Monday, July 23, 2012

Here Kitty Kitty

Awhile ago, I started writing pieces about Batman villains. Today's post is about Catwoman, most recently portrayed by Anne Hatheway, although not ever named Catwoman in the film, the character has similar traits, appearance, and modis operandi, and shares the same alter ego Selina Kyle.

Selina Kyle, The Cat, or Catwoman, debuted in 1940 in Batman #1, the same issue that debuted The Joker.  Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, Catwoman appears as a cat themed cat-burglar (clever) wielding a whip. A femme fatale character, Selina Kyle seems to have similarities to several film noir actresses, and Irene Adler from Sherlock Holmes.

Her original origin cast her as a former flight attendant with amnesia who began a life of crime. Later stories have her recant this statement, admitting she lied. In 1987 Frank Miller rewrote the origin, casting Selina as a reformed prostitute, turned cat burglar. In Jeph Loeb's Long Halloween/Dark Victory saga, there is a strongly hinted, but never fully revealed relationship between Selina Kyle and Carmine Falcone. She believes she is his illegitimate daughter, travels to Sicily to find the truth, but can never find proof.

The femme fatale is a staple of pulp fiction noir, and Catwoman initially was created to fill that role in the darker pulp world of the original 1940s Batman comics. She has always been a female foil for Batman, and even in the original comics she and Batman blur the lines of the relationship between hero and villain.

Like most women, she can't decide what to wear
During the campy child friendly years of the 50's and 60's, she morphed into one of several villains with compulsory themes, hers being cat-related items. Frank Miller's Year One storyline recreated her as a product of a darker, seedier criminal element (prostitution, dominatrixing, drugs). Eventually Catwoman evolved into an anti-hero, a protector of her neighborhood, much like Daredevil in Marvel comics, or the Green Hornet.

The problem with making Catwoman a hero, and giving her her own title, is the need for an origin, a supporting cast, family members. When she started to become not just a thief is when things started getting silly. I feel like this character would be better off, like the Joker, without an origin story. The best Catwoman stories operate with the premise that no one knows where she came from, and she isn't telling. Part of what makes a femme fatale is the mystery surrounding her.

Personally, I like the Selina Kyle/Catwoman found in Jeph Loeb's stories, and in the Arkham City game, and in the Dark Knight Rises. She is a thief operating under her own set of morals and values, with her own agenda. A villain only in the sense that she does commit crimes, Catwoman doesn't appear to have a psychosis of the sort found in most other Gotham villains, she still has a conscience and aids Batman for the greater good. The mystery surrounding her, where she came from, what her agenda is, and this weird frustrating relationship she has with Batman, which never really becomes a relationship are the best parts of the character, and make her a pretty substantial part of the Batman universe.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Blues Behind Bars

BB King
Live in Cook County Jail
1971, MCA
produced by Bill Szymczyk

BB King - Lucille, vocals
Wilbert Freeman - bass
Sonny Freeman - drums
John Browning - trumpet
Louis Hubert - tenor sax
Booker Walker - alto sax
Ron Levy - piano

Apparently known as "the Chairman of the Board of Blues Guitarists", BB King kills it in this performance at Cook County Jail in Chicago.  Another fine live album recorded with the incarcerated (Live from Folsom Prison and at San Quentin both by Johnny Cash), BB King rolls out a few classic tracks, and even "goes back a little further".

I read a review that Jon Landau wrote in 1971 on this album.  And I've come to the conclusion that Landau is an idiot.  His least favorite part of the album is the best part (Someday Baby) and pretty much highlights how much Landau doesn't understand the blues.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Chicks Can Rock

Dead Sara
Dead Sara
2012, DIY
Emily Armstrong - vocals, guitars
Siouxsie Medley - guitars, vocals
Sean Friday - drums
Chris Null - bass

singles -
  • Weatherman
  • We are What you Say
I love this album. I would go as far as to say it is the best hard rock album of the year. Not only is it good, but the band is also not signed to a label. This band, fronted by two women (guitars and vocals) and backed up by an all male rhythm section (bass and drums) rocks the roof off with tracks like the Weatherman, Lemon Scent, and We are What you Say. I discovered them right after a DJ for my favorite radio station discovered them and started playing their single.  

The sound is a blend of hard rock and punk, much like Paramour and Garbage. On top of this, the band has been endorsed by the legendary Grace Slick, who stated that Emily Armstrong was the female singer whom she admired most. Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters (and Nirvana too) said this band should be the next biggest band in the world. Those are some pretty big endorsements, but this band certainly lives up to them.