Cobwebs #34


This week we are tackling the origin of Ashley’s favorite character – the Black Cat. No, I’m not talking about Felicia following her dad’s criminal footsteps or accessing her latent mutant powers. This is Cobwebs – we’re talking about the inspiration for the character herself! Think you know the Black Cat? Let’s see if we can surprise you when we let this cat out of the bag.*

Everyone knows that the Black Cat is just a rip off of Catwoman, right? I mean, just Google it and you see all sorts of web sites and blogs (such as Funk’s House of Geekery, Looper, and Comic Island, to name a few) that compares the two villainesses. At first glance, this seems a pretty open and shut case. They are both female cat-themed cat burglars who are love interests for their prospective hero. Obviously, as Looper so eloquently put it, Marv Wolfman flat out “ripped off the whole ‘literal cat burglar’ Catwoman thing.”

Of course, if it were an open and shut case, there wouldn’t be a Cobwebs article about it. Right? So where did all of the other web sites go wrong? First off, they didn’t attend Crawlspace University. You see, BD makes all of us contributing writers go through a grueling four-year certification course (Zach’s clone course is a bear – I made a C in it and feel darn proud of that) before we are ever allowed a chance to write one word using the Crawlspace name. In fact, even then, we still have to prove ourselves to be fully acknowledge as a Crawlspace staffer. I’ve been here a year and a half and won the alternate universe Crawlspace Jeopardy podcast** and I still haven’t earned the coveted privilege of being added to the staff page.

So, what did I learn at CU? Well Dr. Fettinger and Professor Berryman (we are required to call them that in our contract) always pushed us to do our research. And that, my friends is what the other web site authors did NOT do. The true story is out there in many places for people to see, but people would rather just dump on Wolfman.  As Peter David laments, fans often are quick to point fingers at people who copied from other writers when the reality is that similarity, while a symptom, is not proof of copying. “Be aware that sooner or later … people will accuse you of achieving that success by standing upon the shoulders of others and swiping their ideas.”  Marv Wolfman has been interviewed several times on the subject and has never wavered in his answer.

So what amazing muse inspired Wolfman’s creation if it wasn’t Catwoman? A woman he was forced to love from afar? A series of bad runs at poker? Nah. He says he was inspired while watching cartoons. A Tex Avery cartoon called “Bad Luck Blackie”, to be exact.

He said that the idea of a burglar that could create “bad luck” by setting up the escape route ahead of time was the motivation for the character and that if he had even thought about Catwoman at the time, he wouldn’t have created her. As far as the female villain companion to the hero idea, he certainly wasn’t in that frame of mind as at the time, he was creating her to be a Spider-Woman villain, not a love interest for Spider-Man.

The above shows the cover of Spider-Woman #9, which was supposed to be the first appearance of the feisty feline, but as fate would have it, Wolfman was moved to Amazing and the next guy wanted to use his own ideas for the next issue. The above image also shows the original cover idea for ASM #194. It was rejected for the one we are more familiar with (the one at the top of this post).

Originally the look for the Black Cat was supposed to be “a mysterious noir female”. That was before Dave Cockrum designed the now iconic look for the character.

Hungry for more original Black Cat? Go back and read her first appearance on Marvel Unlimited. WARNING – it may make you a bit melancholy when you start thinking about the gangster version we have now. So to remind you that the good old days were not always good, here is an image of a rather unfortunate fashion choice the Black Cat made in the late ‘80s.

And, just because I found it and thought it looked good, here is a mock cover by a guy named Josh who envisioned the Black Cat continuing on as a Spider-Woman villain.

By the way, I think this is the Black Cat tee shirt that Ashley mentioned on one of the most recent podcasts:

It seems to be sold out, though, so since you can’t be just like Ashley, at least you can be sort of like Ashley and get this shirt instead:

And now you know.

 

 

*O.K., that was a bad pun.

**Shameless self-plugging acknowledged

 

As a nod to the new gangster image of the Black Cat, we’re foregoing the usual MLA style and instead doing sources in Chicago Manual of Style format this post. The excitement never stops here at the Crawlspace!

Sources:

“Characters Marvel Stole from DC and Gave a New Name.” Looper. n.d. http://www.looper.com/6969/characters-marvel-stole-dc-gave-new-name/

David, Peter. Writing for Comics with Peter David. Cincinnati: Impact Books, 2006.

DeFalco, Tom. Comics Creators on Spider-Man. London: Titan Books, 2004.

Images:

Cat Fight

Spider-Woman/Original Cover

Bad Fashion Cat

Spider-Woman/Black Cat Cover Mock Up by Josh

Credible Hulk

 

 

‘Nuff Said! 

(20) Comments

  1. Mark Alford

    @ Adam S - little known fact - Tom DeFalco for a period in the early 2000s claimed to have a twin brother named Tim (much like that whole Matt/Michael Murdock thing in early Daredevil)... OK, you got me. Somehow I'm sure it can be blamed on this switch to Chicago Style, but I can't think of a good reason for it. Thanks for the catch!

  2. Mark Alford

    @ Jack - my best understanding of it is that at first she just rigged up the area so that it would appear as if random bad luck events were happening. Later, when she and Spider-Man were an item, he kept trying to protect her, so she went looking for someone who could give her real bad luck powers. The Kingpin came through for her. Her powers manipulated the probability field, but she had no control over it and never told Spider-Man. He couldn't understand why he was having more bad luck than usual until Dr. strange said it was coming from an outside source. Dr. Strange didn't know what that source was, but used his powers to block it. She was in the middle of a fight when he did so and got her but kicked when her powers went out. Later, some writer decided that she was actually a mutant and all Kingpin did was activate her latent mutant powers and so she got them back. I think she has some control, but not much. Now, if I'm reading the new gangster cat right, her powers are fading, but if she does something mean and cruel, she gets more powerful. Anyone out there- did I miss something?

  3. Jack

    Your historical summary elevates the bad-luck power feature way up. Catwoman is purely a thief/ninja motif. Bad-luck powers are an important differentiation. Take away the bad-luck power, and Felicia really is just a knock-off of Selina. I have never understood how the bad luck is supposed to work, or why it works. Has there ever been even a stab at explaining them? Does Felicia generate a "field" a la Scarlet Witch? Does she control it, or is it random?

  4. Mark Alford

    No, Enigma_2099, and now you have detention, which consists of reading the '90s clone saga during lunch.

  5. Andrew C

    Comics can be very educational. My moral compass was partly informed by the 'Spider-Man' comics I grew up with. Unfortunately I'm not sure that'd be the case now with a Peter Parker that sold his marriage to the devil. Well, thanks for the chat, Mark. It sounds like you make an effort to connect with your students and so I'm sure they're very lucky to have you.

  6. Mark Alford

    I'm always making Spider-Man allusions in class, greeting them at the door with Hail Hydra, and other nerdy stuff, but most of them don't get it.

  7. Andrew C

    Mark, as a general rule 'no.' However, I once taught a creative writing course in which students filled in pages of a blanked-out 'Superman' comic (blasphemy, I know) with their own original dialogue. It was interesting to see the different stories and conversations they came up with while relying solely on the pictures to guide them. You?

  8. Andrew C

    @Mark I'm actually an ESL instructor. I teach at a university in Taiwan, so it's mostly college kids and young adults.

  9. Mark Alford

    @ Evan and Andrew C - you know how to make an English teacher's day! I didn't think anyone read that far down in the post! I thought about trying to be clever and putting a comment like, "OK readers, because you demanded it, more Chicago Style in the crazy Crawlspace manner!", but who am I kidding? Chicago Style is the turd of citation formats. @ Frontier - glad I was able to find something new for you. Only die hard fans bother with history posts and you guys already know so much that it's a real challenge to find something new for you.

  10. Evan

    Chicago Style is way out of character for a Crawlspace post, and I refuse to recognize this as the Crawlspace post I know and love until you've returned to MLA style. Please let this all just be a dream sequence.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *