Thursday, August 20, 2009

Poison Ivy vs. Catwoman

I've been following the Gotham City Sirens monthly and I must say that I'm a bit awed by the idea that Poison Ivy and Catwoman are now aligned. The history between these two characters has been icy at best. But strong women are often seen competing for the spotlight (Betty vs Veronica, Aniston vs. Jolie) and the pages of DC Comics are no different. Well, give or take a few outrageous costumes and the occasional super power.

So, I got to thinking about how these two actually met and when the relationship soured. After nosing about my back issues it appears that these two villains are first seen together in "The Batman Family #17" (1978 Dollar Comics). The story titled "Horoscopes of Crime!" (second story) shows Poison Ivy and Catwoman consulting with fortune teller Madame Zodiac. Both women are seeking out new ways to defeat the enemy; in this instance we are talking about Batgirl, the Huntress, and Batwoman too.

The image above shows Poison Ivy and Catwoman working together to commit a crime. They are, of course, foiled by the three do-gooders but Madame Zodiac manages to escape in a puff of smoke (classic!).

These two ladies wouldn't see each other again until "Batman #400" (1986). This was an anniversary issue featuring various artists and writers -- and a massive Arkham Asylum breakout. A certain "benefactor" frees the villains and sets them loose upon Gotham City. When they break off into teams Poison Ivy finds herself alongside the Riddler and the Scarecrow. As they are plotting and plundering Catwoman crashes in to thwart their efforts. By now Catwoman is skating the line between villain and anti-hero...all in the name of love. This would be the first time Poison Ivy and Catwoman would throw down.

Ten (plus) years would pass before Pam and Selina would have another tussle in the mini-series "The Long Halloween" (a 1997 Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale creation).

By now it's been established that Catwoman considers Batman her own. But the "seductress" aspect of Poison Ivy's character has also been solidified. And we all know what happens when two powerful women compete for the attention of the same man -- hellfire! This Selina's paranoid and manic behavior would bully Pamela off the page. The Long Halloween series launched a battle of the vamps.

About a year later, during the Cataclysm arc, Poison Ivy would again face Catwoman. This was supposed to be quite the event. Ivy battling it out with Catwoman in #57 (v.1) of her solo title! However, I found "Reap What You Sow" to be a bit disappointing. Poison Ivy's "super fertilizer" motivation was cliched at best. But it was her characterization that made me gag.

Poison Ivy crazily tippy-toed through a ravaged Gotham City spouting out ridiculous pro-nature slogans. I don't know why two beautiful (but more importantly smart) women couldn't sensibly share a stage for one issue. I guess if you turn Poison Ivy into a psychotic bimbo Catwoman shines in comparison. Granted, this was Catwoman's book (and perhaps I'm a bit defensive) but there's no reason to devalue Poison Ivy in such a way. This issue closes with a drooling Pamela Isley clutching her own face as roots crawl out from every orifice. Sorry Pam! The vial of fertilizer that was smashed against her face is often blamed for Poison Ivy turning green.

In later 1998 these two lovelies would briefly spar in a Justice League story called "The Nail" (an Elseworlds tale). On an alternate Earth the metahumans are suspect and feared. It parallels the Watchmen story in a few ways; a "Who Watches the Watchmen?" sentiment indeed. Unsurprisingly, Catwoman plays her hand at being the anti-hero in this story. Aligning with Batman to take down the rogues. Why Poison Ivy would choose to swing a blunt weapon at Catwoman is beyond me. She controls giant plants yet she's fiddling with lead pipes? Of course what would a Pam and Selina fight be without the obligatory black leather boot to the red's head.

Ahhh yes, the slap heard around the world. "Hush" gave us a fantastic sparring match between Gotham's costumed queens. I love how Poison Ivy knows that she's likely outmatched in hand to hand combat with Catwoman but backhands her anyway. And trust me, Selina gives Pam quite the beat down. But only until Ivy's plant roots snatch Catwoman into the air like a rag doll. There's many things to appreciate about this scene. First of all, the women have never looked better. Jim Lee is illustrator extraordinaire. His panels are filled with detail and energy. And this is no sissy slap fight -- blood is drawn and necks are nearly snapped.

But, good times never last. Just as Catwoman is about to cash in one of her nine lives a sudden Batarang saves the day.

The "Hush" showdown would be the last true hostile (see: violent) interaction between Poison Ivy and Catwoman -- for now. After recent events in Gotham City and the introduction of Gotham City Sirens...things have changed. Both women have realized there's no reason the female villains in Gotham can't conspire and achieve similar goals. The male rogues often do that very thing.

The vixen rivalry can be sexy and fun -- but it's also a bit played. Poison Ivy and Catwoman are two of the coolest femme fatales in the comic book game (DC rules). These former enemies are now reluctant allies. From Madame Zodiac to Sirens -- they've come full circle. Pam and Selina now stand shoulder to shoulder (or speeding in the same car to save Harley's life) and it's a wonder to behold. I'm excited to see where this goes.

Append: I didn't include the animated history into the bulk of this article because they're too far removed from DCU proper. However, you can be rest assured that the animated Poison Ivy and Catwoman rarely agreed on anything. Also, one thing to keep in mind is that neither character ever interacted in any of the television broadcast DCAU incarnations. (I find that very strange) Though we were lucky enough to see them gather in the online webtoon "Gotham Girls". It was an instant hit that eventually inspired a comic book mini series under the same name (with basically the same designs). I suspect the popularity of these female piloted stories helped in the creation of Gotham City Sirens too.


Sean Akizuki said...

I prefer Poison Ivy over Catwoman for Batman.

Always Comics said...

Very thorough and informative post. I do not think the friendship will last to long and am sure another tussle will happen soon enough. Poison Ivy has too many advantages over Catwoman to loose!

David H. said...

there's a lot of good art here but that panel of Ivy back handing Catwoman is especially cool. nothing against Catwoman though : )

Anonymous said...

okay cat-woman would smash ivy in a one on one fight only batman has been able to defeat everyone successfully and cat woman is the only one being able to defeat the batman so I'm pretty sure that she can find a way to kill ivy!

Anonymous said...

okay cat-woman would smash ivy in a one on one fight only batman has been able to defeat everyone successfully and cat woman is the only one being able to defeat the batman so I'm pretty sure that she can find a way to kill ivy!

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