When fan reaction to a new direction is at best lukewarm, you need a gimmick. Queenpin Selina obviously hasn’t generated the sales and interest that DC Comics TPTB hoped it would, so it needs a little something something to goose it and trick everyone to thinking this new direction was a success (déjà vu anyone?)
Unfortunately for Catwoman, the default gimmick always seems to center around her sexuality. It’s a convenient way to distract attention from the core problem: DC Comics has fucked up the character so badly that she’s just not viable in the comics.
Barring the Halle Berry disaster (not her fault), we’ve had more than enough examples of awesome live action Catwomen. I don’t need to mention how iconic Julie and Michelle’s portrayals are. Anne’s Selina Kyle was well received enough that many critics mention she was the one bright spot in an otherwise dreary film. The New York Times critic even thought she should have been nominated Best Supporting Actress for Selina instead of Fantine. As for Camren Bicondiva, her Twitter followers jumped from 3k to 72k in the months that Gotham has been on air. And she’s not even featured that much.
In short, Catwoman, when done well, can be VERY VERY popular to a mainstream audience. There’s already a name recognition built in. And yet her comic sales flounder and DC Comics treats her like a D Lister. Crap they wouldn’t dream heaping on Winder Woman or Supergirl, they pile on Catwoman without hesitation (prostitute origin, abandoned babies, slut shaming on panel in other batbooks, etc.).
You can tell they haven’t put much thought in her reboot:
1) For a character that’s an easy sell to the mainstream, why is she confined to a Teen+ book? Why isn’t she allowed to appeal to young girls like her 90s series was? (Yes, despite the Balent boobs, I know a lot of longtime Catwoman female fans who grew up with that book)
2) This is how she’s been written in the nu52:
a. Self destructive hot mess whose main preoccupation is to have sex with Batman (Winick) +
b. Wacky & tacky Batman doormat who just can’t shut up and likes hanging out with Gotham mole people (Nocenti) +
c. Arkham City Catwoman with TDKR knife heels whose sole purpose is to get faux fridged then transition to Batman groupie (Johns) +
d. Pole dancing kitty who can’t decide if she wants to flirt with Batman or be alone — playing into trope right there? (Seeley/Eternal crew) +
e. Morose mob queen whose new role gains her an additional 100 IQ points but sucks all the vivacity and charm out of her (Valentine)
Not only can’t they write her consistently, they’ve made a real puddle of her origin too:
a. Orphan with an ax to grind with the Russian mob (Winick) +
b. Grew up in group home with a brother, has her identity stolen and wiped out, recruited by a govt agent who pushes her off a roof through a tarp looney tunes style which is how she gets her costume (Nocenti) +
c. Disposable dad appears and now she’s the long lost heir to mob royalty and is instantly capable of being the capo of capos just on the weight of her name alone. Never mind that she was a total ditz prior to this.
Damn. That’s a lot of spaghetti sauce on the wall, isn’t it? Why don’t we just throw in a blotch of bisexuality so people think it’s a Jackson Pollock painting. Sorry, DC, but if there are carpenter ants chewing up the frame, now’s not the right time to put a shiny new roof on the house.
Much like plain congee is a panacea for an upset stomach, Catwoman 35 was a welcome relief to the inanity before it. I commend Genevieve for not dumbing down her plotting and her efforts to elevate Selina by having her role models be historical women of power. Unfortunately, the fuzzy artwork and drab coloring conspire against her. Bottom line is if the reader can’t recognize who’s doing what, they’re going to have difficulty enjoying this storyline. By the third issue (Catwoman 37), I’m much less enthused. Selina moping and second guessing herself has worn thin and is grating on my nerves.To quote another long time Catwoman fan: “… feels like Bruce could give her tips on enjoying life at this point”
I’m also going to put it out there that I don’t see any chemistry between Selina and Eiko. Did anyone actually see that coming? If one has to rely on cliff notes from the author that this has been building up, well then, hmm, I don’t know. Maybe I should save my money and just read her blog posts.
Batcat doesn’t fare any better I’m afraid. Whenever Bats shows up, it’s like the scene was plucked from the handy stock they have on Bats lecturing her about her life choices.
You know who wrote great batcat? Devin Grayson (who happens to be bisexual). She captured their dynamic so well. These are my favorite:
Maybe romance writing isn’t a strong suit? How about we stick to political intrigue which is?
Personally, I think it would have been more ground breaking to craft a coherent backstory cobbled from all the hints we’ve seen or give her a new core competency that doesn’t involve her body.
Anyway, while it’s great that she now has LGBT support, I wonder how much of that will translate to sustained sales. And when Genevieve is gone, hopefully they won’t be fair weather fans and will speak up for Selina when some other writer decides to use this new development to crap all over her (because you just KNOW that’s going to happen).