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Catwoman 1940s (Batman character) (Golden Age DC Comics)

Catwoman

(Profile #1 - 1940-1946)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

“Once again, the female spitfire bares her claws and wages her nine lives in a mighty duel with the Dynamic Duo !”


Context

This is an emergent history profile. That is, it covers Catwoman’s 1940-1946 appearances without any later material. Later versions are different, so this profile is *specifically* the 1940s character.


Background

  • Real Name: Marguerite Tone
  • Other Aliases: Miss Peggs, Elva Barr, “the tigress queen of crime”, “the mistress of menace”, “the ruthless queen of roguery”, Belinda, “the princess of plunder” and others
  • Note: Her crime name starts as “The Cat” but keeps evolving – first “The Cat Woman”, then “The Cat-Woman”, then “The Catwoman”
  • Marital Status: Single
  • Known Relatives: None
  • Group Affiliation: Leader of her own criminal crew
  • Base Of Operations: Gotham City
  • Height: 5’5” Weight: 115 lbs.
  • Eyes: Unrevealed, but our bet would be green Hair: Black (but frequently dyed)


Powers & Abilities

The Cat is a high-end thief who chiefly works using subterfuge, and is known for her exceptional intelligence and beauty. Her many talents include :

  • acting and undercover work
  • disguise and voice mimicry – which she frequently uses in the field
  • crafting remarkably lifelike masks if she has access to the subject
  • underworld intelligence gathering and legwork
  • persuasion and seduction
  • heist casing
  • getaway driving (and even driving bulldozers, somehow)
  • fashion modelling
  • beautician work
  • sprinting (though she’s not as fast as the Batman)
  • endurance swimming (including whitewater swimming and high diving)

Other assets

The Cat Woman is lithe, athletic and has excellent endurance. However this is a 1940s comics, so she’s unable to engage in fisticuffs due to genre conventions. Knocking somebody out with a big vase from behind is always an option for everyone, of course.

While she doesn’t get to punch or kick (even in self-defense – she’s essentially helpless if a guy grabs her), The Cat soon gets to shove her opponents and escape while they are destabilised. The Cat Woman can do that even against the Batman, kissing him and shoving him off while he’s surprised.

More generally she’s good with sudden movements.

1940s Catwoman, Batman and Robin

The Cat sometimes lets her nails grow and shapes them as claws. This cannot be called a weapon, but it can inflict painful gashes to people who do not know how to defend themselves.

Though she has no signature gear, she uses ordinary equipment, such as a handgun (our game stats assume a Colt M1908 Pocket Hammerless as a credible choice), flash powder (as used by stage magicians as a sort of low-powered flash grenade) or a getaway car.

Most of her plans will also involve backup thugs — probably a half-dozen with handguns — as she runs her own gang.

Strange tales

At one point she briefly hypnotized a prison matron using a cats’ eye gem. That seemed to be an almost literal get-out-of-jail-free card kept as a last resort, and not reusable once the authorities got wise to it.

In one story the Cat demonstrates an ability to miraculously escape certain death, supposedly because she has “nine lives”. This just pops in, eight lives get expanded, and it’s not mentioned again during this era.

Our game stats conservatively assume Luck and a freak series of good dice rolls, but perhaps she did have a genuine if inexplicable Dumb Luck Power (only active against grievous bodily harm) for a week or two. I blame the Luck Lords .

The Cat-Woman once had something super-villain-ish built – the Cat-acombs, a dastardly underground maze that delayed even Batman and Robin for hours. Such things were not part of her usual M.O. back then, but the Cat-acombs might get reused in a story set during this era.


History

The Cat (aka the Cat Woman) appeared in 1940. At this point, she was already reputed as the “slickest and prettiest jewel thief in the business”.

The Cat was one of the crooks attempting to steal the invaluable necklace owned by Mrs. Travers. She infiltrated a yachting party by associating with Mrs. Travers’ crooked nephew, and disguising herself as a nice little old lady.

The theft went swimmingly despite an attack by heavily-armed thieves, who were stopped by Batman and Robin. However, the Dynamic Duo then exposed the elderly “Miss Peggs” as the stunning if amoral Cat, and arrested her.

Though Batman refused her offer to become associates in crime, he was smitten with her. He let her escape as they reached Gotham – so the Cat wouldn’t go to prison.

The Cat Woman vs. the Joker

Mere weeks later, the Batman caught the Cat Woman again, as she was spying in disguise on the Joker’s mob. He offered to let her go if she’d tell him where the Joker was hiding, and she took the deal.

However, what she did not tell the Caped Crusader was that she had been spying on the Joker because they were both interested in stealing the same jewel.

The Cat Woman vamped the gem’s owner who invited her in – but when she came in her mark had just been murdered by the Joker. The madman threatened her at gunpoint, but Robin — who had been tailing the Cat Woman, so to speak — swooped in.

Catwoman in the 1940s, with the cat mask

When the Joker defeated the young crimefighter, The Cat offered the jewel in exchange for the boy’s life, which bought enough time for Batman to come in. The Cat Woman and the Dynamic Duo then escaped from a raging fire in the Batplane. At the last moment, The Cat escaped with a daring dive into a torrent.

The Cat was then hired by a pair of crooked diamonds dealers to steal some of their most valuable pieces. She infiltrated the next jewelry show by posing as a model, and made her escape with a fortune in diamonds. However, one of her two employers double-crossed The Cat and his associate, attempting to kill them both to get all the loot.

Batman and Robin came in in time to save everyone, but the Cat escaped by kissing Batman, shoving him away while he was distracted, and stealing a getaway car.

Policing Tone

In 1942, the Cat Woman is retconned  as Marguerite Tone, a bored and single Gotham socialite who became a thief as she craved thrills and danger. Why Bruce Wayne never recognized Tone as the Cat is left unaddressed.

Tone, whose parties are prized by the Gotham high society, organises a citywide scavenger hunt. Of course, it serves as a cover for her accomplices to steal a bunch of valuables. Batman promptly deduces that Marguerite is The Cat, and foils her next plan – a costume party providing cover for a bunch of thugs to impersonate Batman and steal more valuables.

The Dynamic Duo also foiled her plot involving thugs trained to become impeccable manservants infiltrating rich households. And then her lost-and-found agency that made money returning the goods stolen by The Cat. Batman stopped an irate criminal from shooting the Cat Woman, who kissed the Caped Crusader as a thank then escaped in the confusion.

Raising Barr

In 1943, The Cat returns as… Elva Barr, a working class beautician.

However this is all a ploy, as this cover allows her to craft a lifelike mask of a rich client, and take extensive recordings of her voice. The Cat Woman thus successfully infiltrates and robs a society marriage, but the Batman is wise to her and takes out her henchmen.

Before the Batman lets the Cat escape, she confesses a crush on Bruce Wayne, whom she recently met as Barr. Wayne and Barr have a whirlwind romance and are soon engaged – but the wary and wily Cat Woman soon discovers that it is a ploy to reform her.

Furious, she returns to her criminal ways, but the Dynamic Duo arrests her as she and her men are stealing pedigree dogs at a show. This time, Batman does not let her go and she goes to prison.

Can’t keep a bad girl down

Escaping within months, the Cat seduced a number of hapless butlers, allowing her men to commit a string of very successful robberies in these households. She even seduced Alfred and had him knocked out by her men, but her robbing of the Wayne manor ultimately failed and she was arrested anew.

In 1946, the Catwoman escaped from prison by hypnotising a matron.

However, only two of her henchmen still agreed to follow her. The rest thought that working with her was too likely to result in arrest by the Batman. But with her two loyal men, the Catwoman tricked the deserters into thinking that she had mystical powers giving her 9 lives. Criminals are a cowardly, superstitious lot !

The Batman prevented the Catwoman from commandeering a blimp carrying diamonds, but she accidentally fell to her seeming death. Tone survived by sheer luck, and launched a series of desperate thefts where fate conspired to keep her alive against all odds.

Though she again seemed to accidentally die during a clash with Batman, even the Caped Crusader came to wonder whether the Catwoman truly had 9 lives.

The Catwoman returned in 1947 – but with some significant changes and a new character sheet .


Description

Early on the Cat Woman usually operates in a nice cocktail dress (she prefers green or orange) and shoes. Of course these do not hinder her movements in the least. Said dresses often feature somewhat risqué cleavage by 1940s high society standard, and are more akin to what an actress would wear.

In late 1940 she starts wearing a fairly realistic cat mask. In poor visibility, an impressionable person might think that she’s some sort of chimera . She also wears heavier and more covering dresses – these stories presumably take place in colder weather.

In 1946 she drops the cat mask. She starts wearing a cat-themed hood (much like Batman’s mask) and a green cape over a purple dress. We’re thus getting close to the signature pre-Crisis Catwoman costume, which appears in 1947. She also starts being depicted as keeping a number of beloved house cats in her home.

Her movements have a distinct catlike grace, and even her voice has a smooth and purring quality. Though she’s not a fighter, her sudden moves to escape or shove somebody away strongly evoke a pouncing puma. Holy perfidious pouncing pumas, Batman !

Tone frequently changes her hair colour (sometimes from panel to panel, heh).


Personality

Early on The Cat is a competent professional criminal, but not a killer. Her heists do not normally involve violence. She might occasionally threaten people with guns, but one suspects that she wouldn’t actually shoot them.

There is a strong chemistry between her and the Batman, and they enjoy flirting whenever they meet. It is unlikely one would cause lasting harm to the other.

However, all of this vanishes after the Cat Woman’s first stay in prison. She starts using lethal means to escape from Batman, who is now actually attempting to send her to prison. By this point, Catwoman is a fairly standard bat-villain, except that she’s a woman with a minor feline theme.


Quotes

“’Well… what’s the matter ? Haven’t you seen a pretty girl before ?”

“Try to double-cross me, will you ? I’ll scratch his eyes out !”

“The Batman ! Well, I knew I’d cross his path again sooner or later… and you know… I’m rather looking forward to another duel of wits with him !”

“How brave and strong he is ! If only he would team up with me — nobody would be able to stop us !”

“Our first job will be hijacking a cargo of industrial diamonds being shipped by dirigible !”


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

The Cat

Dex: 03 Str: 02 Bod: 03 Motivation: Mercenary/Thrill
Int: 05 Wil: 05 Min: 04 Occupation: Thief
Inf: 04 Aur: 05 Spi: 04 Resources {or Wealth}: 006
Init: 018 HP: 025

Powers:
Enhanced Initiative: 06, Stagger: 06

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • All Powers are Skilled Powers
  • Stagger has No Range – it is a melee attack, though it doesn’t count as “genuine combat” (see the Drawbacks)
  • Stagger is opposed by Force Field, Density Increase, Growth and Joined
  • Stagger is its own AV (+1/+0 depending upon house rules)
  • Stagger can only be used at full APs if Catwoman kisses a target with a romantic interest in women (which, in story context, effectively restricts these APs to upper-class handsome straight men). Otherwise she can only engage up to 04 APs
  • Note – persons attracted toward the Cat Woman will likely be unable to spend HPs against her Stagger, as a role-playing element

Skills:
Acrobatics (Swimming): 04, Artist (Actress): 05, Artist (Modelling): 03, Charisma (Persuasion): 06, Vehicles (Land): 04, Weaponry (Firearms): 03

Note:
Acrobatics (Swimming) can sub for any number of AVs, EVs and RVs involved in swimming and diving (but not underwater combat)

Advantages:
Attractive, Familiarity (Fashion and beauty, High society), Expertise (Lifelike masks, Voice mimicry), Headquarters (Expansive), Luck, Schtick (Manic Pace)

Bonuses and Limitations:
Luck can only be used to escape grievous bodily harm

Connections:
Gotham City Underworld (Low), Gotham City Street (Low), Gotham City high society (Low)

Drawbacks:
The Cat Woman is usually under the effect of a Genre Rule forbidding women from engaging in genuine combat – except for Blindside Attacks with a heavy object of opportunity. This starts getting relaxed by 1946, where women can shoot handguns (usually in low calibres) at opponents but are forbidden from using Hero Points when so doing.

Equipment:
No default equipment, but possible heist-specific gear includes :

  • .380 Colt M1908 Pocket Hammerless [BODY 02, Projectile weapon: 03, Ammo: 07, R#03]
  • Flash powder [BODY 01, Flash: 04, Grenade Drawback]
  • A fast car (by 1940s standards)
  • Catseye gem [BODY 02, Control: 02, Ammo: 01, Limitation: Control is performed by hypnotizing the subject, and Cat Woman will likely need to burn HPs to achieve results]

By Sébastien Andrivet

Helper(s): Darci

Writeup completed on the 20th of February, 2015.

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