Catman featured in the artwork for the cover of the third printing of Villains United #1.
Art by Dale Eaglesham
|First appearance||Detective Comics #311 (Jan. 1963)|
|Created by||Bill Finger
|Alter ego||Thomas Reese Blake|
|Team affiliations||Secret Six
|Abilities||Superb athlete, hand-to-hand combatant, hunter, and tracker
Uses cat-themed weapons and equipment
Catman is a modern version of a fictional character in comic books published by DC Comics who was initially a supervillain and arch-rival of Batman (although in recent years has developed into a more capable and antiheroic figure). He first appeared in Detective Comics #311 (Jan. 1963). A different Cat-Man once opposed the Blackhawks in Blackhawk #141, but he has no connection with the more prominent Batman villain.
Fictional character biography
Catman was originally Thomas Blake, a world-famous trapper of jungle cats who turned to crime because he had grown bored with hunting and had squandered most of his fortune as a millionaire. He became a burglar who committed his crimes in a catsuit made out of an ancient African cloth. His costume was modeled after Catwoman's disguise. Catwoman was none too pleased to have her modus operandi copied, which included Selina Kyle (Catwoman) being wrongly implicated for Catman's crimes at least once and initially helped Batman. As with many Batman villains in their first appearances, Catman was originally a gimmicked villain who stole items along a "cat" theme, such as cat statues, "cat's eyes" emeralds, etc. His weapon of choice was a pair of steel claw-tipped gloves and the razor edged "catarang".
Catman would reappear once more, this time revealing that the orange African cloth in his uniform gave him nine lives. The character first shows his capability for good causes when he rescues Batwoman from nearly dying. He gives her some of his costume fabric, believing she too will have nine lives. He resumes his criminalistic ways, but Batwoman (temporarily infiltrating his trust to be his new partner, with a new costume as "Cat-Woman") reasons the entire cloth has only nine lives, not individual pieces, and manipulates events until Catman only has one remaining, causing him to turn himself in.
In 1990, Catman was revived in the pages of Detective Comics, this time working alongside Catwoman in battle against Batman. This alliance would not last, however, as Catwoman became tired of Catman's abusive attitude towards women, and turned against her former partner.
In 1992, Catman appeared in Batman: Shadow of the Bat as a member of a team called "the Misfits", led by Killer Moth. The Misfits were portrayed as third-rate villains trying to prove themselves, foreshadowing Brad Meltzer's treatment of the character in Green Arrow. Catman reappeared in a 1995 crossover between Shadow of the Bat and Catwoman. In this story, the cloth that Catman's costume was made from was retconned as belonging to a South Sea cat cult. Catwoman was hired by the cult to return the cloth, but gave them a fake.
Catman remained in limbo until 2003, when he resurfaced as a foe of Green Arrow. Written by Brad Meltzer, Catman was portrayed as a pathetic, overweight loser who was looked down upon by other villains and who is easily defeated by Green Arrow. His hair had been dyed black, which he thought "made [him] look tougher". In issue 20 vol 3, Monsieur Mallah sends Warp to abduct Blake, the implication being that Catman had met a rather grisly end as Mallah's dinner; this situation is alluded to by Blake, when he joins the Secret Six: "You know you've hit rock bottom when a monkey and a Frenchman don't consider you worth killing". When he later meets Monsieur Mallah, he comments that he has no desire to see the gorilla's stomach again.
In the 2005 mini-series Villains United, Catman resurfaced in Africa, where he attempted to resalvage his life and began living with a pride of lions. He used this time to lose weight and regain his sense of self-worth and fighting skills. This 'perfect existence' would be shattered by the arrival of the Secret Society of Super Villains, however. Seeking to unite all of Earth's super-villains under his control, Lex Luthor (secretly Alexander Luthor, Jr. of the original Earth Three in disguise) sought to recruit Catman into the fold as a minion, only to be rejected. It was initially believed that an angry Lex Luthor had Deathstroke kill the lions Catman was living with in retaliation for being rejected by a "nobody" but this was later revealed to have been misdirection.
Catman vowed revenge against Luthor, and was subsequently recruited into a criminal syndicate known as the Secret Six. Together, the Secret Six waged war against the Secret Society of Super Villains under the direction of an individual known only as Mockingbird. During that time he found out that it was in fact fellow Secret Six member Deadshot who had killed his lions, so that he would join the organization. Deadshot would later apologize, and Catman forgave him. Although the two were reluctant allies at first, the two soon bonded and became what one could loosely call friends.
Under Villains United writer Gail Simone, Catman has achieved a new level of fame. Portrayed as a cunning warrior with a sense of honor, the character is now a potent antihero. He is depicted with physical abilities that allow him to fight Mallah to a standstill and to blind Captain Nazi. He is different from most other villains in the sense that he has noble and heroic qualities. While Cheshire notes that Blake behaves more like a hero than a villain, he sees heroes such as the Justice League as being arrogant and abusive of their power, as seen when he confronts Green Arrow about the Doctor Light incident. It has been revealed that during his time with the Six he impregnated Cheshire and that the two now have a son, Thomas Jr.
In Gail Simone's Birds of Prey #104, the Secret Six run into Barbara Gordon's team. Huntress and Catman - out of disguise, dance together, with hints of an attraction. The two teams battle, six members for six, Catman paired against Huntress amidst sexual innuendo, but the fray ends with the resurrection of Ice. Commenting upon Catman's reasonings, Knockout claimed that he had "gone soft". In 2008's Salvation Run #3, Catman and former Secret Six teammates Scandal and Rag Doll are depicted amongst DC's larger villain population, exiled on a faraway planet.
Catman reappeared in the new Secret Six ongoing series, which takes place after the events of Salvation Run. Blake spent some time back in Africa, where he brutally attacked a gang of poachers and may have left them for dead. His actions have led Catman to wonder if he has the temperament to be on the side of the angels.
It was in his role as leader of the Secret Six that Catman faced Batman again after many years. Batman tried to warn Catman and his team to not accept their mission to break someone out of Alcatraz. The non-personal warning did not work, so Batman went to confront Catman. Catman said in response, "The old me? Probably would've whooped his milk and cookies." He made no hesitation to throw the first punch at the Dark Knight. During the fight, Batman even offered to pay the Secret Six off, but to no avail. Catman's main goal was just to keep Batman distracted as the Secret Six broke Tarantula out of prison.
After the cancellation of the series in August 2011, Gail Simone revealed on her Tumblr that Catman is in fact bisexual, and that she had planned to reveal this in a story arc that was cut short by the September 2011 DC relaunch. Simone has also said that she plans to make this canon the next time she writes Catman in a book.
Powers and abilities
Catman is an Olympic-level athlete and skilled hand-to-hand combatant, able to hold his own against some of the most proficient beings and fighters in the DC universe, including Bronze Tiger, Batman, and an actual lion. He is also one of the world's foremost hunters and trackers, possessing an extraordinary sense of smell.
He wears razor-tipped gauntlets and uses a sharp-edged Catarang, modeled after Batman's Batarang, and a utility belt similar to Batman's. The belt frequently has a smiley face button, a trophy he claimed from a misleading pilot on a mission with the Secret Six. Catman has claimed several times, both in his early appearances and modern ones, that his cape is mystical and able to restore mortal wounds.
He was once the owner of a pet Siberian tiger named Rasputin, which was trained and helped him commit crimes. Rasputin has not been utilized in his modern appearances to date.
King of the Cats
A character similar to Catman debuted in the 1950s named "King of the Cats". In reality, he was Karl Kyle, brother of Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman. This version of the character is also a burglar motivated to steal by an intense sibling rivalry with his sister. His crimes torment Catwoman, as she has loyalties to both her brother and her nemesis/love interest, Batman.
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #46-49 would introduce the post-Crisis Catman, this time as a leather catsuit-wearing serial killer who murders women with knife-like claws because they remind him of his abusive mother. Batman and Catwoman form a shaky alliance to stop him, although they have different agendas: Batman wants to apprehend him, while Catwoman wants him dead. They eventually catch him and, between the two of them, beat him to a bloody pulp, although Batman is able to restrain Catwoman from committing murder. Within the story, he is informally called the Catman by the Gotham Police and his driver's license identifies him as Thomas Blake.
In other media
- Thomas Blake appears in The New Batman Adventures episode "Cult of the Cat" voiced by Scott Cleverdon. He appears not as an archcriminal, but as the leader of a cat-worshiping cult. As in previous incarnations, he wears gloves equipped with knives as claws but is otherwise dressed in a simple black shirt and pants.
- A version of Catman previously appears in The Batman Adventures comic series prior to Blake's appearance on the actual series. This version is closer to the comic book version of Thomas Blake, with a background as a former big game hunter who would sell living captures to zoos and circuses. Blake calls himself Catman, dons a masculine version of the Batman: The Animated Series Catwoman costume, and commits copycat crimes in an attempt to gain the romantic attention of Catwoman.
- Also, an entirely different character named Cat Man from an alternate reality was featured in the two-part episode "Legends" of Justice League voiced by Stephen Root. He is a pastiche of the Golden Age Batman and Golden Age Wildcat.
- Catman appears in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Legends of the Dark Mite" voiced by Thomas F. Wilson. He fights Batman and Ace the Bat-Hound. Batman catches him in the act of auctioning off an endangered Sumatran tiger. He is also seen in "A Bat Divided!" hanging out with the bad guys at a bar until Firestorm and the three Batmen show up.
- Catman appears in an episode of the "Fairly Odd Parents" voiced by Adam West where Timmy (the shows main protagonist) finds Catman an alternate career that keeps him out of trouble. The episode contains numerous cultural references to Catman.
- Catman appears in the animated movie Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. He is one of the many villains trying to kill Superman.
Catman appears as one of the villains in Batman: The Brave and the Bold – The Videogame. Thomas F. Wilson reprises his role. In the game, he teams up with Catwoman to steal an ancient artifact to turn all the cops in Gotham into cats, and terrorize the city. When they vandalize Wayne Manor, he attempts to seduce Catwoman, but fails, and becomes angry when the Dynamic Duo show up to stop them.
- Catman appears in one of the Hostess ads in comic books during the 1970s. Catman's ad is for Hostess cupcakes.
- Adam West guest stars in The Fairly OddParents as himself, an actor who plays a superhero named Catman, with the colors of the character while using mannerisms like West's incarnation of Batman.
- List of Batman Family enemies
- List of DC Comics characters
- List of superheroes and villains without superpowers
- Wallace, Dan (2008), "Cat-Man", in Dougall, Alastair, The DC Comics Encyclopedia, New York: Dorling Kindersley, p. 73, ISBN 0-7566-4119-5, OCLC 213309017
- Detective Comics #318
- Detective Comics #612
- Gail Simone's Tumblr, "Who was the bisexual man in the Secret Six?"
- Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #46
- Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #47
- Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #49
- Flashpoint: Grodd of War one-shot (June 2011)
- GameInformer #208, August 2010