Can I ask you to elaborate Will Pfeifer portayal of motherhood vs Paul Levitz's?
I’d be happy to.
So I’ve had some time to really let Will Pfeifer’s run of Catwoman and his portrayal of motherhood really marinate and I’ve decided that I hated it. It’s been almost 10 years and I’m still mad about it. It wasn’t that Pfeifer portrayed Selina as a bad mother or anything like that, quite the contrary, but the fact that he made Selina give her child up for adoption because she couldn’t handle being a mother and being Catwoman at the same time is a reflection of some archaic and quite frankly sexist ideas about motherhood.
Motherhood is really idealized in our culture in ways that fatherhood isn’t. Women are constantly being sent covert messages that say that once they become mothers they can’t be anything else (i.e how can Hillary Clinton possibly be president and a grandmother?!). Women have to endure condescending think pieces about how “women can’t have it all” that men are never subjected to. Will Pfiefer’s portrayal of Selina as a mother played into this trope.
Adam Levine at Arousing Grammar did an in depth synopsis of Catwoman’s brief stint as a mom which you can read about here to get the full picture. But the Cliff’s Notes version is this: As soon as Helena was born Selina had to give up being Catwoman, something that is absolutely crucial to her identity. When she took up the mantle again she was punished for it by not being able to handle motherhood and having to give Helena up for adoption. These two things should not be mutually exclusive and could be interpreted as an allegory for working moms. We get enough of this in real life, we don’t need it in our comic books as well.
Selina even admitted that she choose being Catwoman over being a mother. This has never been an issue for Bruce who has so many kids they should probably have some kind of intervention. He has never been forced to choose between fatherhood and being Batman. What’s worse is that Selina and Bruce were/are both single parents, but Selina is the only one who couldn’t handle motherhood and being a superhero.
This was done to make Catwoman a more tragic character. I honestly can’t even read this storyline anymore.
Paul Levitz’s portrayal of motherhood, from what we got to see, is the polar opposite of Pfeifer’s. Catwoman was allowed to be more than one thing: she was a superhero, a wife, a mother, and an appearently pretty sexual being according to more than a few panels. This goes against the grain for how mothers are written particuarly in this type of medium. She was a mother, a very good one too, but that wasn’t the beginning and end of who she was. There were even times when she put other things, including herself, before being a mom. Like when she peaced out in the middle of her kid’s bedtime story to go do the horizontal tango with her husband.
On Earth-2 Batman and Catwoman are married and are raising their daughter, Helena, together. Selina is shown to be encouraging of Helena’s desire to fight crime and is more influential in her daughter’s life than Bruce. This is no small feat considering how overbearing of a character Batman tends to be in the DCU. Bruce initially didn’t want Helena to be involved in the crimefighting life so Selina took it upon herself to train her even at a young age.
Whereas Bruce was never thrilled at the prospect of Helena being a crimefighter and worried that she would get hurt, Selina had faith, believed in her daughter’s abilities, and encouraged her passion in spite of Bruce’s trepidations.
She was the one who got Helena into the streets and it’s obvious by Bruce’s reaction that she did so against his wishes and knowledge.
She even encouraged Helena to forge her own destiny and identity.
Bruce even commented about where Helena gained her strong sense of independence from.
When Helena took up the Robin mantle she was working along side her mother more than her father. As a matter of fact to the people of Earth-2 Robin was known more as Catwoman’s daughter than Batman’s. When Helena became the Huntress she maintained a lot of the values that were instilled by her mother namely protecting the lives of women.
Everything we got a chance to see for Catwoman as a mother in New 52 was written by Paul Levitz (who is also Helena Wayne’s co-creator). Unlike Pfeifer’s portrayal being a mother didn’t stop Selina from being Catwoman, quite the opposite. She was a driving force in her daughter’s decision to become a superhero even though it really wasn’t something her father wanted for her. It was some really great stuff and we owe a lot to Levitz for that.
See Will, you can be a mom and a superhero and a lot of ther things at the same time!