05th Jun2020

‘Catwoman 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Various | Art by Various | Published by DC Comics

So now it’s the turn of The Cat for her own Anniversary Special, hot on the heels of several other DC characters. Catwoman, when she first appeared way back in 1940, was created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane and known simply as The Cat. The Cat was a cat burglar, appropriately enough, and was a femme fatale love interest for Batman, in the spirit of the film noir movies of the day. Finger and Kane chose a cat because they thought it a natural enemy of bats and, speaking as a cat lover I can corroborate this, because cats can be cool, aloof, and little gits (I’m paraphrasing a little there). Originally just a villain, she has changed a lot down the years, both in looks, history, and temperament, and has become something of an iconic character through good writing and clever use. She’s also luckily enough to have had some great names want to tell her story, and fortunately that continues with this Special.

This Special shares the same format as the others, with 10 stories by various creators that tend to explore different aspects of the character, separated by some cool pinups. If ever a character lent itself to pin ups, it’s Selina Kyle. But I digress.

First up is ‘Skin the Cat’ by Paul Dini and Emanuela Lupacchino, a fun tale that makes good use of the ‘cat’ motif. Someone’s been stealing big cats from zoos and habitats, and Selina discovers it’s all to get her attention. A taxidermist wants to stuff her along with the other big cats. Goes without saying, Selina’s no-ones stuffed animal. A slight, fun story. ‘Now You See Me’, by the brilliant Ann Nocenti and Robson Rocha, grabs the eye initially as Catwoman is wearing the leather outfit from Batman Returns. Meow! The story is just ok, I got the impression Nocenti had a lot more to say than the space allowed, with her tale showing sometimes the forces of ‘good’ are more corrupt than the ‘bad’ they are fighting. The art is beautiful though.

The third tale is ‘Helena’, by Tom King and Mikel Janin, and as you would expect from a King story very driven by semi-humorous dialogue. It uses the old Earth-2 Batman story as inspiration, where that Earth’s Batman married Selina Kyle and they had a daughter, Helena Wayne, who grew up to become The Huntress. Much slighter than that of course, but a fun ‘what if?’ nonetheless. Next a complete change of pace with ‘The Catwoman of Earth’, by Jeff Parker and Jonathan Case, a homage to the Sixties TV Julie Newmar Catwoman, complete with TV costume. It’s as light and fluffy as you would expect from Parker and that era’s Catwoman, nice enough but for me one of the weaker entries in the book. Following this is a very brief 3 pager written and drawn by Liam Sharp, ‘A Cat of Nine Tales’, which uses a smart narrative trick to tell its story.

Next up is ‘Little Bird’ by Mindy Newell and Lee Garbett, which see Newell writing again the early Selina Kyle she first wrote back in the Catwoman mini-series that was essentially a Year One back in the late 1980’s. This was a darker, more damaged Selina, one who became a prostitute to escape a bad situation at home, and Newell broached the S&M imagery and underlying sexual aspect of Selina. That all continues here, along with the guest appearance of a younger, raw Batman. The story never really completely finds its feet here, but in terms of taking you back to a place and time it’s superb. The story that follows, ‘Born to Kiln’ sees the 1990’s T&A incarnation in the skintight purple outfit, by Chuck Dixon and Kelley Jones. I always felt the 80’s Selina was in control of her sexuality, whereas the 90’s one was sexual but in an exploitative way. This story is pretty good though, with Dixon throwing in a heist at sea and Clayface as the villain, though Jones, as always steals the show with his crazily brilliant art.

‘Conventional Wisdom’ from the very underrated Will Pfeiffer and Pia Guerra lightens the tone again with a humorous setup at Bat-Con, a gentle send up of cosplay and conventions. This Selina is the more modern incarnation most current fans recognise, short haired and sass to spare. This more modern Selina is also on show in ‘Addicted to Trouble’, albeit in a more serious story from Ram-V and grittier art from Fernando Blanco. Nice enough, but felt like what it is, a primer for the main Catwoman book when these two take it over later this year. Looks to be in safe hands. To close out we have, for me at least, the star attraction in Ed Brubaker, with his and Cameron Stewart’s ‘The Art of Picking a Lock’. Brubaker never wastes one single line of dialogue and here he writes a sublime Selina, her inner monologue being perfect. We get the bonus of a Slam Bradley cameo too. Stewart’s art is perfect, flowing from panel to panel, page to page. Perfect way to close out.

The thing I love most about these 80 page Specials is DC deliberately didn’t go down the cheap cash-in reprints route, but actually got some great original work from some great talents, most of whom with special ties to the characters they are working on. It was fun here to see the different interpretations of Selina, from the villain to anti-hero, from sexualized to empowered, from serious to camp and back again. The funny thing is, all these interpretations work equally well. Selina always seems to fit the spirit of the times, and this Special was a great way to capture and show that.

Not so much a cat with nine lives, as a Catwoman with nine decades of great storytelling to her name. Here’s to many more.

****½  4.5/5

The Catwoman 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular is out now from DC Comics.


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