Catwoman reunites with an old flame (and meets a new mystery man) as Tini Howard takes over DC ongoing comic

Catwoman has spent the last few years on the outskirts of Gotham City, but with January 18’s Catwoman #39 (opens in new tab) she’s coming back home – and will immediately run up against some old flames, old foes, and a new mystery man who might be flame and foe.

Catwoman #39 cover

Catwoman #39 cover (Image credit: Jeff Dekal (DC))

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Excalibur writer Tini Howard and Ms. Marvel artist Nico Leon have jumped over to DC to take over the company’s Catwoman ongoing comic series that will find Selina Kyle sinking her claws back into the Gotham underworld and find herself facing off with her former lover, Eiko Hasigawa. Catwoman knew her before as a member of a Yakuza crime family, but Eiko has been promoted – or promoted herself, rather – to become head of the Hasigawa criminal enterprise.

If that wasn’t enough, there’s new super-thief slinking his way around Gotham – someone who has his eye on Selina Kyle. His name is Valmont – which is an on-the-nose homage to the character of the same name from Les Miserables (opens in new tab) (and various remakes like Dangerous Liaisons (opens in new tab) and Cruel Intentions (opens in new tab)).

Ahead of Catwoman #39’s January 18 debut, Newsarama spoke with Tini Howard about the upcoming adventures of Selina Kyle, how she slid into the catsuit that is ‘Catwoman writer,’ and of course… cats.

Newsarama: Tini, when the idea first came up for doing a Catwoman story/run, where did your mind go?

Catwoman #39 variant cover

Catwoman #39 variant cover (Image credit: Jenny Frison (DC))

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Tini Howard: I had ideas ready from the first minute of my first phone call with my editorial team, and I pitched the book’s first scene, more or less, how it appears in the first issue. 

I don’t usually write like that – I’m a human pressure cooker, I throw a bunch of ideas in and let them simmer, and I don’t let any of the steam out until I’m ready. But for this one, I had it in mind. And it’s mostly in the book as you see it, so I don’t want to spoil that, hah.

Newsarama: So when that pitch was greenlighted and you officially became the next Catwoman writer, how did you go about sinking your teeth into the character? A lot of reading of old Catwoman stuff, or perhaps something more tonal about the kinds of stories you wanted to tell?

Tini Howard: I always do a specific kind of research when I approach a new character. On one hand, I find the existing versions of the character that I most resonate with, and read/reread them to solidify a voice in my mind. Who is she, etc? Who was she when I met her? Who is she now? And what is the world around her like? Who are existing characters in the DCU that could intersect?

The other research I do is about story shape and the other elements that I plan to bring into the story – the basic, non-pretentious version of this is like, ‘Do we want to fight bank robbers or horse thieves or ninja?’ ‘Do we want to do heists or car chases or boardroom dramas?’ I think about what I want to write about that character doing, and I watch/read/take in stories from inside and outside of comics that educate me on that. Fiction, so I can understand the narrative of those kinds of stories, and then non-fiction, so I can understand the truth behind it. 

It sounds like a lot, but I’m one of those people that’s always watching a documentary, playing two video games, and reading three books on any given day, so it’s actually really fun for me.

[Editor’s note: Here is a five-page preview of Catwoman #39; note the last two pages are unfinished.]

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(Image credit: Nico Leon/Jordie Bellaire (DC))

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Catwoman #39 preview

(Image credit: Nico Leon/Jordie Bellaire (DC))

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(Image credit: Nico Leon/Jordie Bellaire (DC))

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(Image credit: Nico Leon (DC))

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(Image credit: Nico Leon (DC))

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Newsarama: For this run, Catwoman is leaving the Gotham borough of Alleytown and coming back to the big city – and the criminal underworld of it. This comes just as Batman is leaving Gotham. Can you tell us about the decision to bring her back here, and if it’s a coincidence that her former betrothed is now out of the city?

Tini Howard: It’s a coincidence, an opportunity, and so much more. 

I’ll say this – I love Batman. A lot. I think making him a literal void in the city right now is fascinating. It affords me an incredible opportunity for this moment in Selina’s story – who are we when we’re out of the gaze of those that love us? Are we still who they see us as? 

Newsarama: This is kind of a superhero-y question, but will Selina be finding a base to call her own in Gotham in your run?

Tini Howard: Nico and I worked together to design a brand-new Gotham location unlike anything that’s been seen, and it’s central to our tale. I’ll put it this way – what Batman needs to do his job is an underground cave of gadgets and darkness. What Catwoman needs to do her job… is much less material, and much more… opportunistic. It’s really fabulous. Nico went all out, can’t wait til you see it.

Newsarama: I believe that’s the Trixie, what DC calls a “retro-glam apartment building” in Gotham City.

I’m excited to see you’re bringing back Eiko from the underrated Genevieve Valentine/Garry Brown Catwoman run (opens in new tab). How’d you hit on her as someone you wanted to be a big part of this first arc?

Tini Howard: Not using her wasn’t an option for me! There’s just no other answer, haha. 

Catwoman #40 cover

Catwoman #40 cover (Image credit: Jeff Dekal (DC))

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For what I’m wanting to do here, her presence in Gotham is just so essential to this chapter in Selina’s life. They’re both women who sought their own strength in this city, and for a brief time, though they might share something more. Whenever I write Selina and Eiko in the same room there’s a thrumming, tense heartstring between them  – I’m so grateful she exists. 

Newsarama: When I discovered you’re going for a bit of a Dangerous Liaisons vibe with this first four-part arc, I admit I was pretty mesmerized. Assuming the Valmont in this plays roughly like the Valmont in that classic story, who is the Merteuiel and Madame de Touvel in this homage?

Tini Howard: Hah! Well. It’s not quite that literal. But I’m glad you’re a reader. 

Newsarama: Nevertheless, I have to ask about Valmont — and that great design by Nico. Who is he? What’s he up to?

Tini Howard: Yes! Good! He’s intriguing! I’m glad you’re intrigued. He is clearly a Mystery Man, which is something I delight in. 

Valmont design

Valmont design (Image credit: Nico Leon (DC))

He came from a lot of deep thinking about Catwoman, and you know, what kind of character would properly foil her, and how to create a foil for a complicated female character without disempowering her or being predatory. He’s the result of a lot of really fun and interesting conversations and Nico designed the hell out of him.

I can’t wait for you to meet him. 

Newsarama: Batman and Catwoman had a complicated relationship, not just as lovers but also with Selina’s penchant for lawbreaking and Batman wanting Gotham to be run his way. 

With Batman gone and the Bat-Family trying to pick up the slack, will we see how Catwoman fits into the Bat-family’s version of what it wants for Gotham?

Tini Howard: Well, anyone who read my Nightwing and Batgirls Christmas story in Batman: Urban Legends #10 knows I’m a Bat-family diehard. 

Catwoman #41 cover

Catwoman #41 cover (Image credit: Jeff Dekal (DC))

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Every writer says it, you know the old chestnut, ‘Gotham is a character,’ which to me, really means that it’s an organism, a mechanism. Not every piece you touch affects all the others, but some of them really do. And Catwoman has a connection to that family that goes far beyond their shared city. So yeah. 

Newsarama: Last question, as a cat person myself – will Selina be finding herself with any cats of her own again anytime soon?

Newsarama: Can I just say, this run is about to be a cat lovers’ dream? A few of us on the creative team are cat-obsessed and it comes out constantly in great ways. 

For me, Selina is cattish in a way that we don’t even think about – patient, fickle, never knowing if she wants in or out – and Nico and Jordie Bellaire, our incredible colorist, bring it out constantly in the form of visual language and even a few in-jokes. 

But as for a cat? Oh yes. She’ll have a cat. 🖤

Cats have nine lives, but we have 10 of the best Catwoman stories ever for you to read.

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