Let's talk about Catwoman.
One of the essential difficulties in writing comics is the conflict between static characters and the need for a sense of ongoing dynamic development. Or, as a normal person might say, you have to have the feeling that the character and plot are advancing without the characters or the circumstance changing much.
This "static/dynamic" conflict is, in my opinion, the essential quality of American superhero comic books. Not the combination of the verbal and visual (something comic books share with movies and television); not the inability to control the rate at which the reader perceives the action in the story (something comic books share with pictureless fiction); not the stylization and use of literacy convention (something comic books share with other niche genres, such as sci-fi, mystery, and opera); not the fact that the storyline is an ongoing, unfolding series of events rather than a single tale with beginning, middle, and end (something comic books share with soap opera and other running dramas).
Comic books (like their "cousin", the comic strip) have the unique challenge of multidecade storytelling with characters that don't have to change with time and whose iconic consistency is part of their appeal. Comic strips have found their own solutions: multigenerational evolution (e.g., Gasoline Alley and For Better or For Worse) or otherversal timelessness (e.g. Peanuts and Beetle Bailey).
Comic books have develop two unique techinques of their own:
- Epochal Reboot, and
- Persona Cycles
Epochal Reboot? Well, if you've been reading DC for longer than, oh, 6 weeks, then you probably get that one already.
Persona Cycles? Also pretty easy if you think about it a little. Characters that have been around a long time get intepreted in different ways over time, slowly evolving the acceptable parameters of the character. Then the character develops a sort rhythm, a kind of cycling through the various edgepoints of his safe zone.
That's a little abstract, so here's a small example. Batman cycles between a loner vigilante and being the paterfamilias of a tight band of colorful crimefighters. At any point in his career, you can "develop" his character going from one of these extreme toward the other. In fact, if you've been following Batman for the last 10 years or so, you can see that's exactly what has been happening. Yet, Batman still always remains recognizably ... Batman.
A lot of fans get hung up on this phenomenon. "No! Batman is only the version of Batman I first became a fan of!" To which Doctor Scipio says, "take a pill, step back, and grow up."
Hey, I'm a fanboy; I don't like it any more than you do when a character I like cycles into a version of himself/herself I don't care for. But I understand why, and remind myself that the character's ability to do that is what allows it to survive, what keeps it vital for on-going generations. That's a better fate than the obscurity to which one-note characters are doomed because they lack mechanisms for adapting through the years, attracting new adherents, and cementing the loyality of old ones.
Many veteran comic book characters have such Persona Cycles. Robin cycles between "Laughing Young Daredevil" and "Brooding Batman Jr.". The Joker cycles between "deformed killer/mastermind" and "demented crime-clown". I'm sure you can think of many more examples; feel free.
But what was the real subject of this post? Oh, yeah ...
Catwoman's persona cycle wheels from "amoral and independent criminal mastermind" through "Batman's alluring but unavailably criminal love interest" to "female Batman with sass" and on back.
If you've been reading her title, you know that she's been in "female Batman with sass" mode for quite some time, recently adding motherhood to the softening of her image. It's time for her to come back: what I would call "the real Catwoman" (or, at least, the "original Catwoman").
You may think that's impossible, given that she's now got an infant. I don't.
We know that Catwoman is going to pressure Zatanna into mindwiping Film Freak and Angle Man so they no longer know her identity.
But I expect her to ask Zatanna to mindwipe HER as well. To protect her baby. As long as the baby is with her, it is in danger. I believe that Catwoman will give up her baby to protect it and have her own mind wiped so that no one -- not even she -- can connect the two.
And Catwoman will have gone full "persona cycle" once again.