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Who's Kitten Whom?
Posted: January 7, 2008

Catwoman entered the BTAS universe more out of necessity that plausibility. Every hero needs a love interest to warm his nights, and Batman's nights are colder than most. And, at the very least, Catwoman's iconic presence (whether as Julie Newmar, Lee Meriweather, or Eartha Kitt) in the Adam West series meant the animated series had to have her too. But although Bruce Wayne is a playboy, Batman played it strictly platonically. So in going for action rather than romance, BTAS left Catwoman holding the bag in more ways than one. That she survived is decisive proof that some icons cannot be smashed.

"The Cat and the Claw" was a gloomy presentiment of things to come. "Sexy" exchanges as itchy as woolen underwear alternated with action scenes that in no way required a society kitten; frankly, Professor Milo in drag would have made as much sense in the story. "Tyger Tyger" was a grotesque abuse of both the character and the audience's time; "Cat Scratch Fever" seems to have been made so that "Tyger Tyger" would look good in comparison. The Harley-and-Ivy–like pairing with Batgirl in "Batgirl Returns" didn't generate may sparks, and continued Selena's inexplicable association with Z-grade characters like Roland Daggett. By the time of "Catwalk," desperate fans were probably only grateful to see her sharing the screen with a first-rate character like Scarface. It was a sad come-down to admit that she worked better as a plot device in more attractive stories. That was certainly the case with "Perchance to Dream" and "Almost Got 'Im," both of which required her regal presence for their insinuations to come off. But for that very reason, neither appearance was more than an extended cameo.

But there came an unexpected revival in TNBA. "You Scratch My Back" was nowhere near the fun it could have been, but at least Catwoman finally shed her stiff, noble ways and treated Batman like a scratching post; by drawing blood, she finally seemed dangerous. "Cult of the Cat" improved on its predecessor in every way: a black screwball comedy whose farce tacked surprisingly close to horror, and whose invocation of talon and fang finally made her relationship with Batman look erotic. The series ended before the promise could be fulfilled, but it achieved something like consummation in the short subject "Chase Me," where she and the hero batted each other around in a way that was just a trifle too intense to be entirely playful.

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