REVIEW: BATMAN LEGACY CLASSIC CATWOMAN FIGURE
Although the main DC Universe Classics line is concluding its retail presence following the release of Series 20, and becoming an online exclusive through MattyCollector.Com's "Club Infinite Earths", there are still excellent (and fully compatible) DC Universe action figures to be found, if under other group names.
One of these names is BATMAN: LEGACY, and it has already given us some excellent additions to the line, including a couple of classic incarnations of Batman, a superb Batgirl figure, a long-overdue Catman (for those of us that are Secret Six fans), and now, a classic incarnation of CATWOMAN.
This is not the first time Catwoman has put in an appearance as part of Mattel's superb, Four Horsemen-designed line of DC Universe action figures. A modern-day Catwoman, dressed in her black leather tights, made her way into the DC Super-Heroes line, the Superman-Batman-centric precursor to the DC Universe Classics line. A recolored version of this figure, wearing a purple uniform, essentially combining her modern leather outfit with its purple spandex predecessor, appeared in a DC Universe Classics five-pack that featured several characters from the respective universes of the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel.
However, Catwoman has been enough of a clothes-horse over the years, with at least nine different costumes over the course of her history, that there is certainly room for more figures of this popular character. And so we have an all-new, classic Catwoman in the Batman: Legacy line.
Let's consider the history of Catwoman, and then have a look at the figure.
Catwoman was created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, partially inspired by Kane's cousin, Ruth Steel. Kane, a frequent movie goer, also mentioned that Jean Harlow was a model for the design.
The original and most widely known Catwoman, Selina Kyle, first appeared in Batman #1 (Spring 1940) in which she is known as The Cat. She is an adversary of Batman, known for having a complex love-hate (often romantic) relationship with him. In her first appearance, she was a whip-carrying burglar with a taste for high-stake thefts.
For many years Catwoman thrived, but from September 1954 to November 1966 she took an extended hiatus due to the newly developing Comics Code Authority in 1954. These issues involved the rules regarding the development and portrayal of female characters that were in violation of the Comics Code.
Since the 1990s, Catwoman has been featured in an eponymous series that cast her as an antihero rather than a supervillain. The character has been one of Batman's most enduring love interests. Many modern writers have also interpreted her activities and costumed identity as a response to a history of abuse.
A popular figure, Catwoman has been featured in most media adaptations related to Batman. Actresses Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, and Eartha Kitt introduced her to a large audience on the 1960s Batman television series and the 1966 Batman motion picture. Michelle Pfeiffer portrayed the character in 1992's Batman Returns. Halle Berry starred in a stand-alone Catwoman film in 2004, which was a box-office flop, and was not based on the Batman character. Anne Hathaway will portray Selina Kyle in Christopher Nolan's upcoming Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises.
Batman's creator, Bob Kane, was a great movie fan and his love for film provided the impetus for several Batman characters, among them, Catwoman. She was primarily inspired by Hedy Lamarr and partially inspired by 1930's film star Jean Harlow who at Kane's then-early and "impressionable age... seemed to personify feminine pulchritude at its most sensuous."
Wanting to give his Batman comic books sex appeal and someone who could appeal to female readers as a female Batman, Kane and writer Bill Finger created a "friendly foe who committed crimes but was also a romantic interest in Batman's rather "sterile life." She was meant to be a love interest and to engage Batman in a chess game with him trying to reform her. At the same time, this character was meant to be different from other Batman villains like the Joker in that she was never a killer or evil.
As for using cat imagery with their Catwoman, Kane states he and Finger saw cats as "kind of the antithesis of bats."
Catwoman, then called "the Cat", first appeared in Batman #1 as a mysterious burglar and jewel thief, revealed at the end of the story to be a young, attractive woman (unnamed in the first story), having disguised herself as an old woman during the story and been hired to commit a robbery. Although the story does not have her wearing her iconic cat-suit, it establishes her core personality as a femme fatale who both antagonizes and attracts Batman. It is implied Batman may have deliberately let her get away, by blocking Robin as he tried to leap after her. She next appears in Batman #2 in a story also involving the Joker but escapes Batman in the end. In Batman #3 she wears a fur mask and again succeeds in escaping Batman.
Batman #62 (December/January 1950) revealed that Catwoman is an amnesiac flight attendant who had turned to crime after suffering a prior blow to the head during a plane crash she survived. She reveals this after being hit on the head by a piece of rubble while saving Batman while he was chasing her. Although, in one of the last issues of The Brave and the Bold, she admits that she made up the amnesia story because she wanted a way out of the past life of crime.
She reforms for several years, helping out Batman in Batman #65 (June/July 1951) and #69 (February/March 1952), until she decides to return to a life of crime in Detective Comics #203 (January 1954), after a newspaper decides to publish stories of Batman's past adventures, and some crooks mock her about it. However in this story when Batman prevents a robbery and is knocked out by sleeping gas, Catwoman prevents her thugs from murdering him, though quickly claims she wants him as a hostage. Catwoman appears again as a criminal in Batman #84 (June 1954) and Detective Comics #211 (September 1954) for her final appearance until 1966.
In the 1970s comics, a series of stories taking place on Earth-Two (the parallel Earth that was retroactively declared as the home of DC's Golden Age characters) reveal that on that world, Selina reformed in the 1950s (after the events of Batman #69) and had married Bruce Wayne; soon afterward, she gave birth to the couple's only child, Helena Wayne (the Huntress). The Brave and the Bold #197 (April 1983) elaborates upon the Golden Age origin of Catwoman given in Batman #62, after Selina reveals that she never actually had amnesia. It is revealed that Selina Kyle had been in an abusive marriage, and eventually decides to leave her husband. However, her husband keeps her jewelry in his private vault, and she has to break into it to retrieve it. Selina enjoys this experience so much she decides to become a professional costumed cat burglar, and thus begins a career that repeatedly leads to her encountering Batman.
The Earth-Two/Golden Age Selina Kyle eventually dies in the late 1970s after being blackmailed by a criminal into going into action again as Catwoman, as shown in DC Super-Stars #17 (November/December 1977).
Catwoman made her first Silver Age appearance in Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane #70 (November 1966); afterward, she continued to make appearances across the various Batman comics.
Catwoman's origin—and, to an extent, her character—was revised in 1986 when writer Frank Millerand artist David Mazzucchelli published Batman: Year One, a revision of Batman's origin. She works as a prostitute in order to survive and wants to break away from her abusive pimp (and former boyfriend). She witnesses his crimes and, because of an event that occurs to her sister, fears for her sister's life and begins to study self-defense and martial arts. Her teacher inspires Selina to become more than what she has been and she realizes that prostitution is no life for her, or for Holly.
Holly Robinson is a young runaway who idolizes Selina, but is much too young to be on the streets as far as Selina is concerned. Selina shares her home with Holly after she takes her in. As the story progresses Selina is led to a bit of burglary, she dons a catsuit costume that her now former pimp gave to her the day that she told him she was out of the business. After costuming herself so as not to be revealed, she gets a taste for burglary and begins to do it in more of a Robin Hood way than an actual thief. This is, however, how she runs into Batman. After a small confrontation, she begins to be inspired to stay in her costume and become the "Catwoman" after seeing Batman in action with others. Selina gets the idea that, if there is a "bat", why can there not be a "cat"?
The 1989 Catwoman limited series, written by Mindy Newell and with art by J.J. Birch, expanded upon Miller's Year One origin. This storyline, known as "Her Sister's Keeper", explores Selina's early life as a prostitute and the start of her career as Catwoman. The story culminates with Selina's former pimp, Stan, abducting and violently abusing her sister Maggie, who, in contrast to Selina, is a nun. Selina kills Stan to save her sister, and gets away with it. Most of this is revealed in the former series, but is expanded upon in "Her Sister's Keeper".
Catwoman (vol. 2) #69, which provides details about Selina's childhood, neglects Maggie's existence. Maria Kyle is a distant parent who preferred to spend her time with cats, and commits suicide when Selina is very young. Her alcoholic father, Brian, is cold to Selina for resembling her mother (whom he resents for dying), and eventually drinks himself to death. To survive, Selina takes to the streets for a time before getting caught and sent first to an orphanage, then juvenile hall, "where Selina began to see how hard the world could really be."Maggie's fate at this point in the time-line is not alluded to. However, when Ed Brubaker reintroduces her into the comic, he implies that Maggie may have directly entered an orphanage and promptly been adopted.
When she is 13, Selina discovers that the hall's administrator has been embezzling funds, and she confronts her. In an attempt to cover up her crime, the administrator puts Selina in a bag and drops her in a river to drown (like a cat). She escapes and returns to the orphanage, where she steals documents exposing the administrator's corruption. She uses these to blackmail the administrator into erasing "Selina Kyle" from the city's records, then steals the administrator's diamond necklace and escapes the orphanage. Selina eventually finds herself in "Alleytown - a network of cobblestone streets that form a small borough between the East End and Old Gotham." Selina is taken in by Mama Fortuna, the elderly leader of a gang of young thieves, and is taught how to steal. Fortuna treats her students like slaves, keeping their earnings for herself. Selina eventually runs away, accompanied by her friend Sylvia. However, the two have difficulty surviving on their own, and in desperation try to support themselves by working as prostitutes. The two drift apart afterward, with Sylvia coming to resent Selina for not inquiring about what had happened to her at the hands of her abusive first client.
In the Catwoman: Year One story, Selina (now an adult) achieves some success as a thief. Following a disastrous burglary, however, she accepts an offer to "lie low" as a dominatrix in the employ of a pimp named Stan. They plan to trick men into divulging information that might be used in future crimes. According to this storyline, Selina trains under the Armless Master of Gotham City, receiving education in martial arts and culture. During this time, a client gives her a cat o' nine tails, which Selina kept as a trophy.
Batman: Dark Victory, the sequel to The Long Halloween, implies that Catwoman suspects she is the illegitimate daughter of mafia boss Carmine Falcone, although she finds no definitive proof. Selina's connection to the Falcone family is further explored in the miniseries Catwoman: When in Rome. Though the story adds more circumstantial evidence to the theory of Selina's Falcone heritage, establishing that the Falcones' secondborn daughter was put up for adoption in America, it also supplies no definitive proof. During The Long Halloween, Selina (out of costume) develops a relationship with Bruce Wayne, even leading her to save Bruce from Poison Ivy. However, this relationship appears to end on the Fourth of July when Bruce rejects her advances twice—once as Bruce, and once as Batman. She leaves him for good and also leaves Gotham for a while in Batman: Dark Victory, after he stands her up on two holidays. When the two meet at an opera many years later, during the events of Hush, Bruce comments that the two no longer have a relationship as Bruce and Selina.
Catwoman also appears in the Batman: Knightfall saga, where she is approached by Bane's henchmen while robbing a house. Bane asks her to work for him, but she refuses, as she is repulsed by the criminal who "broke" Batman. Later in the story, she boards a plane with Bruce Wayne to fly to Santa Prisca. She next appears in the Batman: Knightquest saga, where Azrael is masquerading as Batman. She is one of the few to recognize that Batman is an impostor, later being present when the true Batman returns to the fold as he struggles against his successor, his willingness to save even criminals confirming his true identity for Selina.
In 1993, Catwoman was given her first ongoing comic book series. This series, written by an assortment of writers, but primarily penciled by Jim Balent, generally depicted the character as an international thief (and occasional bounty hunter) with an ambiguous moral code.
Story-lines include her adoption of teenage runaway, and erstwhile sidekick, Arizona; aiding Bane, whom she later betrays to Azrael; and a stint as a reluctant government operative. The series also fleshes out more of her origin, revealing her beginnings as a young thief, her difficult period in juvenile incarceration, and her training with Ted "Wildcat" Grant.
Moving to New York, Selina becomes corporate vice president then CEO of Randolf Industries, a mafia-influenced company, through blackmail. She plans to use this position to run for Mayor of New York City, but her hopes are dashed when the Trickster inadvertently connects her to her criminal alter ego.
Selina then returns to Gotham City, which at this time is in the midst of the No Man's Land storyline. As Catwoman, she assists Batman against Lex Luthor in the reconstruction of the city. After being arrested by Commissioner Gordon, she escapes from prison. Later that year, during the "Officer Down" storyline in the Batman titles, Catwoman is initially the chief suspect. Although later cleared, she displays increasingly erratic behavior throughout the story. Soon afterward, she disappears and is believed to have been killed by the assassin Deathstroke the Terminator, ending her series at issue #94.
Catwoman then appears in a series of backup stories in Detective Comics #759-762 (August – November 2001). In the backup storyline "Trail of the Catwoman", by writer Ed Brubaker and artist Darwyn Cooke, private detective Slam Bradley attempts to find out what really happened to Selina Kyle. This storyline leads in to the newest Catwoman series in late 2001 (written by Brubaker initially with Cooke, later joined by artist Cameron Stewart). In this series, Selina Kyle, joined by new supporting cast members Holly and Slam Bradley (a character from the early Golden Age DC Comics), becomes protector of the residents of Gotham's East End, while still carrying out an ambitious career as a cat burglar.
During the Batman: Hush storyline, Batman and Catwoman briefly work together and have a romantic relationship, during which he reveals his true identity to her. At the end, he breaks off their relationship when he suspects it has been manipulated by the Riddler and Hush. This is the second story to establish that she knows Batman's true identity. In an early 1980s storyline, Selina and Bruce develop a relationship. The concluding story features a closing panel in which she refers to Batman as "Bruce". A change in the editorial team at that point, however, brought a swift end to that storyline and, apparently, all that transpired during the story arc.
In the Justice League story arc "Crisis of Conscience", Catwoman fights alongside Batman and the Justice League against the old Secret Society, of which she had once briefly been a member.
Catwoman appears to be completely reformed, and her love for Batman true (although brash and unpredictable). However, she has learned her reformation was the result of a mindwipe by Zatanna, a procedure known to deeply affect and, in at least one case, physically incapacitate its victims. Zatanna gives no reason for her actions, but in a flashback, it is shown that she had acted with the consent and aid of five of the seven JLA members who had helped her mindwipe Dr. Lightand Batman. Catwoman's response to this revelation is unequivocal: she duct-tapes Zatanna's mouth shut and pitches her out a window (Zatanna survives the fall). Afterward, she is seen covering her bed with past versions of her Catwoman costume.
Still unbalanced and uncertain of herself in issue #52, Selina is forced to decide whether to kill a supervillain. The Black Mask, in an attempt to "improve himself," threatens the most important people in Selina's life, from Slam Bradley to Holly. The villain had also previously tortured Selina's sister Maggie by drilling out her husband's eyeballs and feeding them to Maggie, which drove her insane. Black Mask learns Selina's identity through his earlier alliance with Selina's childhood friend Sylvia, who still harbors a grudge against Selina. Still thinking that Selina adheres to a strict no-kill rule, Black Mask is caught by surprise when Selina shoots him in the head. This action continues to haunt her throughout the One Year Later storyline, and it is suggested that this might have been the first time she had ever directly taken a life.
Following the events of Infinite Crisis, the DC Universe jumps forward in time. After One Year Later, Selina Kyle is no longer Catwoman, has left the East End, and has given birth to a daughter named Helena. The father of her new daughter is initially unrevealed; however, Batman demonstrates great concern for the child and at one point asks to have Helena stay at his mansion. Selina attempts to live a safe and somewhat normal life, and gives up her more dangerous ways of living as Catwoman. Holly Robinson takes over as the new Catwoman while Selina, living under the alias Irena Dubrovna, turns her attention to caring for her daughter (Selina's alias was inspired by the name of the main character in the 1942 film
Though she takes her role as a new mother quite seriously, Selina dons the costume for a run through the East End some days after Helena's birth. Having understandably gained a few pounds, Selina finds that her costume is now tighter. In addition, she is easily distracted by a common criminal. Although the situation is defused through Holly's opportune arrival, the sight of two Catwomen active simultaneously in the city is caught on video. Selina returns home from her adventure to find that the mysterious movie aficionado Film Freak has deduced her alias, joined with Angle Man, and grabbed Helena. After rescuing her daughter, Selina convinces Zatanna to mind-wipe Film Freak and Angle Man in order to preserve her secret identity. Following the procedure, Angle Man turns himself in to the authorities; Film Freak, however, embarks upon a murderous rampage.
A twist occurs when Wildcat informs Selina that Holly has been arrested for the murder of Black Mask. Selina infiltrates the police station and frees Holly. Finally defeating Film Freak, Selina returns home to find that Bradley has deduced that Helena is the daughter of his son Sam Bradley, Jr., and therefore his granddaughter.
Batman asks Catwoman to infiltrate the violent tribe of the Bana Amazons during the Amazons Attack! crossover. Posing as a criminal, Selina gains the Bana's trust and thwarts a terror attack aimed at causing mass casualties in Gotham City.
Selina questions whether she should be raising a daughter when her life as Catwoman has already proven to be such a danger to the child. After enlisting Batman's help in faking the death of both herself and her daughter, Selina puts Helena up for adoption. A month after Helena is placed with a new family, Catwoman asks Zatanna to erase her memories of Helena and change her mind back to a criminal mentality. Zatanna refuses, judging that such an act would be cruel to both mother and daughter. She tells Selina that she could never reverse Selina's mindset, since she was on the path to becoming a hero on her own.
In Detective Comics #848 (November 2008), the villain Hush attacks Selina, surgically removing her heart. She is delivered anonymously to a Gotham hospital. Batman receives word of her situation, and while he goes in search of Hush, he leaves Selina in the care of Doctor Mid-Nite, who is considered the superhero community's chief doctor.
Batman recovers her heart, and Dr. Mid-Nite restores it to her body; however, the doctor also makes a prognosis on whether she can still return to her former life swinging through rooftops. While Selina is still in a coma, she encounters Zatanna, who apologizes for not warning her about Hush. She tells Selina that she was so happy about her relationship with Bruce that she ignored the other warnings in the cards. Zatanna gives her a little bottle supposedly containing aloe vera for her post-op scars. It is hinted that there is a little magic in there to help Selina with her recovery. Selina is sad that she might end up alone again. In the meantime, Bruce enters the recovery room and, believing her unconscious, launches into a soliloquy. He ends by telling Selina that he will always love her, when she opens her eyes and reveals to him that she was awake all the time and heard his confession.
I won't get into the "Relaunch" version of the character here, since it has no relevance on this particular figure. As far as I'm concerned, the "New DC" is an alternate universe, one I hope is short-lived. Obviously, Catwoman has had an extensive history and career in the DC Universe.
So, how's the figure? Outstanding, really excellent. I admit I had a little trouble initially placing the time period of the particular costume she is wearing. I was reasonably certain that, largely in keeping with the Batman Legacy line, it was one of her more classic costumes (although the Catman figure is his modern version -- thank goodness). However, the costume struck me as just a little revealing to have gone back in time as far as I thought it did, and I was reasonably certain I had seen it in somewhat more recent times, although the purple spandex outfit and the black leather have held sway for quite some time. So ultimately, I really just wasn't sure.
With a little online assistance, it turned out that I was right on both counts. The costume worn by this particular Catwoman figure did originate in the 1940's. However, after a costume change or two inbetween, it returned in the 1970's, and was pretty much Catwoman's main costume up until 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths,
The costume is somewhat unusual in that is isn't specifically tights, and I do find myself wondering how the acrobatic Selina Kyle was able to make use of her considerable agility dressed in this thing. Catwoman is wearing a purple cowl, with cute little cat ears and black trim around the face -- an affectation of how many cowled characters were drawn at the time, including Batman. She has fairly long black hair tapering down from the back of the cowl, and her eyes and lower face are readily apparent.
Her eyes have blue-green irises and are very neatly painted, with eyelashes neatly in place, There is a certain amount of pink eye shadow above the eyes. She is wearing reddish-purple lipstick, and the facial expression is -- interesting. It looks like she's almost but not quite smiling. It's a rather mysterious facial expression, but as such certainly well in keeping with the character.
The costume is more like a fancy dress, almost a gown, than a standard super-type costume. The outfit is purple, and reasonably tight-fitting on the upper torso and arms. As much as anything, this is the result of the use of existing DC Universe Classics molds, something I don't have any problem with whatsoever, since it allows for a greater consistency in the overall line. Catwoman has some rather considerable cleavage, and the sleeves end in pointed cuffs. These may be new parts, although I would want to determine if any other female figures in the line have ever used these sleeves before I make that statement.
Catwoman's right hand is partly closed, and her right hand is mostly open, almost in a "scratching" position. Her fingernails have been painted a very dark purple.
Below the waist, the costume turns into more of a gown-like dress that has been slit on both sides, all the way up to the hip. Plastic flaps, mimicking fabric, and sculpting with nicely detailed "draping", descend nearly to the ankles. These do not impede the figure's articulation whatsoever, as they are made from highly flexible plastic. The figure's lower torso and gown segments are made from the same shade of purple as the upper torso and arms.
Catwoman's legs are bare, and she is wearing black, high-heeled boots. How's she supposed to run in these things!? The boots, which I believe may be unique to this figure, have been given a nice glossy black finish.
Catwoman also has a cape -- not something Catwoman has often been known for. The cape is green in color, a rather unusual choice to accompany the otherwise purple costume, and has a gold clasp in the front, even though the cape is actually attached to the figure's back, typical for Mattel's DC Universe figures. The cape, like the gown, is highly flexible.
Apart from the face, there's not really a lot of painted details on this figure. Mostly just the cleavage, fingernails, and boots. However, what paint there is has been very neatly done, and certainly the face has been superbly rendered in both sculpt and in paint.
Catwoman doesn't come with any accessories that she can actually hold, despite the positioning of the right hand. The previous Catwoman figures in this line have generally come with her "cat o' nine tails" whip, so if you're fortunate enough to have one of those figures, maybe you can talk them into sharing.
Catwoman does come with a display base, and a small reproduction of a Golden Age Batman comic book featuring the character. Basically it's a mini-poster.
Obviously, the figure is superbly articulated. Catwoman is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.
So, what's my final word? Mattel may be having to adjust their DC Universe action figure offerings somewhat, and I believe that the "New DC 52" is one of the reasons, but I'm pleased to see that in one form or another, this superb series of action figures is continuing. I sincerely believe that Mattel's 6" scale DC Universe action figures are the finest ever produced, and whatever else is going on in the DC Universe, it is my sincere hope that they continue. The Batman Legacy line is one impressive way for them to do so, and certainly this Classic Catwoman figure is a very impressive entry in the line. If you're a DC Universe fan, or a Batman fan, or even specifically a Catwoman fan, you'll want this figure.
The BATMAN: LEGACY figure of CATWOMAN definitely has my highest recommendation!