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Catman

Villain. Anti-hero. Washed up has been. Sex symbol. Thomas Blake, AKA Catman, is all these things. The character, as originally conceived by Bill Finger and Jim Mooney, was a world famous big cat trapper. After wasting his fortune he turned to crime, created a cat-themed gimmicks riffing on Batman before facing off against the Caped Crusader and also running afoul of Catwoman, who was not flattered by Catman copying her style. He had a number of appearances during the Silver Age before disappearing into comics limbo. Catman resurfaced post Crisis circa 1993 in Batman: Shadow of the Bat (#7 – 9) as a member of the Misfits, a team of D list villains led by Killer Moth, who were out to prove themselves.

Nearly a decade would pass before writer Brad Meltzer revived the character in a Green Arrow story arc, appearing in issues #16, 17, and 20, in which Oliver Queen is trying to recover personal effects while figuring out why Catman attended his private funeral (Obviously Queen got better.) Meltzer revealed that Blake had dyed his hair black, became out of shape, and was living in San Francisco after being placed in a witness protection program by Amanda Waller after he was instrumental in bringing down Monsieur Mallah. He was portrayed as an abrasive, angry, loser who still wore his costume only partially concealed under street clothes. In his final Green Arrow appearance, Oliver and Roy Harper drive to a restaurant where they discover Blake is physically and verbally abusing his previously unseen girlfriend. During the confrontation with Queen and Harper, a supervillain named Warp, an associate of Monsier Mallah who can create portals to travel through, suddenly appears and abducts Blake. The inference of a caption and close up of Monsieur Mallah licking his lips is that Mallah will eat Blake.

No matter what fate Meltzer had intended for him, Blake got better, and not just in the clichécomic book sense of a character returning from the dead, in the hands of Gail Simone. She took the character to use in her Villains United mini series whose popularity led to a Secret Six mini and then two ongoing series. Simone updated the character’s roots by sending him to live with a pride of lions somewhere in Africa and remade Blake from an out of shape loser into a highly trained fighter with a nuanced moral code. Blake became involved with the other members of Simone’s first Secret Six thanks to a perverse plot initiated by Mockingbird that hinged on Deadshot killing lion companions. During this time Simone wrote Catman being sexually involved with Cheshire and later flirting with Huntress, who was similarly interested but declined because he was more on the side of villains than she could accept. During this run Simone also created scenes and wrote dialog between Catman and Deadshot that were full of sexual innuendo, causing much fan speculation and slash written about the two men.

For whatever reasons a relationship between the two men never progressed beyond subtext until Simone made Catman’s bisexuality official in Secret Six #1 (2015). In his very first scene we see Blake sitting in a bar and welcoming the attention of a woman and man just before Mockingbird operatives disguised as federal ATF agents fight and detain him. Blake would later find himself confined in a seemingly impossible to escape from death trap along with five other mysterious characters. How they escape won’t be spoiled here. Let’s just say that they do escape and epic Simone style hijinx ensue. Along the way it becomes clear that both Shauna Belzer (Simone’s take on the Ventriloquist, an old Batman villain) and Porcelain are attracted to Catman.

First appearance of DCNU Catman is in Secret Six #1 (2015) and his bisexuality is shown in the same issue. The first appearance of DC’s Catman (unrelated to previous characters using the same name from other companies) is in Detective #311. Catman created by Bill Finger and Jim Mooney.

Art by Ken Lashley

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July 3, 2021
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