Book Review: Catwoman Book A Lively Read.

Tim Hanley’s wonderful book “The Many Lives of Catwoman: The Felonious History of A Feline Fatale” (Chicago Review Press, 2017) shows that not all cats just have nine lives.

When she first appeared in DC Comics, she was called The Cat, but throughout the years she has been a major part of the DC Universe, which Hanley walks the reader through in a great historical journey, without bombarding the reader with date after date.

The character got her first start in 1940, and became the first female in the Batman world (besides a few women who were only used to show off Bruce Wayne’s playboy image) to have speaking lines. Mainly known as Selina Kyle, the character has changed her costumes, her background story, and even her careers, throughout the years, as different creators got their hands on the characters, which is covered in the book.

The character started out as a minor character, who was a thief, but grew throughout the years having her own series multiple times, from being Batman’s enemy, friend, and lover in the complicated history.

Hanley takes the reader through the history of comic books as well, dealing with the 1954 critique by Dr. Fredrick Wertham. who deemed comic books a bad influence for children due to the violence and gruesomeness, along with sexual innuendos, which ended up creating a comic book council to watch over what was being published. One funny story is how Wertham accused the characters in the books as being Nazis, homosexuals, and lesbians, which was shocking to accuse in the 1950s.

Hanley’s book takes the reader through the early days of the Catwoman character in the comics in the 1940s, to her appearances in movies, television, videogames, and her many disappearances and re-appearances in the comics all the way to 2015 when DC Comics created The Rebirth Universe (which does not feature Catwoman).

My favorite TV Catwoman: Julie Newmar.

The book walks the reader through the success of Catwoman on the ABC TV Series, to the presence she had in the movies (good and bad). All of the actors are covered here, from Julie Newmar to Halle Barry, and the few times that Selina Kyle was not Catwoman in the books, along with the others who took on the role in animation.

Hanley’s history of the character is entertaining and informative, especially for those that may not know all the different arcs that Selina Kyle was in, from being a thief, a prostitute, a mob boss, and a mother who gives up the Cat suit. With the many different writers and artists throughout the years, like many comics, Selina’s image changed as well, from different looking hair styles to outfits, which some emphasized her sexuality, while others were plain and drab to some critics.

Hanley’s history of Catwoman gives the reader plenty of knowledgeable information, but is done so in an entertaining way. The book could easily be written as a date after date history book, but Hanley gives the audience back stories and information for readers that are not familiar with the names of certain artists and writers or those that do not known some of the comic book arcs (He doesn’t just drop the names of the arcs, he explains what is going on, and how it affects the Catwoman character). He also gives a brief history throughout about comic books in general, as mentioned earlier, from the attempted censorship on early comics, to how the certain stories affected comic book sales (whether good or bad). His background on the history of Bob Kane and the myth that he created many of the DC characters he is credited with in the early chapters is one section that keeps the reader engaged.

“The Many Lives of Catwoman” is a must have manual for any fan of Batman or comic books, not just for fans of the Catwoman character. DC Comic readers will love the many plot lines that are covered here. This book is hard to put down, and will keep the readers purring.

 

(A special thanks to Chicago Review Press for the reading copy for this review)

 

The Many Lives of Catwoman: The Felonious History of a Feline Fatale by Tim Hanley (ISBN 9781613738450) is available at bookstores everywhere, and through IPG through the order number 1-800-888-4741 or at ipgbook.com.   You can also find it, and other titles, by Chicago Review Press at: http://www.chicagoreviewpress.com

 

If you are looking for comics, culture, and collectables, and live in the Columbiana, Ohio area, visit WatchTower Heroes, LLC, located at 6 Main Street Columbiana, Ohio 44408. Check them out at http://www.watchtowerheroes.com and on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/WatchtowerHeroesComics/

 

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My Comic Book History and Two Titles You Should Consider

My introduction to the world of comic books started when I was a kid growing up in the 1980s. I started collecting comics as a reward when my grade school would have Read-A Thons, where you would pledge to read so many books at a certain time, and the solicited pledges would pay you so much money per book. At the end of the session, you could get prizes, including comic book subscriptions, along with another school project where the student would sell subscriptions of magazines at a discounted price. It was at this time I had subscriptions to Marvel’s Star Wars and GI Joe comics, and I remember my brother having the Conan The Barbarian series (Yes you could get comics sent to your mailbox).  I also would buy certain issues like The Transformers and DC Comic’s digest books, which had titles like “Batman The Brave and the Bold”, “Superboy”, and “The Legion of Superheroes”.

My DC Comic digest collection.

When I hit junior high school, another collecting habit started for me, along with a new love; Professional Wrestling.  Many of my school mates followed wrestling (it was a huge thing in the 1980s as opposed to the product now), and my local newsstand carried several of the famous Stanley Weston owned magazines, like Pro Wrestling Illustrated, The Wrestler, Sports Review Wrestling, and even the WWF had their own magazine (along with some other non remembered knock off brand mags). I started trading off my comic books for the wrestling magazines, which also helped me in writing my own wrestling fanzine at the time. The comics were worn out and had writing in them, so they weren’t worth anything, and at that age, we didn’t think of keeping them for future use. Even though I still have my magazines, the few comics I have left are also worn out and were water damaged due to a basement issue, but I still enjoy reading some favorites like DC’s “Shadow War of Hawkman”, and the few Avengers issues, one where they battled on Mount Olympus.

Being a wrestling fan is not that different from being into comic books. Both have outrageous characters and villains, and the good vs evil story is always present. In the 1980s, comic books were not considered “legitimate “reading from our teachers, and neither was wrestling magazines, with the exception of one teacher I had, who encouraged me to read my wrestling magazines. When I started teaching high school English, I encouraged my students to read comics, graphic novels, magazines, Magma etc. Now comics are considered the norm and popular from the successes of movies to TV Shows.  Many pro wrestling personalities are comic book people, from Jim Cornette and Jerry Lawler (who actually owned a Batmobile), to wrestlers like The Rock (GI Joe) and Batista (Guardians of the Galaxy) are used in the films. Former wrestler CM Punk and the late Ultimate Warrior also had their own comics or have written for comic companies.

I was brought into the comic world in the mid 1990s when my brother created his own comic, which was featured as AR Comics, and had a premier issue that took him to many comic conventions. His cover had a hologram cover, which you could move the book back and forth that made the characters jump out at you (A few years ago DC used this method- maybe my brother was too early for that to catch on). He also created a comic strip for the Kent State University daily paper, called “Hunt”, which featured my likeness as a weasel animal that wears a KISS shirt. The comic was popular among the students and was right on the same page as Peanuts and the other national comics.

Some of my favorite characters growing up in the comics was Batman, Superman, Thor, Dr. Doom (although I hated how he was used in the movies), The Joker, and Hawkman (once again, not a fan of how he was used in the few episodes I have seen on TV of “Legends of Tomorrow”).  I was a big fan of a short run series from Marvel called Team America, which had the heroes riding motorcycles. I was also a fan of The X-Men’s Beast, being a mutant that read books (which is ironic now since most people don’t read anymore, and are considered mutants if they do).

A few years ago, I started getting back into the comics, and became a fan of the DC’s New 52 series “The Birds of Prey”. I’m sure purists have their problems with the New 52 series, but I really liked the story and the artwork. Right when I started to get into the series (I started in issue #28), the series was shut down. I also would get some novelty issues from Kiss and Alice Cooper, but the storyline wasn’t that exciting to me. I then started collecting for a Christmas gift the reboot of Marvel’s Doctor Strange for a friend of mine who was a huge fan of the character (this was before the Marvel movie came out). I didn’t think the artwork was that great (it seemed he had no face).

It wasn’t until recently I went to a local comic store for the “Free Comic Book Day” and picked up a few comics, like Dr Who and Wonder Woman, that I started to like where some comics were heading.  There are two titles that I want to review that may peak your interest that I found very interesting.

  1. X-Men Blue (Marvel Comics). This series just started in 2017 (As of the writing it is on issue #6), so there is plenty of time to get hooked on this series. As I mentioned earlier, I was a fan of The Beast character, and when researching the character, I found out that in one storyline, he leaves the X-Men to be a professional wrestler.  This story involves the members in their younger selves in a separate timeline and the group teams up with their normal villain Magneto. The group is led by Jean Grey, and involves The Beast and some other pop up villains and characters in the X Men Universe.  According to the Issue #1 front page, the storyline states :

Fearing a war among the mutants was on the horizon, Hank McCoy, A.K.A. The X-Man known as Beast, pulled the Original X-Men, including a younger version of himself, forward through time. Now they are trapped here. Separated for a while, Marvel Girl, Cyclops, Iceman, Beast and Angel have been reunited and are determined to show the world that they are the heroes they were always meant to be.

The comic is a great storyline, written by Cullen Bunn, having the younger versions of X Men battle people and encounter things that they know from the future. The artists, Jorge Molina and Matteo Buffagni, have some great work-better than some of the other comics out there. The book keeps you turning page after page, and unlike some books out there, keeps the reader wanting the next issue.  Keep in mind that Beast is his younger self, not the furry blue creature seen in the movies, but that does not hinder the storyline. As mentioned before, the series is still new in the series, so finding them should not be a problem, and like many DC and Marvel Comics, a collection of the issues 1-6 should be out soon, if you want it in one collection.

If you are fans of other X-Men characters, there is also an X-Men Gold series that also is pretty new, with Colossus, Nightcrawler, Logan, Storm,  and Prestige, with Kitty Pryde as the leader.  I haven’t seen this collection or know what it’s about, but X-Men Blue is my pick for someone who likes the characters (of course there is the normal X-Men comics out there too), and would like to have an original story.

  1. Deadman : The Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love (DC Comics). I think sometimes DC Comics gets a bad wrap on its characters.  Some people think of the characters like Batman from the 1966 TV Series (which I loved and wrote a blog here that you can find in the archives, with contributor comic creator Chris Yambar), or the Batman vs Superman movie (go see Wonder Woman movie and it will change your mind).  There are some really cool characters from DC, and Deadman was one for me.

I first discovered Deadman in the 1980s from the previous mentioned “The Brave and the Bold” Digest series, where he teams with Batman. The character has recently been used in the DVD Movie “Justice League Dark,” along with Swamp Thing and John Constantine.

Deadman, whose name is Boston Brand, was a trapez artist who was murdered during a performance by a person called “The Hook.”  His spirit is given power to possess any living being to search for the murderer. His debut was in 1967, so he is not a new character, but is not used that often (maybe the creators used the Dick Grayson family story to create a new character?)

Deadman

“Dark Mansion” is a 3-issue series where Deadman is trapped in a mansion, along with female Berenice, who has the skill of being able to communicate with the dead.  She has a complicated relationship with her boyfriend Nathan, who is a writer that hides in an office in the house while trying to write a book.  The spirit in the house, named Adelia, along with another dark spirit shows up at the house.  When the spirits show up, Nathan starts experiencing bad headaches.  It is up to Deadman and Berenice to unravel the spirit, the health of Nathan, and find out why Adelia is trapped in the house.

This comic has an old gothic feel to it, from writer Sarah Vaughn’s plot, to artist Lan Medina’s wonderful work. The artwork is so good that it looks almost like paintings, which also helps the gothic dark look of the series.  The glossy pages are just as wonderful that add to the comic. This book series has a Dark Shadows type feel to it, or a throwback to the early horror comic days. This is only three issues long, so the tale is wrapped up nicely without having the reader run back for a 20 issue arc before seeing how the mystery is unraveled.  This was a wonderful comic series that had me spending a lot of time just staring at the artwork and taking my time getting through the book. Seek this out if you are a horror/mystery fan.

These two titles made me see that there are some good comics out there, besides the normal titles of Batman, Wonder Woman, and The Avengers titles. If you have not considered comic books lately, or are not sure what comics to look at, maybe these titles can help you start. Also, go to your local comic store. I’m sure they would be happy to help you out-that’s how I found out these titles-by visiting a local comic store, in my hometown of Columbiana, Ohio, called WatchTower Heroes, and just talking to the owner. Unlike some other comic book stores in my area, the owner was pleasant and very helpful in my choices. It is at WatchTower that the owner recommended me to these choices, which lead to me writing this page (for more information go to http://www.WatchtowerHeroes.com, check out their facebook page, or @WatchtowerHeroesComics)

Comics books have grown with many unique story lines and characters, not just the good guys and bad guys (there are still those out there), but there are many books out there that there is something for you or for gifts. Search them out and you may find something of your liking.