Posts Tagged ‘jim balent’

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A Catwoman Renaissance

April 26, 2017

“For me, Catwoman has always been fun to write. I think it’s because she actually likes herself and enjoys life. That’s so rare in a modern comic book character.”
– Chuck Dixon, Poplitiko

The statement will probably confuse the modern Catwoman fan.  Selina fun?  A winner who likes herself and enjoys her life?  How can this be?

a-catwoman-renaissance-jimbalent-catwoman1

Jim Balent shares Catwoman Issue #1

Cat-Tales fans are not confused, and Cat Tales fans can rejoice for that fun, winning, sexy, resourceful Selina that we never gave up is (finally!) making a comeback!  Coming this September, DC is releasing the first volume in the collected edition of Jim Balent’s 1990’s Catwoman series.  It will include issue 1-14 written by Mary Jo Duffy and issue #0 by Doug Moench who is simply the gold standard of Bronze Age Bat/Cat.

Jim Balent remains “the epitome of Catwoman artists” (Amazon), delivering an unapologetically voluptuous feline fatale whose look fits her brazen personal style. Consider the episode from the first story arc, “Life Lines,” which Chris Dee cites in her 2011 Blogtalk interview: Selina infiltrates a wealthy man’s apartment during a party, posing in the dark as his wife fresh from the shower and wrapped in a towel. She gets away with the goodies and gets back into costume just as quickly as she had come (so much for it being impractical) but Chris’s point was the daring nature of the move, the fun – this Catwoman’s essence and appeal is the fun of being bad (and getting away with it).  Though before we close the book on practicality, it’s worth noting that this costume defined it for those who know the meaning of the word rather than using it as code: it was noted that while the rest of Gotham fought a fully-functioning Batman, Selina only had to contend with 1/5th of him.

Writer Jo Duffy catches Selina’s voice perfectly. She catches her good and bad sides, her tenderness and cattiness (and another feature that Cat Tales fans know about, her utter contempt for Azrael, the man who took Bruce’s place – in his view, anyway – when Bane broke his back).

If you’re tired of a Trinity cosplayer with Snoopy goggles being presented as Catwoman, tired of “complexity” (i.e. short hair and small boobs passed off as characterization), or just want to see what was so special about the era when Selina was sexy, sassy, confident and the world’s best cat burglar that fans refused to give her up despite a full court press from her publisher that went on for a decade and a half, you can pre-order here on Amazon, or visit your local comic shop who are apparently unable to preorder for several months yet.  Make sure they (and DC) know that we want this.

One final note on what may be a renaissance for the smoking hot, purple kitty: Brazilian pop culture company, Iron Studios, is going to release a gorgeous statue of the stunningly beautiful, purple clad, long haired Selina based on the artwork of long time DC artist, Ivan Reis (famous for his Aquaman run with writer, Geoff Johns).  a-catwoman-renaissance-ironstudios-ivanreis-maquette

Models and maquettes have come a long way since Denny O’neil’s day when depictions of the Balent Catwoman were marred by unattractive snarls and poses as if by editorial mandate, but nothing – nothing like this – has been seen for the absolute love that has gone into every angle and detail.  This hand-painted, 1/10 scale, 18cm model is simply the sexiest tribute to the purple Selina you can find, and rivals the Tweeterhead Julie Newmar statues in my opinion.

Iron Studios full photo album is here.  (Unfortunately, how you could go about buying one, I have no idea.)

So… whether it’s actually a sexy, purple, long-haired, cat-burglar Catwoman renaissance, a test balloon or simply a very lucky coincidence, the time is now.  Break out your wallets.  Vote with your wallets.  You know how Selina gets when you make her do it herself.

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Leave the Gun, Take the Catwoman

August 17, 2011

Cat-Tales Catwoman Fan Fiction by Chris Dee: Carmine Falcone, the Godfather

Monday was a crazy-busy day for Cat-Tales.  First, we had the release of Comedy of Errors latest installment: Chapter 5 – Frank Pentangelli.  For those who can’t place the name, “Frankie Five Angels” was the caporegime in The Godfather Part II who stayed in the east, running The Corleone Family in New York after Michael moved the family to Nevada.  He’s a great touchstone back to the first film, the family as they were and how much they’ve changed… That’s not exactly why he’s the title of the chapter.  For that you’ll have to read it.  Anyway, the new chapter is out, and it contained quite a surprise, the significance of which will be playing out for a while…

Chris Dee on The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan, The Catwoman Costume Controvercy, and the Godfather

Perhaps because it was on my mind, The Godfather also figured prominently in my last Blogcritics piece: Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises, Catwoman’s Goggles, and an Offer You Can’t Refuse.  You know, it’s not easy making a movie in 2011.  Everybody on the street has a phone, every phone has a camera and half of them are prelinked to share the goods on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube before a PA can yell “HEY, you shouldn’t be back… here.”  But before we start feeling too bad for all Chris Nolan is going through trying to shoot The Dark Knight Rises in Pittsburgh, consider that 40 years ago before any of the social networks and fanboy complications, things were… so much worse!

And finally, it was Jim Balent’s birthday, and one of my favorite DeviantArt Catwoman artists, Aichan25, made a wonderful birthday tribute to the creator of the original Catwoman #1 oh-so-sexy purple Catwoman

Jim Balent Catwoman Purple Catwoman Costume: Happy Birthday Mr. Balent by Aichan25

That’s Aichan25, remember that name because there is a lot more art to come in the coming months at Catwoman Fan Art Gallery on the Cat-Tales website, and at the virtual exhibit spaces in Second Life.

Chris Dee
www.catwoman-cattales.com
cattales.yuku.com
cattales.wikispaces.com

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Catwoman and Cleopatra: Inkblots of an Age

April 25, 2011

After Practical Cats, a reader asked me to summarize my Cleopatra theory as it pertains to Catwoman.  With shooting under way onCatwoman Inkblot The Dark Knight Rises, and Batman circles abuzz with speculation on what Christopher Nolan’s take will be, it seemed the perfect time.

Briefly: Cleopatra lived and died over 2,000 years ago, and what’s known about her life hasn’t changed.  There is the sensational Roman account, juicy but questionable material dating from a propaganda war with Augustus Caesar, and a drier but more flattering picture of her political accomplishments recorded by the historian Flavius Josephus.  That’s it.  It’s not like any new unauthorized biographies were unearthed in the 1300s, 1500s, or 1800s to account for the drastically differing images of her.  There is only one set of facts from which different ages have formed completely different Cleopatras: from “The Nile Slut” to a childlike innocent, from a murderous man-eater to a savvy politician, from a devoted mother to a tragic “slave to love.”   Obviously, they can’t all be right.  Obviously, what each era chooses to focus on—and what it chooses to ignore—says more about them than it does the real Cleopatra.

Lucy Hughes-Hallett’s fascinating Cleopatra: Histories, Dreams and Distortions does a remarkable job analyzing each of these incarnations and what they reveal about the eras which romanticized and vilified her.  Not surprisingly, it is the spin each age puts on the sexual aspects of her story that is most telling about their attitudes about women in general, and women’s sexuality in particular.   

Cleopatra and CatwomanLike Cleopatra, Catwoman is a sex symbol who has spanned many generations and gone through many incarnations.  From her first appearance in Batman #1, the draw between male and female has always been the distinguishing feature of Bat/Cat encounters.  Tame and subtextual under the early comics code: Batman saw through Catwoman’s disguise in that first appearance by noticing her shapely legs. Amusingly brazen by the time Julie Newmar donned her claws and Adam West’s Batman declared “You give me curious stirrings in my utility belt.”   Of course there is more to Catwoman’s appeal that the physical.  You can’t throw a batarang in mainstream comics without hitting a beautiful and voluptuous woman.  What made Catwoman particularly well-suited to the role as the Batman’s romantic foil was her playful free-spirited disposition.  In an era that was finally acknowledging that sex is fun, the Bat/Cat titillation reached its zenith in Batman #324 when Selina awoke naked in the Batcave after her costume had been torn to pieces.  Batman tosses her a replacement saying she was lucky he’d kept one of her old costumes in his trophy room, and she responds—just barely covering herself with the sheet—that she “got lucky in more ways than one.”

Approved by the Comics Code.  And that’s probably what made it so much fun: the tingle of being bad, of getting away with something a little naughty.  It is the appeal of Catwoman, and in scenes like that, the reader got a taste.

And therein lies one of the essential elements of a successful Catwoman portrayal that has often eluded DC Comics.  A simple comparison of the merchandise dating from Denny O’Neil’s day as Bat editor, where it seemed to be a mandate that her features be distorted by a hostile snarl, to the turning point when a Japanese company, Yamoto Toys, released a limited edition figurine based on manga artist Kia Asamiya’s design.  The sexy come hither pose and naughty grin sold out in days in many U.S. comic shops and was voted The Sexiest Batman-related Action Figure by Wizard’s ToyFare Magazine.  After a second equally successful figurine from Yamoto, again featuring the Jim Balent costume with an appealing pose and smile, DC appears to have got the message.  Recent offerings of the Balent costume from DC Direct have certainly featured an attractive pose and naughty grin.

Catwoman Merchandise, Action Figures and Figurines

But the detour into snarling hostility illustrates how, like Cleopatra, Catwoman has undergone reinvention after reinvention reflecting the insights, fetishes or fears of those doing the re-imaging.  Consider her Bob Kane origin from “The Secret Life of Catwoman,” an airline stewardess who suffered amnesia after a plane crash.  (Yes, amnesia. It’s a comic book.)  In the 1940s and 50s, stewardesses were incredibly glamorous figures.  Beautiful, svelt single girls, traveling the world, meeting exciting people and working side-by-side with pilots!  It is in this story that Catwoman’s real name is revealed to be Selina Kyle.  Selina meaning “daughter of the moon.”  Kane clearly gave his Catwoman a glamorous and romantic cache befitting her status as the Queen of the Night in Batman’s world.  This Catwoman, despite her criminal activities, was far from evil.  She bargained away loot to save Robin from Joker, and on regaining her memory, worked with Batman to bring down a crime boss and ultimately her own criminal brother.

The next origin revealed that the amnesia story was a lie.  Selina Kyle had been married to a rich man who beat her.  When she left him, he tried to ruin her.  Her first robbery was stealing back the jewelry he’d given her and, titillated by the thrill, she continued.  The attitudes expressed by this version of Catwoman are not at all difficult to decode, for the author puts it right in the text: Selina tells Batman she made up the amnesia story to get out of the life of crime because  “I was thirty years old and I didn’t want to die without love… without children.”  That Selina does marry Bruce Wayne and has a child with him: Helena Wayne.  While modern sensibilities may kneejerk at the notion that every woman must pang for motherhood, I submit that the root idea that all humans, both men and women, want love is a timeless and valid one.

Things took a bit of a turn when the in-your-face feminism of the Sixties sent the comics boys into a tizzy.  Consider the mentality of a writer who had the Green Lantern’s girlfriend become evil Star Sapphire for 5 days each month.  How does such a man respond to images on the news of women shouting for equality and burning their bras?  Well, Catwoman donned go-go boots and snarled about “The Battle of the Sexes” and how “No man would ever tame her,” and that same writer gave Batman a new enemy/love interest, a submissive Asian who “was good company even when she was quiet.

Yeah.  Seriously.  Amazing, isn’t it?

The Catwoman of Tim Burton’s Batman Returns is of a period that lost the most fundamental “Look, up in the sky” aspect of superhero comics: the wish fulfillment of a child, the adventures of characters we would all want to be if we could.  To fly, to be strong, to swing across the city on a silken Batline, to have exciting adventures in a world of larger than life color…  In the spirit of remaking all the known characters as damaged human beings that no sane person would ever want to be, Selina was a meek, repressed, overworked secretary whose boss killed her.  All of her ‘empowerment’ was a reaction to oppression and victimization, but it should be noted that this is not really a gender attitude.  The men in Burton’s world fare no better.

Of Frank Miller’s Year One and subsequent comics based on its Catwoman origin, all that any enlightened reader need do is look at the body of Miller’s work.  The sheer number of prostitutes, rapes and castrations paint a vivid portrait of the man doing the writing and his attitudes, but just in case anyone doubts, Rob Bricken has taken the trouble to map it all out in 6 Hints that Frank Miller Might Have Issues with Women.   What all this says about Miller is – well, it’s Miller.  It doesn’t have to represent the rest of us.  We don’t have to be the generation that was so terrified of women’s sexuality they had to demonize it.  It was DC who let this guy with obvious issues about women’s sexuality define a woman’s icon.  It is DC Comics who refuses to remedy or even admit that error.  It falls to other media to do so.

Mr. Nolan, I’m looking at you.  The 21st Century is eagerly waiting to see what “Our” Catwoman will be.

Chris Dee
www.catwoman-cattales.com
cattales.wikispaces.com

Article first published as Catwoman and Cleopatra: Inkblots of an Age on Blogcritics.

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Practical Cats

April 11, 2011

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
–Inigno Montoya, The Princess Bride

Best Catwoman Costume is the Jim Balent: Purple and Sexy, brings Batman to his knees, it doesn't get more practical than thatAt some point when DC Comics was still trying to sell their new direction Catwoman comic, they introduced the idea that the goggled costume which debuted at the same time was “more practical” than its predecessors.  Obviously the person putting this forth had never worn a body stocking, leotard or pantyhose, because there’s nothing difficult about putting on form-fitting garments after you’ve done it twice.  And that’s in the real world.  In Catwoman #1, the comic where the Jim Balent costume debuted, Selina manages to get out of her costume and slip into a towel to impersonate the wife of the man she was robbing, then re-costume and slip away with the jewels as soon as he returned to the party and before he can realize his wife is already out there mingling with the guests.  That certainly seems like it must be an easy process to get in and out of costume, but more importantly it illustrates the appeal of Catwoman: the hot cat burglar.  The episode is sexy, it’s brazen, and it’s fun.  That’s half the appeal of Catwoman: men want her, women want to be her.  The illicit fun of being bad—not too bad, not evil, just bad enough for thrills—that’s the woman’s half of the equation.

The men’s half, that’s where the practicality idea really goes off the rails.   Because even if we accepted the idea that the Jim Balent Catwoman was harder to get in and out of, does it deliver benefits that more than make up for the extra trouble?

Answer: Hell yes. 

I was talking to a friend recently about possible Catwoman costumes in Christopher Nolan’s next Batman installment The Dark Knight Rises, and he immediately brought up his ideal for the hot cat burglar: Catherine Zeta-Jones in Entrapment.  “If I was Connery I’d have passed out from blood loss,” he said.  “There wouldn’t be any left to power my brain, that’s for certain.”

And that’s the value of the Balent costume that transcends any notion of practicality.  The rest of the world has to deal with Batman.  100%.  Bat.  Man.   Bruce Wayne, most dangerous man in the world, devotes his life and his fortune to protecting his city and fighting the criminals who prey upon it… Batman.

Selina only has to contend with 1/5 of Batman.  She gets Bruce’s brain on auxiliary power, what’s left to maintain breathing and blood pressure while the rest of him battles the spectacle of a vibrant and beautiful woman poured into skin-tight purple, black thigh boots, silver claws shimmering in the moonlight, a holstered whip at the ready, and eyes you’ll dream about forever, teasing playfully from behind an enigmatic mask.

That, on a Gotham City rooftop, is practical.

Chris Dee
www.catwoman-cattales.com
cattales.yuku.com
cattales.wikispaces.com

Thank you for reading. If you are viewing this post anywhere other than The Catitat you are reading a mirror. Please visit the original posting in The Catitat to leave a comment.

Article first published as Practical Cats on Blogcritics.

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Women Lacking Complexity – FOR SCIENCE!

April 21, 2010

I’m several weeks behind on the fun links, pics, and video clips from the mail bag, so we’ll be getting caught up for a while. This one has to take precedence as it is time critical. The event is April 26 and women lacking complexity will want a few days to prepare (read: shop) for Boob Quake 2010.

It began with the kind of story that gets bloggers in a lather: some Iranian cleric spouting the kind of idiocy guys like that are always spouting. In this case that women dressing immodestly corrupt men, provoking God’s wrath and bringing earthquakes. Jen McCreight, one of the wittier bloggers, ran with it. Monday she declared she would test the claim on April 26 with Boob Quake. After all, if…

Postulate: Boobs >> lust & adultery >> godwrath >> earthquakes
Test: Bring on the cleavage and see how much movement we can get on the Richter scale.

That was Monday, and today there’s a Facebook page with about 10,000 participants already signed on.

My delight in this is twofold: ( * ) the celebration of women’s sexuality fused with all the fun and sass that is so central to a proper depiction of Catwoman, and ( * ) Remember the pseudo-intellectual, faux-enlightened dipshits that went along with the Balent-bashing as if there was something degrading and wrong about a beautiful woman in a comic book being drawn with big breasts? They are now in a delightful position where they can either get with the program or side with the Iranian clerics. Win-win for the rest of us, particularly those of us who bounce.

Gentlemen, remember, you too have a part to play on Monday. We show off the goods and you are duty bound to look, enjoy, and try to, y’know, be corrupted. Remember, it’s for science.

Chris Dee
www.catwoman-cattales.com
cattales.yuku.com
cattales.wikispaces.com

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