I almost wasn’t going to make a joke about this cover, given how serious the story is (and how much I love it – well, at least until it goes wonky at the end) but – like the story, it does go a bit wonky at the end.
This issue is the second of Catwoman’s post-Batman Year One origin stories and the first one to appear in her own ongoing series (and to largely remain in-canon – the truly terrible, in both execution and in terms of whorephobia and narrative treatment of women, Her Sister’s Keeper/Catwoman 1989 was largely discarded, aside from the creation of Catwoman’s sister Maggie).
The origin issues and information can really get tangled, especially given the out of print nature of the 90s run and some fan tendencies towards exaggeration of certain story elements and negative reactions to some backstory elements (and not out of execution, but of existence at all) and a subsequent desire for them to not be real/not “count.” But that is really kind of a long, delicate discussion and one I’ve done before (and also spoken on at a comics studies conference) so … Yes, Catwoman was a sex worker at one point, no Stan never beat her so bad she urinated blood (I really don’t know where the forum person I saw once got that from? HSK is pretty terrible, but what we see/get told about is Stan beating and raping Selina and leaving her in an alleyway, and that’s the only version of Selina’s time in the East End where he’s more than an aggravating, unneeded manager she eventually socks in the face and quits on), and, no, the sex work history was not retconned out prior to the end of that particular continuity (same with Selina being half-Cuban and from a poor family).
Back to the point, this is basically the first elaboration on origins issue for Catwoman that really counts and for the most part it is ‘awesome.’ It very briefly covers Selina’s life when both her parents were still alive, the abuse from her father, her mother’s death, Selina’s struggles in school (and lack of support from either her father or anyone at school), her departure from home after her father’s death, and then spends most of the issue detailing Catwoman’s experiences in a youth facility designed to help “troubled” youth and promoted as a better alternative to Selina living out on the streets and looking out for herself.
It is so so good and really works to build the foundations of the person Selina becomes as an adult and as Catwoman. She isn’t Batman and it’s to her benefit and the benefit of the people she interacts with that she isn’t. She’s explicitly, adamantly more grey morality and this story shows a lot of early why for it, including nods at Selina having to learn to be more flexible about supposed rules and goodness and the law because, quite frankly, you can’t eat the law.
The main meat of it though is the facility for troubled youth and how much her experiences there have the ring of truth to them, even now (and it is not favourable social commentary that a solid twenty plus years on such corrupt, cruel institutions and institutional experiences still have real life counterparts). This is already getting rather long for this feature, but the Seagate section of this issue is so so solid and also important to remember for later so I highly recommend it.
The little end bit after it that’s largely there to wind down Zero Year and wind the timeline back up the present is … not as great. Some of the timing is really unclear as to what Catwoman was doing when (generally short hair vs long hair is a good indication with her but not here) and this is the one version of her origin (except for perhaps HSK but I already explained its relevance and have very very little desire to reread any of it) where Catwoman is actually inspired by Batman in the sexist way that I’ve seen some people claim. In the other versions, her dialogue after observing very early Batman in action is a very lightly (or more than lightly 😛 ) dismissive well if he can ‘I’ certainly can. Here, however, it is much more of an oh wow that inspiring man over there inspired me to fix my life. Paraphrasing and poking a bit of fun at it, but that is roughly the jist of it and so people are right. ‘If’ they are referring to the version depicted in this issue.
Other than that, there is a very light reference to Catwoman’s time as a sex worker, but this issue, again, is mostly concerned with pre-East End Selina and the time sequencing on the very end of this issue is quite loose. And this is also a version of her time in the East End where Selina uses her job as a way to rob people. Directly rob people. It’s … ridiculously comic-y, plus does not mix with the reality of being able to actually work a job and get in new or repeat clients (and the guy shown really seems to be either a repeat client or someone who heard really great word of mouth and wanted to hire Selina ‘and’ gift her work equipment). In other versions she’s either straight up just doing her job (which makes the most sense) or doing her job but then also using it to gather information for robberies (still ridiculously comic-y but not as bad as directly robbing clients and somehow getting more than one customer total).
So, fairly big grain of salt and warning about ridiculousness, but most of the story is excellent and it pairs well with the annual from the subsequent year (and the added backstory bits at the end of the 90s run), which is Selina’s time in the East End up through her very early Catwoman days. Also there are ninjas. And the introduction (as regards her personal chronology, not comics chronology) of her ridiculously knife-covered, angry sexist rival and nemesis Hellhound. Their conflict legitimately starts over her getting girl cooties on something he doesn’t want them on. It’s magical in a very 90s way.
And now, finally, for the actual purpose of this post:
And that’s it for now. so, as always, the Catwoman comics belong to DC, not me, and Escher Girls is the creation of the awesome Ami Angelwings. And the Escher Girls bingo card belongs to the Escher Girls fan who created it.