Currently prowling around on stiletto (actual knife) heels on the big screen in The Dark Knight Rises, Catwoman is probably second only to Wonder Woman when it comes to female characters from superhero comics who have an iconic, recognisable status outside the world of comics readers. As with Wonder Woman, this is helped along quite considerably by a 1960’s TV show, a series of sexy outfits, and a whole bunch of nostalgia, though Catwoman also has the benefit of several appearances in big budget films over the last twenty years.
Catwoman has been played on screen by many different actresses, including Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt, Michelle Pfieffer, Halle Berry and Anne Hathaway. But while the television and Hollywood versions of Catwoman are often almost entirely different from each other, you can also see some pretty dramatic differences in the way she, her story and her costume are presented in the comics.
Catwoman, AKA Selena Kyle, first appeared in Batman comics in 1940, as a glamorous cat burglar who led Batman a merry dance. Her femme fatale status was helped along by a design based on images of Jean Harlow and Hedy Lamarr, though it has to be admitted that her first crimefighting costume, involving an actual furry cat mask, was less than seductive. She soon made up for that, committing her crimes in a designer purple evening dress and cape, and sighing breathily at Batman whenever he looked like getting tough with her. Wielding a whip, this classy bad girl intrigued Batman, and he would at times deliberately let her escape.