Hello. I’m Alex Jaffe, better known in our Community as @HubCityQuestion. My personal mission: to take on any question you have about the DC Universe -- no matter how granular, obscure, or strange -- and present you with an answer. As a faithful steward of the truth, I’m here each week to address these inquiries. Should you be interested in getting your own case heard in our next column, you may do so by voicing it in this thread in our Community. And every week, I will be here to address the most intriguing of these cases to the best of my ability. All YOU need to do is ask...The Question.
“Has Catwoman ever been a meta?”
Though Catwoman gets up to some wacky shenanigans in her early appearances, none stem from an innate metahuman ability. Selina’s affinity for cats of all kinds simply seems to come naturally, and there’s never been any suggestion that it has anything to do with superhuman powers. And though she’ll sometimes be able to use stolen artifacts to wield the forces of magic -- such as in ‘Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane’ #70, where she uses the wand of Circe to turn Superman into a cat -- these effects never stem from any innate power.
That being said, the conception that Catwoman possesses superhuman feline traits is not an uncommon one, to those unfamiliar with her comic book status and history. It’s because for many years Catwoman was almost exclusively portrayed as superhuman in live-action media, specifically between 1992 and 2004.
It all began with what is perhaps the highest profile Catwoman appearance to date: Michelle Pfeiffer’s rendition of the character in the 1992 film ‘Batman Returns.’ While the state of Catwoman’s abilities is left intentionally ambiguous to the viewer during the film, it’s implied heavily to the viewer that the meek and obliging Selina Kyle was reborn after falling from a building window, with a newfound ability to bring herself back from the dead.
This notion may have been confirmed by, of all sources, 2004’s ‘Catwoman,’ a tangentially connected film starring Halle Berry. In ‘Catwoman,’ Halle Berry plays Patience Phillips, an original character to take on the Catwoman mantle after being granted catlike senses and agility by the Egyptian cat goddess, Bast. Patience learns that she is far from the first to be chosen by Bast — and a fleeting Easter Egg depicting Catwoman as she appears in ‘Batman Returns’ seems to imply just who Bast’s last chosen representative may have been.
Though absent from the show itself, Catwoman’s status as a metahuman plays a major part in the backstory for the 2002 ‘Birds of Prey’ television series. The main character of the series is Helena Kyle, daughter of Batman and Catwoman. As the Huntress, Helena identifies as a “half-metahuman,” exhibiting many of the same catlike abilities later demonstrated by Patience in 2004. Catwoman was murdered before the events of the series began, so we never get to see her in action. But we can induce from her progeny that she likely exhibited many of the same abilities in life — or at least carried the genes for it.
Aside from Patience, a few other Catwomen who aren’t Catwoman have shown up with super powers. For instance, her counterpart in ‘Kingdom Come’ exhibits some particularly feline traits. And perhaps the least traditional of all Catwomen, the Catwoman of 'Batman Beyond' introduced in 2010’s ‘Batman Beyond’ #2. Unlike other super takes on the character, this Catwoman has the ability to replicate herself into up to 9 bodies at a time. Eventually, we learn this Catwoman is actually the daughter of the Firestorm villain Multiplex.
Though thoroughly human within DC’s central continuity, one would be remiss to omit the variety of powers Catwoman gains throughout the storied multiverse. Selina becomes her world’s Star Sapphire in the Elseworlds tale ‘Batman: In Darkest Knight.’ She becomes a were-cat in the world of ‘Batman: Red Rain,’ as well as “Curse of the Catwoman” in ‘The Batman Chronicles’ #11. In ‘Batman/Demon: A Tragedy,’ Catwoman sold her soul to the devil in exchange for superhuman speed and agility. And in the ‘Just Imagine: Catwoman’ oneshot of 2002, the late Stan Lee reimagines the character as “Joanie Jordan,” a fashion model (named after Lee's wife Joan) who gains a symbiotic relationship with her cat Ebony when they’re struck by a green bolt of lightning.
But perhaps my favorite depiction of a metahuman Catwoman occurs in 1990’s ‘Detective Comics #624.’ This story, titled “Bitter Victory,” is written as a comic within a comic, showing us how comic book readers in the DC Universe might perceive the characters of Batman, Batgirl, and Catwoman. Here, Catwoman is depicted as a powerful sorceress who bedevils the mysterious Batman at every turn. If you’ve ever wondered what a Batman comic might look like in Batman’s own world, this is a must-read.
LOOKING OUT FOR NUMBER ONE
“HCQ, could you please put together an exhaustive list of all the ‘Year One’ storylines? I feel like I run into a new one every other day.”
You’re in luck, Soup. If there’s one thing I love more than making a list, it’s making an EXHAUSTIVE list.
You’ll find origin stories aplenty within the library of DC Universe, and attempting to list them all is a nearly impossible task. Less impossible is listing every tale to carry the “Year One” branding, which indeed began with Frank Miller and Dave Mazzucchelli’s ‘Batman: Year One.’ (If you ever have trouble spelling “Mazzucchelli,” just remember this trick: every letter that seems like it should be doubled, is.) The success of that title led to many, many, many others, coming full circle with Black Label’s recent ‘Superman: Year One,’ also written by Miller. Below, I’ve assembled a chronological accounting of every “Year One” story DC has ever published.
Batman: Year One (‘Batman’ #404-407)
The Flash: Year One — Born to Run [Wally West] (‘The Flash’ #62-65)
Guy Gardner: Year One (‘Guy Gardner’ #11-14)
The Year One Annuals
Throughout the year 1995, every Annual carried the “Year One” banner, either telling a character’s origin story or a tale from their first year on active duty. Some stuck to the theme more closely than others, but all bear the name, so they all go on the list. Here’s a full accounting, along with which characters and events each issue covers...
‘Action Comics Annual’ #7 [Superman’s first space flight]
‘Adventures of Superman Annual’ #7 [Superman’s public debut]
‘Aquaman Annual’ #1 [Aquaman]
‘Azrael Annual’ #1 [Jean-Paul Ludovic Valley]
‘Batman Annual’ #19 [Scarecrow]
‘Batman: Shadow of the Bat Annual’ #3 [Poison Ivy]
‘Catwoman Annual’ #2 [Catwoman]
‘Deathstroke the Terminator Annual’ #4 [Deathstroke]
‘Detective Comics Annual’ #8 [The Riddler]
‘Doomsday Annual’ #1 [Doomsday]
‘The Flash Annual’ #8 [Jay Garrick]
‘Green Arrow Annual’ #7 [Green Arrow]
‘Green Lantern Annual’ #4 [Hal Jordan & Kyle Rayner]
‘Guy Gardner: Warrior Annual’ #1 [Guy Gardner’s Vuldarian heritage]
‘Hawkman Annual’ #2 [Prince Khufu]
‘Justice League America Annual’ #9 [Revisitation of a classic Justice League International storyline]
‘Legionnaires Annual’ #2 [Daxamite-centric adventure during the Legion’s first year of operation]
‘Legion of Super-Heroes’ #6 [XS, Kinetix, Leviathan]
‘Lobo Annual’ #3 [Lobo]
‘New Titans’ Annual #11 [The Titans reflect upon Zero Year]
‘The Ray’ Annual #1 [The Ray meets Superman]
‘Robin Annual’ #4 [Dick Grayson]
‘Shadowdragon’ Annual #1 [Shadowdragon]
‘Steel Annual’ #2 [Time travel story to the events of an earlier issue]
‘Sovereign Seven Annual’ #1 [Cruiser]
‘The Spectre Annual’ #1 [Jim Corrigan]
‘Superboy Annual’ #1 [Kon-El/Conner Kent]
‘Superman Annual’ #7 [Superman meets Doctor Occult]
‘Superman: The Man of Steel Annual’ #4 [Superman meets the Justice League]
‘Wonder Woman Annual’ #4 [An encounter with Cheetah during Diana’s first year as Wonder Woman]
Oracle: Year One — Born of Hope (‘The Batman Chronicles’ #5)
‘JLA: Year One’ (12 Issue Limited Series)
‘Robin: Year One’ (4 Issue Limited Series)
‘Batgirl: Year One’ (9 Issue Limited Series)
Nightwing: Year One (‘Nightwing’ #101-106)
‘Year One: Batman/Ra’s al Ghul’ (2 Issue Limited Series)
‘Year One: Batman/Scarecrow’ (2 Issue Limited Series)
‘Green Arrow: Year One’ (6 Issue Limited Series)
‘Metamorpho: Year One’ (6 Issue Limited Series)
‘Huntress: Year One’ (6 Issue Limited Series)
‘Teen Titans: Year One’ (6 Issue Limited Series)
‘Two-Face: Year One’ (2 Issue Limited Series)
‘Black Lightning: Year One’ (6 Issue Limited Series)
Wonder Woman: Year One (Even-numbered issues of ‘Wonder Woman’ #2-14)
The Flash: Year One [Barry Allen] (‘The Flash’ #70-75)
‘Superman: Year One’ (3 Issue Limited Series)
Other variations on the theme include:
Batman: Year Two (Detective Comics #575-578)
Batman: Year Three (Batman #436-439)
Batman: Year 100 (4 Issue Limited Series)
Batman: Zero Year (Batman #21-33)
Ambush Bug: Year None (6 Issue Limited Series, 1-5 + 7)
As for who’s getting the “Year One” treatment next? Personally, I’d say Lois Lane is overdue.
IT'S NOT EASY BEING GREEN
Another question from @TornadoSoup:
“When was Poison Ivy first portrayed as green skinned?”
Poison Ivy’s comic book debut came in 1966’s ‘Batman’ #181. But nobody had the idea for her skin to match her costume until the brilliant Dave McKean’s work in the 1988 ‘Black Orchid’ limited series, written by Neil Gaiman -- in a memorable sequence in which she contrasts vividly against Orchid’s deep purples. The change in pigmentation for this tale served a story purpose as well, establishing connections with Swamp Thing and Floronic Man as Black Orchid explored the botanical corners of the DC Universe.
But apart from that early expression of what would eventually be an ongoing trend, Poison Ivy maintained a regular flesh tone in all her appearances until 1997. That’s when two things happened: Poison Ivy appeared with a green tint in artist Tim Sale’s highly stylized work in ‘Batman: The Long Halloween,’ and she was also redesigned with a pale olive complexion for ‘The New Batman Adventures’ animated series. For the next few years, that olive in Ivy’s skin would gradually deepen until it canonically bloomed into a fully verdant green in 2000’s ‘Harley Quinn,’ as Ivy took on the role of a regular supporting character.
To this day, you may notice the tone of Poison Ivy’s skin change from beige to green and back again from story to story, depending on whichever colorist happens to be handling her at the time. We can solve this discrepancy by consulting Dustin Nguyen’s ‘Li’l Gotham’ series. A suggestion is made therein that the truth behind Ivy’s skin tone is that like many denizens of the plant kingdom, her pallor tends to wax and wane with the seasons themselves. As good an answer as any, I’d reckon.
And if YOU’D like as good an answer to any of the pesky problems plaguing your pockmarked brainpan, then by now you should know exactly what to do. Step into my office, stroll up to the desk, and submit your inquiry. The cost in this world for answers elsewhere may be high. But you, my readers, are always free to ASK… THE QUESTION.