Bonus Post: Good Bad Girls and ’90s Environmentalism

Or, Catwoman defeats poachers and makes herself a little extra bank on top of it. Head below the cut for the promised back-up story from Catwoman #25, along with a little bit of discussion about (this) Catwoman’s moral code and what conclusions can be drawn about her based on this and other comics covered so far.

She's a bad girl, but not a bad person. And I'm too tired to be writing quality alt text.

Spoiler: Catwoman is actually a profoundly decent person. And also one still out to make a profit and to take care of herself. And those two character aspects are not mutually exclusive.

The main purpose of this post is to give everyone a chance to read one of the rare back-up stories from Catwoman’s first solo series, since that series has never been collected in trade paperback form. But, besides being a rare treat and a nice way of sharing access, I think it also gives a pretty good look at how this particular Catwoman operates, especially in her gray and purple suit eras.

The older Selina who shows up in Ed Brubaker’s run (the beginning of the second solo series) looks back on this time with mixed feelings and talks about having gone astray in her motivations, going from stealing to support herself and her friend/ward Holly to doing it purely for thrills and kicks, but she also clearly loved it ‘and’ had moral parameters on what she would and would not do.

I think this can get lost in talk about the “bad girl” era in comics and talking about Jim Balent’s art (which, as is likely clear by now, I actually like and which is not a horrible Escher Girls and cringe worthy mess until later on) or in describing Catwoman as someone who likes to steal and who likes shiny objects, but this is someone who expressly does not kill and who any violation of that personal directive is extremely significant for.

To that end, I want to note that so far, in going back to the earliest part of Balent’s run on the series with my weekly Sunday Fun Day feature, I have so far counted two times where Catwoman is involved with someone’s death. Two times for around a third of the series (her original run went into the 90s, although Balent left in the 70s) and in both of them she herself did not kill the person.

The first death occurs in the very first story arc (issues #1-4), at the culmination/resolution of events, once Catwoman is safely back from Santa Prisca, having learned the true story of Bane’s conception, birth, and parentage and, her actual aim, who tried to kill her and, as an almost casualty, her ward, Arizona. This is during the time period where Catwoman was forced to work for Bane (which … did not sit well with her. At all.) and where she had a handler. Who, as it finally, finally turned out, was the one who turned her apartment into a flaming, exploding inferno and had been lying (for a not-understandable reason – Catwoman’s personal history and occupation mean some degree of lying is expected and understood) to her and selling her out.

Even then, Selina herself does not kill. Instead, she miscommunicates what she heard about Bane’s family to Bane and also makes comments that negatively implicate and reflect on her handler, leading to Bane … dealing with the problem in the quiet, final way that Bane does. This bit of the story shows Catwoman’s cleverness and ability to get things done without getting her own hands dirty and it is also purposefully a bit of an ugly character moment for her.

We can’t quite totally cheer for our heroine because her anger is understandable (very understandable – her young ward almost died and Selina is fiercely protective of young female runaways like she herself once was), but she prevented Bane from finding out that his father loved him and his mother very much and she indirectly killed a man. And that carries a different weight with Catwoman than it would with a character who is known for killing, and also than it would with a character who is known for cruel withholding of information and lying. Catwoman is a survivalist, not cold-blooded.

As for death two, that occurs in the Catwoman versus Hollywood arc, when the somewhat Francis Ford Coppola somewhat every very 90s big action big boobs director you can think of writer/director of the film realizes he’s been caught out in his scam and decides to try to kill the remaining film crew and actors before they can flee the island, hurricane, and himself.

Catwoman, of course, honestly wants to get away at this point and is far from pleased that all her pain and suffering (and almost being murdered by a giant remote-controlled movie monster) has resulted in no stolen movie script to turn into her client, but she also isn’t going to allow a massacre. Unfortunately, she is able to direct (way too gentle a word for a truck, in a hurricane, packed with explosives, and driven by a murderous crook of a director) him away from the plane carrying the survivors of the film off the island, but she can’t get him to let go of the runaway truck and it goes over a ledge and explodes.

This, unlike the last one, isn’t a death she wants to happen but that she arranges to happen through other means. It’s one she’s unable to prevent and it’s tragic. The writer/director is a horrible person (and not just because his best response to being found out as a scam artist was to try and murder everyone, but – his best response to being found out was to try to murder everyone), but she tried saving him and failed. And then still had to try to get off the island on her own, because saving the people getting on the plane and trying to save the writer/director meant she missed the only plane off an island being hit by the storm of the century.

These actions and reactions aren’t those of someone who takes killing or death lightly (and, given her backstory, of course Selina doesn’t take death lightly) and, I think, are only more meaningful because they are so rare and because it is so clear that they are a bad thing in the context of Catwoman’s character. The first time because it violates, even indirectly, a core part of Selina’s self and self-chosen morals, and the second time because she fails. And Catwoman does fail scores and has other people foul them up for her, but failing to save a life, even of someone terrible, is on a whole different level because she does value life so very much.

And now, because I think I have gone on enough (and really should be resting, not writing), here’s the back-up story from Catwoman #25. 🙂 Written by Doug Moench and drawn by Brian Stelfreeze and James A. Hodgkins, this story takes places in the gray suit era, some time between Year One and the start of Catwoman’s solo series/the purple suit era. It’s also the first I’ve noticed of the environmentalist angle Catwoman had in Batman: The Animated Series being present in a comic not tied into that show.

She's a bad girl, but not a bad person. And I'm too tired to be writing quality alt text.

Just so you don’t get lost, here’s the first page of it again.

Catwoman #25 (1995) page 32

Catwoman #25 (1995) page 33

Catwoman #25 (1995) page 34

Catwoman #25 (1995) page 35

Catwoman_1995_#025_37

Catwoman_1995_#025_38

Catwoman_1995_#025_39

And that’s it for the back-up story and for this post. As always, all images belong to their respective copyright holders and are used for fun review purposes only. Also, I will hopefully have last week’s Sunday Fun Day and the one that should have been up today done relatively soon, but I am having a hard time right now and have other work to prioritize, so hopefully this post is a good fill-in. 🙂

Note: I just recalled that there are a few deaths during the cursed dagger story arc, but Catwoman is not involved in those, other than as a horrified witness to murder and suicide in a very troubled wealthy family. But I still thought I should add a note in.

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