This is only a guess, but we’re pretty sure that the two most popular things on the Internet are 1) pictures of sexy women, and 2) cats. Why cats? Who knows. But Batman co-creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger were definitely on to one of humanity’s odd tics when they conjured up Catwoman. Despite her status as a relatively peripheral player in the comic book megaverse, the coy character has proved enduring and incredibly popular, inspiring several indelible Hollywood performances and choice fashion moments (not to mention spawning millions of “sexy cat” Halloween costumes).
Introduced in the debut issue of Batman, in 1940, Catwoman was originally known just as the Cat. In that issue, she appeared sans her iconic costume, as well: The character was merely a slinky, seductive cat burglar (hence the name). Since then, the part heroine/part villainess has evolved quite a bit, emerging as a shaded love interest for Batman, a sometime ally as well as his foil. The fact that Catwoman is neither entirely bad nor entirely good has made her character, ahem, catnip for serious Hollywood actresses. The latest to slink into her latex suit is Anne Hathaway, who plays the role in this summer’s The Dark Knight Rises. Here, ahead of the film’s release, we pay homage to the ultimate feline fatale.

—Maya Singer

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