In Name Only: Catwoman, Convergence, and the Anniversary that Time Forgot

It’s Catwoman’s 75th anniversary this year. You may not have known that if you didn’t catch DC Comic’s tweet about it last Friday or were not already vested enough (or irritated enough) to know which year she debuted. And that’s largely because, well, they’re just not doing anything to celebrate it or to celebrate ‘her’. Joker, who debuted in the same issue as Catwoman, got a hardcover collection of highlighted stories last year for ‘Batman’s’ anniversary year, along with other merchandise. And is getting more merchandise and a whole month of tribute covers this year too for his actual anniversary. The anniversary he shares with Catwoman.

This … is not that pleasing to someone whose favourite superhero (and, yes, every darn time I say that I mean super ‘hero’, especially when talking about post-Crisis, pre-New52 Selina) is Catwoman and who can see there is some kind of disparity going on with the anniversary celebrations. The 90s series, which I’ve gone through once up to JIm Balent’s departure as artist for the hidden cover cats and am going through again for playful art reasons (Escher Girls bingo!), has never been collected in its own trades and is out of print. Ed Brubaker’s run finally got a complete, new release in three volumes this past year and … honestly, good luck trying to assemble your own best of highlights or really delve as deep as you want to over Catwoman’s whole history without the help of a lot of time and fan scans.

There is no shortage of material to pick from (again, she and Joker are exactly the same age as characters so if there’s enough to give him a suitably thick hardcover best of, there is for her too) and there is also so much material that is no longer available outside of really hunting back issues and relying on the kindness of other fans. This would be/would have been a great time for a best of hardcover to go with those for Batman and the Joker, along with trades of her 90s series and the various one-shots and other outside-the-regular-series stories from that time. And, also, given that Catwoman was created specifically to be a female equal to Batman and to be for female readers, it leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth that she gets nothing for her anniversary and the Joker, who has as one of his claims to fame (and DC’s pocketbook) a very violent and sexually tinged story originally intended to fridge a female superhero and Bat-adjacent character, gets two years worth of anniversary celebration items and coverage.

In that context, I was kind of looking forward to Catwoman Convergence as a kind of consolation prize and as a chance to have my favourite superhero back for it. It …. ended up less a consolation prize and more a let down. The art didn’t thrill me (and I would have honestly preferred the art from the cover – I liked the different aesthetic and how the suit seemed to lay like it actually would and I could roll with that art for the whole story) and neither did the purple suit having a tail for the first page (only the grey suit had a tail and, unless I’m totally fuzzy due to exhaustion, it was Catwoman’s roommate/bestie Holly’s idea to turn that suit around so it would look like a tail). But, more importantly, it felt like purple suit Catwoman without actually being her.

It’s certainly not the Worst Thing Ever, but, even with how spotty the writing (and art – Balent just totally gave up remembering he knew how to draw women and draw them with personality at some point) could get on the 90s series, that Selina had a very specific voice and narrative flavour. And very clear morals and background, which is part of why I love her so much. This Selina just felt flat and like someone’s weakened imitation of the Catwoman who already had her own community she was bonded to and protective of and who was a part of and ‘from’ that community. And, as much as fictional places, especially New York analogues, having an East End is overused or whatever, I’d much much rather have that than have Suicide Slum. Seriously. I don’t get (and at this point, don’t particularly care) why Catwoman is in Metropolis doing some version of her actual protect the poorer areas and the working classes instead of in Gotham doing that with her own community that she belongs to and defends (even before the Brubaker-era more formal stuff Selina watched out for her own) and am so put off that that inexplicable switch also included calling the place Suicide Slum.

There is also other stuff (seriously, the best you could do for her motivation in changing what she does is that stealing shinies lost its meaning while in the dome? not that she already had a vested interest in protecting the community and ramped that up when the dome happened? 90s Catwoman didn’t just steal things or steal things continuously and we got a nice coda on it in early Brubaker era about how Selina regretted losing her way and moving from stealing to support herself and whoever she took under her wing to doing it for the sake of stealing) but, for me, the biggest problem was that sense of getting what I want without actually getting it. Which was a problem I had also had with the Catwoman Zero Year issue I reviewed a long time ago and which I’ve gotten less charitable to since. And – really need to get this done and posted and sneak in some rest, but I feel, especially in this case, that this is a Catwoman story for those of my fellow fans who love purple suit Catwoman while also hating who that version of Catwoman actually was. Regardless of inconsistent writing and getting dragged into and across events, that Catwoman was a working class former sex worker, survivor of familial and institutional abuse, daughter of a Cuban refugee, and someone so intimately familiar with oppressions and abuses and advantages and who, you know what, survived and got darned good at surviving and didn’t turn cold or cruel. Realistic and aware, yes, but she was kind to and even protective of those who merited it and very dedicated to not killing anyone and to her community. And all she gets for her anniversary is a two issue story that divorces her from that context while dressing her up in the right clothes (and I am very sure the reason it’s not that continuity’s Catwoman from her later very serious protector era is because, again, there is a chunk of fans who hate who she actually was and that part of the era verified all of that backstory and gave her a costume that some deem “too butch” and similar such comments).

2 thoughts on “In Name Only: Catwoman, Convergence, and the Anniversary that Time Forgot

  1. Catwoman had a tail when she started wearing a purple version of her Year One costume in 1999. It debuted in the Devin Grayson/Jim Balent arc where Selina was running for mayor of New York. But yes, it was an annoying mistake having the tail on the first page.
    I loved the art and I loved the tone of the issue. It really felt like reading an issue of her 90s series again. I wish they’d gotten Jim Balent to draw the issue to make it a real nostalgia fest.
    Suicide Slum has been a neighbourhood in Metropolis for years. It wasn’t made up for the Convergence series.
    Also, 90s Catwoman was never, ever, ever a prostitute. That origin was retconned by Catwoman Year One, the annual drawn by Jim Balent and written by Jordan Gorfinkel.
    Ed Brubaker ruined Catwoman and yes I am glad we got a Catwoman story that felt like the real Selina and not the sad shell of herself that Brubaker turned her into.

  2. Thank you for writing this. I’ve been annoyed by the lack of attention for the Catwoman’s 75 (I tweeted a link to his and the response was very enthusiastic, at least until it got into a Selina vs Lois thing)

    I think the decision to have her in Metropolis was based on higher up coordination. The people who made Convergence chose a city for each era and had the characters move where they were necessary (in Convergence: Superman, Superman, Lois and Jimmy are explained to be in Gotham for a press conference when the dome comes down).

    I liked Ann Nocenti’s run so much (and disliked a lot of the post-Brubaker/pre-Flashpoint stories) that I have a hard time having the cut off eras I don’t like. It’s more about writers, and while I don’t like the Kingpin plot I’m worried that the bisexuality reveal is bringing out some of the same anti-sex worker, she was too butch in Y1 ugliness that the earlier stories do.

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