Catwoman's first appearance, Batman No. 1 (1940)
Before we dive right into the 60's and the Batman
TV-series, do talk a bit about Catwoman's origins and her
introduction into the comics?
was created by Bob Kane and
Bill Finger. She made her debut in Batman No. 1 (1940) as a jewel thief
called The Cat. In her first adventure she did not wear a costume but was
illustrated as a dark-haired beautiful woman. It was not until Batman No.
3 (1940) when The Cat wore a brown cat’s head mask, orange dress, red
cape and high heel shoes. Over
the years her costume has changed numerous times.
Right from the start there was an attraction between Batman and The
Cat. The Cat tempts Batman by
saying, “Why don’t you come in, as a partner with me!
You and I together! You and I-King and Queen of crime! We’d make
a great team!” Of course Batman declines The Cat’s offer but aids her
escape from a launch. Her real name would be revealed as Selina Kyle in
Batman No. 62 (1950).
Detective Comics No. 211 (1954)
I've read somewhere that
retired from the comicbooks due to the (then newly installed) Comic
Code in 1954 - care to elaborate, and anything you can tell us about
her final adventure?
violated a few of the rules
established by the Comics Code Authority:
shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a
position which creates the desire of emulation.” Also, “In every
instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his
misdeeds”. Catwoman was
certainly a regular offender of these two rules!
The Batwoman mistaken for the Catwoman from Castle of Frankenstein No. 9
Her last encounter with Batman and Robin was titled The Jungle
Cat-Queen from Detective Comics No. 211 (1954).
The plot involved Catwoman, a gang of criminals, stolen diamonds, a
gorilla and the Dynamic Duo wearing animal-skin clothing.
At the conclusion of the story the criminal gang is captured but
Catwoman escapes riding her pet leopard.
Her place, in Batman’s life, was taken by The Batwoman [Batwoman
article - click here].
She was actually wealthy heiress, Kathy Kane, and made her debut in
Detective Comics No. 233 (1956). It
was only years later in Detective Comics No. 311 (1963) we discover what
became of The Catwoman. Boredom had caused Tom Blake to give up his
successful career as an animal trapper. He glanced at his pet black
panther Felina which reminded him of The Catwoman.
Tom Blake remembered her as was one of Batman’s greatest
adversaries until she “retired”. Soon
afterward he launches a criminal career as The Cat-Man and falls in love
with The Batwoman. When
Catwoman did reappear in the comic books the stories were reprints of her
So how was Catwoman
introduced into the Batman
was first mentioned in the program’s ninth episode, Zelda the
Great. Batman deduces a female criminal is causing trouble and Robin
exclaims “The Catwoman”. The
Caped Crusader dispels this notion stating “Impossible she’s safely up
the river”. Originally executive producer, William Dozier, had Suzanne
Pleshette in mind as Catwoman
but apparently negotiations with the actress
fell through. The Princess of Plunder was forgotten for a while until
Julie Newmar was cast in the role. She
made her debut in episode 19, The Purr-fect Crime.
I think we have to once again take a
detour here to explain 1960's Batmania to younger audiences who
primarily as a humourfree guy with pointy ears who barks a lot!
Oh how I wish the Batman
comics was less of that “humor free guy”. In my opinion he is much too
dark, violent and grim. The
television series was written on several levels for the viewing audience.
It had colorful action for the children and the theatre of the
absurd for the adults. Batman was wildly popular shortly after the
program’s debut and related products were found everywhere. The series also launched
Batman’s comic book sales into the
stratosphere after years of dismal returns.
A new Batman daily and Sunday comic strip debuted and The Catwoman
was one of the first criminals to appear in the weekday version.
what can you tell us about Julie Newmar and her rendition of
her initial appearance Julie Newmar portrayed the Feline Felon as pure
villainess seeking the lost treasure of Captain Manx. There was no hint of
any romantic feelings between Catwoman and Batman in her first two-part
episode. She was a sexy felonious female slinking around in her all black
costume with hip-hugging gold belt. Originally
Julie was given a different costume to wear (probably based on one worn in
the comic book) but she designed the version which graced the television
talk about the romantic allusions between Newmar's Catwoman
Adam West's Batman
for a bit!
Lois Lane No. 70 (1966)
Batman No. 197 (1967)
suppose to give the Catwoman character more personality in the program,
writer Stanley Ralph Ross added her attraction to Batman. This
relationship between the two characters originated in the comic book
series. In the episode, Hot
Off the Griddle she informs Batman he would be the only man worthy of
her. Robin says, “Holy
lovebirds I think she’s sweet on you Batman.”
From this point on Julie Newmar’s Catwoman was schizophrenic
regarding her actions towards Batman.
She would put him a death-trap but yet ask him for a date when she
got out of prison! Julie Newmar stated in an interview that although the
audience was fascinated with the romance between Batman and Catwoman she
was not for it. The actress
called Catwoman’s attraction to Batman a “tease”.
As far as I know,
made her return
into the comicbooks in 1966 in Lois Lane #70 - do talk about that
one and her development in 1960's comicbooks (as opposed to TV) for a bit!
Lane No. 70 (1966) was published at a time when Batmania swept the
country. DC Comics obviously wanted to capitalize on this and had
bat-characters appear in different comic books. Catwoman
returned in The Catwoman’s Black Magic in a bizarre story where she hypnotizes
Superman’s girlfriend into impersonating her.
Lois Lane, as Catwoman, does battle with The Penquin and the real
feline felon turns The Man of Steel into a cat!
The story was continued in the following issue titled Bad Luck
for a Black Super-Cat. Batman
and Robin capture the Catwoman, and Lana Lang, with the magic of a cat’s
paw, changes Superman back to normal. In this two-part adventure Catwoman
wore a purple costume and cape with a cat shaped cowl.
as Selina Kyle, makes a cameo appearance near the end of Detective
369’s Batgirl Breaks up the Dymanic Duo (1967). Following
this cameo she returned, wearing yet another new costume, in Batman No. 197
(1967). The Princess of Plunder wore a green version of Julie Newmar’s
television attire. This issue’s story was called Catwoman Sets Her
Claws for Batman. Catwoman seemingly reformed to win the love of the
Caped Crusader. She saw
Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) as a rival for Batman’s affections. By the
story’s end Catwoman was back to her criminal ways and off to jail.
She next appeared, mainly for an extended cameo appearance, in Batman’s Gangland Guardians for
Batman No. 201 (1968).
Catwoman also popped up, wearing her purple costume, in Worlds
Finest No. 169 (1967), but oddly enough she turned out to be the magical
imp, Bat-Mite, in disguise! Aside
from a few reprints of her earlier adventures DC Comics
did not utilize
Catwoman much during the run of the television series.
May 15, 1966
explanation for why Julie Newmar did not appear as Catwoman
big screen Batman from
you watch the biographies of Julie Newmar, the Batman
series and Catwoman,
each gives a different reason why the actress did not appear.
Burt Ward (on the Batman-movie DVD) and several writers claim Julie
was filming the movie MacKenna’s Gold. However this movie was being
filmed in 1967. Other
explanations include “she was working on another project at the time”,
“wanted more money” or the vague “unavailable”. When Lee
Meriwether, who played Catwoman in the 1966 film was interviewed for
Starlog magazine, the article stated, “The role was being recast for the
movie because Julie Newmar, the series' original felonious feline, was
having back problems.” If you research the movie, at the time it was
being filmed, articles do mention Julie had an “illness” or
So do talk about Lee Meriwether's performance in
the Batman-movie for a
bit, and how did her take on Catwoman
differ from Julie Newmar's?
This is a touchy subject for me having
been very active in theatre. One
of my favorite roles was portraying Harry MacAfee from Bye Bye Birdie.
During rehearsals people came up to me and said something like,
“Oh you will be a great Paul Lynde”. I
would never to try and copy someone else’s performance.
It turns out the audience liked my spin on the frustrated father.
Lee Meriwether’s performance as Catwoman
has garnered mixed
reviews. Many criticize her for being a “wholesome” Catwoman. Yet, in
the film, she slaps a pirate, throws her pet cat in the air using it as a
weapon, and stops Batman in his tracks by threating to kill a woman.
Wholesome? Unfortunately too many compare her to Julie Newmar’s
interpretation, which is unfair.
Jeff Bond, in his review of the Batman
film for the movie’s soundtrack, called her performance “adequate”.
He added “but sadly sanitized Lee Meriwether, who lacked the sultry,
ambiguous sexuality of statuesque Julie Newmar from the TV series.” Hal
Lifson’s remarked in issue 22 of Model and Toy Collector: “If you
force yourself to view Meriwether’s Catwoman on its own level, rather
than solely in comparison of Newmar’s version of the sexy villainess,
her performance is the bright spot of the Batman
movie, particularly as
Miss Kitka, the soviet reporter from the Moscow Bugle (actually Catwoman
in disguise).” Issue No. 4 of The Amazing World of DC Comics
(1975) featured a review of the television series by Carl Gafford.
Gafford called Lee Meriwether’s take on Catwoman
with a “more arousing performance”. I feel Gafford’s opinion is the
most accurate considering Catwoman was written as a ruthless criminal
while her disguise as Miss Kitka feminine and alluring.
The actress said of her interpretation of the villainess, “She
(Julie Newmar) was a sexier Catwoman than I. I was more businesslike, a
no-nonsense cat. Julie had
that incredible dancer’s body; when she sat, everything was perfectly
aligned.” Co-producer Charles FitzSimons said of Lee Meriwether’s
performance, “She was a different version, but she was sensational.”
September 17, 1967
Kitt did take over for Batman's
final season. Any idea why neither Julie Newmar nor Lee Meriwether were
By June 1 of 1967 newspapers were
reporting Julie Newmar had been cast in MacKenna’s Gold.
By September of this same year the press announced the actress had
signed to a “multiple picture deal” with Highroad Productions.
Upon completing MacKenna’s Gold she would be flying to London.
Fans have speculated Julie Newmar could have returned to the role
if she desired. There have
been other reasons given for her absence which include the introduction of
Batgirl, her dislike of the developing romance between Catwoman
and the slashed budget in the third season. I contacted Julie Newmar,
through her website, and the reply (whether actually from the actress or
her representative) was negative to these theories.
From what I have researched 1967 was a very busy year for her which
did not include time to do additional Batman
Meriwether’s absence has been a tricky one to uncover despite my
contacting several Batman historians and the
Lee’s representative’s state she was asked to return but was
filming The Time Tunnel series. However,
by the time the cameras rolled on Eartha Kitt’s episodes (reportedly in
October of 1967), The Time Tunnel was out of production. I discovered Lee
Meriwether did appear on an episode of the ABC series
Iron Horse which
aired on December 9, 1967. This
was the same month Eartha Kitt’s first Catwoman
episode was broadcast.
The Iron Horse commitment may have prevented her from appearing on
Another theory is the hiring of a new Catwoman would provide the
program with much needed publicity. The
casting of Eartha Kitt as The Queen of Criminals, who was known for being
a versatile performer with a feline nature, earned several press notices
in newspapers across the country.
December 10, 1967
So what can you tell us about Eartha Kitt's
rendition of the character?
December 14, 1967
Kitt , in the press, was called a “fetchingly ferocious” Catwoman.
In her debut episode, Catwoman’s Dressed to Kill Robin says
to Batman, “Do you think she’ll kill Batgirl?” Batman replies, “Or
worse Robin, or worse!” Yipes!
That about sums up this latest Catwoman to pounce on Gotham City. I
adored Kitt’s feline mannerisms and what her distinctive voice brought
to the role.
For the third season, Catwoman's
romantic involvement with Batman
was pretty much dropped - any explanation for that?
historians have stated the romantic involvement was dropped due to Eartha
Kitt being African-American. Television audiences, at the time, were not
ready to embrace a relationship between a man and woman of different
races. However can you honestly see Kitt’s portrayal of The Princess of
Plunder asking Batman for a date? She
would have shredded Batman’s costume to bits with her claws if he landed
in her arms!
what extent did Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether and Eartha Kitt at all profit
from their stint as Catwoman
in later years?
November 27, 1967
Eartha Kitt said playing Catwoman
make her “a successful name” again and people continued to recognize
her because of the role. Julie Newmar and Lee Meiwether are popular guests
at various comic book conventions mainly due to their association with Batman. To each actress’s
credit, they have never tried to disassociate themselves from the role.
is too memorable a character to even try and run away
favourite Catwoman-episodes of the Batman
Cesar Romero as The Joker and Eartha Kitt as The Catwoman
My favorite episodes are The Purr-fect Crime
and Better Luck Next Time, which was Julie’s first
two-parter, and Catwoman’s Dressed to Kill with Eartha Kitt, but I
do have another memorable Julie Newmar moment:
At the conclusion of the episode Batman Displays His
Knowledge, a newly captured Catwoman sits with her parole officer Bruce
Wayne. Catwoman says to Bruce
Wayne, “It’s too bad we couldn’t get to be better friends, Mr. Wayne.
A good parole officer should also be a friend.”
Emotional instrumental music is heard and it looks as though Bruce
Wayne realizes he has blown his chance to reform her.
“I’d like to be your friend”, he replies.
Catwoman responds, “There’s no room for another man in my life
Mr. Wayne. You’re nice but
my heart belongs to Batman. Goodbye”.
This is a very memorable moment in the relationship between Julie
Newmar’s Catwoman (her last scene) and Bruce Wayne/Batman. It was
performed realistically without any of the camp humor which permutated the
series after its first season. In The Joke’s On Catwoman I love the way Eartha Kitt
her cat-whiskers would strangle Batgirl to a doubting Joker (Cesar
Romero). “Those cat-whiskers, a fiendish invention of mine. They
automatically contract when placed in close contact with the heat of the
body---gggrrowwll!” My favorite Catwoman scene in the film occurred when
she is looking through a periscope and begins to meow.
A pirate, standing next to her, hears the feline sounds and stares
Catwoman has since the 1960's
graced the big screen three times, portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer (Batman
Returns), Halle Berry (Catwoman) and Anne Hathaway (The Dark
Knight Rises) - anything you want to say about these three portrayals,
also in comparison to the series of old ... and any other (official or
inofficial) portrayals you'd like to talk about?
enjoyed Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance as her tougher edge on the
character suited the serious nature of the film. However I would have
preferred an explanation how meek Selina Kyle transformed into the
athletic Catwoman. A brief
scene working out in a gym? Halle Berry played the role in name only and
her rendition had nothing to do with the Batman mythology.
I did not bother to see Anne Hathaway’s interpretation.
She was not called Catwoman in the film and this was enough to keep
me away. The various animated
versions have all portrayed Catwoman suited to their different time
do you think have Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether and Eartha Kitt contributed
as we know her today?
it was not for the popularity of Batman television series and feature film,
may have remained in retirement. The same could be said for The
Riddler, who only appeared in two stories from the 1940’s until the
television series brought the character to national prominence. If Julie
Newmar’s portrayal did not grab the audience’s attention in her
initial appearance, The Catwoman’s revival would have been short-lived.
Lee Meriwether and Eartha Kitt’s renditions contributed to the
Bob Kane with a model dressed as Catwoman
Online as well
as offline sources to learn more about Catwoman?
are numerous sources available online for all of Catwoman’s
incarnations. I followed the
character’s adventures beginning with her career in 1940 until shortly
after DC Comics’ mini-series,
Crisis on Infinite Earths.
When this story concluded, her history (and costume) seemed to
change every other month! Too
confusing for me.
else you want to talk about and I have merely forgotten to ask?
I always get asked, out of the three
actresses who portrayed her from
1966 to 1968, who is my favorite.
I preferred Eartha Kitt’s answer when asked the same thing.
She said, “I don't categorize, because we are our own individual
for the interview!