Catwoman, Batman, Zatanna, and the mind-wipe, Pt. 1Posted: 08/13/2013
Characters change over the years. Fifty years of stories’ll do that, but sometimes, it’s not that precious character development that evolves from experiences, trauma, and joy. Sometimes it’s simply magic.
The past fifteen years brought an emotional hurricane upon Catwoman (Selina Kyle). She emerged as a bonafide superhero, had a child, raised a sidekick, saw her friends tortured, shared her feelings with Batman, and even killed a man. But her journey started with a wildly gross negligence of privacy, consent, and fate. More on that later. While we explore Catwoman’s conflicting love for Batman, her troubles with Zatanna, and a whole bunch of identity uncertainties, I’m going to unload all the issues used today and Friday (in order) here:
JLA #115-119, written by Geoff Johns & Allan Heinberg and drawn by Chris Batista
Catwoman #50-51, written by Will Pfeifer and drawn by Pete Woods
Gotham City Sirens #17-19, written by Peter Calloway and drawn by Andres Guinaldo & Jeremy Haun
A while back, the Secret Society of Super Villains captured the Justice League and switched bodies with them, learning all their true identities and loved ones. Also, the supervillain Doctor Light sexually assaulted the wife of the Elongated Man. It was a dark time in comics. Reluctantly and with ambiguous morals, Zatanna (and with the help of some of the Justice League) used her magic to mind-wipe all the supervillains — forcing them to forget the learned secrets and radically changing Doctor Light’s personality. Batman attempted to stop them and they erased his memories of the incident as well. Eventually, the truth comes out.
I’ve said this before: never cross any man who fights crime shirtless while wielding a medieval mace. We cut to Gotham City, where Catwoman fights the good fight. For a non-powered hero carrying only a whip, Catwoman’s surprisingly effective in cleaning up the town. Think of her as Batman, if Batman enjoyed witty banter and sexual tension.
Remember when I mentioned the Secret Society getting mind-wiped? It didn’t hold.
See the problem? Besides the hordes of unconscious heroes scattered around the rooftop. The Wizard referred to Batman as Bruce. On a list of superheroes and supervillains who know Batman’s secret identity, the Wizard certainly should not be one of them. As the inevitable brawl commences, Catwoman suffers a major knife wound. Better than engulfed in a fireball, I guess. Also, and more importantly, Batman realizes both what the Justice League did to the Secret Society and himself. I mean, Batman’s difficult to work with when he likes and trusts his teammates. But now the Justice League’s father figure has disowned the entire brood of spandex-wearing munchkins.
I’ve thought for a while about what makes Batman and Superman best friends. They come from radically different backgrounds, have major contrasts in superpowers, and treat both allies and enemies in vastly opposite ways. But they do have one personality trait in common that the other Justice League members don’t possess: a rigid, unchanging view on morality and right versus wrong. Yes, mind-wiping the Secret Society will certainly save the lives of the superheroes’ loved ones and other innocent bystanders, but that’s not how superheroes should act. Even if it causes deaths. And there will be deaths. To Batman and Superman (who also didn’t know about the incident), superheroes simply don’t behave in that manner and never will despite the consequences. So you can imagine why they had to mind-wipe Batman as well. The cat’s out of the bag now.
Unfortunately, Batman has to clean up the horrid mess left behind by his clumsy teammates.
As the fight wraps up, Batman’s anger has not subsided from all that stress-relieving punching.
But why am I showing you this? Catwoman plays a minor role at best and the back story could be explained in a few paragraphs as opposed to my constant fear of copywright-infringing posting of pages. Well, the ranks of the Secret Society of Super Villains fluctuated throughout the years, and at one point included one member very important in Batman’s life:
Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. Understand that same moral rigidity prevented Batman from accepting Catwoman’s advances (who the fans overwhelmingly consider to be Batman’s soul mate — or at least as close as Batman’ll get) until she fully immersed herself in superheroism. When she embraces morality over villainy, Batman’s code allowed the two to be (sorta) together. Batman’s fears are certainly justifiable.
And while I admire Zatanna attempting to atone for her past mistakes, I don’t think she fully realizes the full extent of just how emotionally broken Catwoman is. Though, first things first:
Catwoman becoming a superhero may have been the best thing to happen to her. She and Batman could now attempt a relationship. Selina didn’t have to live in fear of vigilantes or waste away her days in Arkham Asylum. Catwoman gained the trust and support of numerous allies and friends. Her selfishness and self-loathing faded into a pride and satisfaction in making her hometown a better place. And none of it was her choice.
I’m no psychologist, but the whole dressing up in costume thing reeks of identity issues. Selina hides who she really is, afraid to be vulnerable, using her mask to allow her the freedom to become a different (and better) creature. So when all her therapeutic and psychological progress — including her affections and passion for Batman — have been called into question, she reacts as you expect. Badly. Catwoman has never been the poster child for emotional health.
As we wrap up today and head towards our conclusion next time, Zatanna unknowingly permanently linkes herself to Catwoman — and what follows brings both of them to frustrating and exhaustive depths. Women fight so much dirtier than men do.