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CSBG Archive

The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – Catwoman was a Prostitute?

All throughout December, we will be examining comic book stories and ideas that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories/plots specifically “overturned” by a later writer (as if they were a legal precedent). Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of The Abandoned An’ Forsaked. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

Today we look at the career of Catwoman as a prostitute…

In Batman: Year One, Frank Miller introduced the concept that Selina Kyle was a prostitute before she was Catwoman…

Mindy Newell elaborated on this time in Selina’s past in the Catwoman mini-series from 1989…

However, after she received her own series in 1993, DC used Zero Hour to eliminate the prostitute part of her origin, as seen her in the Doug Moench-penned Catwoman #0…

Oddly enough, though, a year later, in 1995, DC had a Year One Annual for Catwoman written by Jordan B. Gorfinkel, and the prostitute origin appears to sort of return (only merged a bit with Moench’s changes to Selina’s origin)….

When Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke relaunched Selina’s ongoing title in the early 2000s, they picked up from where the Newell mini-series left off (especially the character of Selina’s sister, Maggie, from that mini-series), but the prostitute angle was definitely de-emphasized.

Talk about a roller coaster ride of abandoning and returning to a story!!


Is there anything in Year One that makes it clear that she was a prostitute? From those panels I get the impression that she could just be a dominatrix.

The Year One panel where Selina says, “Can’t be VICE. We’re paid up.” seems to make it clear that she’s part of Stan’s prostitution operation. Dominatrices don’t do anything that’s illegal, and so wouldn’t have to worry about being “paid up” with the vice squad.

There’s a clever line about this retcon in the “villain quiz” from Batman Villains Secret Files and Origins (the first one, without a year in its title). One of the questions is something like “What did you do before you became a supervillain?”, and one of the answer choices is “Engaging in activities so sordid your editors no longer allow you to mention them.”

Dominatrix businesses have definitely been raided.

Captain Librarian

December 16, 2011 at 12:45 pm

This was the only aspect of Batman: Year One, I didn’t like. I realize everything Miller does has a dark and gritty edge to it, but to me Catwoman has a quiet glamor to her, high society villainess picking pockets and robbing jewels. She doesn’t need to to be a prostitute/dominatrix to make her appealing (by any definition of the word).

She was definitely a prostitute in Year One.

I’m sure I read of comments made by Jenette Kahn that she didn’t like it.

She let it go, however, unlike the “Swamp Thing meets Jesus” story killed in 1989.

Selina’s not just that, though — she’s rooming with a younger woman who’s clearly a prostitute, lives in a brothel run by a pimp, and uses the word “we.”

She’s one of Stan’s prostitutes. That, or she has no idea how pronouns and co-signed leases work.

I’m actually very surprised that this had to be addressed at all, because to me, “Year One” was always an “Elseworlds”-style alternate storyline. In fact, “Year One”-Selina always looked like a black woman to me.

Also, I agree with Cap Librarian up there. I like “Year One”, and it’s fine as an alternate take, but Catwoman is much too classy to have ever been a prostitute. Maybe I could accept it if she was some kind of high-class call-girl, but “Year One”-Catwoman is just a straight-up streetwalker.

I’m actually very surprised that this had to be addressed at all, because to me, “Year One” was always an “Elseworlds”-style alternate storyline. In fact, “Year One”-Selina always looked like a black woman to me.

Year One was always in continuity. Heck, Sarah Essen ended up marrying Gordon!

I think I remember there being some post-ZH story– maybe that Year One annual, on some other pages?– that makes a point of implying that she was ‘just’ a dominatrix, so that even though she’d been part of Stan’s operation, she herself hadn’t had sex for money. And the eventual Brubaker-Cooke series made a big deal out of her having come close to prostitution without ever quite going through with it.

The Catwoman Year One origin by Gorfinkel and Balent is so much better than the trashy hooker origin Miller gave her and Brubaker ran with. For me, that’s the definitive Catwoman origin.

I prefer the high society origins of Catwoman that we see in Batman the Animated Series. I don’t like that some writers rely on prostitution to make superheroine origins”gritty.” Wasn’t X-23 a prostitute as well? I’m sure there are other examples.

I wouldn’t mind a history of prostitution if it were a bit more realistically portrayed. But I’m sick of the sleazy noir version of prostitution with the brutal pimps (which are kind of rare in real life).

It’s funny. I love Year One, but I don’t like the Selina-as-hooker angle that Miller presented so I simply ignore it. It’s not part of my “personal canon”, together with several other bad ideas (mostly character-destroying bad ideas like Spider-Man’s “sins past” and Batman’s “Bruce Wayne Murderer”, both of which never happened). I love Year One and consider it as part of “my” canon, but the bits about Selina being a hooker I just handwave away to the same place where I sent Teen Tony Stark, Batman’s constant time-traveling from the ’50s and the Human Torch’s marriage to a Skrull spy impersonating Alicia Masters.

I find that ignoring dumb ideas as often as possible is the best way to keep enjoying these long-lived corporate characters that get handled by so many hundreds of different people across decades. Trying to tie everything that was ever published as one running “canon” is insanity, there’s simply too much crap after 50+ years of writers throwing ideas at the wall to see what sticks. I don’t care if Miller once wrote a story where Selina Kyle was a hooker just as I had ignored another writer’s suggestion that Sam Wilson (the Falcon) was a pimp instead of a social worker; both these concepts contradicted previous strong portrayals of the characters without improving either of the characters. Rubbish ideas.

In the end the only way I can enjoy these perennial corporate properties is as jazz themes that can be interpreted in various ways, and some versions will work better than others. I’ve read several different versions of Superman’s origins, with various different takes on Krypton’s society and Clark’s childhood, and I honestly don’t care in the slightest which one is “official canon” – the only versions I dismiss outright are the ones so bad they damage the character, like John Byrne’s idea that Clark cheated at sports when he was a kid (he entered the football team after learning about his powers, and used his powers to become a superstar – sorry, but that’s cheating any way you look at it and having Clark do it was a terrible idea).

The Selina Kyle-as-prostitute origin never worked for me because it seems incompatible with her established character. I wish the editors at the time didn’t let Miller do it.

HammerHeart, I agree with you completely. Fans (and writers) should treat continuity like a salad bar. Take & use the parts you like, quietly ignore the parts you don’t.

“No sneeze guard on the salad bar!” Sorry, John T. – it has nothing to do with the post, but the words “salad bar” just bring it out of me!

Excellent metaphor, John! :)

Max Allan Collins had much to say about Catwoman’s prostitute revised origin.


In an interview in Amazing Heroes#119, he said that, in reference to a Frank Miller written story which had Catwoman as former prostitute, he found that inappropriate, the equivalent of doing Peter Pan and having them face historically accurate pirates. Collins considered Catwoman as derived from children’s entertainment, and therefore people should keep that in mind when handling her. Again, Collins did not say this from any prudishness (since he strongly supports the freedom of speech/1st amendment), but he felt it incongruous to have such an idea in something derived from children’s entertainment. That sort of thing belongs more in Dragnet (by which I mean Jack Webb and Ed O’Neil’s Dragnet, not Dan Akroyd’s Dragnet).

In an interview in Amazing Heroes#119, writer Max Allan Collins said that, in reference to a Frank Miller written story which had Catwoman as a former prostitute, he found that inappropriate—the equivalent of doing Peter Pan and having them face historically accurate pirates. Collins felt that Catwoman was derived from children’s entertainment, appearing in a series that had turned into a much more overtly juvenile version of the Shadow (Catwoman debuted soon after the debut of the child sidekick with shaved legs, short shorts and elf shoes) and therefore people should keep that in mind when handling her.

Hey, if being a down and out hooker is good enough for Julia Roberts, then it’s good enough for Selina Kyle IMO! My suggestion – reread Batman Year One while listening to Roxette’s “It Must Have Been Love, But It’s Over Now.” You’ll enjoy Selina’s nasty hooker angle a lot more then.

The only way this backstory made any sense to me was that someone at DC must have hated Catwoman and thought this would diminish her popularity. Unfortunately for him, Batman Returns happened and interest in the character exploded. How grating it must have been for him to have to give her her own book, not to mention the love interest he created always having to play second fiddle to her.

Yeah, this was not one of Miller’s better ideas (the man does have a thing for prostitutes). Its interesting that this is one of the few elements from YEAR ONE that hasn’t stuck. As always, posterity has the final vote, and it prefers thief Selina over prostitute Selina

Catwoman should be a Cat Burglar, period. It’s the whole point. Sure you can work out the details, even give her a kinky sex life if you want -that’s hardly unreal- but ideas like these lead to the characters being turned into things they aren’t supposed to be. Sexual tension between her and Batman? OK. Humping Batman on an open rooftop? Not so much.

Re: having a ‘personal canon’- that is OK. Most of us do, to some degree. We read comics for the fun of it after all. However we must remember our takes aren’t official, and elements we choose to ignore can one day become central to a character, whether we like it or not.

Sijo: The funny thing about “official canon” is that many fans actually deny the validity of what Marvel/DC expressly define as canon, as if the publishers didn’t know what they were talking about and only the fans knew the “real” deal about their favorite heroes (which is nuts in a way, but nobody ever said fans were logical creatures).

Take Captain America’s superpowers for example – many Cap fans consider the fact that he has no powers and is just “peak human” as a non-negotiable canonic fact, but according to Marvel’s own official handbook of the MU Cap has superhuman strenght and stamina thanks to the SUPERsoldier serum. In Brubaker’s run we’ve already seen Cap running at superhuman speeds during a WW2 flashback, and previous creators had shown Cap punching through a helicopter’s floor with his bare hands. And of course, Cap’s whole origin makes much more sense if Cap IS superhuman: if he weren’t, it would make no sense for the army to treat him as a “secret weapon” or something the Nazis should be worried about. But try to tell that to Cap fans and they’ll tell you that Cap is peak human regardless of what Marvel themselves say (!!!). Even some fans who adore Brubaker’s Cap run will simply not acknowledge scenes where Cap displays superhuman abilities, even though it’s right there on the page they’re reading and enjoying.

My point is that “canon” is little more than a buzzword used to appease hardcore fans who need to have “officially sanctioned” versions of their favorite fictional universes. Especially when so many comics writers are fans themselves, and very willing to change “canon” back to where they believe it should be – just retcon that pesky ‘canon’ right out and presto!, Catwoman never was a hooker, Peter Parker and Mary Jane never had a stillborn baby, Charlex Xavier never had pedophile feelings towards an underage Jean Grey, and so on. The truth is that “official” Canon is not set in stone, it’s whatever who’s in charge at any given time says it is, and therefore it’s a bit silly to limit our personal perceptions of our favorite characters to what is “official”, as what’s official now may not be official anymore in a couple of years. I mean, once upon a time it was “canonical” that the Scarlet Witch was the Whizzer’s daughter. Canon shifts and changes as time goes by, so there’s no reason to take “official canon” too seriously. Remember when there was a speedster called Wally West who was Barry Allen’s apprentice and successor? Yeah, that guy went the way of the dodo together with the stillborn Parker baby, simply because it contradicted a fan-turned-pro’s preferences. Ten years from now, maybe someone else will be hired and decide that Barry’s return was a bad idea after all, and everything that we’re reading now about Barry Allen may be simply erased from “official” continuity, just like Wally West’s solo adventures never “officially” happened. If “canon” is that irrelevant and pliable for the people actually working on the characters, why should the readers pretend it’s set in stone?

I don’t care what DC or Marvel say is “official”, because I know their “official canon” is as solid as a sandcastle. During the last couple of decades DC has published several canonical stories featuring the Riddler that directly contradicted each other, as different writers tried to “fix” the character and in the process blissfully ignored other writers’ previous “fixes”. Clearly not even DC knows for sure what is “official” in their universe. So there’s no conceivable reason to treat their official canon as something absolute.

The art in Catwoman 0 is horrendous

No it isn’t, matthew. Jim Balent is the definitive Catwoman artist.

I love BATMAN: YEAR ONE, but it contains a ton of odd choices by Miller. Selina being a prostitute does not really add anything to the story, but it less radical than Max Allen Colins asserted. Catwoman was always a criminal that used her sexuality to get an upper hand. The prostitute retcon has a dreary literal mindedness when you think about it.

For me, the bigger problem was removing Barbara from the Gordon family tree. Miller only has the four types of female characters: madonna, sex worker, warrior and … ummm … Maybe Miller only has three types of female characters. Barbara Gordon does not fit any of those roles, so he deleted her.

i’m more happy that DC retconned away Catwoman being a cold blooded murderer from her serial in Action Comics Weekly. Making Selina a prostitute was palatable compared to that.

Jim Balent is nowhere near being the “definitive” Catwoman artist.

My defnitive Catwoman artist is Darwyn Cooke, I don’t know about y’all. I actually find the continued use of the Cooke costume (which was in turn perhaps the only good Catwoman costume since the Crisis at least) in the new series to be one of the most objectionable things about it… please stop pretending this is the Brubaker/Cooke Catwoman I loved so much, you jerks.

I’ve got to admit – As I scanned through the samples, my main thought was “got this art is horrendous”

Are you sure that’s Jim Balent’s art? It looks to me like it’s terrible in the wrong way – and her boobs aren’t nearly Balent-sized.

I just checked. It IS Jim Balent.

Dean Hacker

Collins found having Catwoman a prostitute inappropriate due to the fact this property has largely served as children’s adventure tales.


Continuing Collins’ thoughts:

“My problems with this latter-day Batman, specifically — and the latter-day Batman character in general — is a basic wrongheadedness in approach. Batman was created by kids for kids, a juvenile fantasy embraced by adolescents of all ages. Making a realistic, “adult” version is fundamentally foolish, even silly: Catwoman is a prostitute; Commissioner Gordon cheats on his pregnant wife”.


In a similar vein, Alvin Schwartz in a 1993 interview objected to a 1992 published Superman story involving a neighbor beating his spouse. (Of course, Siegel and Shuster had done spouse beating in the 1930?s.)

Miller’s Year One features this sort of incongruity. Catwoman as a prostitute, but the hero manages to save himself at one point by pressing a button to summon bats!. That amounts to as much of a hat pull as when Adam West would pull something he “conveniently” had in his utility belt.


It is not that I do not Mr. Collin’s position. it is that I do not agree with it.

Stories are re-told for different audiences all the time. Sesame Street recently did a parody of Mad Men, but no one would seriously propose that Matt Weiner tone down his content as a result. There are vampire stories directed at every audience imaginable. There are multiple film versions of every Shakespeare play with content ranging G-Rated to X-Rated. I have seen Sherlock Holmes stories where he is a teenager and read stories where he is a cocaine addict.

What makes Batman (or any superhero) different?

I may not like Sue Dibny being forcibly sodomized by Dr. Light. However, it is not because I think that choice should not be allowed in superhero comic. Rather, I think that Brad Meltzer failed to tell a story that earned that horrifying moment.

Catwoman is more of a gray area. It is not strictly necessary, but it is consistent with the story that Miller was telling.

HammerHeart- you raise many interesting issues that I think would be rewarding to discuss with you at some future time. But mostly right now I just can’t get past one particular question;

What the heck is it with Frank Miller and prostitutes?

I didn’t care for Miller’s origin, but I don’t think “this comic book is for kids” is an adequate refutation. Heck, we’re talking about a guy who saw his parents murdered when he was a boy–plenty of people would consider that completely outside the pale of children’s entertainment.
And by the time of Year One, the fact readership skewed older than tots was hardly news.
I just didn’t like it because, as other people pointed out, it seems more about Miller’s issues than anything that adds anything.

phred – As someone above pointed out (scrolling up… Dean Hacker), Miller only seems to have a handful of “roles” that women can play in his stories. This is going to sound harsher than I mean it to (especially since I am a Frank Miller fan, even if he seems to be in a weird creative place for the last few years), but it seems like, to Miller, women serve a specific purpose. It changes from woman to woman, but each one is, as Dean said, a madonna (perfect, angelic, incorruptible beauty to be fought over and rescued), a whore (pretty self-explanatory, though Dean wrote “sex-worker”), or a warrior (some kind of unbeatable, violent Superwoman [think Miho from “Sin City” or any of his portrayals of Wonder Woman]).

A prostitute (or sometimes stripper) is very straight-forward. They are sex objects. It’s not hard to draw them, or write about them. If anything, maybe we should give Miller credit for kind of blending “Year One” Catwoman between “sex-worker” and “warrior”.

This may all sound very sexist (and… yeah), but at this point MIller does pretty much the same thing to all his male characters, too. There’s a reason why one of my friends once said that every character Frank MIller has written in the last ten years should have the same code-name: Captain Save-a-Ho.

Dean Hacker

“Sesame Street recently did a parody of Mad Men, but no one would seriously propose that Matt Weiner tone down his content as a result”.

Did Weiner himself participate in that episode? If he did not, then he has no responsibility for what happened on that episode, due to fair use aspects of free speech. (Same as when Sesame Street emulated Dragnet. Jack Webb had nothing to do with it-or with the childish Dragnet film from 1987 that came out after his death.)

@ PB210:

Not sure about Weiner, but what about Ricky Gervais singing to Elmo? Or Jack Black (or Sarah Silverman) doing Yo Gabba Gabba? Are they supposed to abandon their careers doing R-Rated comedies?

TJ- Don’t really disagree with you at all. Do think that ‘weird creative place for a few years’ might be understating it by at least a few years and a couple ratios of weirdness. It almost seems like Frank Miller looked at 30’s pulp magazines and said ‘heck, these are too subtle and nuanced. Gotta get rid of those ambiguous character traits and fancy book learnin, it’ll be better.’

But yeah, doesn’t do to criticize a writer for being what he is.

Sesame Street? Mad Men? Dragnet?

Crap. I am totally lost now.

@ phred:

My point was that there are lots of cultural products that are marketed to different groups in different ways. Superheroes, including Catwoman, are not unique in that regard.

Dean- Ah, thanks for dumbing it down. I didn’t entirely get the argument that Batman Year One was aimed at children, but I really don’t know enough about the topic to speak up. But also now I realize how behind I was in my Sesame Street. Levels beyond levels going on there.

Actually, I just reread the comments. I think that MaryWarner raised very legitimate issues about how the depictions of women as sex workers in popular culture has both been based upon and cultivated unrealistic views of sex work as a whole.

I think Fraser was raising the argument without endorsing it, but I would like to jump opportunistically on the idea that Batman’s parents being killed makes Batman unsuitable for children. Fraser might even agree with me;

[climbs up on soapbox]

Obviously, children have not been deterred by Batman’s parents being killed, any more than they have been dissuaded by Superman’s whole planet dying or you know, any of the hundreds of serious, ‘adult’ ideas that are presented in comics. I suspect that is because children are not clueless naifs who are incapable of exercising common sense or judgment with regards to their entertainment. I think one of the accomplishments of comics as a whole is showing that children aren’t water carriers for the idea that any idea ever could be dangerous as just an idea. It takes a whole culture of ignorance and circumstance to make any child as disturbed as an adult

[climbs down]


Yeah, sorry, this is about comics. Had my tongue in my cheek the whole time, I am sure.

Phred, I do agree that children aren’t as easily shattered by their reading as people seem to think–plenty of fairytales and mythology have a level of horror that would be censored if it were on a kids’ TV show.. My original comment was more prompted by the thought that any hint of sex is seen as more inappropriate for kids than any amount of violence: If Catwoman had been a professional hitwoman, I suspect nobody would have raised an “inappropriate for kids” demurrer.

Dean, the difference between the Batman examples cited by Collins and the Mad Men Sesame Street examples you bring up is that in the Mad Men and Sesame Street example, the adult, sexualized version and the child-centered parodies didn’t both appear in the same specific series or continuities.

For example if you had a regular Batman series for kids, then you turn around and do a separate Batman series aimed at mature readers and appropriately label it, that’s one thing. If you have a Batman series aimed at kids from issues 1-400, then in issue 401 you start introducing prostitutes and pimps and rape, that’s a different scenario.

If Sesame Street had a Mad Men Elmo parody one week and then later on started showing Mad Men related episodes full of explicit adult sex themes in the same time slot in the same series that would be one thing, but as they stand now there is little likely audience overlap or confusion.

@ T:

That is a totally fair point. Publishing BATMAN: YEAR ONE within the context of the on-going Batman series was an odd decision. It seems that Denny O’Neil was dead set against renumbering Batman for whatever reason. They probably should have been clearer that they were going after a different audience. However, the subsequent re-printings seem entirely un objectionable.

“If you have a Batman series aimed at kids from issues 1-400, then in issue 401 you start introducing prostitutes and pimps and rape, that’s a different scenario”.

————————-Oddly, Max Allan Collins wrote #401 (a Legends tie-in) and #402-#403. Miller wrote #404-#407.

Some further comments from Collins:


“What a lot of people, the Batman show is despised by a lot of comic fans, particularly Batman fans, the dirty little secret of the Batman TV show is that it was extremely accurate to the comic, it was exactly how the comic was. It worked in a similar fashion; it worked for kids who liked a fun adventure story and if you were older you could see some of the irony. If you were under 12 you didn’t know it was campy, so it worked for a huge wide audience. A lot of the stories are based on comic book stories, some written by Bill Finger who was the co-creator of Batman, so this thing they hate was actually extremely accurate for the 1950’s batman. No one would cop to that because they wanted him to be a dark knight, they wanted him to be oh-so serious but now they’ve got Batman screwing Catwoman, which is like the Tin Man doing Dorothy doggy-style.

It’s crazy! It’s just crazy.

These things began as comics for children…….”


[Note: The 1960’s TV show actually adapted more shows from the 1960’s and/or 1940’s than the 1950’s.]

PB, nobody was demanding Batman be the Dark Knight and serious when they complained about the movie (the Dark Knight thing didn’t really get to be an issue until Denny O”neil and Neil Adams changed the style of the comic). They just didn’t want the camp approach (which no, was not a feature of the comic until after the show).

Fraser, they had a kid sidekick in skimpy green shorts, gold cape, bright red tunic, leprechaun shoes, etc. as early as the 1940’s. The two cracked jokes and silly puns during their adventures. Joe Coyne and his giant penny appeared in the late 1940’s.

The oddness started by the mid-1940’s. After about 1941, rarely would recurring foes take lives.


Once upon a time, this was uncommon knowledge, but nowadays, it’s common knowledge that Batman, at the time of his creation in The Golden Age of Comic Books, was a much “darker” character than he became in the ’50s and ’60s. Which is true to a point, but it wasn’t long at all before the character was made Lighter And Softer. As Eisner-nominated comics journalist and professional Batmanologist Chris Sims noted, “Sure, he might’ve fought vampires and carried a gun for like three issues, but by the end of that first year, it was pretty much all cat-wrestling and trips to Storybook Land.”

The 1940’s tales had extraterrestrials, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, etc.

A 21st century lab worker named Rob Callendar is transported to the 20th century by a space-time warp created by a laboratory accident. He attempts to make himself wealthy by stealing a series of objects that are destined to become part of Batman’s famous trophy collection, but he is ultimately returned to his own time empty-handed when the time warp wears off. BF/JR/FR World’s Finest #11 Fall 1943

Batman and Robin visit the hidden undersea kingdom of Atlantis, where they discover that the kingdom’s naive rulers, Princess Lanya and Emperor Taro (a look-alike for Dick Grayson), have been persuaded by Nazi U-boat commander Hauptman Kurt Fritzl to allow him to use Atlantis as a secret base to attack Allied shipping. Batman and Robin persuade Taro and Lanya of Fritzl’s treachery and drive the Nazis out, but the Atlantean emperor Batman #19 [2] 10-11/43

Using the system of time travel by hypnosis developed by their friend, Professor Carter Nichols, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson make their first trip back in time to visit ancient Rome. JSa/DS/JR NOTES: Carter Nichols also appeared in a number of stories set on Earth-One (e.g., Brave and the Bold#171 (2/81)), but it is unclear how many of Batman’s Golden Age time travel stories also occurred on Earth-One. Batman #24 [1] 8-9/44

Batman and Robin battle Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, who have become the mayors of the small town of Yonville. Although stymied by their foes’ ostensible legal authority, Batman and Robin ultimately defeat the two villains, and Batman is elected mayor of Yonville long enough to charge the Tweeds with fraud, grand larceny, and attempted murder. DC/DS
NOTES: This was the final Golden Age appearance of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Their Earth-One counterparts, whose early history was similar, appeared next in Batman #291 (9/77). This story demonstrated how far Batman and Robin had come from their early days as outlaws. Even after they have been arrested and jailed by the Tweeds, Batman remarks, “Whatever their game, Robin, they’ve got the law on behind them–and we never fight the law!” Batman #24 [3] 8-9/44


Mike Barr wrote an article which covered the other odd adventures.

#5 witches



#42 t travel



Mike Barr article

As the poster Count Karnstein pointed out, those traditional comic books:
“had giant pennies and stuffed dinosaurs, was wearing caveman, zebra, and rainbow costumes, teamed up with Bat-Mite, split in two, melded with Superman, fought a living #2 pencil, drowned in giant gravy boats and menaced by giant sized water pistols, tennis rackets, and all sorts of insane absurdities long before the Batman movie or tv show were released….Dozier was bringing the characters to the screen in the manner in which they had been portrayed in the comics. Was there ever a silly, absurd, ridiculous Green Hornet comic book? If so, it’s escaped my attention for the better part of 40 years. Did we ever see a Caveman Green Hornet or a Green Hornet in a rainbox/zebra/dayglo red suit? Did we ever see Green Hornet being drowned in a giant gravy boat or being chased by aliens and dinosaurs? Was there ever an Ace the Green Hornet Dog? How about a Hornet-Mite?

No? I didn’t think so. There’s your answer. It’s literally that simple. Dozier was taking characters and putting them on the screen. Green Hornet was always played straight and serious in the comics/strips/radio, so he was done that way for tv. Batman was as absurd, silly, goofy, and ridiculous as anything else that has ever appeared in comics, and so that’s how he appeared on-screen”.

Go check the dates of issues of Batman and Detective at the time right before the tv show came out. It was full of silly crap, the same stuff that was going on in the show.

Batman #158 (1963) – Ace (the fire-breathing) Super Bat Hound
Batman #160 (1963) – Mystery of Madcap Island (complete with giant shoe houses, giant tennis rackets, and a villain riding a giant squirt gun!)
Batman #161 (1964) – Bat-Mite. Nuff’ said!
Batman #162 (1964) – Bat-Creature. Again, Nuff’ said!
Batman #170 (1965) – Getaway Gimmicks
Batman #174 (1965) – Batman, Human Punching Bag
Batman #176 (1965) – (r) – Calendar Man, the Fox, Vulture, and Shark, Joker’s Utility Belt
Batman #182 (1966) – (r) – Rainbow Batman, Robot Batman, Batman Jr & Robin Sr.
Batman #183 (1966) – Self reference to Batman tv show!
Batman #186 (1966) – Joker’s midget apprentice
Batman #188 (1967) – The Human Eraser (a living #2 pencil) – I gotta show a pic of this!

Need I also address Detective Comics at the time (and before the show), with the Robin Gang, the Birdmaster of Bedlam, the Monarch of Menace, Flame-Master, Ace the Bat-Hound, the Alien Z-Ray, Bat-Mite, Mummy Batman, alien zoos, aliens, and alien prisons, giant monsters and animals, etc?




But see, but I’ve never bought that argument. If we look at what was happening in the pages of both Batman and Detective Comics before, during, and after the Batman tv show and movie, it becomes obvious that the show was no more absurd than the comics and in fact was a very faithful, accurate, well done film/show.

Let’s start with the Batman title:

#174 – Batman is the Human Punching Bag: Batman is trapped in a saran wrap bag, with boxers pummeling him.

#175 – Which foe does Batman fight? How about the Rocketeer Racketeers. I kid you not.

#176 – An 80pg giant. It has the following insane stories – trapped in the Joker’s utility belt, a story where they fight three ultra lame characters (the Fox, the Shark, and the Vulture…basically men with animal heads and very poorly drawn). Go check at Mile High if you dare. Oh, and they fought Calendar Man too. On the cover he’s all aflame because he’s become “a man of fire, like the summer sun he’s portraying” (Batman’s startling observation). Yes, Calendar Man. And you thought Clock King was hokey?

#182 – Another 80pg giant. This one reprints some lame stories like the one where he’s “Rainbow Batman” in a multi-color bat suit, and another silly story with Batman Jr. and Robin Sr. (don’t ask!).

#185 -Another 80pg giant with 4 stories…Robin dying in an alien world to save Batman, Robin gaining super strength but losing his memory, and more Batman Jr.tripe.

#186 – Sees the Joker introducing another new villain…a midget harlequin type guy. Freaky.

#187 – Introduces us to the fabulous “Rubber Headed Villain…The Eraser who tried to rub out Batman”…yes, he’s a giant #2 pencil in a suit.

#190 – Sees our heroes fighting against Penguin’s “Weapon Umbrella Army” (including a flying umbrella with a chain mace, one with a buzz saw on the end, etc).

#193 – Another terrible 80 pg giant, with a story of Batman in a suit of armor, and another called “Ride Bat-Hombre, Ride” featuring Batman wearing a goofy Zorro mustache and a Mexican blanket, while dragging a Mexican immigrant by a rope, while the poor guy’s parrot squeals “Kill him! Kill the Bat-hombre!”. I kid you not, go look at the cover!

#195 – Introduces us to “the Spark Spangled See Through Man”.

So that’s the kind of silly stuff that was going on in Batman comics at the time. If we look back in the year before the tv show aired, we find crazy stuff like the Gimmick Gang (headed by a green skinned alien), Batman and Robin flying on their little Mego-like whirly-birds, BAT-MITE (I’ll say it again…BAT-MITE!), and the Hootenanny Hotshots.

This was coming right off a stint fighting fire breathing aliens and dinosaurs, mind you.

Let’s look at Detective Comics now…

#350 – The Royal Rogue/Monarch of Menace
#351 – Fights a villain so lame it makes me cringe…Cluemaster!
#354 – Fights a Fu Manchu rip off called Dr. Tzin Tzin
#358 – The hideous Spellbinder (dig that costume!)
#364 – Fights the Getaway Gang

So in the years before the movie and tv show, Batman was doing all sorts of silly, goofy, insane things far beyond even what was seen in the shows.

In Batman #160, he fought the Green Hood Gang, led by an alien, and he fights them on Madcap Island, which features giant tennis rackets, houses shaped like giant baseballs, giant shoes, and giant dogs, while on the very first page he is attacked by a villain driving a giant water pistol!

He’d been turned into a rainbow costume, a giant, a zebra striped costume, a phantom, an old man, an alien, a merman, an Indian chief, a costume with a kilt, and all sorts of oddities and absurdities.

Do you remember the Human Firefly and Mirror Man? They put any of the tv villains to shame with their absurdity.

I’d go so far as to insist that the tv show was sober compared to the comics at the time!




It’s important to state for the record that, despite the emphasis some have
placed on Adam West acting the clown, his Batman is in fact rather
humorless. While he does indeed smile from time to time, the early comic-
book Batman matches him smile for smile. In “The Case of the Chemical
Syndicate,” Batman snatches up information he needs to crack said case and,
while sitting in his car, offers up a “grim smile.” In several succeeding
adventures, he smiles while he fights criminals, eventually delving into puns
at the expense of his foes – and this was before Robin’s notorious punning
came along. In fact, the TV Batman never smiles while fighting nor cracks
wise while cracking jaws.

Other than two poignant panels of a young
Bruce crying over his dead parents, the early Batman is devoid of angst.
The angst that we now associate with the character is not present in
1939-40; it is, in fact, a product of the 1970s, extrapolated by writers who felt
a need to give Bruce Wayne an inner darkness to match his original dark
surroundings. (Even then, the 1970s were not fully given over to angst –
Bob Haney and Jim Aparo’s Batman of so many adventurous The Brave and
the Bold tales is actually quite a good match for Adam West’s interpretation.)
The 1939-40 Batman is a straightforward hero surrounded by darkness but
not dark inside, much as the TV Batman is a straightforward hero in
exaggerated surroundings.


Listen: Bat-angst is a thing of the 1970s. It didn’t exist previously. Fans today are made to believe that the brooding Batman, the shadowy figure warring against crime while anguishing over the murder of his parents is all there is, all there ever was—but it just ain’t so. That completely ignores more than three decades of the character’s stories and development, and that’s a crime worthy of our hero’s attention.


“Bill Finger revealed that he had written the very first Batman story in Detective #27… and hundreds more during the 1940s and 1950s. And he loved to write scripts calling for Batman and Robin to battle villains amid giant props like over-sized typewriters, musical instruments, and bowling pins.”



Knights of Knavery (Batman #25, October-November 1944). Writer: Don Cameron. Art: Jerry Robinson. The Penguin and the Joker team up for the first time. This story is very uninspired. However, some features of the writing are interesting. Don Cameron was a prolific scriptwriter of Batman and Superman tales during the 1940’s and early 1950’s (up to 1952). The narration of this tale bears a strong resemblance to the campy narrations of the Batman TV show. The characters in the story are often referred to by ingenious euphemisms: the Joker and the Penguin are called “twins in transgression”, for instance. This sort of thing goes on and on, until the reader of the tale is tempted to giggle. Often times the portentous phrases are awfully alliterative. Furthermore, the narrator is constantly indulging in high flying rhetoric about fate, and wondering where all this is going to end. All of this is strongly reminiscent of the Batman TV show.

PB210, I salute your research, but as someone who’s read many of the same books, I say again that the tone of the books and the series was wildly wildly different. Even when the books were absurd, the sense of Ha Ha Look How Ridiculous This Stuff Is wasn’t there in the comics and was very much there in the show.

Note: Obviously you disagree about the level of camp/self-mockery in the older stories. I’ll put that down to a YMMV.

And Cluemaster, wasn’t as bad as all that–minor as a costumed foe, but his “Batman was invincible” rationale for unmasking him (that psychologically any crook who goes up against the Bat has probably psyched himself into losing, so confronting him as an ordinary man is the only way to win) was a nice idea. Again YMMV.


I refer you to Count Karnstein’s posts:

“Silly and campy/corny is silly and campy/corny no matter what the reason. What, did the writers actually think that giant tennis rackets, villains riding giant water pistols, and alien things like Bat-Mite were serious, sober literature? Please! And again, if the show mocked the comics as you claim, how can you blame the show, when the comics were so absurd and idiotic as to invite such parody? And why are you letting DC off the hook for endorsing such mockery?”

Someone responded:

“Thank you! Serious and sober for YOUNG KIDS, yes. It has been stated millions of times by the creators themselves, that in the late 50’s period that the stories we’re discussing here date from, that was their intended audience. An audience just moving forward out of Fairy Tales, where furniture walks around the room, and wolves talks to you before they eat you”.

So CK responded:

[speaking ironically] “Yeah, because we all know how serious and sober young kids are”.

Just a quick note: the giant pennies actually started as early as the 1940’s. cf. Worlds’ Finest Comics#30, as well as the return of Two-Face story in the 1950’s. The dinosaur started around then, too.

When William Dozier took a look at those tales, he reasoned that adults would view them as silly and childish, so he decided to approach it as the makers of the show in on how silly and childish this all played out.

However, the first several episodes of that show did closely adapt actual stories from the magazines.


Then I digested all of those books. At first, I thought they were crazy. I really thought they were crazy, if they were going to try to put this on television.

“As for the camp element, I think they nailed it in the first season with episodes that worked on two levels; straight adventure for kids and snickering parody for their parents. A lot of those episodes were lifted directly from the comics, and dialog and situations that seemed perfectly acceptable on the four-color page came off as insane when acted out by real human beings. The big appeal of the show for me — then and now — was that it was the most faithful adaptation of comic to screen EVER. Everything since has hedged its bets (hence the “armor” for Bale’s Batman, biker outfits for the X-Men, etc)

Unfortunately as time wore on the comedy got broader, the budget got smaller and the whole thing became an endless parade of has-been movie stars as “villain of the week” (Rudy Vallee? Liberace?!?!?!) When we saw Batman singing “Buttercup” even the youngest among us knew the shark had been jumped.”


Just to jump back, in the first Catwoman story, he broke the fourth wall to tell chldren not to admire gangsters, and said “Quite papa spank!” at one point.

PB210, a point you’ve missed about the Batman TV series is that in the rehearsals for the first series, everyone, including Adam West, was camping it up to the max, and it just wasn’t working – it was as funny as the proverbial sick baby. Then the producer realized that it needed a straight man, and told Adam West to deliver every single line as if he was deciding whether to order a nuclear attack on Russia, while everybody else carried on camping. So the “serious” portrayal of Batman was a purely pragmatic decision aimed at getting more laughs.

Returning to the original topic, I agree with most people here that the Catwoman as prostitute idea doesn’t really work. By the way, yes, I did get from my reading of Year One that Selina is a dominatrix who doesn’t necessarily have actual sex with her clients. But hey, she works for a pimp providing services to men who are turned on by weird things – whether she is or is not technically a prostitute splits a very fine hair. Also, she states specifically that she doesn’t like men, and is shown to be sharing not only an apartment but a bed with an under-age girl who is most definitely a prostitute. This is is going in some very peculiar directions, but really it’s just a retread of the James Bond / Pussy Galore relationship in Goldfinger – lesbians are failed men, and therefore evil, but they can be cured by running into a man so manly that they can’t deny the truth any longer, especially if he’s better at fighting than they are.

I think this has a lot more to do with Frank Miller’s peculiar attitudes to women than anything else – look at the portrayal of every single female character in The Dark Knight Strikes Again, especially the peculiar emphasis on nubile teenage girls being attracted to men roughly as old as Frank Miller. I’ve always taken it for granted that Selina Kyle is probably a rich girl who got bored – she certainly acts that way in her early years. Suddenly turning her into a lesbian bondage whore from the gutter was ridiculously jarring! Never mind the complaint that these are supposed to be kids’ comics, so this sort of thing is inappropriate – these days, more adults than kids read them, so it’s hardly surprising that the characters have grown up too, But there are plenty of ways a woman can be tough, strong-willed and sexually active all at the same time without being a whore whom Batman redeems with his new superpower of Bond-Level Manliness. That’s just Frank Miller saying: “My fantasy alter ego is so manly that he can cure lesbians simply by existing!”

And also, why the heck is she very clearly portrayed as either black or mixed-race? I’m not suggesting for a moment that comic-book characters shouldn’t be black, merely that if they’ve been white since 1940, it’s a bit confusing if they suddenly get a whole new set of DNA for no reason at all! You’d almost think that Frank Miller was giving himself an out whereby New Ultra-Sleazy Catwoman isn’t necessarily the same one as the Selina Kyle we’re already familiar with, in the same way that Halle Berry obviously isn’t Michelle Pfeiffer.

So no, I don’t like it, not because there’s something intrinsically wrong with a character having this past, but because it just doesn’t jibe with the character we already know. A tough amoral crewcut black lesbian prostitute who surprises herself by realizing that, despite everything, she seriously fancies Batman, might or might not – a great deal depends on the writer – be a totally valid character. But she’s not Selina Kyle.

Follow-up to how Colllins pointed out how this wrong-headed approach plays out. In the 1980’s, Tom Mankiewicz wrote a script for the then upcoming Gotham feature film which would would have included Robin.

Mankiewicz said


“I want The Batman’s outfit to be truly frightening,” Mankiewicz told Goldberg. “I hope we can do something with his eyes so he has a penetrating and mesmerizing gaze that will give him a Svengali look. Really, when you look at The Batman character, he’s only one step removed from Charles Bronson in DEATH WISH.”

Yet Mankiewicz wanted to include Robin.

Mankiewicz wanted to bring the feel of the original Dragnet to this script. What did Mankiewicz do with Joe Friday in 1987’s Dragnet, which he directed? He made a silly children’s film!


When does doing Joe Friday as a silly children’s film and doing a kid sidekick in pixie shoes, green underwear, shaved legs and golden cape as only slightly removed from Death Wish sound sensible?

@ PB210:

Nothing against Max Allen Collins, but I am pretty that he would write an X-Rated hooker Catwoman maxi series if he thought in exchange for the career like Tom Mankiewicz had.

PB210’s research is why I really don’t get people who around the time the Nolan movies came out claimed that Nolan’s Batman was taking Batman “back to his roots” and correcting “misconceptions” about the world of Batman comics that were supposedly created by the 60s TV show. The 60s TV show was far more loyal to the actual comics than Nolan’s movies were! Many of the first season episodes were specifically adapted from scripts from the comics! Written by Batman’s co-creator to boot.

I think comic fans wanted to desperately to believe that Batman had these incredibly dark and serious and psychologically intense origins in order to feel less embarrassed about being such major fans of the character as adults that they truly convinced themselves that the 60s series was some type of misrepresentation or bowdlerization. I don’t think they’re deliberately lying, I think it’s a defense mechanism where they just won’t allow themselves to see the truth as a way to protect their egos.

What I really don’t get is when fans get all in a huff about those comic-related articles that come out in mainstream press about that mention sound effects like “pow” and “zap,” claiming that they’re perpetuating a myth about comics that started with the Batman TV show. As if it’s inaccurate to associate sound effects with comics, or that they’re some kind of anomaly in the history of comics.

@ T.

I basically agree with you, but I would frame it slightly differently.

The bottom line is that nearly every comic book hero that became truly popular is really, really simple. You can convey most of what is important about Batman is a few sentences. The truth is that you can read hundreds of Batman comics, watch every episode of the animated series and analyze every frame of every movie, but have no advantage in enjoying the next Nolan film over some guy that vaguely remembers Bane from watching BATMAN AND ROBIN while high. In fact, the Batmanologist may be at disadvantage, since the other guy comes in without expectations.

We fans (and I include myself in that group) need he likes of Grant Morrison making obscure references to validate all the time we have invested in these things.

But really, all that arcane knowledge does not matter very much. That is why Batman supports so many different versions. The William Dozier version, the Tim Burton version, the Bruce Timm version and all the rest are equally valid. They have the same handful of elements that actually matter. Everything else is just a matt of taste.

Just to prevent misconceptions; Max Allan Collins did not, to my knowledge, ever criticize Mankiewicz for 1987’s Dragnet. I just pointed that out to note the irony of how Mankiewicz wanted a grittier Gotham but co-wrote/directed a silly Dragnet film.

Sadly, most long-running franchises derive from children’s entertainment, as have most recent prominent film franchises.

Whoa, there are Captain America fans that don’t aknowledge his superpowers? The supersoldier serum was a failure, then?

I agree with Fraser’s post from December 24 at 4:10 pm. Even though the tone of Batman stories started to change with the introduction of Robin (and it’s not like it immediately changed 180 degrees; in the early 40’s you still had stuff that’s pretty grotesque and gruesome, like the first appearances of the Joker and Two-Face, for example), and even though as years went by the stories got lighter, more fantastical and/or science-fiction-y (with Batman operating openly under daylight, the introduction of Batwoman and Batmite, and The Joker esentially being turned into a flamboyant thief, for example), that whole “Isn’t all this just a big joke” approach from the ’60s TV show was not there in the comic-books (even if the TV show took stuff from early comic-book stories), at least not to the same degree.

Yes, the stories were for children (with characters sometimes breaking the fourth wall to speak directly at them), they were meant to be juvenile fun, and they took place in a bizarre world that included costumed characters and giant typewriters. And sometimes they didn’t even make sense or were just plain bad. But at heart they were straight tales of heroic adventure. Also, every once in a while there would even be genuinely and intensely emotional stories, like “The Origin of the Batman” (1948, which could easily be retold today with minor changes), “The First Batman” (1956) or “Robin Dies at Dawn” (1963, in which Batman enters a virtual reality world. More than 30 years before The Matrix, folks!).

As for the “because we all know how serious and sober young kids are” argument, well, young kids can take their fiction pretty seriously. Bambi is a movie for children, made around the same time Batman was created. It has comedy scenes. It has freaking talking animals. Does that make it silly, campy or self-mocking? To this day, people are still talking about the death of Bambi’s mom as pretty serious stuff.

Anyway, the fact is that the very early stories, the ones that show us the original vision of Kane and Finger’s Batman, are still very dark, even by today’s standards.

Wait, Bambi’s mother dies? Dang it, you are supposed to warn us before you use spoilers.

It’s ok, just be more careful in the future. : )

Christopher Stansfield

January 5, 2012 at 2:18 pm

HammerHeart, off-topic, but why is a young Clark Kent using his powers to cheat at football any worse than the adult Clark Kent who has, for 70+ years, used his powers to cheat at being a reporter? One of the basic rules of journalistic ethics is that you don’t write news stories about yourself and that you don’t knowingly obscure the truth, and yet Clark Kent has no real problem with basically making stuff up in his articles about himself in order to protect his identity.

Carlos Nicolini
January 1, 2012 at 1:49 pm

“that whole “Isn’t all this just a big joke” approach from the ’60s TV show was not there in the comic-books (even if the TV show took stuff from early comic-book stories), at least not to the same degree”.

Some find young boys in pixie shoes, golden cape, and shaved legs quite silly in live action.

i use to be against the prostitute angle for catwoman. however i feel that for the catwoman of the 90’s and beyond it definitely fit. who better to fight for the east end and all the street kids and whores and bums? certainly not a rich socialite princess whos never known the meaning of hunger or having to sleep on a cold floor. catwoman through her life as a former prostitute had become human. she had lived the life of a beaten up abused tramp to a self made,strong,independent woman. i think making her at least a dominatrix was a nice balance but to remove that whole origin altogether would be foolish.

I actually have less problem her being a prostitute than a hard dominatrix. she could have been a young girl with a free spirit living in the streets who sometime had to do trix to get by.

I just read, a couple of weeks ago, most of the end of the second Catwoman series, and I’m pretty sure her being a hooker is reference multiple times, especially while she is in prison. I could be wrong, but I had no clue her formally being a prostitute was ever in doubt. Also, I think there’s a reference to it in Selina’s Big Score, but, again, I could be wrong.

I pretty much hated the whole of Balent’s run on Catwoman. While at first I wasn’t particularly a fan of Miller’s origin for Selina, I thought Cooke and Brubaker made it work to absolute perfection.

Incidentally, Dean Hacker:

Since these properties derive a significant part of their revenue from toy lines to children (Legos, Fisher-Price, Mattel), that makes a Mickey Spillane approach incongrous (not The Day the Sea Rolled Back, of course, when I mean Spillane).

The Jim Balent run is my favourite in all of comics. Selina comes off as a fun, tough, sexy chick, unlike the depressing, trashy Brubaker mess. I hated the prostitute origin and loved the “out” they created in Catwoman Year One.

I might’ve missed the boat in getting in a word about whether Selina was definitely a prostitute in Year One, but it’s clear from a comment Bruce Wayne made in Shaman (Legends of the Dark Knight #1-5) that he thought she was. While wondering why the criminals don’t fear him, he recalls being punched by (if I’m recalling the wording correctly) “a tough hooker named Selina Kyle.”

He is the world’s greatest detective and all, Ritchard.

I get a kick out of the idea that some people didn’t like the Catwoman WAS a prostitute, because she’s a part of childrens entertainment. Or that she’s too classy. Yes but that same childrens entertainment has murder, etc. but let’s not do bad stuff like prostitution. She’s so classy that she can steal what doesn’t belong to her, but can’t sell what does belong to her….. Beating, murdering, stealing all okay. Even having a kinky sex life, so long as she doesn’t accept money for it…. THAT would be criminal. Oh wait she is a criminal. Only a classy one who beats people up to take their stuff, rather than selling something she has every right to give away for free….. People have some skewed standards…

Always loved the Year One take on Selina.

“Never met one” ? bone chillin’!

If Jennette Kahn had a problem with that, that doesn’t diminish Kahn in my book. I still think she’s great.

But those pages, the coloring, Mazzuchellis art, the writing… there’s something unsettling about them, good unsettling.

Can’t get enough of Frank Miller’s ‘color’ful criminal characters. Turk from Daredevil was bad enough, but that crap in Year One makes me glad I never bought that overrated crud. For Miller it’s always the bad **s Clint Eastwood style vigilante who has to save us from the scary black and brown criminals. Jerk wad

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