Bat Signal

Issue 203 – “The Crimes of the Catwoman!”

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Hey everybody, it’s Catwoman! It’s been fun during this little project to see where some of Batman’s classic villains would first show up, and we’ve just scratched one of the big names off the list, because this is the first time that my number generator has given me a comic pitting Batman against his feline foe. I really like Catwoman as a character, both as a more straight-forward villain and as the conflicted anti-hero that she’s more often portrayed as. She makes an interested foil to Batman, and their relationship is endlessly fascinating to me. She also works much better as a character who straddles the line between villain and reluctant hero as opposed to someone like Harley Quinn. At least to me. So I’m glad we finally got a Catwoman story, and I’m also glad it’s a crazy old story from the early fifties where her MO seems to revolve solely around ridiculous cat puns. So buckle up and get ready for one of the weirder criminal obsessions that I’ve tackled on this project!

The issue starts off with two editors at the Gotham Gazette wondering how to drum up readership. And instead of doing some interesting journalism they decide to just start publishing huge articles about cool stuff Batman has done. Unfortunately one of the first stories is about how Batman always used to stop all of Catwoman’s evil plans, and how she’s a terrible villain. Selina is apparently reformed at the beginning of this story, owning and operating a little pet shop in Gotham, but when the newspaper starts to randomly call her out, she starts to get pissed. And that’s not helped when random thugs who know she used to be Catwoman start coming in to mess with her. She gets really defensive, and Batman and Robin end up showing up to tell her that they weren’t involved with the stupid story, and hope that everything is cool between them.

But things are not cool, and Selina starts to get really pissed. She used to be a big deal in the Gotham underground, and the Catwoman was someone to fear and respect. But now random dudes are just showing up to give her shit, and the newspapers are mocking her, so she decides to throw away the new life she’s built for herself after her reformation, and busts out her old Catwoman costume. She then starts plotting some cat-related crimes, and sneaks to a rooftop containing a spotlight, and hold up one of her cats to it to create a Cat Signal in order to give Batman a heads up that she’s back to her evil ways, daring him to come stop her. Which probably isn’t a good call.

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So Batman and Robin suit up and head out to stop the Catwoman. They hop in the Batplane and zip around the city until they come across the bizarre crime she’s in the process of committing. Catwoman has found some sort of mail carrying helicopter, and has decided to rob it, with a bunch of cat puns. She gets a cat-apult, and launches herself into the helicopter before subduing the pilot with a cat-of-nine-tails. Batman jumps out of the plane to catch her, but she’s able to sneak away and run to another building with a cat’s cradle, before escaping to her catacomb. Ugh. This isn’t as bad as when the Penguin had his stupid umbrella plan and I had to type that word a thousand times, but it’s close. Anyway, Catwoman gets her little gang together in her hideout, and they continue to confound Batman and Robin with their cat crime spree.

Batman and Robin head to the police station to have a quick meeting with Commissioner Gordon and compare notes about various cat-related goings on in Gotham, and decide that there are two places she will probably be hitting. A performance from a prominent lion-tamer and a visiting millionaire who has a collection of “cat’s eye jewels.” Batman decides that the lion-tamer is probably more pressing, and he and Robin run off to the circus. Luckily he was right, and when they get there he starts to hear the sound of cats mewing up in the rafters. He climbs up there, assuming Catwoman is just chilling up there with a bunch of cats, and finds that it’s a just a bunch of catbirds causing a distraction. Because while Batman is up messing with birds, Catwoman is busy pumping knock-out gas into the circus. The crowd starts to pass out as Batman springs into action and is able to get into the circus’ office just as Catwoman and her goons do. He’s able to get the safe they were about to rob shut, and sets off a security alarm, ruining their plan right before he passes out. So Catwoman cuts her loses and just kidnaps the passed out Batman, bringing him back to her catacomb hideout.

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Catwoman has tied Batman up, and after monologuing a bit about how Batman screwed up her circus plan, she heads out to go get those jewels from the millionaire, leaving Batman trapped in her apartment with a bunch of cats. But Batman, much like a good Boy Scout, is always prepared, and when he set out to fight Catwoman he brought along some catnip in one of his belt capsules. He’s able to open the capsule and bit and draw the attention of the caws, who begin clawing at his hands and the ropes that are binding them in order to get the nip. And after a few minutes of being scratched to shit by cats, he’s able to free himself!

Batman and Robin then spring into action and head down to the Gotham river where that millionaire is hanging out in his yacht, fishing for catfish, because of course he is. But Batman and Robin are a little too late, because when they get there they find that Catwoman has already gotten on the boat by using a giant fake catfish decoy. So the Dynamic Duo knock out her goons and get ready to stop the Catwoman and her crime spree. But when Catwoman sees them coming she disables the anchor of the yacht, and goes sailing away from them, using a little lifeboat to escape. Batman and Robin chase after the lifeboat, but it seems to have crashed and sunk near a marsh. Robin points out that she may be alive and just below the water, using a cat-tail reed to breathe, but Batman doesn’t really seem to care anymore, and the leave, figuring that she’s probably still alive and fine.

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Close enough!

This is a pretty fun little issue. I really like seeing these early stories where the villain’s weird obsessions are still so all-defining. Nowadays Batman’s villains just cause chaos and hold Gotham hostage every couple of weeks, but back in the day they used to put a lot of ridiculous time and energy into their stupid gimmicks. And only committing cat-related crimes is one of the more specific types of insanity that Batman’s rogue’s gallery has. It was another one of those issues that I’ve been coming across more and more in this series where Batman and Robin are always just like five minutes too late to accomplish anything for most of the story, and I kind of love it for that. They’re just so bumbling and goofy, struggling to figure out these elaborate cat-puns. But man were those puns getting on the grating side near the end. It’s ridiculous how many stupid gags they came up with that had the word cat in them. Catwoman must have a hell of a thesaurus. But the main thing that this issue showed me was how great Catwoman used to be. I like the semi-reformed jewel thief that we get today, but seeing this Catwoman in a goddamn ball-gown while wearing a cat-mask, and driving around in her own Catmobile was pretty great.

 

“The Crimes of the Catwoman!” was written by Edmond Hamilton and drawn by Bob Kane (supposedly), 1954.

 

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