CATWOMAN: Staying Sexy, Still Growing As "Owls" Builds Up

CATWOMAN: Staying Sexy, Still Growing

As Catwoman begins its second arc, the feline burglar is changing her ways.

But that doesn't mean she's walking the straight and narrow anytime soon.

Catwoman #7 With March's Catwoman #7, the title begins its second story arc with Selina Kyle determined to turn over a new leaf. After a story arc that saw tragedy and trouble in Selina Kyle's life, she's determined to be more careful.

Written by Judd Winick with art by Guillem March, Catwoman has come a long way since it launched to a heated reception from comic fans. After its first issue hit comic stores, bloggers either defended or attacked its portrayal of the costumed villain as sexy, targeting Catwoman's relationship with Batman himself.

Yet Catwoman and other Batman books have been touted by DC as successes, and the sales numbers support the claim. That success will likely get a boost in May, when Catwoman and most of the other Batman-related books tie into the much-anticipated Batman crossover "The Night of the Owls."

Newsarama talked with Winick about what's coming up, what he thinks of the furor over Catwoman #1, and whether sexy is the same as sexist.

Newsarama: Judd, it feels like a real turning point for Catwoman as we head into issue #7. She has a new partner, a new attitude and a new game plan. Is this a sign of her turning over a new leaf after her confrontation with Batman and the mistakes she made in the first story arc?

Judd Winick: It's a definite step in that direction. This whole arc is about her starting anew.

And at the end of this arc, she's changed a bit. We're being given that liberty that these characters aren't supposed to be stuck in amber the way they used to be. We really want to tell inventive and interesting stories. And to do that, we have to take risks with the characters and then let them learn and grow from their experiences.

That's something I want to emphasize: This is not the fully formed Catwoman. For the last decade or so, people have been reading about a Catwoman who is wiser, older and much more experienced. In our comic, she is not that woman yet. This is someone who is younger and less experienced, and also more reckless.

And that recklessness probably won't go away overnight, and it's certainly not going to go away from one issue to the next. She's a very reckless person. She's got a problem, and she knows it, but she just can't control herself. She has certainly learned some lessons in this story arc, particularly with Lola's death, and those types of things will start to add up. And we'll see some changes. But it's going to take time for her to evolve.

Nrama: That's Selina's main problem, isn't it? A lack of self-control?

Winick: It's certainly the most dangerous one. But what keeps her going is how unbelievably, ridiculously tough she is. And I love her. I just love the character. I love doing this book. It's one of the purest visions I've ever had for a character.

Nrama: The cover for this month’s issue #7 shows her in a car. Is she traveling?

Winick: She's in a car because she's a thief! And she starts stealing cars. It's something I've never seen Catwoman do and I thought it would be fun. And I think it would be something she would dig doing. Car theft is kind of fun, especially for someone like her. You know? Hot wire a car, get in and drive 110 miles an hour through Gotham? Awesome! So she takes on being a bit of a car thief, and she also gets hooked up with another car thief.

So she partners up with a couple of people. A couple people who don't know about the others.

And she's going to try to be a little smarter and a little more careful than she has been in the first arc.

And that was what the first arc was all about. It was one long series of mistakes and successes that came with huge prices at every turn. So she has to change up her game or something is going to happen.

So the second arc is about her attempting to change up her game.

And I'll go ahead and say this: Through the next series of issues, she finally dips her toe into the water of being a vigilante.

Nrama: Ah, so we see that side of her developing.

Winick: Yep. Just a little bit. We've seen shades of it, but it's been kind of self-serving. But now something has come up where she feels the need to do something about it.

And it also feeds her monster, which is this addiction to danger. Being a vigilante is dangerous. But we still have to work our way over there.

She still steals stuff! A lot of it! But we see some other things too.

Nrama: Toward the end of this story arc, you tie into "The Night of the Owls." How does Catwoman fit into that?

Catwoman #8 Winick
: She's not exactly part of the Bat-family the way everyone else is. So on this one night, it becomes a Bat-family, crime-in-progress sort of story, where all hands are needed on deck. But Catwoman doesn't exactly fit into that scenario, because if shit is going down in Gotham, it's not like Bruce is making sure Catwoman knows about it.

So the challenge was to figure out a way that made sense that Catwoman could be part of the story, a way that felt organic and natural. And luckily I was ahead of schedule quite a bit, and we ramped up into it.

It completely fits into our story. Spark and Detective Alvarez, who's going to be a recurring character, all fit into the "Night of the Owls" story.

Nrama: Do cats eat owls?

Winick: I think the idea would be that they could try.

Nrama: They'd probably get their eyes scratched out.

Winick: Owls are big. As far as predatory birds, they're way up there.

Nrama: Especially in Gotham, apparently.

Winick: Yeah. Especially coming around issue #9 of all the Bat-books. They're rather interesting and predatory.

Nrama: Can you give a hint how Catwoman will get involved with the Court of Owls?

Winick: The crux of it is that she and Spark are on a gig to do something bad — the type of thing that they usually do — and they run into something even worse.

His inclination is to get the heck out of there.

Her inclination is to deal with it.

This is one of those times where Catwoman sees something sort of wrong going on and decides to stick it out instead of just running away.

Nrama: "Sort of" wrong?

Winick: Yeah, it involves her defending the Penguin against the Court of Owls, so it's not like Catwoman's going to exactly fight on the side of good. Like I said, she's not quite a vigilante yet. But we'll see hints of that during this story arc, and this fits with that idea.

Nrama: You mentioned this new character, Spark. What can you tell us about him?

Winick: Spark is a fellow thief, and it begins with them stealing cars together. And other things might happen, because as you'll see, he's quite the eye candy himself, as I work the other side of the street.

Nrama: Ah, I see what you did there.

Winick: Yep, there might be a lot of cleavage in our books, but I try to show off some sexy fellows too.

But believe me, there's going to be plenty of sexiness in this comic that isn't just about Catwoman's costume. We'll still be pushing the limits and taking risks. And DC is encouraging us to do that in this book. Like I said, there are limits, but everyone has been trying to really push these comics into directions we haven't seen before, and take some risks.

Nrama: But surely you’re aware of the negative feedback the first issue got from some bloggers, because it was so sexy?

Winick: Yeah, and I know this is the first time I've spoken about this series in any kind of length since the first issue came out. And that was by choice, for everyone involved. I kind of just wanted to shut up and let the story tell itself, so readers could see that, in my opinion, she's a very multi-dimensional character.

Assumptions were made right away that this was going to be an over sexualized book and an over sexualized character, but those who stuck around for the entire first arc got to see that she's enormously tough, really smart and at the same time unbelievably careless, and really resilient and self-destructive at the same time.

All the way through issue #6, which wraps up our first arc, you see that she's got more than one side to her. And if people come back and read all six issues, whether it's in the individual comics or the trade, they'll see how it's all supposed to fit together.

Nrama: I looked back to the interview you did with me in June last year, when you were telling fans what Catwoman was going to be about, and you said the word "sexy" six times, so this was always the plan for the character, wasn't it?

Winick: Oh yeah. And like you said, I did billboard it. I did let people know. And even the cover should have given a clue. It wasn't like we were working in a vacuum here. It was always planned to be a sexy title, a violent title, and let's be honest, this character has always led with her sexuality. But she's also intelligent, and tough, and so many other things.

Catwoman #9 Nrama
: And then the other part of the equation was that there was already a discussion about sexism in comics, as part of the issue of diversity. You and I have even talked extensively about diversity in recent months.

Winick: That's true. And do I think there's sexism in comics? Yes. I'll go even further and say there's sexism in most media. Well, in all media, really. And that's mind-boggling, since women are the majority of the population, and they consume more media than men.

And honestly, it pained me to be lobbed in with something I find to be deplorable. It really did. It's something I've always made a point of avoiding — no, beyond avoiding. I always tried to put lots and lots of strong women in my books.

But I just always approached this character, Catwoman, as a sexy character. I always saw her that way. As a thief, with her feline movements and her lack of self-control, she's less inhibited about a lot of things, and so she's sexy. But I never, ever approached her as a sex "object." She is so much more than that. Yes, she is sexy, but she's smart and tough and so much more, so I never once thought what we were doing with the character would be lopped in with the idea of sexism. And I hope the first six issues have proven that.

Nrama: There have been a few switches of artists on DC books, but Guillem March is still the ongoing artist on the Catwoman?

Winick: Yeah, Guillem has really defined the look for the comic, but what's exciting to me is that he's gotten stronger and better with every issue. So I'm excited for people to pick up the trade and check it out, and see his art kind of unfold as you read through that first arc. He's getting more inventive and more stylized. I mean, look at his faces. He gives really, really individual looks to the characters. No cookie cutters. You can't pull one character's head off and put it on another.

And I'm writing for him. I know he can deliver on this. There's even been a couple times where I wasn't sure if I'd gone over-the-top and made it a little too hard for him to draw, and he's just come through with something unbelievable. And he does. Yes, he has really come through with the sex appeal, but he's also done a great job with the dynamic shots during the action sequences. And the emotional moments.

He's a great storyteller. A lot of guys and gals get really, I think, far too complicated with their panels choice and how they're going to draw a page. But Gil managed to get slightly inventive but at the same time keeping a very natural flow to the pages. He keeps it simple enough that the storytelling comes first.

And he gets the acting like nobody's business. You know? There's one note that I gave him early on, that Catwoman should feel like the beaten, bloody hero, like a Bruce Willis character. And no one does beaten and exhausted better than Bruce Willis, especially in Die Hard. And that's what I wanted with Selina, because she doesn't have any superpowers or money. Her success comes from her intelligence and her tenacity and her willingness to take risks. But it's the sort of approach that is going to lead to exhaustion. So I asked him to draw that, and he totally came through. She feels it and you feel for her.

So, I love working with him.

Nrama: Then to finish up, what can readers expect from 2012 for Catwoman?

Winick: As we talked about a little bit here, she will definitely be getting into that realm of vigilante more than she had before. The problem is that it's hard to do both those things. It's hard to be a black hat and a white hat at the same time. In some ways, it's easier for her because she doesn't have to play by any rules whatsoever. She has sort of an unspoken moral code, but it's a lot more lax than Batman. And she still is a thief. She still is a criminal. But her inclination toward being a vigilante is something that's going to be coming up in her eye line over the course of the next year. She won't be able to look away from it.

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