Posts Tagged ‘Catwoman’

Read My Article on Comic Book Letter Columns in Gender and the Superhero Narrative, Available Now!

October 19, 2018

gender and pic

Today I got my copy of Gender and the Superhero Narrative, pictured above with a Funko of Diana Prince enjoying an ice cream cone, and I’m very excited to tell you all about this book. First off, I’m in it! That’s the main reason I’m telling you about it. I’ve written an article called “The Evolution of Female Readership: Letter Columns in Superhero Comics” and it is a DEEP dive.

I looked at over three thousand comic books for this study, and longtime readers may remember me asking for help tracking down some issues a couple of years back. Thanks to all of you (and especially thanks to Johanna Draper Carlson, KC Carlson, and their EPIC comic book collection) I got all of the letter columns I needed for this project, and the end results turned out very interesting.

I tabulated the folks who got published in letter columns at DC and Marvel by gender from their rise in the 1960s to the start of their decline in the 1990s. First, I established a baseline, with forty years of letter columns from Batman, Justice League, and Superman at DC and Amazing Spider-Man, Avengers, and Fantastic Four at Marvel. These numbers alone showed some fascinating trends, including the steady decline of female readers getting letters printed in superhero books.

But that was just step one. I averaged out these numbers and then compared them to a female-led series from each decade. At DC, we had Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane in the 60s, Wonder Woman in the 70s, Supergirl in the 80s, and Catwoman in the 90s. The choices were fewer at Marvel, but we had Millie the Model in the 60s, Ms. Marvel in the 70s, Dazzler in the 80s, and a combination of Sensational She-Hulk and Silver Sable and the Wild Pack in the 90s.

Needless to say, this article’s got charts on charts, which shouldn’t surprise any of you who are familiar with my work. And there’s some compelling information therein. I won’t tell you everything I found, because you should go read this book. But here’s a fun tidbit: The average female readership for each female-led series was ALWAYS higher than the baseline average of the other titles. Every year, for forty years, across ten different series. There’s various ways to interpret that, but a key takeaway is: Girls will read comics when girls are in comics.

Anyway, it’s a jam packed article with all sorts of fun information, some great letter column quotes, and, like I said, all of the charts. It was very fun to put together, and I had a great time working with the editors Michael Goodrum, Tara Prescott, and Philip Smith. It’s an academic book and I am not an academic, but they kindly invited me to be a part of the project anyway. And now it’s published by the University Press of Mississippi, which is kind of amazing for a comics history nerd like me. I cite their great books on comics all the time in my research, so to actually be in one is very cool.

And, of course, I’m just one of several contributors (here’s a flyer for the whole works: Gender and the Superhero Narrative). If you like letter columns, my article will be your jam, but the book covers so much. It’s got pieces on Batwoman, Bitch Planet, Jessica Jones, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Gwen, and more. Plus an introduction from Ryan North! Everyone loves Ryan North. He is as smart and delightful as he is tall, and he is very, very tall.

I hope you’ll check out Gender and the Superhero Narrative! It’s available now from the University Press of Mississippi or via most bookselling sites. And it’s only $30 US, which is pretty dang good for an academic book like this. These things can get pricey. Anyway, I’m really proud of my piece, and I love that so many readers helped me find the comics I needed to finish the research for it. Good group effort, gang! I think it turned out really well. Go pick up the fruits of our combined labours today!

Advertisements

The Many Lives of Catwoman Panel Discussion in Chicago, April 5th at The Book Cellar!

March 13, 2018

catwomanposter.png

I’m coming back to Chicago, gang! I’ll be in town in early April for C2E2, where I’ll be set up in Artist’s Alley from April 6-8th at Table E7 (I’ll share more about that later in the week). But before the show starts, I’m going to be part of a special panel discussion about the fascinating history of Catwoman at The Book Cellar. Here are all the important details:

The Many Lives of Catwoman Panel Discussion

The Book Cellar

4736-38 N Lincoln Ave

Chicago, IL

Thursday, April 5th at 7:00pm

I’ll be there, of course, and I’ll be joined by an amazing group of panelists! We’ve got Angelica Jade Bastién, a staff writer at Vulture and one of the best voices out there right now in film and television criticism. If you’re not reading her stuff, you’re missing out. Then we have Lauren Burke, an editor of the Ladies’ Night Anthology comic collections and co-host of the delightful Bonnets at Dawn podcast for all of you Austen and/or Bronte enthusiasts. Next up is Caitlin Rosberg, one of the finest comic critics in the business at The AV Club and Paste. She’s got a dang Eisner! And finally, we’ve got Katie Schenkel, who wrote great pieces on comics for sites like Book Riot and The Mary Sue and is now writing her own comics, Moonlighters and The Cardboard Kingdom!

So yeah, it’s a pretty rad group. And there’s so much fun stuff to talk about. We’re going to do an overview of Catwoman’s history all the way from her first appearance in 1940 through to the present day. We’ll be hitting all of the highlights and a few of the lowlights: Her initial role as Batman’s only weakness, her delightful television incarnations in the 1960s, her reinvention in Batman: Year One in the 1980s, Michelle Pfeiffer’s brilliant take on the character in Batman Returns, Halle Berry’s decidedly less brilliant take on the character in Catwoman, and so much more! And it will all lead to a chat about her current status, with her upcoming nuptials currently taking the superhero comics world by storm.

If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll come by! And bring your friends, too. It’s totally free, and open to the public. It’s going to be a great event, and a really fun way to kick off the C2E2 weekend. Also, feel free to share the poster above online. I hope to see a lot of you there!

Remembering Len Wein, and his Reinvention of Catwoman

September 11, 2017

catwein3.jpg

Legendary comic book creator Len Wein passed away yesterday at the age of 69. “Legendary” is no exaggeration either; the man co-created Wolverine, one of the most famous superheroes of all time. And if that wasn’t enough, he also co-created the bulk of the new X-Men that revitalized the franchise in the 1970s, including Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Storm. Plus he co-created Swamp Thing, edited Alan Moore’s brilliant run on the book. He then edited Moore again on Watchmen, the most famous superhero graphic novel of all time. Over the course of his career, Wein wrote or edited nearly every major superhero at both DC and Marvel, leaving his mark on all of them. He was a fan made good, who used to tour the DC offices as a teen in the 1960s before finally landing a writing job there, and his love for the genre led to decades of great stories.

Wein is also remembered for one dark moment in the Batman universe. In the late 1980s, as an editor he okayed the shooting of Barbara Gordon, formerly Batgirl, in an attack that left her paralyzed in Batman: The Killing Joke. However, most fans are unaware of his important role in revitalizing a different female character in the Bat-mythos, Catwoman. Throughout the 1970s, Catwoman was adrift at DC Comics. Her popular turn on the Batman television show in the 1960s had ended a decade-long hiatus for the character, but no one at DC was able to figure out what to do with her after that. Her depictions varied wildly, different costumes were used, and she had no sustained runs.

Then Len Wein brought her back in Batman #308 in 1979. He was the regular writer on the book, and reintroduced the character via her alter ego, Selina Kyle. She’d gone straight, leaving her criminal past behind, and she wanted Bruce Wayne’s help with her investments:

cat004

Bruce was suspicious and had his business manager Lucius Fox, another character created by Wein, investigate her. Selina found out and was angry, but Bruce apologized and soon the two began dating.

Selina became a regular part of the book for the next year or so. Her relationship with Bruce seemed doomed from the beginning, though; in a bit of foreshadowing, the duo dressed as Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon on one of their earliest dates:

cat090

When Selina started acting erratically, Bruce got suspicious, especially when someone in a cat costume stole valuable items from the Gotham Museum. He even came after her as Batman, and refused to believe her as Bruce when she said she wasn’t involved. It turned out her behavior was due to a mysterious illness and that the real thief was Cat-Man. She’d been telling the truth the whole time. Selina donned her Catwoman outfit again to help Batman nab Cat-Man, but afterward she broke up with Bruce because he didn’t trust her, then left Gotham City:

catwein2.png

It was an excellent arc, one that successfully reintegrated Catwoman into Batman’s world while, in a clever twist, making Batman/Bruce the villain of the piece. His inability to believe in her reformation doomed their relationship, though Wein made sure not to end it too badly that she would never return.

And return she did. Over the next several years, new writers brought back Catwoman again and again. While some of the stories weren’t as good, with one even turning her into a crazed stalker when Bruce started dating Vicki Vale, she nonetheless remained a regular presence across the Batman line, raising her profile considerably. The changes in continuity following Crisis on Infinite Earths and Batman: Year One resulted in a new take on Catwoman in the late 1980s, and a solo series followed after Michelle Pfeiffer’s wildly popular take on Catwoman in Batman Returns in 1992. But I think it’s fair to say all of this might not have happened without Wein bringing Catwoman back into the fold. She was pretty near forgotten over the course of the 1970s, and her prominence in the early 1980s played a key role in setting her up for her future successes.

Wein will be remembered for his splashier additions to the superhero world. I mean, the guy co-created Wolverine. That’s a big deal. But for me, as soon as I heard about Wein’s passing I remembered the way he reintroduced a character that I love dearly, captured her proper ferocity and spirit, and made her relevant again. It’s a small thing in the lengthy list of his many achievements. However, after such a prolific career, I’m sure there are innumerable small moments being remembered fondly today, though with a tinge of sadness.

The Many Lives of Catwoman Moments, Week Fourteen: Fierce, Friendly, and Flirtatious

August 14, 2017

cat098.png

My new book The Many Lives of Catwoman: The Felonious History of a Feline Fatale is available in bookstores and online now in a variety of formats, and I’ve been celebrating its release by looking at key moments from Catwoman’s history over on Tumblr. We reached the end of our nearly one hundred moments a week and a half ago, but I’ve been out of town so we’re getting to our recap a little late. The feature went out on a high note, though, with several fun panels and stills from Catwoman’s many incarnations across an array of media that offered interesting peeks at what is covered inside the book.

The final Catwoman moments included:

And finally, my favourite Catwoman moment of the week and the final Catwoman moment of this enjoyable run was Eartha Kitt as Catwoman on the classic Batman television show in 1967. Kitt wasn’t a huge part of the series; she came in during the third season, and only appeared in three episodes, while Julie Newmar showed up as Catwoman eleven times in the season previous. Kitt made a big splash, though. She was fierce and commanding, taking control of every scene in which she appeared. It was a bold, powerful take on Catwoman that served as a stark contrast to Newmar’s more languid approach to the character. Kitt’s casting was also remarkable because of her ethnicity. Women of colour playing major roles was rare in 1967, and Kitt not only took over a big part established by a white woman, she proceeded to make the character even more ferocious and cunning. Despite her brief tenure, Kitt left her mark on Catwoman and has been permanently associated with the character ever since.

You can catch up on all of the previous Catwoman moments here, and follow my Tumblr for more comics fun; the Catwoman posts have wrapped up, but I post and repost a lot of rad superhero material. And, of course, The Many Lives of Catwoman is available now in various formats! You can pick it up online or at your favourite local retailer!

The Many Lives of Catwoman Moments, Week Thirteen: Guns, Grit, and Goofiness

July 31, 2017

cat095.png

Now that my new book The Many Lives of Catwoman: The Felonious History of a Feline Fatale is available in bookstores and online in a variety of formats, I’m winding down the key moments from Catwoman’s history that I’ve been posting on Tumblr. We’ll end up with almost a hundred overall, a random assortment of comic book panels and film stills that run the gamut of her numerous incarnations across all kinds of media. Some are significant, some are silly, and all of them highlight different, compelling aspects of Catwoman and offer a glimpse inside the book.

We’ve only got a few posts left, and the moments we looked at this week included:

And finally, my favourite Catwoman moment of the week comes from Batman #345 in March 1982, written by Bruce Jones with art by Trevor Von Eeden and Pablo Marcus. After Selina Kyle’s break up with Bruce Wayne, Catwoman got her own feature in Batman but it was a bizarrely dark affair. The story began with the panels above, a dream in which she married Bruce but turned into a cat monster and was killed in a hail of gunfire by Bruce’s family and friends. It showed that Catwoman felt guilty for the collapse of their relationship, and that she saw herself as a dangerous creature. The rest of the feature followed this theme, with Catwoman involved in gruesome stories in which women were injured and killed in retributive ways. One even had a murdered stripper who looked just like her. It was dark and twisted and the underlying message of the stories, intentional or not, was that Catwoman deserved punishment for breaking Bruce’s heart. The feature was bleak, and ended after six issues.

You can catch up on all of the previous Catwoman moments here, and follow along for more fun as we enter the last week! The Many Lives of Catwoman is also available in an assortment of formats, including print, ebook, and audio, so check it out and learn all about this great character!

The Many Lives of Catwoman Moments, Week Twelve: Duplicates, Designs, and Death Traps

July 24, 2017

cat086.png

My new book The Many Lives of Catwoman: The Felonious History of a Feline Fatale is available now in bookstores and online in an assortment of formats, and I’ve been celebrating the book’s release by posting key moment from her history on Tumblr. It’s a random assortment of comic book panels and film stills that spans her entire history, showcasing serious, significant, and/or silly pieces of her past while offering a sneak peek inside the book.

We’re nearing the end of this Catwoman fun, so this week we dialed things back to once a week. The five moments that we looked at included:

And finally, my favourite moment of the week was from Detective Comics #318 in January 1963, written by Bill Finger with art by Jim Mooney, Sheldon Moldoff, and Mike Esposito. Catwoman had been benched for nine years at this point, exiled largely due to her association with Fredric Wertham’s accusations of homoerotic subtext between Batman and Robin. So with Catwoman sidelined, DC introduced Cat-Man instead. His first appearance made only passing reference to the feline fatale whose shtick he was stealing, and subsequent stories were little more than rehashes of cold Catwoman tales. Look at these panels from Cat-Man’s 1963 appearance:

acat2

It’s the same mash up of The Cask of Amontillado and the Cheshire cat that Catwoman used in Batman #42 sixteen years before in August 1947, right down to the dialogue:

acat1

Not only was it lazy on Bill Finger’s part, it took one of Catwoman’s best stories and gave it to some dude. What’s more, this issue featured Batwoman going undercover as a new Cat-Woman, without any mention that there’d been a Catwoman previously! When Catwoman was on the outs, she was REALLY on the outs. It took another few years for her to finally return to the comics for real, thanks to her popularity on the Batman television show.

You can catch up on all of the previous Catwoman moments here, and follow along for more fun! The Many Lives of Catwoman is also available online in a variety of formats, including print, ebook, and audio, so check it out and learn all about this fascinating character!

The Many Lives of Catwoman Moments, Week Eleven: Pals, Plunder, and Punches

July 17, 2017

cat080.png

With my new book The Many Lives of Catwoman: The Felonious History of a Feline Fatale available now in bookstores and online in a variety of formats, I’ve been showcasing key moments from Catwoman’s history on Tumblr. They’re a random, fun assortment of comic book panels and film stills drawn from her nearly eight decades of unique incarnations. Some are lighthearted, some are heavier, and they all offer a peek inside the book and highlight Catwoman’s fascinating history.

Last week, the ten moments that we looked at included:

And finally, my favourite Catwoman moment of the week is courtesy of Catwoman #54 from February 1998, written by Devin Grayson with art by Jim Balent and John Stanisci. This era of Catwoman is best remembered for Balent’s art; he drew an exaggeratedly curvaceous Catwoman in a skin tight costume, and did his damnedest to showcase her figure in every issue. However, his hyper-sexualization of Catwoman was often at odds with the book’s strong, clever writing, and this issue was case in point. It was a one-shot story in which Catwoman stole a diamond from a museum and, displeased with the museum’s security system, returned it. After they upgraded their security, Catwoman stole it again with ease and returned it once more, beginning a cycle of thefts, returns, and upgrades. The exasperated museum curator eventually decided to pull one over on Catwoman and purchased a ludicrously expensive insurance policy for when Catwoman finally kept the diamond for good, but Catwoman found him out. She then decided to leave the diamond in his care, where he’d be forced to pay for both the policy and the latest in his lengthy series of new security systems. It’s a funny, enjoyable issue that perfectly captures the chaotic fun of Catwoman and is a real standout from this divisive era.

You can catch up on all of the previous Catwoman moments here, and follow along for more fun! With the book out now, we’re shifting down to once a day as we run out the remaining moments over the next few weeks. The Many Lives of Catwoman is available for purchase in a variety of formats, so pick it up and dig into her captivating history!


%d bloggers like this: