By Contributing Writer, Beatriz Barbosa
Catwoman is one of my favorite comic book characters of all time. She may not be considered a superhero, but she, more often than not, is known for fighting for the voiceless. Whether she is stealing precious pieces of art and expensive jewelry, running away from the police and Gotham’s Dark Knight or protecting the innocent and defenseless, Selina Kyle manages to charm readers with her, at times, morally dubious decisions because she is so unapologetic about who she is that not even Batman himself has managed to keep her feet on the ground.
Catwoman, also known as Selina Kyle, has been around for almost as long as Batman has. She actually made her debut in the same issue as Batman’s most infamous archenemy, the Joker. Bill Finger and Bob Kane are responsible for the creation of the character, debuted in 1940 as “the Cat”. The idea of this cat persona was later explained by Kane as the representation of women. Comparing women to cats and men to dogs, Kane claims that women are unreliable and detached much like cats are. While this was the main reason behind her persona, it’s safe to say that those adjectives are far from what Selina Kyle is actually portrayed as.
One of Selina’s most famous origin story begins with her rough childhood with parents that were not interested in or capable to take care of their daughter. Her youth was filled with tragedy including the suicide of her mother and the abuse from her father, who despised her because she looked too much like her own mother. This tumultuous relationship led to her father’s alcohol abuse, which ultimately resulted in his death. Becoming an orphan by the unexpected loss of both of her parents, Selina found herself living on the streets of Gotham City using her talented abilities as a gymnast and her quick-witted personality to steal for her own survival. Within a week, Selina was placed in an institution for runaways called Seagates. Throughout her stay at this institution, Selina endured mistreatment for many years; but she was finally able to break free and take refuge in an abandoned property filled with stray cats in Gotham City. This was the start of her journey towards becoming the well-known “Catwoman”.
Over the years, Selina has been unfavorably considered as a villain. But in actuality, that is an oversimplification of what she symbolizes. Throughout comic history, there has been a build-up of her character and a natural progression of what Catwoman represents. Selina has become a symbol of more than just appeal. She has faced serious trauma ever since she was a little girl and has been able to overcome many obstacles and difficulties in her lifetime. Overcoming a life with an abuser, her parent’s tragic deaths, and being homeless at such a young age has helped in the shaping of this strong, multi-layered character. I have always found grey characters not only more compelling but more intriguing. Even though Catwoman is a burglar, she follows a moral code. She has found her own way to make justice in the same way that Batman has found his. Her method involves stealing from those who have more and giving it to those who are in need.
Selina Kyle has always appealed to me because she isn’t written to just be Bruce’s companion; and although many may know her as Batman’s romantic partner, she is so much more than that. Selina doesn’t alter her way of life and beliefs for him, which is another reason why she is so appealing to me. She’s a female comic book character who isn’t one dimensional and is not looking for love, but freedom. Lacking a healthy environment at home while growing up to become a homeless orphan and then being locked away at an abusive institute, Selina has the feline instinct of survival. She has spent most of her life taking care of herself and not depending on others even as a child. The harsh reality she had to face throughout most of her life has contributed to her willingness to bend morality when needed.
Much like Bruce Wayne, Selina has chosen to not become a victim of her tragic life. She opted to see the potential she had to become something greater and used it to become Catwoman. What makes her one of my favorite characters is exactly that. She did not allow her past to define her. Instead, she used it as a motivation to be free from everything that once held her back and limited her. This very fortunate evolution of her character is a stand out to me, as well. Selina was written as a Batman villain, but she later became an empowered anti-hero and the protagonist of her own story. Thankfully, Selina has been and is being written in a modern tone and strays far away from what Kane’s chauvinistic idea of what women are like. Now the character is being written by writer and artist Joëlle Jones. As the first woman responsible for writing and drawing Selina’s story in a series, I am very excited to see where she decides to take Selina Kyle next.
In short, I love Catwoman and what she represents: an independent woman who is powerful and at times vulnerable, but willing to do what it takes even if it means crossing a certain line that others wouldn’t cross. Tragedy has been a part of life, but it has only pushed her to work harder to never have to live that again. Selina is a conflicted character that manages to escape a life of abandonment and dedicate herself to be unrestricted and to protect herself while lending help to Gotham City’s homeless citizens and orphanages. She represents the child from the big city who became an orphan but had little to no opportunities at her disposal. Overcoming her past and victimhood, Selina Kyle is the personification of power.