The Matt Signal – Episode 74: Catwalk

Plot summary: Selina Kyle struggles to maintain her promise to leave Catwoman behind her when The Ventriloquist and Scarface make her an offer she can’t refuse.

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Each Saturday and Sunday Matt Waters recaps an episode of the legendary Batman: The Animated Series, building an overall ranking along the way. Plus best performances, the ever-popular Villain Watch and more!

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Notes

Episode Title: ‘Catwalk’

Original Air Date: September 13th, 1995

Directed: Boyd Kirkland (18)

Written: Paul Dini (15)

Catwoman utters two literary references, ‘The Cat That Walked By Himself’ by Rudyard Kipling and ‘The Lady, or the Tiger?’ by Frank Stockton.

Tasmanian Tigers were real animals, but they definitely weren’t felines, and were only named tigers for their stripes. The last known specimen died in 1936.

One of Bruce Timm’s favourite episodes.

Recap

STOP THE PRESSES. This episode opens with a ‘black panther’ correctly identified as a black leopard. I am legitimately stunned given how often people talk about ‘black panthers’. Sorry, Selina Kyle attends an animal conservation event hosted by Veronica Vreeland.

Selina reminisces about her days as Catwoman, comparing herself to some of the extinct animals on display. She and Veronica get into it about the actions of Vreeland’s ancestor, leaving Bruce to make awkward apologies.

Hailing a taxi, Selina is promptly abducted by Ventriloquist and Scarface (with help from Rhino and Mugsy from ‘Read My Lips’) She initially laughs off their double act, but takes great interest when Scarface presents her with a fool-proof scheme to steal Veronica’s jewels.

Sure enough, Catwoman returns to the museum after hours… only to be set up by Scarface, who didn’t count on her ability to evade museum security and the police.

Batman demands an explanation, and she lies through her teeth about trying to catch the real thieves. Bruce convinces her to return to the museum to tell the police the ‘real’ story, but she instead makes a daring escape after noticing some of the stuffed animal exhibits are missing.

She infiltrates Scarface’s sawmill hideout, where he’s trying to sell the stuffed penguin to… The Penguin. Chaos ensues, with Batman following her and joining the fray.

Catwoman seizes Scarface and tosses him onto a conveyor belt heading towards an enormous buzzsaw. A desperate Wesker manages to overpower her and save the dummy… but Selina instead drops some enormous logs onto Scarface.

Batman prevents her from attacking the defenceless Wesker, so she forces his hand by tossing one of the ‘priceless’ animal replicas into a fire. He chooses to save the damn replica and Catwoman escapes.

Best Performance

I didn’t realise how much I missed Adrienne Barbeau until now. She continues to crush it when flirting outrageously with Batman, and I particularly loved her inner monologue about her first meeting with the Caped Crusader. But she also ensures Selina is never one-dimensional, effortlessly portraying her depressed sense of longing for her days as Catwoman.

George Dzundza continues to excel in the dual role of Ventriloquist and Scarface, and it’s honestly difficult not to select him instead. I suppose my justification is that Barbeau in my opinion demonstrated new depths, while Dzundza is delivering more of the same (an EXCELLENT same though!)

Ranking

The Joker had some so-so episodes before Paul Dini effectively took ownership of him with ‘Joker’s Favor’. Likewise, Catwoman has been a fun character in some pretty poor spotlight episodes up until now (we’re not counting ‘Almost Got ‘im’ as it’s an ensemble). Not only is it an excellent character study of Selina Kyle that draws on the show’s continuity (more on that below), it’s also just a fun little romp that benefits from the unexpected involvement of the Ventriloquist. Now that the majority of the villains have been introduced and spotlighted it makes sense to start creating interesting chaotic pairings, with this being a prime example.

Boyd Kirkland does his part too, with Selina’s daydream about her Catwoman days being one of the most sublime sequences in the whole show. I loved that they animated ostensibly her own stylised reinterpretation of the events of ‘The Cat and the Claw’ rather than just re-using old footage. The robbery and sawmill set-pieces are also a great deal of fun.

The only thing keeping it from a higher ranking is what feels like a messy middle portion, with Batman escorting Selina back to the museum only for her to escape again. Could he not have simply caught her in the act? That time could have gone towards stretching out the opening, or adding some more Ventriloquist scenes.

  1. The Laughing Fish
  2. Mask of the Phantasm
  3. Almost Got ‘im
  4. Heart of Ice
  5. Harlequinade
  6. The Trial
  7. Shadow of the Bat Part I
  8. I Am the Night
  9. Robin’s Reckoning Part I
  10. The Man Who Killed Batman
  11. Perchance to Dream
  12. Two-Face Part I
  13. A Bullet For Bullock
  14. Joker’s Favor
  15. Read My Lips
  16. Feat of Clay Part II
  17. Catwalk (NEW ENTRY)
  18. The Demon’s Quest Part II
  19. Harley and Ivy
  20. Robin’s Reckoning Part II
  21. House & Garden
  22. Beware the Gray Ghost
  23. Mad as a Hatter
  24. Heart of Steel Part II
  25. Appointment In Crime Alley
  26. Two-Face Part II
  27. Pretty Poison
  28. Shadow of the Bat Part II
  29. Feat of Clay Part I
  30. His Silicon Soul
  31. Off Balance
  32. Vendetta
  33. Birds of a Feather
  34. Heart of Steel Part I
  35. On Leather Wings
  36. See No Evil
  37. The Clock King
  38. It’s Never Too Late
  39. Joker’s Wild
  40. Eternal Youth
  41. The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy
  42. The Cat and the Claw Part I
  43. Zatanna
  44. Day of the Samurai
  45. Avatar
  46. The Demon’s Quest Part I
  47. The Mechanic
  48. The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne
  49. Terror in the Sky
  50. P.O.V.
  51. Christmas with the Joker
  52. Fear of Victory
  53. Be a Clown
  54. The Worry Men
  55. What is Reality?
  56. Fire From Olympus
  57. Night of the Ninja
  58. Mudslide
  59. The Cat and the Claw Part II
  60. Nothing to Fear
  61. Prophecy of Doom
  62. Tyger, Tyger
  63. Blind as a Bat
  64. If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?
  65. Dreams In Darkness
  66. The Last Laugh
  67. Cat Scratch Fever
  68. Moon of the Wolf
  69. Paging the Crime Doctor
  70. Time Out of Joint
  71. Sideshow
  72. The Under-Dwellers
  73. The Forgotten
  74. The Terrible Trio
  75. I’ve Got Batman in My Basement

Villain Watch

Catwoman (Adrienne Barbeau) (sixth appearance)

Long-time no see for Selina Kyle, who made a lot of appearances in a short space of time but hasn’t shown her face since ‘Almost Got ‘im.’ I assume they just ran out of ideas for her, with Batgirl, Talia al Ghul and Andrea Beaumont fulfilling her typical flirty, sarcastic role.

The solution? Make her an antagonist again! I don’t object to her as an anti-hero, but leaning so heavily in the direction of good after only two episodes with her as the traditional coquettish thief definitely cut her legs out from under her.

While she’s definitely made some appearances as Catwoman after being banned from doing so, the wistful flashback sequence still works incredibly well by invoking the show’s history. Barbeau makes it believable that the character sincerely feels incomplete, and what starts as a hesitant dipped toe becomes a full on rampage, and she’s utterly glorious once she’s got her groove back. They really earned her return to the dark side. Back up the rankings she goes!

The Ventriloquist (George Dzundza) (third appearance)

You don’t get a huge amount more from the character than you did in ‘Read My Lips’, but it’s such a phenomenal elevator pitch that I honestly don’t care. He has no business featuring in a Catwoman-focused episode, and yet if he didn’t appear, we’d have been robbed of her stealing Scarface and Wesker having a meltdown. Also, Scarface conning other people for his benefit is a nice beat.

Rhino & Mugsy (Earl Boen) (second appearance)

There’s barely any characterisation at all for these two here beyond being Scarface’s heavies. But… I refuse to move them. Soz.

  1. The Joker
  2. Poison Ivy
  3. Harley Quinn
  4. Mr. Freeze
  5. Two-Face
  6. The Ventriloquist
  7. Catwoman
  8. The Phantasm
  9. Mad Hatter
  10. Penguin
  11. HARDAC (and Randa Duane)
  12. Clayface
  13. Ra’s al Ghul
  14. The Riddler
  15. Lloyd Ventrix
  16. Count Vertigo
  17. Clock King
  18. Killer Croc
  19. Nivens
  20. Josiah Wormwood
  21. Scarecrow
  22. Roland Daggett (and Germs & Bell!)
  23. Rupert Thorne
  24. Talia al Ghul
  25. Sid the Squid
  26. Thoth Khepera
  27. Maxie Zeus
  28. Jimmy ‘Jazzman’ Peake
  29. Tony Zucco
  30. Man-Bat
  31. Hugo Strange
  32. Red Claw
  33. Arnold Stromwell
  34. Mad Bomber
  35. Tygrus
  36. Rhino, Mugsy and Ratso
  37. Kyodai Ken
  38. Gil Mason
  39. Nostromos (and Lucas!)
  40. Cameron Kaiser
  41. Dr. Dorian (and Garth)
  42. Mad Dog
  43. Ubu
  44. Professor Milo
  45. Romulus
  46. Sewer King
  47. Boss Biggis
  48. Montague Kane
  49. The Terrible Trio

Plugs

Eager for more long-form coverage of Batman? Why not check out my podcast with Mike Thomas, The Tape Crusaders, which reviewed every Batman movie and delved a tiny bit into the animated series… and The Snyder Cut!

Apparently doing this twice a week wasn’t enough for me as I’ve just launched Marvel Mondays which will recap the most recent episode of the various MCU TV Shows, starting with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

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Matt Waters

Brit dude who likes both things AND stuff and has delusions of being some kind of writer or something. Basketball, video games, comic books, films, music, other random stuff.

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