Monday, 21 November 2011


It’s that time again folks! This week, we kick off our winter series of films with the 1992 Tim Burton film, Batman Returns!

Now, you are all familiar with Batman (you are familiar with Batman, right?), so we are just going to take a look at the history of the film’s villains, Catwoman and the Penguin!

Catwoman made her first appearance in Batman #1 from 1940 as “the Cat,” a standard issue burglar with no costume. This would change shortly thereafter in Batman #3, though to be honest, her first mask was perhaps a little too on the nose.
Anyways, Catwoman is Selina Kyle, a thief who has enjoyed a flirtatious relationship with the caped crusader ever since her first appearance. This relationship is well captured in this silent animated short, Chase Me:

Origins for the character differ from version to version, including one in which she turns to crime due to a blow to the head (I kid you not). The more familiar origin of recent years is one in which she is a prostitute who is inspired (in part) by the presence of Batman to begin her career as a thief with a theme.

The character has made plenty of appearances in other media, including in the 1960s Batman TV series as played by Julie Newmar…

…and in the 1968 Batman animated series. I can’t help but love how the villains send Batman and Robin gimmicky valentines:

The Penguin would show up roughly a year after Catwoman first appeared, in Detective Comics # 58. The character was inspired either by emperor penguins, if you believe co-creator Bill Finger, or by the Kool Cigarette ads of the 1940s, if you believe credited Batman creator Bob Kane. The character, whose real name is Oswald Cobblepot, originally appeared as a thief with a bird gimmick.

In Batman Returns, the Penguin’s story involves him entering into politics as he seeks to be the mayor of Gotham. This was not the first time he ran for political office however, as this clip from the 1960s Batman series attests to:

Burgess Meredith's Penguin was the villain to appear most often in the 1960s series, including in the 1966 feature film version of the program. These appearances established the character as one of the most iconic of Batman’s foes. A radically different interpretation of the character appears in Burton’s film, and in the classic 1990s television show, Batman: The Animated Series.

These foes are not the only one Batman has to contend with in Batman Returns however, with crooked millionaire Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) manipulating events throughout the film. The character has no basis in the comics, but the name comes from famous silent film star Friedrich Gustav Max Schreck, whose most famous work has to be his performance as Count Orlok in Nosferatu (1922):

But enough with the history of the characters! Check back with us soon for our discussion of Batman Returns!

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