It’s been a long road for Catwoman in the New 52 — going from petty thief to Justice Leaguer to occasional Bat-partner (in more ways than one). She’s had a few origins, a couple creative teams, and a zipper that doesn’t seem to want to keep itself closed. But all that changes this week with the debut of writer Genevieve Valentine and Selina Kyle’s new status quo: Kingpin of Crime. Valentine took some time to share what we can expect from the new direction this Wednesday, who takes up the catsuit in Selina’s absence, and how this book fits into the larger Bat-Universe plans.
Matt Santori: How did you come to work on Catwoman for DC Comics and what has your experience with the character been prior to now?
Genevieve Valentine: I got a call from Mark Doyle, the Batman group editor, who mentioned he was looking for a few new writers for some of his existing books. I don’t think he got much further than “Catwoman’s a mob boss” before I started working out the pitch!
In terms of previous experience with Selina, I read the comics for a few years in early adolescence, and more recently got to see some of her hilarious and amazing Golden Age stuff, but the onscreen incarnations of her have always been a powerful part of her image in my mind; Eartha Kitt and Michelle Pfeiffer are both indelible incarnations of her, I think.
MSG: Fans have had a sneak peek of Catwoman’s new status quo in a single issue of Batman earlier this year. Where does your first issue fit time-wise with the revelation of Selina’s kingpin (queenpin) status, and what were you given to go on from the start with the character?
GV: Catwoman #35 picks up after Selina’s already solidified some of her power; in uncertain times it’s easy to gather friends when you promise stability and money. We started a little after that’s happened, when she’s on the verge of making decisions about how ruthless you have to be to stay on top of your dynasty when it’s just stable enough to be ripe for the taking. (There will be glimpses of how she came to be there in the Catwoman Annual.)
When I started writing, I knew a little about the circumstances that were going to lead Selina to pick up this gauntlet, and that eventually she was going to find some measure of success (though that wasn’t really a question—Selina Kyle has a way of getting things done!). The question became: for a character who’s notorious for having a much more…circumstantial moral compass than some other DC Universe heroes, how far is too far?
MSG: Catwoman has never truly had the double life that Batman or other characters have, but her upcoming role seems to bring both Selina Kyle and the Catwoman into play. Is there a difference in your mind between the persona and her real identity, and how does the character negotiate that for you?
GV: There’s definitely a divide. It’s not quite the divide that a lot of the other masked characters have, though there’s a common thread of needing to conceal their identity, whether it’s to protect loved ones or just to avoid security cameras. But this is also a cover story of sorts, and one that she revels in; the masked persona is something you get a kick out of playing, and she’s just more honest about it than some of the others who hit the rooftops at night.
But being the head of a crime family means you’re never alone, and though she thinks she’s accepted the loss of Catwoman as part of this trade, we see early on that there’s no such thing as a clean break — Catwoman was also an expedient way of shifting events, and if that avenue isn’t open to her, then she’s going to feel as though she’s failed on two fronts. Catwoman has become, if not an enemy to Selina, then certainly a persistent ghost.
GV: This is a new Catwoman, who we only see in the mask for a while. She’s definitely noticed the absence of Catwoman and has stepped up to the plate for her own reasons. (Gotham abhors a vacuum.) And I love the relationship here, because it’s a pointed suggestion to Selina — a manifestation of what Selina isn’t doing, basically — which gives Selina some very interesting facts to face. At the same time, she knows that if she plays her opponent right, even this could become an opportunity; Selina tries to keep her options open.
MSG: Selina’s history with the Batman in the New 52 is decidedly personal, not only having been engaged in a longstanding sexual relationship, but also worked alongside him during Forever Evil. Will this history be a factor for her or will we be seeing a clean break from the Dark Knight?
GV: The history will definitely be a factor; she and Batman have known each other too long for most changes of fortune—even one as big as this one—to sever things totally. That said, this really is a big step for her, and one that puts them in opposition in a lot of definitive ways that being an independent contractor of crime never quite did. It’s definitely put some distance between them, and though their relationship is still present, things are… strained.
MSG: The larger Bat-Universe seems to be expanding and diversifying more than ever right now. Where do you see Catwoman’s place among all the new titles — Klarion, Batgirl, Gotham Academy, Batwoman, Arkham Manor, and Gotham by Midnight? What’s this book’s niche contribution if you had to put a finger on it?
GV: I think the new Bat-Universe is an exciting place to be writing and reading in; there’s a lot of focus on ensemble books and on young women as the center of stories, and I think that’s a great entry point for the shared geography of the books.
I think what Selina brings to this is that she’s straddling the line between character piece and Gotham noir, and her moral gray area gives her that unique flexibility to switch the tone of her stories; she’s done heists and been the good guy and been the bad guy and there’s room for her to be all those things in this city that expands to include her. And whatever her chronology, she’s always been old enough to have a past, which gives her both skills and regrets. It’s a great thing to be able to draw on; whatever might be happening, chances are Selina’s got the mood of the room.
MSG: How has working with artist Garry Brown been, and what do you think he brings to the title that’s unique?
GV: I keep saying I wish I had dish on him, but he’s been so nice that it’s just impossible to even pretend. I’ve been lucky to have him as my first-ever artist. Something he’s brought to the book that I might love best is the presence of Gotham itself. His architecture work is just stunning, and he’s managed to capture the old-money neighborhoods, the half-abandoned boardwalks, and the mountain range of the skyscrapers with so much detail and personality, he’s really made the city a living thing, and it gives so much insight into Selina’s state of mind just to see how she moves in all these different places.
MSG: Any final thoughts or special teases about your debut on Catwoman for the fans at Comicosity?
GV: A lot of the time, when Selina’s roped into joining up with the good guys, Catwoman’s standing up for other people; even if there’s benefit to her, it’s also in the service of the greater good. By taking up the mantle of a mob boss, she’s well aware she’s on the verge of becoming the bad guy, and in trying to keep power out of the hands of worse people, she’ll be making decisions that have repercussions; a lot of what this arc tries to determine is how much she can become her own worst enemy while trying to save Gotham from itself.
Genevieve Valentine’s first issue of Catwoman, #35, arrives in stores this Wednesday from DC Comics!