Though it's a cliché to say, Catwoman truly is a character who needs no introduction. And yet, DC's femme fatale cat burglar has been the subject of surprisingly few introductory comic book stories of her own, and those that do delve into Selina Kyle's past usually do so as an add-on to the plethora of Bruce Wayne: Year Zero retellings.
But, move over, Bats, because in Under The Moon: A Catwoman Tale, Selina gets top billing. Published under DC's Young Adult imprint, DC Ink, the original graphic novel sees a 15-year-old Selina forced to leave home and tough it out on the streets of Gotham, not as Catwoman, but Catgirl. There, she witnesses the best and worst of humanity -- all formative, character-building experiences.
CBR spoke with writer Lauren Myracle and illustrator Isaac Goodhart about their unique approach to the character, and why they think Under The Moon's gritty themes are important, not just for an impressionable Selina Kyle, but also for younger readers.
CBR: Lauren, you've mentioned that your experience with Catwoman is rooted more in film and TV, whereas yours, Isaac, is perhaps more comic-based. (I kind of felt shades of Michelle Pfeiffer in Selina in her transition to Catgirl.) What was the strongest Catwoman reference point for both of you?
Lauren Myracle: Shades of Michelle Pfeiffer." Ha! Okay, Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman rocked for sure. Tough, capable and, yes, stunning. You know what's crazy? I think my daughter was the strongest Catwoman(girl) reference point for me! Talk about "out of the continuity loop," huh? But she's Hispanic, with long dark hair, and she's tough as shit. Takes nothing from no one, but has a huge generous heart. And, she's fourteen, so almost Selina's age. She's my role model in so many ways!
Isaac Goodhart: From a visual standpoint, I looked at the artists I consider to be the best Catwoman artists! Before starting a project like this, I'll always look to see what the artists I look up to did with the character. My favorite takes on Selina are from Joelle Jones, Adam Hughes and Chris Samnee. I've been a huge fan of them for years! Their work is always extraordinarily inspiring to me.
There seems to be a connection to fairy tales running through Under the Moon. Selina compares herself to Cinderella, one character is first introduced as Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty’s alternate name), and another quotes from The Wizard of Oz -- "There’s no place like home." Is it fair to describe the book as a modern fairy tale?
Myracle: Whoa. You are so clever! You know, this is one of those cases where clearly things were bubbling in my psyche that I wasn't even aware of. But, well, maybe this is just a case of me, as a writer, forgetting so much once I turned the final draft in! Because yeah, you're right, even Selina points out that in the real world, fairy tale happy endings are few and far between. Still, I'm giving the credit to you on pulling this connection out. Yes, a modern-day fairy tale with a heroine who saves not just herself but others!
Even though there were nods everywhere to the wider DC Universe, the story takes place outside of the main continuity. Did you feel this gave you more freedom to put your own spin on Bruce and Selina, or was there still pressure to adhere to what people already know about them?
Myracle: I'll be interested to see what Isaac says! But as for me? Nope, no pressure at all, mainly because... er... I came into the project pretty much a blank page, and my editors told me to stay that way -- as in, not to research pre-existing Selina mythology. Why? Because the goal was to give readers a fresh take on Selina, a modern and contemporary take in which Selina is a) a teen and b) very much the heroine of her own story.
Goodhart: Drawing these characters outside the main continuity gave me a lot of freedom! Like many comic book artists, working on these characters has been a dream of mine since childhood. However, If I had to follow an amazing artist on a main-continuity book, I may have gotten intimidated or invented a lot of pressure for myself. It's happened before! But on Under the Moon, I was the first artist on this book. I got to design the characters and establish the aesthetics. I didn't worry about comparing myself to anyone, because there wasn't anyone to compare myself to! It was the most perfect project I could have asked for.
The blue palette of the artwork fits the book’s title perfectly and gives the story an interesting dream-like quality. Did the title dictate the choice of color or was it the other way around?
Goodhart: The title came first. When I joined the project, the script was already finished, and all the main points were locked in. That's my favorite way to work. I love trying to draw any comic in a way that will best serve the script. Hopefully, every panel, every perspective, and all the colors serve and compliment Lauren's vision.
Myracle: I attribute it to Isaac and our colorist, Jeremy Lawson's genius. They are a-maaaaaaay-zing. All things glorious (and blue) come from Isaac and Jeremy!
The story deals with some very mature themes (and language!) Thinking of the younger audience for the book, is it tricky keeping things age-appropriate without lessening the impact? Or was that never a concern?
Myracle: I'm asked this question a lot. Here's the thing: The world teens live in -- as in, live in for real, as opposed to the sweet and safe world many adults would like to think they live in -- is frickin crazy. Today's teens are exposed to everything, and any adult who thinks they aren't is -- with all due respect -- living with blinders on.
These are kids who grew up on shows like Breaking Bad and who listen to more explicit music than any of today's adults grew up with. There's not much point in making a value judgement about this; it simply is. It's what we have to work with. My way of handling it is to love these kids and respect these kids and refuse to ever, ever talk down to them.
Yes, Selina's story is gritty and upsetting. It's also full of hope, resilience and a fierce commitment to being there for others. Rather than pretend that kids aren't already fully enmeshed in the "mature themes" of their own lives, my hope is to tell a story that shows a positive and life-affirming way to navigate the hard stuff they're going to encounter and come out stronger on the other side.
Goodhart: There are definitely heavy themes in Under the Moon. In fact, I was very surprised when I first read the script about a year ago. Even though I loved the story from the get-go, it took me a minute to process it. I remember going through a lot of the same things Selina experiences. When I was about her age, I had a tumultuous home life, and I still have scars on my arms from when I (like Selina) used to cut myself as a teen.
I did find a lot of comfort in the comics I read and the metaphor of superheroes, but if I had found a comic like Under The Moon when I was at that age, it would have been huge for me! There is certainly a stigma surrounding self-harm and anger issues, but I believe it's important to be able to talk these things that actually happen.
My hope is that if a reader connects to our book when reading some of the more difficult scenes, they'll feel less alone. I certainly would have! Our main goal for Under The Moon was being honest and truthful with conveying what life can sometimes be like at 15.
Do you think Catwoman’s status as a sometimes overly-sexualized character distracts from her other appealing qualities? Qualities -- like survivorship -- that you were able to focus on more in Under the Moon because you were dealing with a younger version of her?
Myracle: Being portrayed as overly-sexualized would distract from ANY woman's other qualities, or any man's, for that point! Selina in Under The Moon is fifteen and she is a "survivor" who has taken the crap she was given and used it to become f*cking stronger. (Can you tell I care about these issues?!) But, for real, I'd focus on those same issues regardless of the age of the protagonist I was writing about. Selina at twenty? Selina at forty? I'm going to focus on Selina as Selina, never-not-ever on Selina as a female valued for her sexuality.
Goodhart: Lauren and I were dedicated to making sure Selina Kyle looked 15, through her character design and wardrobe choices. Our Selina doesn't want to stand out so she wears big clothes, hides behind curtains of hair, and does her best to blend in. Later in the book, her gestures are more broad, her expressions are bigger, and wardrobe becomes more black as she dons more jewellery. These are some visual cues I was able to put in to show her progression from insecure high school teen to a more confident Selina.
If you were both given the chance to make a sequel story, would you want to tackle Selina’s transition from Catgirl to Catwoman? Or are her teenage years more of interest?
Myracle: Oh I soooo hope we get to make a sequel! Teen years for sure. There's so much left to explore. Selina is a force of nature, even at fifteen. I can't wait to see what happens next!
Goodhart: I would be absolutely thrilled to work on a sequel! I'm not sure how many sequels it will take to transition from Catgirl to Catwoman, but I'm totally ready to work all of those (hypothetical) books. I love Lauren's writing and I love working with her. I completely trust her and whatever direction she wants to take the characters! Maybe that means more teen years, maybe she grows up. Either way, it'll be a great sequel!
Under The Moon: A Catwoman Tale is written by Lauren Myracle and illustrated by Isaac Goodhart, with colorist Jeremy Lawson and letterer Deron Bennet.