Announced today by DC Comics, starting with issue #0, “Green Arrow” writer Ann Nocenti will be taking over as writer of the “Catwoman” ongoing comic book series. While Judd Winick has been penning the ongoing series with artist Guillem March prior to the announcement and was originally solicited on the #0 issue, Nocenti will actually write the origin issue before launching into Selina Kyle’s ongoing adventures with “Catwoman” #13.
Speaking one on one with CBR News about her move to the streets of Gotham, Nocenti discussed her version of DC Comics’ favorite cat burglar, including her deep love of the Catwoman archetype, the heroism of villains, and similarities between her take on Selina and her take on Oliver Queen.
CBR News: It’s great to talk with you again, Ann. Are you ready to hop into writing “Catwoman?”
Ann Nocenti: Yes, I’m so excited!
My first question goes right along those lines: when was the first time you realized you were excited for and wanted to work on Selina? Was it back when you wrote her in your 2004 “Batman/Catwoman: Trail of the Gun” issues?
You know, she’s just been one of my favorites for forever. I think it’s because for years I wrote for a film magazine and I wrote movies and such and I was always obsessed with this character Irma Vep. She’s basically the original Catwoman. In the beginning of film in 1915 to 1916 there was this series, “Les Vampire,” where there was this woman in an all-black cat suit who was a thief. It was this beautiful archetype that was very, very haunting. Then there was a really cool movie called “Irma Vep” that starred Maggie Cheung where she reprised the role of the woman in the cat suit stealing something glittery — so this is a character that’s haunted me for a long time. She has deep origins before she even was Catwoman. It was fun to write her back in , but this is way more exciting because you’re actually doing the book! [Laughs]
Looking at the book, you’re writing her from the #0 issue onwards. What’s your take on Catwoman? Is there a specific look or era you’re pulling influence from?
I really like continuity, I like working on what somebody just did before and honoring the tone. I think what’s been set up — I read the first nine issues — and they’re really fast, they’re really electric and very exciting, and I think it would be a mistake to shift off that tone. So you want to, like a musician coming in when there’s already a riff being played, you want to ease into it and use whatever notes the musicians have down. You basically want to make sure there’s this fast kind of recklessness, which the previous writer gave her — which I guess she always had, but he’s emphasizing that, he’s bringing that out.
Looking at Catwoman as a character, I know when we spoke about “Green Arrow” you said one of the things you liked about him was that he leaps into danger, shooting off like an arrow, and Catwoman is a pretty similar character as she throws herself into danger for a whim or financial gain.
Yes! I think the big difference between them is Green Arrow was raised in wealth. He’s obsessed with gadgets and he’s got a kind of very rich male view of being a hero: “I’m going to have the coolest gadgets!” And often rich and famous people make sure they do a lot of stuff for the world! [Laughs] Like we’ve talked about in other interviews he has a kind of moral compass but he’s young, he’s a young rich kid. He shoots off because he thinks, “Yeah! I’m going to be a hero today and I got all these cool gadgets, I’m going to do it!” When he fails it’s because, and this is one of the things of the New 52, they’re all young. Because there’s a line-curve in life he’s not the seasoned Green Arrow and she’s not the seasoned Catwoman. I think that when she hurls off in a direction she’s motivated by something completely darker.
Then how would you describe that motivation and your “Catwoman” going from issue #0 into your run?
Issue #0 is her origin issue, and I love this origin issue idea because it reminds people about the central pathos that created them. She’s got this little orphan girl sort of trauma and she’ll never be able to have enough stuff to feel safe. So I don’t really think she’s somebody who goes out and just robs — she goes on heists sometimes because she needs money, but I think it’s way more complex than that. It goes back to never feeling safe. She’s sort of the opposite, in some ways, of Green Arrow because he was born with a silver spoon.
Along those lines Catwoman is a character that goes back and forth a lot: sometimes she’s a villain, sometimes she’s a hero, sometimes she’s an anti-hero. In Judd Winick’s run she’s been a thief discovering better moral intentions — is this something you’re interested in continuing?
I think the heroism of villains is accidental and they begrudge it, but it does happen. Like I said before I like continuity so I want to keep her the Catwoman that’s been established in the New 52. The other things that are going to start creeping in are, yes, going to be darker. She’s more villain than hero to me because she’s selfish. She’s motivated by this need to have things, to want, it’s a compulsion, she’s got to go get it. And if along the way she does something that seems heroic, it’s an accident.
Are you going to be working with Guillem March, the artist who has been doing the ongoing series, or is “Green Arrow” artist Harvey Tolibao or a completely new artist going to be joining you on the title?
I like the artists who have been on “Catwoman” so I’d be happy if either of them took it over, I think they matched the exciting pacing, and I think she was cute, which is important!
So her acting like a femme fatale and looking cute is an important part of the character archetype?
Yes, very, very important to her archetype. She’s not all-out steamy/sexy. She can be all-out steamy/sexy, but she’s also got this kind of mythic quality. Selina Kyle to me is an It Girl, a chick that’s fashionable and cool.
Like she’s stealing while wearing a string of pearls.
Yeah, exactly! That’s totally it.
In the New 52 there’s been a lot of talk about Catwoman’s physical appearance in the book with people debating over whether she’s being over sexualized or if it’s part of her character. Do you have an opinion on this discussion?
You know, we did that interview pointing out that the Skylarks were exploitative, and you’re very correct to say those issues had a certain surrealism to them because the Skylarks were spinning him in circles. Part of how they were doing it was with this overt sexuality. That was the honey trap, and they were reflections of his kind of twenty-two, twenty-three year-old brain thinking about what would be fun. And it was fun! [Laughs] It’s not like he didn’t have a good time, but it ended with a darkness with him realizing he kind of screwed up.
With Catwoman I think, again, the two different personas are trying to achieve something different. I think that she will have a lot more sexuality when she puts on the cat suit. I mean it’s a cat suit! It’s skin-tight black leather that you have to pour yourself into with one zipper! [Laughs] If you or I put on those suits, it would hang a bit differently than if I was walking around in my usual pajama clothes. [Laughter] I think to a certain degree it’s a sheathe and that she moves differently as soon as she puts it on. There’s an intent to that, there’s an intentionality to that because she needs to be Catwoman when she’s Catwoman. She needs to be stealthy and get in there and steal something and go home and have that release of, “Oh yes, another glittery thing.” This is the genre and in this genre people wear spandex and have great bodies, so it’s a little disingenuous to say that’s too much — it’s the genre.
Outgoing “Catwoman” writer Judd Winick is working on the “Green Arrow” #0 issue. Will you continue to write “Green Arrow” or are the two of you switching books?
Yes, I just needed a break because these two things happened at the same time, two #0 issues at once. So I just needed to take a break for an issue and I’m going to come back with the very next issue.
Speaking of “Green Arrow,” we know a huge emphasis on him was making him an international hero. Are you looking to do the same for Selina, or is she more of a homebody sticking to Gotham?
Actually Rachel [Gluckstern], my editor, asked me, “Why don’t we do some jet-setting stuff,” and I think that’s a great idea. So at first she’s going to be Gotham-based and then maybe by issue #17, #18 we’ll have her go off. But to very different places; I could see her in the Caribbean, I can see her in a sexy place. Since this all brand new I don’t have any of that specifically thought out yet, but yes, Rachel said, “Let’s make her a jet-setter,” and I said, “Yeah!” [Laughs]
Your “Green Arrow” has a slightly surrealist tone to its fast-paced adventures — are you looking to do something tonally similar with “Catwoman?”
Issue #13 will have a surreal aspect to it, but it’s because of someone she meets, not her. I think in “Green Arrow,” part of the surreality of that is that he was growing up, making mistakes. I think that after his #0 issue and moving into #13, that’s the second half of a story where he’s in China, but I think with #14 he’ll be much more grounded, and I think she is too.
Finally, while like you said this is all brand new and you’re still thinking of the character and story, how are you going about making obstacles for this young, slightly insecure thief? Are they straight-up villains with grandiose plans or are there going to be more mundane problems affecting her criminal life?
Well, I like the inner psychology stuff, I like it being motivated by something very internal, so I see her compulsion to be a thief. She enjoys it, she’s having a great time and I’ve talked about how it’s almost like somebody who can’t stop going to a casino because the catch is so huge, but they inside know it’s running their life. I think it’s a little more about the disassociation between the Selina Kyle that’s just trying to live a life and the compulsive behavior of Catwoman.
“Catwoman” #0 hits stands September 19.