Sure, she’s engaged to Batman now, but Catwoman hasn’t always seen eye to eye with the Caped Crusader. In fact, they’ve been at odds plenty of times, making their on and off romance one of the most complicated in comics. When they’re not getting hot and heavy on rooftops — they tend to do this quite a lot — they’re chasing each other like cat and mouse… er… bat? While Batman ultimately trusts Catwoman with sensitive information, such as his identity, it’s no secret that she’s done a few things in the past to lose that trust.
Like Batman, the Cat has a pretty strict moral code — for the most part. Catwoman’s number one rule is that rules are meant to be broken. Unlike the Dark Knight, Catwoman’s not afraid to take a life when the situation calls for it. As we’ll see from the list below, she’s got quite the body count. But somehow, even after she’s shot someone point blank or kicked an enemy off a building, Catwoman always manages to redeem herself and become the morally ambiguous hero Gotham deserves. Let’s take a look back at her most heroic and scummiest deeds ever, starting with the moments when Catwoman was at her worst.
15. SCUMMY: BETRAYS BATMAN
It doesn’t take very long for Selina Kyle to kick Bruce Wayne’s butt in The Dark Knight Rises. In fact, she literally trips him up a few scenes into the movie and gets away with Martha Wayne’s iconic pearl necklace. This doesn’t stop Bruce from pursuing her, flirting with her, and trusting her to take him to Bane’s HQ in the Gotham sewers.
Batman and Catwoman’s infiltration of Bane’s base is a showcase for why these two animal-themed heroes work so well together. They take down Bane’s minions so efficiently that it seems like they’ve become a crimefighting duo. Of course, it’s not to be. Catwoman’s been leading Batman into a trap all along. When she gets the chance, she locks the Bat in with Bane. Selina’s decision to betray Batman plunges Gotham into MONTHS of chaos and death. The blood is definitely on her hands.
14. SCUMMY: KILLS MAX SHRECK
Batman Returns was all about the freaks. A deformed boy is raised by penguins in the ruins of an abandoned zoo and a lonely woman is murdered and revived by alley cats. It takes a lot of effort to make Batman look like the normal one, but that’s Tim Burton for you. Yet, despite all of the freaks trying to get their own way, it’s really Max Shreck who’s playing everyone from the start. His only problem is that Catwoman’s out for revenge.
Look, it’s hard to say that Selina’s not justified in killing Shreck with the most shocking (and gruesome) make out sesh EVER. After all, he did kill her first. And you could argue that Selina actually saves the day by doing what Batman won’t. But killing is bad and Catwoman’s not supposed to take a life.
13. SCUMMY: MOONEY/COBBLEPOT ENFORCER
It’s no secret that the television series Gotham has played around a bit with the established Batman canon, more a Burton-esque take on the story than something out of the comics. Selina is a teenager in this particular reality; an orphan, who’s first introduced in the pilot, in which she witnesses the murder of Bruce’s parents from a rooftop. It’s this incident that makes Selina interested in little Bruce.
Known by the codename “Cat,” Selina’s pretty well-connected with the city’s criminal underground and works with the likes of Fish Mooney and Oswald Cobblepot throughout the series. In the first season, she took a liking to the ruthless Mooney, who recruited her for her gang. During her stint with the crime boss, she helps Mooney kidnap Gordon, Falcone, Bullock, and Cobblepot to offer to Maroni. She also runs several schemes for Penguin.
12. SCUMMY: KILLS BLACK MASK
This is a hard one to categorize because Black Mask totally had it coming. There’s maybe no better justification for a murder than a guy forcing your sister to cannibalize her husband. In Catwoman Vol. 3 #16 by Ed Brubaker and Cameron Stewart, she finally saves her sister, confronts the mob boss, and gets her revenge by kicking Black Mask off a balcony to his death.
That’s not even the only time the Cat’s killed Black Mask. Later in Vol. 3, it’s revealed the mob boss survived the fall (because comic books) and is after Catwoman once more. When the two face off again, Catwoman wastes the villain in one of her most brutal displays of violence yet: she shoots Black Mask in the head at point blank range. Again, Black Mask totally deserved the grave, but maybe the Cat should have handled things a bit more elegantly?
11. SCUMMY: MURDERER ON EARTH-B
While Catwoman’s not really into killing people, there was a time in the pre-Crisis ’70s when she murdered a bunch of people. (She also wore some very funky costumes during this era, including a black leotard with light blue tights and a red mask.) So out of character was the Cat’s murder spree that DC later removed these stories from continuity and relegated them to “Earth-B.”
One story in particular, The Brave and the Bold #131 by Bob Haney and Jim Aparo, is pretty gruesome. Catwoman plans to steal the blueprints for a new computer and sell them to the highest bidder. In order to do so, she must first take the Ambassador of Sudaria out of the picture. So she plants a leopard in his car and the ambassador is mauled to death!
10. SCUMMY: KIDNAPS EVERYONE IN BATMAN ’66
Catwoman joins up with Penguin, Joker, and Riddler to form the United Underworld in the 1966 Batman movie that came out between seasons one and two of the television series. ’60s Batman really solidified the modern take on Catwoman, especially in terms of the form-fitting costume, and the movie might be this version of the Cat at her most dastardly.
First, she helps the group kidnap Bruce Wayne in order to lure Batman into a trap. She plays it real femme fatale with Bruce, pretending to be a Soviet journalist in distress in order to keep up the ruse. Of course, Batman never shows up and Bruce escapes captivity. Later, Catwoman and the rest of the gang dehydrate (!) the United World Organizations’ Security Council and holds them for ransom. That’s pretty maniacal.
9. SCUMMY: MOB BOSS
Things really took a turn for Selina in the last few years of DC’s New 52 era. In Batman Eternal #23, she’s reunited with her father, the former mob boss Rex “The Lion” Calabrese, who makes her a very interesting proposition: take over the crime family as its new leader! While she initially rejects the offer, Selina eventually accepts in order to combat the ongoing gang violence engulfing the city. Selina Kyle, mob boss, is born.
While Selina does use her new seat of power to do good at several points, like when she helps contain the riots that are tearing Gotham apart during the Lincoln March incident, she also uses these occasions to steal and further her own cause. She also gets the family involved in the illegal arms market and agrees to distribute heroin in Gotham. Yikes.
8. HEROIC: ALLY IN “I AM SUICIDE”
After her brief stint as a mob boss, Selina returns to the role of Catwoman and is immediately pegged for the murder of 237 people and locked up in Arkham Asylum. Of course, as often is the case with the Cat, nothing is as it seems. More on that in a second. In Tom King and Mikel Janin’s “I am Suicide” arc in Batman, the Caped Crusader visits Arkham and recruits Catwoman for a mission to infiltrate the most dangerous place on the planet: Santa Prisca, Bane’s base of operations.
The goal is to retrieve Psycho-Pirate from Bane, who’s using the villain to kick his dependency on venom. Catwoman, along with Bronze Tiger, Punch and Jewlee, and Ventriloquist, helps the Bat break into Bane’s prison. At one point, it seems like Catwoman’s betrayed Batman and joined Bane, but she’s actually playing the villain. Good work, Selina.
7. HEROIC: HOLLY’S PROTECTOR
Back to Selina Kyle, mass murderer. Kyle pleads guilty to the 237 murders in order to cover for her best friend Holly Robinson, a character first introduced in Batman: Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli. Holly’s actually been murdering the terrorists who burned down the orphanage where Holly and Selina grew up. Selina sacrifices her freedom so that Holly won’t have to go to jail.
This isn’t the first time Selina’s stepped in to protect Holly, either. She’s had her back since the beginning. Selina pulled a teenage Holly out of her life as a prostitute, saved her from Black Mask in Catwoman Vol. 3, and even handed over the Catsuit to Holly in the same series. (That last one didn’t actually go well for Holly, who is blamed for Black Mask’s murder.) The point is that Selina’s always come through for Holly, and that’s pretty heroic.
6. HEROIC: DEFEATS RED CLAW
Catwoman’s first appearance in Batman: The Animated Series is also one of her shining moments of heroism. In “The Cat and the Claw” two-parter, which actually marked the show’s debut in 1992, Selina investigates a terrorist group that acquires a mountain lion sanctuary she was protecting. She discovers that the sanctuary is actually a front in a plan to unleash a plague on Gotham.
Selina eventually comes face to face with the leader of the terrorist organization, Red Claw, who plans to blackmail Gotham for $1 million or she’ll use the virus. Catwoman ends up teaming with Batman to take down the villain. It stinks that Batman arrests her at the end of the episode anyway for the small matter of being a thief and all that. Give her a break, dude. She just saved Gotham!
5. HEROIC: SAVES REBECCA ROBINSON
Okay, you’re going to read about Catwoman Vol. 3 at least two more times, and that’s because Ed Brubaker’s run might be the best take on the character. Catwoman chooses the hero life (in her own way) during this series and swears to protect the East End from evil-doers. One of the best stories in the series comes in issue #10, a standalone tale about a woman named Rebecca Robinson, who’s been wrongfully convicted of a murder.
Catwoman helps Rebecca escape jail while she’s being transported in an armored vehicle and gives her a fake passport so that she can leave the country. Why? The reason turns out to be pretty personal: when they were kids, Rebecca saved Selina from two boys who tried to attack her in a bathroom. Catwoman sees helping Rebecca as returning the favor.
4. HEROIC: SAVES BATMAN FROM BANE
Catwoman’s not very heroic in the first hour and change of The Dark Knight Rises. In fact, it’s hard not to call her a straight up villain. Interested in only herself, she leaves Batman to die in the sewers and tries to skip town before the consequences engulf the city.
But she turns things around in the third act with a last minute save. Right when it looks like Bane’s going to succeed in killing the Batman, Selina shows up in the Batpod and wastes the muscle head. Okay, so she DID murder him and all that, but she did it to save Batman. Imagine if the Dark Knight had died at the hands of Bane instead of making it out of Gotham with the bomb. So, if you look at the bigger picture, killing Bane is the most utilitarian thing to do.
3. HEROIC: SAVES BATMAN FROM SCARECROW
The Brave and the Bold #197 by Alan Brennert and Joe Stanton is one of the classic Bat and Cat team-up stories. It’s the story in which, through a struggle with the Scarecrow’s fear toxin, they fall in love. After realizing that he’s let happiness evade him during his war on crime, Bruce feels lonelier than ever. When he calls out for help, it’s Selina who shows up.
It’s revealed that Bruce is having these feelings because he’s been affected by the Scarecrow’s fear toxin. Catwoman helps him find Scarecrow and take him down, but not before they’re both hit with the toxin, which makes them fear each other’s costumes. It’s at this symbolic moment that Bruce and Selina decide to take their costumes off in front of each other and realize that they’re in love. Together, they take down the Scarecrow, but most importantly, Selina saves Bruce from himself.
2. HEROIC: PROTECTOR OF THE EAST END
Time and time again, Selina’s watched out for her own, whether it’s her best friend, someone who helped her in the past, her family, or Batman. She always shows up for those she cares about, regardless of her criminal tendencies. That’s what makes her a different kind of criminal and difficult to categorize as a true villain. Nothing is perhaps more indicative of her good side than when she spent her time protecting the East End in Catwoman Vol. 3
One of her first cases is tracking down a serial killer who is murdering prostitutes in her part of the city. The killer is revealed to be an Army veteran named Todd Russell, who’d been used as a test subject in a secret experiment that turned him into a monster identical to Clayface. Instead of slaying the beast, Selina offers to help him find a cure.
1. HEROIC: FINDING ISIS
The premise of the Batman: The Animated Series episode, “Cat Scratch Fever,” is pretty simple: Selina is on a mission to find her cat Isis, who’s run away. This episode isn’t usually tapped on “Best of” lists, but it does show Catwoman in one of her most heroic roles. In fact, one of the great things about TAS‘ portrayal of the Cat is that it focused on her fight for animal rights.
In this case, Catwoman uncovers a plot to inject cats with a toxin that makes them feral. Her search for Isis brings her face to face with the dastardly millionaire Roland Daggett, who plans to make animals feral in order to make millions on selling the anti-toxin. His plan is a little convoluted, but Selina’s plan to save Isis is not. In the end, she gets Isis back and stops Daggett with a little help from the Bat.
When do you think Catwoman was at her worst, or most heroic? Let us know in the comments!
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