16 Nov 2012

CATWOMAN CAT-TALES - SAY HELLO TO THE THEATER OF COMIC BOOKS

By David Lee Andrews   Posted at  08:30   FAN-SITE

Catwoman Through The Agea Have you ever noticed how theatrical comic books truly are? By in large they normally start off with an opening banquet of sorts. Before continuing with chapters, acts, and scenes, denoting plot, exposition, and drama. Plus finally, to top it all off, they all end on a grand crescendo of mayhem, martyrdom, and mirth! Just like my buddy, Chris, as a matter of fact. Here, check out a conversation I had with my feline-pal just the other day, whilst reciting the play, 'Macbeth', in Flemish.





Catwoman in Action
1) What are your own origins, Chris? Plus what path did you take in life to get to where you are today?   Well, I’m from Pittsburgh originally. So of course I’m wildly partisan about how good Gotham City looked in certain parts of 'The Dark Knight Rises' compared to other films.

I’m a theater gal, and have spent most of my adult life working in the performing arts in some capacity, so -- how to put this -- I've been to a lot of fringe festivals and seen an awful lot of shows that are less like the big Broadway musicals that most people think of when you say ‘theater’ -- and a lot more like a guy at a party telling his best stories.

And the other aspect that sort of figures into my ‘origin’ -- in terms of writing Cat-Tales -- is that historically, theater is the voice of the bad boys. It’s the place where the rebels and the troublemakers and the rule-breakers would go to challenge the status quo, where they could mock the king with impunity and knock the proud and the pompous down a few pegs.

Sound like anybody we know?

Catwoman 40's
So, when everything that I saw as wrong with Batman comics reached a critical mass -- not just the portrayal of Catwoman, but the absolutely nonsensical ideas and attitudes that were being circulated and never being challenged -- the spark just happened: What if Selina was fed up too? You've got this grimy little newspaper getting it wrong about Catwoman time after time after time, and she says ‘Enough already’. Where would she go and what would she do to set the record straight in a really public way? Theater -- the world of off-off-off-Broadway theater that I knew -- seemed like a natural medium for her. ‘Catwoman at a party telling her best stories’, who wouldn't buy a ticket to that? She gave the audience a taste of that FUN of being bad. That kind of sexy, playful badness: getting away with something, having fun breaking the rules in a brazen and flamboyant way.

But I’m supposed to be talking about me more than her in this section—and maybe I am. This is fan fiction, I don’t own Batman or Catwoman -- I've been writing stories with ‘stolen’ characters for 10 years. The site is brazen, flamboyant, and I’m having a ball. So there you are.

GTA Gotham City
2) How would you describe your fan-site, catwoman-cattales.com?   Suppose nearly everything you’ve ever read in a Batman comic is wrong. The identities are correct: Bruce Wayne is Batman, Selina Kyle is Catwoman. They live in Gotham City. There is a Wayne Manor, a Batcave and Batsignal, and so on. But all the rest -- or at least, quite a lot of the rest -- is exaggeration, distortion, and sometimes the outright lies of a tabloid called 'The Gotham Post'. 'Cat-Tales' is the truth behind that fiction. The man behind the bat, the woman within the cat, the life between the panels and the truth behind the masks.

3) Apart from the way she looks, what else would you say attracts you to Catwoman as a character?   This is probably my favorite of the questions I’m asked on a regular basis. The problem is that my answer changes every time I answer it. Cats are funny that way. But there are three elements that are all connected: Fun, Confidence, and Life.

I already talked a little bit about the ‘fun of being bad’, and there’s a sexual element to that too. You know how you’ll have a period of these absurdly deadly sex symbols like the Theda Bara Cleopatra, Salome, and so on -- and later in the 40's, you've got all the femme fatales of film noir. In each case, immediately after those periods, a Marilyn Monroe or a Mae West would emerge -- almost always in comedies -- with this subtext of: Wait a minute, sex is fun. What’s with all the scowling and death? And it’s such a breath of fresh air! Those are the ones that wind up defining the era. A generation later, two generations, ten, they’re the ones that stick. And that’s Selina -- that should be Selina, when she’s presented properly.

Movie Catwoman
Another aspect that is so important, is that strength that comes from real confidence. Not the pretend kind that’s overcompensating for insecurity, but the kind of woman who knows who she is and owns who she is. And that’s who she’s going to be -- 100%. If you don’t like it, you better go somewhere else and find what you like, because she’s not going to tone it down or limit herself to suit your little idea of what she should to be.

And finally, there is a quality that the Broadway choreographer Bob Fosse called ‘Joy’ and I call ‘Extra life,’ and it’s one of those things that is very hard to describe but you know it when you’re in the presence of it. There are people who seem to be more alive than the rest of us. There is an intensity in their love and their hate. There is an electricity that crackles in the air around them when they do something they’re passionate about -- good or bad passion --  they can love it or hate it -- and that love or hate has a radius. It’s contagious. And I’m not talking about ‘drama queens’ -- it’s not something they say or do -- it’s not how they carry on -- it’s what they are. It’s something they carry inside them.

So that’s Selina: Fun, Confidence, Life. Now put it next to Bruce. Because that’s where the notes become music. There’s what she is, and then there is her effect on him.

Insert that vibrant, impulsive, mischievous, intensity and femininity into Bruce Wayne’s equally intense but clamped down, controlled and uber-masculine world, you have twelve tones that will produce an infinite variety of symphonies.

Talking Catwoman
4) Has your site received any praise by DC Comics, the media, or other noted sources?   My joke is that if DC knows I exist at all. I’m sure it’s only to burn me in effigy after particularly boring staff meetings. Remember, in Cat-Tales, they’re ‘The Gotham Post’, that’s almost like being the Republicans in an Aaron Sorkin script. They have ‘no conscience, no morals, and no reflection,’ as Selina says. That said, there have been a few little bits over the years in comics and other places that might or might not be a shout out. Some of my readers like to think they are; I am very reluctant to believe that. It’s much better for me to block out any thought of who might be reading if I want to go on writing the way I do.

There are a few nice quotes I've put up on the website that you’re free to look up, but the recognition that keeps me going is private. There was an email I received several years ago from 'Camp Victory' in Iraq. Due respect to DC and Warner Bros, but nothing anyone there could possibly say can come close to that, because ultimately: this is entertainment. The idea is to give people a little escape from the crappier parts of their life. And this man took the time and trouble to send me a letter saying Cat-Tales had done that.

5) If ‘CC’ was a piece of music, what would it be and why?   *laughs* That is a great question, and I really wish I had an answer that more of your readers might recognize. But alas…

The impish, feline, jazz piece I use on the website is called ‘That’s All He Wrote’ and it’s from the Robert Altman movie 'The Player'. I think it’s a wonderful theme for Selina and her ‘The world is my yarn toy’ attitude. It’s uptempo, but for all the percussion, it’s not masculine at all. The clarinet has some cat-yowls and there are some piano thump-thumps that sound just like a cat landing, to me anyway. It’s really terrific.




Modern Catwoman
6) What was the first comic book you ever read?   The first panels I remember reading was a Dick Tracy story when I was… God, I have no idea how young. Maybe 7 or 8 years old. I only got into reading seriously when I got to college. There was one of those wonderful stores right off campus -- in a basement -- you had to go down these steep stone steps to get there. Open the door, there was that smell of old paper. Wooden shelves with wicked rusty nails sticking out; you’d probably need a tetanus shot if you got spiked. Half the place was old paperbacks, and half were comics. Guy behind the counter: geriatric hippie. I would not have been surprised to learn he was at Woodstock in ‘69. I would not have been surprised to learn he was wearing the same shirt -- I loved this store.

Oh! And of course; it was back issue heaven. The first major arc I read there would have been the Doug Moench run prior to Crisis on Infinite Earths that went back and forth A/B/A/B between Batman and ‘Tec. I want to say drawn by the late Gene Colan, but I think there was some Tom Mandrake in there too.

90's Catwoman
7) What is your own opinion on the DC’s current run of Bat-books?   Don’t have one/ I haven’t been reading anything from DC in years. But they do get top marks for getting Norm Breyfogle back to draw pointy ears and scalloped bat-capes again. I would hope, now that the dust has settled on the New 52, that they’ll move him to a more prominent book.

8) What is the one thing that makes your site stand out compared to other comic book sites?   Cat-Tales are the stories that make you feel good, because we love these characters as much as you do. We understand that you want to be these characters, so you can trust your imaginations to us, knowing that we’re not going to take that away by changing everything you came for in the first place.

9) If you could sit all of the big-wigs from DC down in one room together, and impart some advice on their line of publications, what would you tell them and why?   Honestly, I think I’d take them out for a beer and talk about anything other than comics for at least half an hour. Find some common ground, whether it’s Italian food or college football or ‘puppies are cute’.  Because, I think the situation that has to be addressed before anything else is: the reader is not the enemy.

I’m a theater gal, and one of the best artistic directors I've seen gave what’s called a curtain speech before every performance of every show. And he’d talk to the audience like they were old friends, and you could tell that he was genuinely excited to show them what the company had been working on. And that enthusiasm was contagious. We were excited to see it too. The positive feeling was contagious. They’d been working on this to please us -- to entertain the people who came to see the show. You know, entertainment is very much like sex: your partner can tell if you don’t care about them and are only in it for your own gratification. Those curtain speeches conveyed that this is a partner who was obviously getting their pleasure from bringing about yours. And that’s the ballgame. That’s how you build up the trust with an audience that sees you through giving them a couple bad shows. You build up a lot of good will over all the good shows, so the occasional oops isn't a deal breaker.

That’s where comics started out. Now it’s devolved into the kind of defensive-combative dynamic you’d expect between the White House Press Secretary and the press corps. So that needs to be repaired first. And along with it, the idea that displeasing readers, angering and disappointing them, is just as good or better than pleasing them. That attitude’s got to go. None of the other problems matter if you don’t solve that one, because it doesn't matter if they know what to do to please the audience if they just don’t care to.

Catwoman in the 60's Batman TV Show
So we start off with a beer. Hopefully build some bridges. And after that, we’re going to dinner. And if Mr. Bigwig has ordered lasagna, we’ll have a little chat about what is on his plate. How the kitchen did not bring him fried chicken or grilled trout. They brought him layers of noodles and beef in tomato sauce and topped with cheese because he ordered lasagna. If he wanted chicken, we would have gone to a chicken place.

If, on the other hand, this place has some hotshot chef who has decided everybody is tired of lasagna made that way and he’s going to give us his ‘interpretation’ of the dish with layers of banana mash in place of the meat and maple syrup instead of the sauce… guess what? We’re leaving. We’re taking our business elsewhere, to a restaurant where they give you the food that you order. If a chef wants to make a noodle napoleon of banana mash with maple syrup, great! Go for it. But you don’t get to call it lasagna. And if you don’t want to make noodles and beef in tomato sauce and topped with cheese, then you have no business working in an Italian restaurant with lasagna on the menu. And the owners never should have hired you.

Wow! Thanks for that, Chris. You've made me feel hungry now! Hey! Dear reader? Do you know where to go to get me some 'banana mash'? Huh? You don't? Tut-tut-tut. Now to repent for your sin's, go and visit catwoman-cattales.com today. Plus don't forget to do the tweet-tweet / face-face thing too. Perrrrrfect. 


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