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More e-mails: CATMAN

Another e-mail exchange here. This one is from Fred Schaefer who was creating our proto-Talon character. He wanted some background on DC's Catman character. So I gave it to him.

[2] From: Greg Weisman 1/13/92 10:47AM (5292 bytes: 87 ln)
To: Fred Schaefer
bcc: Greg Weisman
------------------------------- Message Contents ------------------------------

Greg, I've created a villain (yes, he's big and powerful) called CAT SCAN. Later, I realized that you said avoid silly villains, using Cat Man as an example. What do you know about Cat Man, so I don't duplicate the character? I doubt that I have, though.


Catman is a batman villain. At his worst, he was just a guy who liked to steal cat related items. The Egyptian Cat god statue or a gold cat with ruby eyes. He was a former big game hunter who took on the identity of Catman when he got bored, I think. He'd use cat-related items to commit crimes, like a cat-o-nine-tails or a Cat-amaran or a catalogue. (I'm not kidding. At this level, he was simply stealing all the sillier aspects of the Catwoman's schtick.)

At his best, he had a couple of other twists that made him a bit more interesting. He had this cape, that he claimed gave him 9 lives. It was left intentionally vague whether he was just lucky to escape all these dangerous situations, or whether because he believed in the cape he had the confidence to survive, or whether the cape actually worked. One time when Batman ripped off part of the cape while Catman was trying to escape, Catman survived jumping thru a "wall" of high temperature steam. The next time he resurfaced, part of his face was scarred (sound familiar) and burnt by the steam. He blamed Batman, and the fact that a piece of the cape was torn. Even after that, it was still intentionally unclear whether he was just lucky to have survived at all, or whether the cape was in some way responsible. Since then writers have often forgotten that story, and Catman has been fairly inconsistent. Plus since he's now been around for many years, he's used up his nine lives (assuming he ever had them), and writers try to beat around that bush as well.

Another interesting element to the character was the rivalry between Catman and Catwoman, with Batman in the middle. Catwoman & Batman have this love-hate thang going. Plus she occasionally tries to go straight for his sake. (In one old story, that is no longer part of the "cannon" of the DC Universe, Batman and Catwoman got married and had a daughter who grew up to become a heroine named "The Huntress".) Catman and Catwoman used to fight over who had the right to the name, etc.

The key thing however is motivation, look and goal. Catman is a good example of a silly villain, because he has no real motivation beyond liking catstuff. No good reason to even like catstuff. His goal of stealing is just the kind of thing cops should handle. He's not dangerous enough. In later stories, his goal became more murderous. He wanted revenge on Batman and/or Catwoman, but that was because they had defeated him while he was just a glorified catburglar. Finally, his look is silly. He wears a mask with little cat ears, and he wears traditional superhero tights and a cape with a "CM" on his chest. I can bring in a shot of him tomorrow if you want.

There you go, more than you ever needed to know about him.

Except this: when I set out to write my Black Canary mini-series, which never got published, I thought that cats would be natural enemies to a canary, so I teamed up Catman with a Wonder Woman villainess called the Cheetah. I gave them a romance, because Cheetah was mentally scarred (i.e. crazy) and Catman's face was scarred by the steam. They loved each other because no one else would. This was done to off-set the fact that Black Canary's love-life (with another superhero named Green Arrow) was stagnant and hollow. "Even the badguys can have a committed relationship." It was the first issue of the four parter which would act as a catalyst for the two heroes to marry. The series was killed, because DC was approached by a very popular artist/writer who wanted to do Green Arrow. But wanted to keep the character single.

There. Now that's really more than you ever needed to know.