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Batman The Animated Series: The Cat and the Claw

"Lately, I'm learning never to underestimate the opposite sex."

I think I might've enjoyed this one more if it had been all about the cat and less about the claw.

This is our first Catwoman episode, which isn't really something to celebrate because Catwoman episodes are usually nothing but kitty litter. As with the Penguin, the makers of Batman: The Animated Series managed to get the character's design and characterisation (almost) exactly right, but never bothered to give them any decent episodes to star in. This two-parter is probably one of the better efforts. Well, Part 1 is. Part 2 is just a calamity from start to finish.

'The Cat and the Claw' introduces us to two different women named Selina Kyle. The first one we meet is Selina Kyle: Literal Cat Burglar. I really like Selina Kyle: Literal Cat Burglar. She's a fun character with a great costume (a brilliant fusion of Julie Newmar and Michelle Pfeiffer) and some amazing chemistry with the caped crusader. The best thing about this entire two-parter is getting to watch these two costumed crazies do their little dance across the rooftops of Gotham. The opening game of cat and mouse bat is fantastic and makes you wish that director Kevin Altieri had stuck around for Part 2 (although I doubt even he could've salvaged that mess).

Things start to go pear shaped when we're introduced to this story's other Selina Kyle. Say hello everyone to Selina Kyle: Animal Rights Activist. I'm not a big fan of Selina Kyle: Animal Rights Activist. I really get the feeling that the writers were somewhat wary about having a character as morally ambiguous as Catwoman on a kids' show, especially as Batman's main love interest. So instead of just being an unrepentant jewel thief who gets off on stealing expensive shit, Catwoman becomes this Robin Hood-type who steals from the rich to give to the poor. Poor animals in this case.

It's not an entirely terrible take on the character, but the show never really finds a way to make it work. What's worse, because Catwoman has no obvious goal beyond saving wild animals, a secondary villain has to be thrown in so there'd at least be some diabolical plot for Batman to foil and minions to beat up. Which is how we ended up with bloody Red Claw, another one of the series' lame attempts at creating its own villains. She's a terrorist. Except she isn't because terrorists have political goals. All Red Claw is after is money. So she's really an extortionist, but extortionist doesn't sound very scary so she's called a terrorist instead.

The terrible Red Claw plot dominates Part 2, but it isn't even the worst thing about the episode. No, that would have to be the utterly horrendous animation. You see, in order to get the first season's 65 episodes completed on schedule, Warner Bros. Animation outsourced a lot of work to overseas animation studios. One of these was AKOM, a South Korean animation company, and they were the absolute worst. Their animation was repeatedly poor and inconsistent. Except in this episode, where it was just ghastly. The climactic destruction of Red Claw's base is particularly bad.

The producers got so fed up with AKOM's shoddy craftsmanship that they were eventually fired, but not before knocking out some of the series' biggest stinkers.

Comic Book Connections 

Catwoman was created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane and first appeared in Batman #1 (June 1940) which included the infamous "Quiet or papa spank!" line. In her first appearance she was just a jewel thief known as "the Cat" and didn't wear a costume. She wouldn't get one until Batman #3 which was just a dress with a cape and a cat faced mask. It wasn't until Julie Newmar came along that Catwoman started wearing her iconic catsuit. For a complete history of Catwoman's many (often ludicrous) looks, just click here.

I Know That Voice

Selina Kyle/Catwoman was voiced by Adrienne Barbeau. She played Carol Traynor on the sitcom Maude, and Ruthie on the cancelled too soon Carnivàle. She also appeared in The Cannonball Run, The Fog, Creepshow, Swamp Thing, and Escape from New York and was also the original Rizzo in Grease on Broadway. Red Claw was voiced by none other than Captain Janeway herself, Kate Mulgrew.

Notes and Quotes

--Part 1 of this story was the first episode aired because the studio wanted to capitalise on the success of Batman Returns, which came out earlier that year. For some bizarre reason Part 2 wasn't shown until eight episodes later.

--This episode has some very clunky attempts at feminism.

--Gotham City is an architectural wonder. Buildings are always so close together that people can easily jump between them.

--A Catwoman spin-off was considered, but then scrapped in favour of Superman: The Animated Series.

--Batman has started referring to himself in the third person. Never a good sign.

--I love how offended Batman is when Catwoman scratches his cape.

Catwoman: "You can't deny there's something between us."
Batman: "You're right, and I'm afraid it's the law."

Batman: "I hear you have some information."
Mob Boss: "Under one condition: Lay off the south side."
Batman: "Keep this up and I'll be on you from all sides. North, south, east and west."

Selina: "Where'd you learn to drive like that?"
Bruce: "Oh, I've been going to the Paris Grand Prix for years . . . You know, one of these days I think I'll enter it."

Batman: "Red Claw? A woman!?"
Red Claw: "Do you have a problem with that?"
Batman: "Not at all! I'm an equal opportunity crime fighter."

Gordon: "So what do I do now? Evacuate ten million people? Maybe we can set up camp around the Pentagon."

Two out of four literal cat burglars.

Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011 More Mark Greig

1 comment:

  1. This one is largely boring but I do like the Bruce/Batman/Selina love triangle because I am a great lover of dramatic irony. One thing about this episode that actively annoys me is Alfred saying "what an unusual color cat hair" because it's black. Isis is black. Black cats are not unusual, Alfred. Get out more.

    No idea Kate Mulgrew was Red Claw. Too bad she wasn't a better character.


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