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This Catwoman Universe Guide will walk through the lesser-known world of one of the most famous feline anti-heroes.
Many Batman fans or casual comic readers don’t know how much love Catwoman has gotten from writers through the years. Her own comics have done quite well since she first got her run in 1989 with Catwoman: Her Sister’s Keeper. I’ll talk more about that later.
From being a young boy whose mother’s favorite animal was a cat, you can imagine how often we watched Batman Returns. That’s the one with Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, which I enjoyed.
Soon, my addiction to Batman comics and the 1990s cartoons series had me introduced to the first comic romance I would actually be supportive of: Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne.
I became enamored with the idea that a bad character, a villain, was more complex than just a prototype evil doer. I found myself seeking out Catwoman stories and falling in love with writing that went against the typical hero saves the day formulae.
Catwoman would go places other heroes wouldn’t. She was still selfish in a lot of the ways a villain is. Yet, she has certain lines she wouldn’t cross, and most importantly, she’d make sure you’d pay if you were the kind of villain who crossed them. I loved this. This was my first anti-hero crush.
Let me jump right into Catwoman’s world, which is admittedly not always heroic but, more often than not, a ton of fun.
Bottom Line Up Front
This Catwoman Universe Guide will help you see Gotham City through the eyes of the cat instead of the bat. Show you some of the trials you may not have known Selina has endured as a character. You will be a deep well of Catwoman knowledge when we are done, and we’d have it no other way.
The place where Batman stalks evil at night and The Joker puts the last smile on many faces. To read more about the Batman universe, click here. The world has seen the dark underbelly of Gotham time and time again through the eyes of Batman. Yet, Catwoman has lived in the silhouette of every aspect of that underbelly. Gotham, through her eyes, is the city I will talk about now.
Catwoman’s origin has undergone a few changes before settling in on the street-savvy version of Selina Kyle we have today. One of my favorite things about the show Gotham was the portrayal of the character as a youth by the actress Cameron Bicondova and building on how different her childhood was from Bruce’s.
What is right and wrong for Batman and much of Gotham’s upper class are almost petty in Catwoman’s eyes.
In her Gotham, there were times when if she didn’t violently defend herself or her friend/s, they would suffer a great deal and possibly even die. Sometimes that violence meant safety only existed if the trouble was extinguished permanently.
Selina spent much time on the streets, where pimps took advantage of young girls and made money by selling them terrible dreams. Dreams where money was worth more than self. For a while, Selina herself believed in this dream. She was a victim of a narrative that made her a real victim until, through her own grit, she decided to be more.
These are not common problems, but this is what right and wrong mean to Catwoman in Gotham. Not moral obligations based on possessive ideology, but on whether to suffer or not.
A Life of Crime
She has a bit of Robin Hood in her, only the rich she takes from are of Gotham, and the poor she usually gives to is herself. Stealing from those who have more by the nature of the world is an easy choice for her. This is why she is a cat burglar, not a mugger or hitwoman.
When you commit a crime in Gotham and grow up around criminals, you eventually meet two things. One is Batman, and the other is the crime families of Gotham. Catwoman has had private conversations and dealings with nearly every criminal in Gotham City.
She was often associated with the Penguin, who crushes awkwardly on her more than not, and the Riddler. These are two criminals of whom she could be seen committing acts of villainy throughout the earlier runs of her character. Usually, it would be her abusing how easy they were to manipulate via her looks to get her into a position to steal something valuable.
Sometimes when their plans were a little too extreme, she could be found to divulge information during a chase with the bat. This was perhaps the first hint at a starting romance. It didn’t really build to anything until she came out from a stint in prison and attempted to avoid her impulses to steal in the Shadow of the Cat story arc.
The hints of the anti-hero she would become today started there.
With her origin story being given a clearer definition after Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, there was a greater sympathy for Catwoman. We saw what drove her to crime and didn’t fault her for it.
Trauma may connect Batman and Catwoman, but Catwoman couldn’t just escape into the wealth of her family. She couldn’t seek out the greatest trainers in the world and high-tech gadgets or suits like Bruce could as he took a vow against criminals in response. She had to adapt to survive. She had to find a place in the machine.
Selina grew up basting in Gotham’s villainy. She learned to fight by getting into fights(and a little help from Wildcat). She learned to steal by doing it, and there was a painful learning curve for failure.
Because of this, Catwoman is a respected name in the dark corners of Gotham City. She will punish you if you harm any girl on her block and any block she happens to be crossing by. More importantly, she has the skills to get to you regardless of your ‘security’ detail.
Yes, in film and some older material, she was killed by her crappy boss and revived by cats. No, that is no longer the Selina Kyle you read in modern comics. Yes, I did enjoy that Catwoman, but I find this version more akin to the history that is Gotham City. How it makes most of its criminals AND heroes through the circle of crime.
In the newest iteration of Batman in cinema, Selina Kyle is portrayed by the very talented Zoe Kravitz. They really get the best actresses for her. This section is a SPOILER for the film! It covers her story arc, where she travels to Rome with The Riddler to look for her biological parents.
She discovers her father and is not too happy about it, Carmine Falcone. Well, “maybe” it’s her father. The book doesn’t give a direct answer. It makes it very clear that the Falcones are her parents, and any proof of that has been completely destroyed. Selina will never ‘truly’ know. Such a lovely story.
Falcone is perhaps the biggest non-super villain name in all of crime in Gotham. He’s worked with the biggest villains around.
Catwoman has no problem stealing from crime bosses or kingpins. They deserve their wealth even less than most. Yet, manipulating others to get her way doesn’t always turn out in her favor. The Riddler, for instance, often betrays her. This story arc ends no different, and Catwoman loses a possible lover and all the answers thanks to said betrayal.
A hitman named Blondie falls in love with her, as one might, and reveals to her that the Falcones had a second daughter. However, that daughter was initially intended to be killed. Carmine Falcone thought having a second daughter instead of a son would look like a sign of weakness. Luckily the child’s birth mother(Luisa Falcone) paid a favor to the bodyguard meant to kill the girl to give the child up for adoption in Gotham instead.
While this almost entirely confirms who her biological parents were, Selina’s mother, Luisa Falcone, orders her death in the comic. Blondie refuses and gets killed while Selina waits for him at the airport. She never learns of this. It gives her no proper conclusion to her search, even if all the pieces point to the obvious.
The Batman movie just goes ahead and confirms Carmine Falcone is her father 100 percent. Hey, they got to build their version of Catwoman. At least, it is based on actual connections hidden in Catwoman’s history.
Selina Kyle and the Carmine family will never be on good terms after the bad blood. That’s one thing you can count on, no matter the modern iteration of her troubled tale.
Is Catwoman a Member of the Birds of Prey?
The Black Canary and Barbra Gordon, who had become paralyzed and since adopted the monocle, Oracle, started The Birds of Prey.
As the team went on, it did pick up new members here and there. The Huntress became a staple, for instance.
Catwoman, however, was never a “full-time” member. In different iterations, it was her daughter Helena who was a version of The Huntress that is often connected to the group.
While Catwoman makes appearances and has a unique connection with them, it is often mistaken that she is a full-fledged member. This is not the case. Selina Kyle is a solo act…except for one team.
The Gotham City Sirens
This team usually consists of Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman. They do the good and the bad, almost always facing off against Gotham’s villains. Sometimes though, they have to deal with more personal enemies. Enemies like Sister Zero, Catwoman’s actual sister who had gone mad.
The popularity of these characters would carry this comic quite far. Eventually, it would fade away as the trio had so much use in other areas of the comicdom. Still, their friendship would transcend into their other stories from time to time.
Yes, Catwoman is very good at what she does. She has the money, the items, and the look. So, as Selina Kyle, her life as an adult is often mistaken as one of the ‘upper class’ in Gotham.
Yet her disdain for people who work for money just to spend it on items of value fuels her as hunger fuels the starved.
In the latest run, started in 2018, from the very first go, Catwoman has made it clear she is a thief by choice these days. There is no more a necessity for her to do what she does. She just loves it.
She has no boss, makes her own rules, and doesn’t waste her money parading expensive artifacts for show. She steals them from others to decorate her own place for personal satisfaction. It could be argued that she feels the items will mean more to her than they ever would to the fools she stole them from.
Yes, Catwoman lives well as an adult. Sometimes this conceals the upbringing and the insatiable need to continue a life of crime and eventual crime fighting. However, unlike many characters in comicdom, Selina Kyle earns this wealth on the page. Sure, stealing, but she earns it just the same.
A child between Selina and Bruce will likely be born in the current canon. However, it is often very likely, so don’t look for it too soon.
They’ve been teasing this child since the 90s, even giving us a version in what DC refers to as “Earth-2”. The Huntress of that Earth is Helena Wayne, who would one day go on to replace her father as Batman. She is the daughter of Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne.
Another daughter that would become the Huntress is Helena Kyle. The daughter of Selina and a man named Sam Bradley, son of the oldest Detective in the DC Universe. Yes, even older than Bruce. What makes this Helena Kyle interesting is she was canon.
Up until 2011, via the New Earth versions of DC, Helena Kyle was the acting daughter of Selina Kyle. She was The Huntress and a damn good one. She would not go on to become Batman like the daughter of the same name in Earth-2 and sadly would not be used much after 2011. Though briefly, a live-action version of the character existed in The Birds of Prey series before it was canceled.
It tells that Selena’s child is consistently named Helena and is often associated with a vigilante title.
In a more recent tale, Damian Wayne (Batman’s biological son and current Robin) envisioned that his father and Selina would have a son(Aion). It’s more of a fear of Damian’s and his issues with probably being replaced than fortune telling. Yet, the writers have leaned into it quite a bit.
So, maybe Helena will return, and Damian will get himself a little sister.
Holly is Selina’s best friend. The two are nearly tied at the hip, often living with Selina in Catwoman standalone comics. She is a former prostitute who Selina saved. She takes to getting training from Catwoman and Wildcat as she grows up on the pages. Holly steps into the role of Catwoman when Selina needs a break, which also helps keep the heat off both of them with the whole secret identity thing. Holly was only 13 when she met Selina. Let the rest of the paragraph sink in.
This is Selina’s sister. In 1989 the follow-up to Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One was the infamous My Sister’s Keeper standalone four-issue story for Catwoman. It introduced both Maggie and Holly to the comic world. Maggie was a nun. Poor Maggie would get brought back into Catwoman’s 3rd standalone series with a husband. She and her husband would become the victims of Black Mask. Maggie went insane when it was all said and done, and after that, being known as Sister Zero.
The very first Detective of Detective Comics #1. He is one of the few good P.I.’s in Gotham. More importantly, though, Slam is the grandfather of Helena Kyle, Selina’s daughter, for an extended period of comic book time. Although he is also shown to have a crush on her during his run in her Volume 3 series. Kind of a cute crush, not a dangerous one. He gets worried he’s too old while also being overprotective of Holly. Anyways, they do end up having a bit of a romance. Comics are weird.
An essential recurring character in Catwoman’s standalone comics. Eiko is an excellent sword fighter and ends up growing into a very close friendship with Catwoman. In the Catwoman canon, she becomes the head of the Yakuza in Gotham. She also takes up the Catwoman mantle to help Selina for a bit, so Selina’s identity stays hidden.
Catgirl AKA Katrina Falcone
Katrina is the niece of Mario Falcone, and she suffered some abuse, all too common for the daughter of a Falcone. Selina took her under a wing for a time as a sidekick. While it was a moving story, and I couldn’t leave Catgirl off this list, especially considering the family connection, the character hasn’t seen much use after her initial run.
Alice makes all of Selina’s gadgets, not for free, but she makes some damn good gadgets. This super convenient character is a nerd and a gamer who doesn’t like to leave her house much. She seems to mostly only inhabit the New 52 world of Catwoman, which is why you may not have heard of her. Still, modern Catwoman may yet run into an Alice in her travels when she requires some upgrades Bruce doesn’t know about.
The biggest head of organized crime and probably the biological father of Selina Kyle. Carmine Falcone is never written as a wholly ‘good’ man. He often speaks about how family matters more than anything else, but when he says it, there are conditions to his words. Family for him is only so as long as they don’t jeopardize the crime organization he runs. Selina is a blemish to the strength of his word. She isn’t just proof he’s full of crap. She makes sure to take from him whenever the opportunity arises. There are scars on his face that her claws made sure would remind him of her until his dying day.
The nasty, trick-umbrella-using, often underestimated villain of the Batman Universe. He has to make this list because I love Batman Returns. Also, Danny DeVito, the extremely talented actor who played The Penguin, penned a Catwoman and Penguin love story! An official DC comic publication! Gotham City Villains: Anniversary Giant #1.
This horrible piece of villainy has become one of Catwoman’s greatest enemies. After swearing revenge on her for Catwoman’s usual antics, Black Mask took the revenge TOO far. He hunted down and hurt or killed everyone close to Selina. Later, as DCs Blackest Knight story arc carried over into Catwoman’s world, Black Mask dawned a black lantern ring. His ultimate goal was to drive so much fear into Selina that he would turn her into another member of the Black Corps. With help from Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, Selina survived, and Black Mask was trapped indefinitely in a giant man-eating plant.
Yeah, I had to. Bruce Wayne, a billionaire orphan, swears revenge on crime in Gotham and trains his whole life to become Batman. Prowling the rooftops at night, stopping criminals on the streets below, he stumbles across a cat burglar who, while doing villainy, still makes choices that show a good heart. Slowly over time, he falls madly in love with her and becomes convinced to prove to her she is a good person. That cat burglar is our Catwoman.
Barbara Gordon AKA Oracle
She was also Batgirl, the primary Batgirl. She and Catwoman have a history of being on opposite sides of a fight. Yet, as Selina became more and more of an anti-hero, she and Barbra crossed paths on similar missions. Usually via Birds of Prey Storylines. They have respect for one another. Sort of “enemies so long no one is allowed to give us crap but one another,” kind of respect. Also, Barbra knows Selina and Bruce love each other, so she’s one of the few privy to the whole behind-the-scenes of their mask stuff.
The Huntress AKA Helena Wayne/Kyle/Bertinelli
The Huntress uses a crossbow and decent martial arts to patrol the night for bad guys like your usual vigilante. Two different versions of the Huntress have been Selina’s daughter. Both of them had their mother’s temper. However, one version of the Huntress, Helena Bertinelli, the version that is not Selina’s daughter and the current iteration, saved Catwoman’s life.
These two have worked together and betrayed each other so much that it would be odd to not see their hate-hate relationship continue. In one of the most exciting turns of their long-term back and forth, Catwoman: Lonely City #3 has the two fall into each other’s arms. Both reformed here and looking for answers and understanding, and old. Gray streaks grace their hair as they end up sharing a night. It isn’t even the start of a romance. It’s just an accepted comfort between two people that should have certainly died at each other’s hands. What brings them together? Trying to understand Batman’s last words.
Ivy and Harley Quinn (The Gotham City Sirens)
Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, and Catwoman always make an interesting trio. They all have very different reasons for being criminals, and all have a sense of justice that is also unique. These are usually her go-two buddies for crime or help when she’s looking. Turns out they can agree to help each other more often than not. In fact, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn are the only people that Catwoman rarely betrays. She even does things for them without personal gain involved. They arguably fall just below Holly Robinson as good buddies.
Wildcat AKA Ted Grant
During Her Sister’s Keeper storyline, Wildcat drives her to become strong enough physically and emotionally to stand up and take down the men who’ve made her life a living hell. So Wildcat is often depicted as the trainer of Selina when it comes to hand-to-hand fighting. Who is he, though? He is referred to by heroes within the DC Universe as one of the first masked vigilantes to ever do it.
Essential Arcs of Catwoman
Shadow of the Cat
This arc exists within the pages of old Batman issues. It tells the story of Selina considering giving up her life of crime after getting out of prison. (Due to its current cost, it is cheaper to read a digital copy).
It could be the character’s popularity or the writer’s boldness at the time. Whichever it was, the choice to start pushing Catwoman into the anti-hero role was the right one. The arc is full of good writing, and a nice view into Catwoman before her darker origins became canon.
Catwoman: Her Sister’s Keeper
Don’t let children read this arc. It is vivid and contains subjects of rape, abuse, and other terrible implications. These horrid lines are used to explain the origins of Catwoman. After this 1989 follow-up to Batman: Year One came out, this was more or less the accepted origin for a long time.
Pieces of this origin still ring true today, with Holly Robinson a fixture of Catwoman’s world and Maggie, her sister, still out there somewhere.
Catwoman: When in Rome
She has to face down Cheetah and Scarecrow and deal with trauma all at the same time. While also outsmarting the Riddler and stealing a very precious ring. Also, there’s Joker Toxin.
What is she doing in Rome, though? This is the graphic novel where she is hunting down the origins of her biological family. This is the one that ties her to the Falcones. It’s quite a good read.
This story lives up to its name. As it moves along, Slam Bradley, Selina, and Holly seem none the wiser for the horror building.
Selina had stolen from Black Mask, and his revenge comes in ten folds during this plot that reintroduces Maggie Kyle. Selina’s sister is now a married woman instead of a nun. It also shows how badass Slam Bradley is. He nearly dies, getting hit by a car to save Holly’s life.
The final showdown between Black Mask is beautiful, as depicted in the picture, but what I don’t show is the horror that happened before it. He tortured Maggie Kyle and her husband. The husband died during the torture. It sends Maggie down the proverbial deep end, I you will.
This story arc is not for the faint of heart. Even Holly gets her hands bloodied before its end.
No one leaves unscathed.
Not much has changed. Catwoman is back to being in a thing with Bruce and running on rooftops doing the anti-hero thing again. There’s been talk of pregnancy, but there always is.
Some of her better writing recently has been outside of her own comics, which is fine. Still, 2022 has her prepping for life as a wife. Yes, with Bruce.
She is still tied up with the Yakuza and doing the hero thing her way, but it seems they may go through with it.
Time will tell. For now, Catwoman and Batman is the fated romance of two people madly in love but not really walking the same roads home. Me? I tend to see things a little bit more the way Selina does. What about you?
Good Catwoman Reading Material
- Batman: Year One
- Batman: Hush
- Catwoman: Catwoman Dies
- Selina’s Big Score
- Catwoman: The Catfile
- Catwoman: The Replacements
- The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne
- Gotham City Sirens: Book One
I hope you’ve taken a lot of cat-knowledge and walked away from this article knowing more about Catwoman than you came in. She’s really built a long legacy for herself. Many of her solo runs lasted more than 80 issues a piece.
Catwoman has fought alongside the Justice League and against them. She has also had more actresses portray her than any other female comic character in history.
Catwoman is a longtime favorite of mind. While I only touched on some of the fantastic lore, I suggest picking up some of those graphic novels for a read of her trials.
Good reading and best wishes, reader.
Question: Do Catwoman and Batman have a baby?
Answer: Yes, in one continuity but not in DC’s current main comic line. Helena Wayne.
Question: Can Catwoman beat Batman?
Answer: While she isn’t a better fighter, she just has a way with him. She has, in fact, beaten him more than once.
Question: Does Catwoman have superpowers?
Answer: No. In some continuity, Catwoman does seem to have powers. The current iteration of her is just a very talented human.
Question: What was Catwoman’s first appearance?
Answer: Batman #1, 1940. She was in the first issue of Batman’s original run after he left Detective Comics.