Trained to perfection as an acrobat and burglar, Catwoman has no need for metahuman abilities. Despite this, the Feline Fatale recently acquired a thematically appropriate superpower. It is unclear, however, precisely how she managed this.
The final chapter of the Gotham War event showed Selina Kyle and Vandal Savage falling to certain death. However, the closing pages of the comic revealed that Catwoman somehow survived, landing on her metaphorical feet. No explanation was offered for this, until Catwoman #59 by Tini Howard, Stefano Raffaele, and Veronica Gandini.
Catwoman Was Reborn With Nine Lives
Early in Catwoman #59, Selina Kyle discusses the rumors of her death with her protégé, Eiko Hasigawa. Selina claimed to have been dug out of the pit she fell into by a strange, cat-loving woman. The woman told her that all cats were reborn nine times, just before the cats clawed Selena’s back. The woman and the cats vanished instantly.
Catwoman thought nothing of the odd encounter at first, but noticed that she’d been feeling remarkable given the injuries she should have. At first she thought perhaps she had acquired the enhanced constitution that Vandal Savage was trying to regain. Then she noticed there were nine claw patterns in her back and one of them had turned black, like a tattoo. This gave Selina the idea that she’d been offered “extra doses of immortality,” granting her the legendary nine lives of a cat.
Selina put the theory to the test while breaking into the private estate of an assassin called Santa Espada. During the mission, Selina suffered a lethal shock climbing an electrified wall, and was stabbed in the heart by Santa Espada. Upon returning home, Selena confirmed that two more of the claw marks on her back had turned black. This, she believed, confirmed her newfound superpower, and that she had six lives to go.
Catwoman’s History of Rebirth and Multiple Lives
The idea of Catwoman having extra lives has been explored before in media apart from the comics. The most famous example of this was the Selena Kyle played by Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns. This version of Selena believed she had nine lives after her spiritual rebirth as Catwoman. She went on to survive eight potentially fatal injuries over the course of the film.
This idea was later used as the core of the 2004 Halle Berry Catwoman film. This film proposed that the cat goddess Bastet rewarded worthy women who had died violently a chance at vengeance. The movie’s heroine, Patience Phillips, was one such woman, and it was stated that Pfeiffer’s Selena Kyle was another.
The Wildcat Connection
While the connection to the cinematic Catwomen is tenuous, there is another cat-themed heroes with nine lives at DC. The Justice Society of America member Ted “Wildcat” Grant also had mystic superpowers tied to his totem animal. He kept these abilities secret, however, playing at being a humble heavyweight boxer, with no powers beyond his fighting prowess.
Wildcat acquired his powers after being cursed by the magical villain King Inferno, who tried to turn Ted Grant into his namesake. While unable to remove the curse, King Inferno’s rival Zatara was able to alter the spell. He turned Ted Grant into a cat in spirit, giving him excellent night vision and nine lives. The spell also made him immune to mind control, as it is popularly believed impossible to make a cat do anything it doesn’t want to do. Wildcat later learned that the lives renewed and that he had to be killed nine times in rapid succession to truly die.
There’s still no firm connection between Wildcat’s nine lives and Catwoman’s newfound longevity, though the strange, cat-loving woman that seemingly resurrected Selena Kyle points to some mystic influence watching over her.
Catwoman #59 is now available at comics shops everywhere.