NOCENTI Uses Own Grief, Experience in CATWOMAN, KATANA

Catwoman #19

When it comes to strong, silent, obsessive women, Ann Nocenti has a bit of a monopoly in the DCU. In Catwoman, Nocenti is exploring the feline villain's almost obsessive need to steal, while her new Katana series is dealing with that character's obsessive vengeance.

With this week's Catwoman #19, the series starts a new storyline that sends her to Arkham Asylum, while also tying into her new status as a member of the Justice League of America.

And next week's Katana #3 deals a devastating blow to the heroine as her sword, "Soultaker," becomes broken, freeing the souls housed within.

Both stories are offering Nocenti the chance to explore something from her own past, as Newsarama found out while talking to the writer about what's coming up in Catwoman and Katana.

Newsarama: Ann, the last issue of Catwoman showed a reunion between Catwoman and Batman. How would you describe their relationship and what that scene meant?

Ann Nocenti: I think writers process their own experiences through the characters and situations they write. So for Batman, I used my own experience of losing a loved one. Grief is a strange place; it’s like an altered state. You might sleep too much so you can see the dead in your dreams. Things that normally wouldn’t have much meaning take on profound meaning. When Batman fixates on the missing paintings in the Gotham Museum, his grief is reading a deeper meaning into them. These paintings are of dark places: a black angel, Arkham Asylum, Penguin’s umbrella spinning in the wind. Why does he miss images of bad things? It’s a grief-driven fixation. A displacement of what is really going on.

Catwoman #19

Catwoman has just been through hell in the Black Room, and with the Joker. She is feeling betrayed by her only friends, her heist connections Trip Winter and Gwen Altamont. So she does something reckless to draw out Batman, not knowing it is the worst possible moment to do so.

So when they meet, they are both full of displaced yearning and misconceptions about each other. He thinks putting the paintings back will replace the person he’s really missing. She thinks seeing him will fix her loneliness. Both realize meeting was a mistake; they aren’t going to find solace in each other — not this time.

But something about their encounter alters them both — Catwoman does return the paintings, and he realizes his rage at her was displaced grief.

Nrama: As Catwoman #19 comes out this week, it's obvious that it ties into the Justice League of America title, in which Catwoman co-stars. How does her role on that team influence your comic going forward?

Nocenti: Catwoman isn’t a “joiner.” She’s a solo operator. She isn’t naturally heroic; she’s fairly selfish.

So joining the JLA will impact her solo book in that she begins to realize that working with others has its benefits. Whether this seeming heroism is just a guise for deeper, selfish motives remains to be seen.

Nrama: This week's issue also starts a trip into Arkham Asylum for Catwoman. What intrigued you about exploring Arkham Asylum, and what's Catwoman's response to what she finds there?

Nocenti: I knew I wanted some of her experiences to impact on her mental state. The Joker twists her unconscious. Eclipso’s Black Diamond adds another shadow to her state of mind. Fighting the demon Escalate in The Black Room in such a brutal fashion shoves another bit of darkness into her. Arkham Asylum seemed a natural next step.

Catwoman #19

When I was in college, I worked at a state hospital that was a dumping ground for all manner of the criminally insane, and “mental defectives” as they called them back then. It was a horrible place, like Arkham, mostly in terms of total neglect of the inmates, so I wanted to write an Arkham story. In some ways, pharmaceutical therapy is a form of neglect.

Nrama: The comic also has a tie-in with the Penguin coming up. What's Catwoman's angle with the Penguin? Is she trying to beat him? Or join him?

Nocenti: Penguin is on a roll. He made another one of his tacit agreements with Batman to be left alone. But Penguin’s bravado is always an inch away from bursting. His ego is like a balloon filled with too much air — always delicate and on the edge of blowing.

It angers the Penguin that Catwoman is pulling off lucrative heists in Gotham, a city he feels he owns, at least the crime underworld. He wants her to pay homage to him, to give him a piece of his action. He’s not unjustified — the machinations he does at high levels of society are part of why a solo operative like Catwoman is left alone. But she, on principle, has no interest in giving up a piece of herself to anyone.

Nrama: How does the Catwoman Annual tie in with the story you've got coming up in the summer?

Nocenti: The Penguin storyline begins in Catwoman # 20, moves into "Black Ice," the Catwoman Annual, and then finishes in Catwoman #21. The challenge with this was to allow each issue to feel like a complete story, and to also be part of a trilogy.

Catwoman #19

This story develops Catwoman’s relationship to the criminal underworld, to the Rat-Tail Gang and to the Gotham PDHQ Vice and Murder Squads. After the heady adventures in The Black Room and Arkham, these stories bring us back to the streets, they are traditional crime stories.

As Catwoman digs deeper into this criminal underworld, she discovers new layers to Gotham. These revelations come out in Catwoman # 22 and 23, in a startling way.

Nrama: Before we move on to talking about Katana, is there anything else you want to tell fans about what's coming up in Catwoman?

Nocenti: As always, I appreciate the reader support immensely, and that they hang in there with me for the ride.

Nrama: In Katana, it looks like her sword is going to break in next week's issue #3. How does that event define the direction of the comic in the issues coming up?

Nocenti: Her sword does break in Katana #3, and all the souls that have been trapped in the Soultaker pour out. As she gets deeper into her mission of battling the Outsiders, the Sword and Dagger Clans, these escaping souls complicate her mission in huge ways. Her mission of vengeance becomes a trifecta: avenge the murder of her husband, cleanse the Outsiders of rotten elements, and now added in is her dilemma of what to do about the escaped souls?

Nrama: What themes will you be exploring as Katana faces the aftermath of that event?

Nocenti: There is an unspoken feminist layer to Katana. She’s an aggressive modern woman with traditional Japanese roots. She was in love with her sword, because she believed it contained her husband. That belief (delusional or otherwise) gave her an excuse to stay on point in her mission and not be distracted by potential love interests.

Catwoman #19

Now that her Soultaker is shattered, will she have to face up to the things she’s been avoiding?

Nrama: And although you're only two issues into the comic, let's finish up by just offering a tease for readers. What's coming up in Katana?

Nocenti: Katana travels to Japan to go to a Weapons Con, and she meets master sword-makers. But a few of her worst enemies follow her there.

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