Catwoman writer Genevieve Valentine may have kept Selina Kyle out of her catsuit the last few months, but the flirtatious character is far from less sexualized, as this month's #39 proved.
SPOILERS Ahead for those that haven't read Catwoman #39.
Selina not only kissed a young woman named Eiko — and imagined exploring a relationship with her — but did so while Eiko was wearing her own catsuit.
Valentine, who's been working on Catwoman since October with artist Garry Brown, confirmed to Newsarama that Selina's "sexually open" with both men and women — something she doesn't see as a leap for the character, who started her tenure in DC's "New 52" by bedding Batman.
Selina's bisexuality is the latest twist in a run by Valentine that's leaned more toward crime noir and political intrigue than the sexy superhero comic is had been in the past. As Catwoman has been working against Black Mask to hold her position as a crime family leader, she's had to balance the necessary Mafia dirty work of her position with her tendency to be a do-gooder.
But according to Valentine, Selina will finally be back in the her role as Catwoman come June, after the DC universe takes its two-month break for Convergence.
Newsarama talked to Valentine to find out more about the cat-on-cat kiss in this week's Catwoman #39, what the movers and shakers of Gothams crime families are planning to do next, and whether Aiden Mason might actually be her long, lost brother.
Newsarama: Genevieve, Selina's grasp on power in the crime families feels tentative right now. How would you describe her approach to maintaining power, when she's also trying not to be too bad?
Valentine: I would describe it as incredibly precarious. The trick to being a mob boss for any real length of time is accepting and justifying anything necessary to keep power, and viewing everyone as a resource (because anyone you love can be used against you). We see that a lot in this storyline even outside Selina's story – Eiko's father clearly respects her, but her having an independent life has never crossed his mind; she's a resource for the legacy of the family.
Selina, of course, is a morally gray character; her parameters about what justice really is have always been slightly sidelong to anybody else in the Bat-family. But the trick is to do that without becoming as morally dark as her enemy – and that's what she's struggling with.
Nrama: Is Aiden Mason really her brother? And will we learn more about him?
Valentine: At this point Mason's certainly acting like it: in #39 you realize his reasoning, underneath all the savvy he's evidencing, sounds very much like a brother who feels he got overlooked.
And yes, I think it's definitely not something Selina's going to let go at face value; now that she realizes it's not just something said to mess with her, she's going to start questioning what, exactly, is going on.
Nrama: What were your thoughts behind killing Nick? And what did that death represent for Selina?
Valentine: Poor Nick! In personality he seemed suited for a nice long life of not getting involved in the dirty stuff, but the instant his conscience couldn't take it and he went to the cops, everyone including his sister Antonia knew it was just a matter of time.
For Selina, the order to kill him represented a shackle and a challenge: up until then it had all been a large-scale long con and she might have been able to walk away. And she knew that this choice was her invitation to do it – to step down and let her successor clean up the mess.
But in making that order she committed to this family, and has begun to look at Black Mask with an eye toward making him pay in the long term.
Nrama: What's Black Mask's motivation for trying to kill Selina? And why do the other players involved have such different feelings about killing her?
Valentine: I think that early in the arc he just wanted her out of the way, abdication or death being equally good options, but when she gave the order to kill Nick, it was both an announcement that she's more ruthless than he thought, and the beginning of a little wedge with Mason. Black Mask wanted to rise, and now she's the cement block keeping him from doing that.
I think the varied responses are reflections of his alliance – which, of course, is also less stable than he would like (the fate of any Gotham crime-lord, clearly). Killing the head of a family is a big statement, and if that becomes the way to deal with anything then half the people at his table begin to fear for their lives. World's most awkward board meetings!
Nrama: How would you describe Selina's approach to Eiko, particularly with the young lady running around in a Catwoman suit?
Valentine: I think Selina recognizes a fellow soul pretty early – the intentional code of the unfinished tattoo, the early reveal that she's been co-opting Catwoman – and a lot of the anger that might have been there becomes a sort of relief because of her situation; if Selina can't be Catwoman and foil her own darkest plans, at least someone is. There's a real necessity in the idea of being honest with someone in a situation with so much dishonesty.
Nrama: That's true, but what's Eiko's motivation for continuing to don the Catwoman costume?
Valentine: At the moment, it's a handy way for her to check in on people she's not supposed to really know (Lewis) or care about (Selina) while staying under the radar.
But in the next arc, I think she'll be facing up to Catwoman more as an identity than as a vehicle, and that will change her relationship to the suit.
Nrama: It's been established in the "New 52" that Catwoman is very much interested in having sex with men. Yet this week's issue has her kissing Eiko, and thinking about the possibility of exploring a relationship with the young Catwoman wannabe. Is this story establishing that Catwoman is bisexual?
Valentine: I think Selina has always been written as a sexually open character; she definitely flirts with both women and men. Her being a bisexual never struck me as being a leap – for me, the leap was the emotional intimacy of the moment. She's not a character who loves easily, and as we've seen from her interactions with Bruce, she's not someone who forgives easily, either – others or herself. It's definitely going to be a complicated story.
Nrama: I'd like to talk about what's coming up next in the series, but first, I'm interested in how you framed this month's #39 with a letter from Cesare Borgia, from the famed Borgia family. Can you share your thoughts behind that? And are you a fan of the television series?
Valentine: Good question, because there's definitely a lot involved! Not only does it relate to the choice Selina faces in this issue, it's also some meta-commentary on the fact that not all of Lucrezia's letters survive in the same quantities as the more "official" correspondence of her male relatives, and that what's left in history is her brother speaking for her. (It's not necessary to know this, of course – that entire letter is creepy enough on its own that you definitely get the picture – but it was something I definitely noticed in my research.)
And yes! I think it's always hard to make a Borgias story because it's a dark family comedy interrupted by brutal murders, plus trying to immerse your audience in the historical context, but the Showtime series worked really hard to get at least two out of the three most of the time, and managed to make you laugh at and feel for their misery by turns.
Nrama: Even though your run on Catwoman is continuing in June post-C", it looks like March's #40 is a turning point for Catwoman. How would you describe the issue and how it affects Selina?
Valentine: This is the issue where we begin to see how leadership has really honed her into a weapon, I think; there's a sense of scorched earth in some of her decisions, and a sense of redemption in others. The nice thing about having such a complicated character to work with is that she is always her best asset and her own worst enemy. And of course, there's no better way to signal that than the Suit, is there...?
Nrama: Your story so far has mixed political intrigue, drama, mystery and of course action. Do you agree that you're touching on those genres? Or how would you describe the style/tone of the comic so far during your run?
Valentine: I think it would a bit odd for me to agree I had hit them – largely that's the readers' call! Certainly we wanted to create a world Selina could really inhabit and get her hands dirty in, something that would have weight and provide something both for her and for Gotham to really be affected by. And while there's definitely a lot of noir happening (the lighting in Garry's Gotham means window blinds just everywhere, which is perfect), I also love the sort of historical references in his architecture; I definitely want these historical quotes to give the story a lived-in framework, and those visual echoes work so well.
Nrama: When you pick up again in June, does the tone and style change at all?
Valentine: Well, with Selina back in the suit, I think we're going to be seeing a little more action from her, which I think will be a nice tie-in to her pre-Mafia days. And like the rest of the Bat-universe, we're shifting to point a little bit at what Batman himself will be going through at a major point, which in terms of style and tone gives us a lot of fun stuff to play with.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell fans about Catwoman?
Valentine: I've been so thrilled to see that Catwoman fans are loving the book – and that some people are picking up the book for the first time, which is a great compliment! So I'd like to tell the fans: Thank you for reading!