed, I own EVERY appearance from 1986 to 1999 as well as her 1989, 1993 and 2002 series and am slowly filling in what few gaps are left--I was able to comb through every appearance, looking for mentions of her origin so that nothing would be left out.
Piecing together the timeline took a fair bit of doing and a fair bit of me pulling my hair out, but all in all, the result was worth it. The timeline draws from several different sources that contain information about Selina’s beginnings: Batman: Year One, Catwoman: Her Sister’s Keeper, Catwoman Annual #2, Catwoman #0, Catwoman: Secret Files and Origins, Catwoman #81 and Catwoman #94.
In the interests of clarity and conciseness, I had one rule while compiling the timeline:
Events must be either CONFIRMED by another comic or UNDISPUTED throughout continuity to make it onto the timeline as canon.
If part of an event is disputed, while another part of the event is confirmed, then only the confirmed part makes it onto the timeline. Also, with the exception of a couple of pages from Selina's Big Score (still found in Batman: Ego and Other Stories), all of these comics are out of print.
This post is most definitely NOT dial-up friendly and is VERY, VERY image heavy. But I swear it'll be worth it.
Please be advised, this post contains violence, domestic abuse, self harm, suicide and mentions of rape.
Selina's story is continued in issues #38, #39 and #40 of her 1993 series (an arc titled Catwoman: Year Two), which chronicles her change from the gray suit above to the purple suit she wore throughout the nineties, which will be posted as I work my way through posting all of Catwoman's appearances. For now, though, it's safe to say that this timeline represents Selina's life from childhood all the way up to the first year of her life as Catwoman.
I find that this timeline quite clearly conveys all the reasons why Selina became Catwoman as well as all the reasons how she became Catwoman in a completely believable way.
The whys are easiest: If you've ever been poor, you understand her desire for wealth. If you've ever been confined, you can understand her need for freedom. If you've ever depended on someone else only to find out they can't be dependable, you can understand her need for independence. If you've ever been betrayed, you can understand why she had learn to look out for number one.
There's psychological cause and effect at work here. Just like we all carry our emotional scars from things that have happened to us, so does Selina. This trait sets her apart from many fictional characters--especially most two-dimensional masked villains in comic books. You can see where her scars came from and how she chose to deal with them.
Now, some people don't like to see these scars. They label Selina as a victim in her origin story, or a bad character, or worse, a bad person. That isn't true. The fact is: bad things happen to us all and it doesn't matter if you've been wounded, what matters is how you heal from the wound.
At every turn throughout the timeline, Selina has been met with adversity--sometimes outright resistence. Yet, she overcomes all the obstacles that come her way. She learns from them or maneuvers around them or develops the skills to overcome them.
And what about those skills? Sure, someone might say it's unlikely for a dominatrix to become a master thief, but I say that's hogwash. Selina, like all of us, is more than just an occupation. A secretary can have interests outside taking memos, a construction worker can have interests outside laying concrete and a dominatrix can have interests outside dominating her clients--a fact that we've seen here, from her sessions with her teachers to her close friendship with Holly to her romantic entanglement with Stark.
Within the timeline, she studied the basics of self-defense and boxing with Ted Grant--a man who also taught her how to use a bullwhip and how to think strategically. With Stark, she learned to identify items of worth, how to steal, how to crack safes, how to fence stolen goods. With the Sensei, she learned to fight with grace and maneuver in upper class society with ease. She took gymnastics as a child and honed those skills at Seagate.
All these things came together to make ordinary Selina Kyle into a legend. What's more, all these things came together to make her into a three dimensional character with hopes, feelings and motivations. This version of Selina is a complicated person, layered and positively fascinating, and an absolute gem of a fictional character.
Now, with this post finally, FINALLY complete, I can go off and start playing catch-up with back-logged posts that I owe you guys. :)