A Tribute to the of

Greetings, readers and welcome to yet another edition of the Silver Age Sage! As I’ve mentioned several times before, one of the perks of this gig has been exploring books I didn’t get the opportunity to read in my younger years and once again, a classic cover had long intrigued me from the house ads. In this case, it’s the Carmine Infantino and Mike Esposito rendered one to Batman #197 from December of 1967, featuring not only our beloved Caped Crusader, but Batgirl and a very differently garbed Catwoman. Let’s look inside, shall we?

The Gardner Fox scripted Catwoman Sets Her Claws for Batman! was illustrated by Frank Springer with Sid Greene on inks and Julie Schwartz taking care of editorial duties. Ira Schnapp was our letterer and I must say, between Mike Esposito inking the cover and Frank Springer penciling the interiors, we’ve got an unusual set of talent on this book. With the exception of Sid Greene (and of course Ira Schnapp and Julie) I’m proud to think that I got to interview the other members of the creative team.

This is the first glimpse of Catwoman’s “Now look,” and it’s obviously inspired by the television show. [This book went on sale 10/19/67, a Thursday, it's also the date of the broadcast of the series 100th episode.] As a matter of fact, as we read the splash page caption, you can almost hear the voice of William Dozier, who narrated the series. “What a designing woman was—Catwoman! She had designs on snaring Batman for her mate—even if it meant abandoning her role as the princess of plunder! If the worst came to pass and he turned her down, she’d manage to survive without Batman—while making sure he didn’t live at all!

Speaking of Dozier, I lifted this information straight from Wikipedia and learned a few things about the gent:

He is best remembered as the executive producer and narrator of the Batman television series (1966–1968), although he was uncredited for the role as narrator. He also performed those functions on the Green Hornet television show, which starred Van Williams and Bruce Lee, although here the narration was limited to the opening, the next-episode trailers, and the story-so-far recaps in its three two-part episodes. Dozier also made a screen test of an aborted version of Wonder Woman in 1967. During his time as executive producer of Batman he co-created the character Barbara Gordon, who would become a prominent character in the Batman comic books as well as the TV series.

The story begins with Catwoman in her “Kitty Car,” prowling the streets of Gotham City. She swings by the Gotham winery and proceeds to break up a payroll robbery, all the while thinking to herself that it’s the beginning of the end for Batman and that Batgirl has had it as there’s a new top cat in town.

As anyone could have predicted, she’s using plenty of “cat” catchphrases throughout the tale and starts by deploying her cat-‘o’-nine-tails to subdue the criminals and informing them that it will put them in a catabatic trance. Then, she’s off to find Batman and show up Batgirl. She finds the Dynamic Duo on their own patrol and shows off her prisoners and explains that she’s reformed and went “cat-wild” on the thugs. She also proclaims that anything Batgirl can do, she can do better and that her work tonight will CATapult her into the headlines.

Batman and Robin are skeptical but are taking a wait and see stance. After she leaves, Robin suggests maybe she really has turned herself around as prior capers always involved cats, but Batman reminds his sidekick that the Gotham winery uses CATawba grapes.

The next day the caped crimebusters are breaking up a caper at a silk handkerchief factory. Okay… Anyway, they’re getting pretty badly pummeled when Catwoman shows up to save the day with her cat-o’-nine-tails and the incapacitating dust from her cat compact, which inexplicably doesn’t affect our heroes. Well, there was an explanation, but it made little sense: “My cat-powder works only against thieves…” Okay, sure… She also makes use of her catarang and Robin wonders at her “catty” remarks about Batgirl.

Speaking of Batgirl, we switch scenes to the library where Barbara Gordon is on duty and mentioned her photographic memory, a detail I don’t know that I’d known before, and she’s interested in something she recalls about silk handkerchiefs. The word she locates (without the benefit of Google) is Publicat, which is a silk bandana or handkerchief, explaining another potential cat connection. The news on the radio says something about Catwoman mocking Batgirl, so Babs makes plans to check things out. She decides a likely place will be at the Gotham Wax Museum, where a bier of a far eastern maharajah will be on display. By the way, another word for bier is…catafalque.

Sure enough, Batgirl, arriving on her Batbike, encounters Catwoman at the wax museum where thieves are on hand to help themselves to the jewels. Batgirl tries to apprehend them, but her timing seems to be off and she cannot seem to perform at her usual peak. Catwoman succeeds where Batgirl has failed and crows about it when Batman and Robin arrive.

A few days later, Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, is doing a book signing at the Golden Cat restaurant and Bruce Wayne is on hand to see if she’ll attend the Wayne Foundation charity dinner, but she declines, stating that she’s too busy fighting crime. We’re then privy to her thoughts as she smugly thinks that she’s edged out her “rival” Batgirl and wonders when Batman will confess his love for her.

Later, back in costume, she brazenly asks when they’re going to team up as crime-fighters and in marriage, but Batman deflects and leaves, making Catwoman unhappy indeed.

Another night comes around and we find the Batmobile, Kitty Car and Batbike converging on a large building that houses a rare coin emporium. Apparently they have some valuable duCATS on hand…

The costumed figures go into action and Catwoman asks Batgirl why she’s there after her humiliation last time. The redhead replies that she remembered something: CAToptrics, a branch of optics that deals with light reflection. Catwoman had used the technique, swinging a gaudy necklace that fateful night and distorting the light and throwing off Batgirl’s stride.

Just then, Catwoman cold cocks Batman from behind and vows to take him to her CATacombs. Batgirl vows to stop her, but the criminals seize her and she realizes it’s all been a ruse as these men are part of Catwoman’s gang, explaining the cat tie-ins to each location where they were found.

At the catacombs, Catwoman decides to unmask the three unconscious crime-fighters, but in each case, they’re wearing paint beneath their masks that hide their features. So, after they revive, Catwoman delivers an ultimatum to Batman: Marry her or she returns to a life of crime. Batman lunges toward her but is stunned by the painful effects of an assault of sound, much like a snarl from an angry cat. He is advised by Catwoman to return to the metal disc he’d been standing on to escape the debilitating noise.

When Batman flatly refuses her overtures, Catwoman says she’s off to the world’s highest stakes poker game to rob the “kitty,” and it will be on Batman’s conscience for rebuffing her. Returning with the loot to the catacombs, she offers to return it if Batman changes his mind, but then Batgirl strikes, somehow avoiding the sound trap of the Catwoman. She calls her henchmen and the Dynamic Duo make short work of them.

In the aftermath, they explain to the feline felon that they managed to overcome her sound trap by some hypnosis and Batman tells the femme fatale that she’s about to cat-walk to the nearest jail.

Okay, the cat references got a little thick, but it wasn’t a bad story considering the era. I’ll give it a 6 on the 10-point rating scale for a guest shot with Batgirl and the first (maybe the last?) “Now look Catwoman.” Fun enough, but not exactly a classic story and at least now my curiosity is officially satisfied on this issue.

That wraps up this edition of our ongoing feature and as usual, you are cordially invited to share thoughts, questions or comments or even suggestions for future reviews at my trusty e-mail. Just drop a line to: professor_the@hotmail.com.

Until we see one another again on the 1st of June…

Long live the Silver Age!

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