Today, Shelby and (guest writer) Heath Gordon are discussing Catwoman 0, originally released September 19th, 2012. Catwoman 0 is part of the line-wide Zero Month.
Shelby: I really want to like Catwoman. I’ve always been intrigued by the “villain of convenience,” that one character who does what he wants; sometimes his goals line up with the hero’s, sometimes they don’t. Every encounter reveals a new motive that can land anywhere on the villain/hero scale. We never really know where this character’s loyalties lie. Ultimately, it all adds up to interesting and engaging reading. This is what I want Catwoman to be: a kick-ass thief with a unique take on what’s right and wrong. I was disappointed with Judd Winick’s vapid, selfish, recklesly stupid Selina Kyle, and had high hopes for Ann Nocenti’e origin story. Looks like I’m going to have to stay disappointed.
A few years ago, Selina Kyle was promoted to executive secretary at the mayor’s office. She got the job through the Second Chance program, an organization that gives kids on the street jobs. You know, a second chance. She got the job offer from a Mysterious Man who found her in an alley after some dude beat the shit out of her for stealing some pearls. Selina’s been stealing for a while; apparently, the main source of income at the group home she grew up in was stolen jewelry, taken by the kids and fenced by the headmistress. A hard-knock life, indeed. At the mayor’s office, Selina enlists the help of a nerd to look through the Second Chance program files in order to find her missing little brother. They find her file instead, but there’s some Russian name on her picture instead of her own. The whole system crashes before she can find anything more. The Mysterious Man shows up to congratulate Selina on her promotion by taking her to the roof: nothing suspicious about that. Apparently, the system crashed because she looked at her file, she wasn’t supposed to know she’s actually Russian. According to the Mysterious Man, she needed to completely forget she had ever seen anything out of the ordinary. He then throws her off the roof for good measure. The rest is history if you’ve seen Batman Returns: an awning breaks her fall, cats swarm in, etc. Selina is now the sexy master-thief Catwoman, and visits another nerd to find out more about her file, except that it’s been totally erased, like it never even existed.
For me, this issue is nothing but problems. My biggest problem is, for a Catwoman book, there sure aren’t a whole lot of cats. To have Selina Kyle not appear to be a cat person in her Catwoman origin story does not sit right with me. Batman Returns is actually a perfect point of comparison; in the movie, Selina is well established as the lonely spinster cat lady. She has a cat, is kind of frumpy, lives in a pink painted apartment with lots of fluffy, childish things, the signs are all there. When she lands in that alley and the cats swarm all over her, I believe it. I don’t really get why, but I also don’t stop to think about it. The first, and only time, we see any cats in this issue is when they show up in the alley. Why do they all show up? I dunno, but gosh darnit if it wasn’t reason enough for her to make a cat costume. That whole bit was confusing, too: her body made a catwoman-shaped hole in the awning? Someone actually sewed it back together instead of buying a new one? Did she make her costume out of the awning material, or is she speaking metaphorically when she says she “used the cloth to sew my…new skin”?
The other big problem I have with this issue is that Selina is stupid. You know how I know she’s stupid? She keeps asking nerds for computer help. Now, if she were just asking random other characters, I probably wouldn’t think anything of it, but Adriana Melo has gone out of her way to draw the most stereotypical nerds I’ve ever seen outside of satire. For the purposes of this story, Selina is pretty and that’s all she needs to be. She can get nerds to do her thinking for her. I hate to see Selina so reduced, and as a nerd, I hate the way these guys look! Are they wearing costumes to go to a nerd-themed party later?
I don’t see any reason to care about this title. The art is unimpressive at best, and the writing is awful. Selina is vacuous and selfish, and I have no motivation to want to know more about her. I think DC itself has given me the best reason to not give a shit about Catwoman. I’m not totally sure who wrote it; DC’s site says Judd Winick, the book says Ann Nocenti. If DC doesn’t care enough to get the author right, then I don’t see any reason why I should care to read it. On that resoundingly negative note, let me introduce my friend Heath. Heath, I’m not sure what sort of experience you’ve had with comic books, what did you think of this issue?
Heath: Here’s a bit of my background with comic books: I read Tintin near religiously as a child and I’ve read The Watchmen. My interests tend to be away from traditional superheroes, although I really like it when ordinary people do extraordinary things. Magic and stuff that’s unexplained by reality is not too attractive to me. Also I am a fiction writer. What appeals to me are well crafted plots and compelling storylines. So I’m with you, Shelby. This sucked pretty bad.
Let’s start with what makes comic books special: the art. What’s the deal with the shoe stuff in the beginning? Did the writer have a foot fetish that only his artist could realize? Did she steal the shoes? I don’t know, and I was too confused to try to find out. And let’s look at this panel after they’ve been strip searched by Miss Oliver (Is that an allusion to Oliver Twist? Look at how smart this writer is!!!!):
What in the hell kind of perspective is that? It is mind bogglingly bad. We’re looking above the kids, but at the same level as the desk. Somebody’s got a deadline!
I’ll also draw your attention to the climactic fight seen. Oh there’s no way that could be at all confusing. Here’s the thing, that panel would be really dope without all the mini-panels (if you nerds have a special word for that, by all means don’t edit this and get a life). But no, they had to be fancy.
I have one last gripe with the art. Catwoman is without question the hottest woman in the entire comic book defined universe. You want a boneriffic surprise? Go watch the original Batman series with Adam West. You can probably find it online. Watch the first Catwoman episode and tell me you would not commit a felony for her. This version of Selena Kyle? Not doing it. I showed it to 13-year-old Heath and he wasn’t impressed.
If there is one single lazy-ass thing you can do as a storyteller it is the flash-forward at the opening. You’ve seen it a thousand times. The first minute and a half is the protagonist doing something that just doesn’t make sense. Then the rest of the story explains what wacky series of events led to that moment. Even worse is if you never actually come back to ‘present time’ cohesively, like this comic never does.
The flash-forward open is done for two reasons:
1) Your storyline is terrible and won’t stand up without gimmicks.
2) You are trying too hard to be fancy. ← Note: we’re establishing a theme here.
The episode of the X-Files with the vampires and Luke Wilson is a notable exception because it is hilarious.
This is one of those things that you should only do if you have a really, really good reason for it. The story shouldn’t make sense unless it’s told in broken-time format. And honestly, I can’t think of any examples (barring ones featuring time travel) that work this way.
I won’t try to keep track of the plot here, but it is extraordinarily jarring. And even outside of the basic plot are a whole bunch of things that don’t make sense. I, like Shelby, was confused by the part where she gets pushed off of the roof. First off, why? “I just found out you were looking through your records or something.” <<pushes her off the roof>> That’s what you get when you hire a criminal literally seconds after she gets beat up by a guy she robs and put her next door to the most important man in the city. But I digress.
Second: Of course the cats ran to her. That’s exactly what cats do when there’s a loud noise! Run toward it! My theory is that the artist eliminated the panel where he rubs her down with meat. And unless that awning was made out of patent leather, I don’t think that’s what she makes her outfit out of.
Shelby’s interpretation of Catwoman’s characterization is spot on. This is not Catwoman. Catwoman wouldn’t have let herself be pushed off of a roof. She wouldn’t whine to a nerd about doing computer stuff. It should also take more than an arbitrary act of violence to turn her into a criminal. It may be explained later on, but I’m not going to wait around for it.
In short, thank you so much, Retcon Punch gang, for assigning me this magnum opus.
Heath Gordon is a writer living in Bern, Switzerland with his hot wife and toothless cat. There, he bikes, climbs mountains and frolics. If you want to read more of his stuff, go to heathgordon.com/blog.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?