Thomas Blake was a world-famous trapper of jungle cats who turned to crime because he had grown bored with hunting and had squandered most of his fortune. He became a burglar called Catman who committed his crimes in a catsuit made out of an ancient African cloth he believed gave him a cat's nine lives.
After many years of defeat at the hands of Batman and Catwoman, Catman became something of a joke in the super-villain community, so he retired and moved to Africa to live among a pride of lions. When the lions were slaughtered, Blake became a criminal mercenary and a member of the Secret Six, initially to track down the lions' killers. After the lion-killers were identified, Blake stayed with the Secret Six.
Catman (also spelled Cat-Man) is Thomas Blake, a world-famous trapper of jungle cats who turned to crime because he had grown bored with hunting and had squandered most of his fortune. Blake was a wealthy animal trapper and a contemporary of Bruce Wayne. An inveterate gambler, Blake had lost most of his fortune but was still part of Gotham's elite social circle. Tom and Bruce's discussion of their boring lives during a dinner party led an eavesdropper to joke that they each put on costumes and fight crime. The suggestion lingered in Blake's mind even as he acknowledged that, in Gotham, he'd never be more than a second-rate Batman.
The prospect of being a villain appealed to the hunter far more, allowing him to match wits with the Dark Knight rather than follow his lead. Searching for a gimmick, Blake patted the head of his panther Felina and recalled the long-absent Catwoman. "She was a mere woman! Think what I, a MAN, could do. Imagine what I with my knowledge of cat lore can do. Yes — cats will be my CATegory of crime. I shall become — the Cat-Man!"
He became a burglar who committed his crimes in a catsuit made out of an ancient African cloth he believed gave him a cat's nine lives. His costume was modeled after Catwoman's disguise. Cat-Man wore a yellow costume and tights with orange gloves, boots, tights and cape & cowl. The initials "CM" were emblazoned on his chest in orange. He also carried an orange satchel, a "kit-bag" that carried various Batman-inspired tools, from a cat-line to a catarang. And, for his getaways, he drove a heavy duty feline-themed "cat-car." Catwoman was none too pleased to have her modus operandi copied, and initially helped Batman apprehend him. The two costumed criminals would have a competitive, love/hate relationship for many years afterward which included Selina Kyle (Catwoman) being wrongly implicated for Catman's crimes at least once. As with many Batman villains in their first appearances, Catman was originally a gimmicked villain who stole items along a "cat" theme, such as cat statues, "cat's eyes" emeralds, etc. His weapon of choice was (of course) a cat-o-nine-tails.
An encounter with Batwoman resulted in Cat-Man falling hard for the beautiful heroine and inviting her to join him as "the king and queen of crime." She sneered at the proposal and Blake never had a chance to make a second offer. Batman and Robin discovered their adversary's true identity and trailed him to an underground catacomb, where the Cat-Man seemed to perish when he plunged into a raging underground river. (Detective Comics #311)
Cat-Man resurfaced in a mid-1963 issue of Detective Comics, miraculously unscathed by his plunge into the cataract, and he launched a new series of crimes revolving around fictional cats. Robin couldn't help but wonder why Blake hadn't simply relocated to a city without costumed crimefighters but Batman observed that "he's in love with Batwoman, remember? I think he hopes to win her by proving he's a better man than I am."
Indeed, Cat-Man even orchestrated a chase between him and his beloved so that he could save her life. Even as she acknowledged his evil, Batwoman admitted that she couldn't "help having mixed feelings about him." For a time, Blake seemed to have won the woman of his dreams when Batwoman broke her ties with the Dark Knight and agreed to be the Cat-Man's partner. If she'd questioned his feelings for her before, Batwoman had all doubts erased by the huge portrait of her that hung in Cat-Man's subway tunnel lair and the Cat-Woman costume that Blake had created for his queen. Having ingratiated herself into Blake's confidence, Batwoman summoned Batman and Robin for another inconclusive duel. Cat-Man was seemingly killed when his speedboat hit a buoy and exploded. (Detective Comics #318)
Cat-Man survived and once again returned to Gotham for Batwoman, But after several encounters between the two, Cat-Man grabbed her and prepared to throw his beloved to her death. "I love you -- but I love freedom more! I cannot allow you to capture me!" The swift action of Batman prevented Kathy Kane's premature death and Thomas Blake was taken into custody after more than a year as a fugitive. (Detective Comics #325)
Within two months of his release from prison, Tom Blake had resumed his costumed career. A trio of acrobatic thugs had acquired cat-like attributes (including the ability to see in the dark and land on their feet) and convinced Cat-Man to serve as their front man, assuring Blake that "you won't regret working with a gang." His infatuation with Batwoman now having faded, Cat-Man brought his team to Minneapolis, Minnesota, convinced that he'd have no trouble with masked heroes in the Midwest.
Incredibly, his first crime, the robbery of a firm known as Cathcart and Company, attracted the attention of the New York-based Freedom Fighters, who perceived a tenuous (and, as it turned out, mistaken) connection between the theft and their own nemesis, the Silver Ghost. Uncle Sam, the Human Bomb and Phantom Lady arrived in time to stop the Cat-Man and company from stealing rare Siamese kittens from a Minneapolis pet shop. Knocking Blake onto his head, the Bomb noted the difference between him and his henchmen: "HE can't be a CAT-Man -- HE didn't land on his feet!" (Freedom Fighters #10)
Cat-Man later struck a deal with Greek "multi-millionaire (and) shipping magnate" Andros Akropolis to acquire an Egyptian cat-god collection currently touring Gotham City. In exchange, Akropolis would provide Blake with the deed to one of his remote islands. Cat-Man's goal was "to turn this island into a sanctuary for wanted criminals, where they can live safe from prosecution -- in exchange for a mere 25% of their loot, of course."
Cat-Man was glimpsed during the theft of the artifacts but the crime was blamed on the reformed Catwoman, then living in Gotham as Selina Kyle. Now a fugitive, the Catwoman was determined to clear her name and, more significantly, locate one of the Egyptian urns that contained herbs that might cure the illness that would soon take her life.
Pursued by Batman, Catwoman tracked the thief to a Prohibition-era hideaway in a secluded warehouse only to be trapped along with the Dark Knight in a massive cat's cradle. Described as "a system of cables --covered with a polymer adhesive," the cat's cradle would literally saw its victims to pieces when its cross-section of links began to vibrate rapidly. The Cat-Man stepped out of hiding long enough to gloat, condescendingly referring to the woman who inspired his career as "Kitten," before making his exit and leaving his captives to die.
Though his costume was left in tatters, Batman managed to free himself and Selina as well as turning up evidence that linked Cat-Man to the Greek isles. Catwoman insisted on accompanying the Dark Knight and, together, they traced Blake to "his" island just as he was providing Akropolis with his loot, hidden within a geyser. With his bodyguards holding a gun on Blake, the multi-millionaire attempted to take the artifacts without payment but the fortuitous arrival of Batman and Catwoman provided Cat-Man with an opening to escape.
Cat-Man was cornered by a desperate Catwoman, who accidentally knocked the villain and his loot to the edge of a geyser. With the corner of his cape clutched in Selina's hands, the geyser erupted, apparently taking Tom Blake and the life-preserving herbs with it. Returning to the United States, Selina was cured of her disease. (Batman #322-323-324)
Cat-Man survived the eruption and cheated death once more but he had been left with scar on his left temple. He returned to Gotham in the fall of 1981 with revenge against Catwoman on his mind, kidnapping Selina, leaving Batman for dead and retrieving the piece of his cape that Catwoman had donated to the Wayne Foundation for research. Cat-Man had convinced himself that uniting both pieces of the cape would heal his scars but he was sadly mistaken.
He prepared to take out his frustrations on the securely-bound Selina, vowing that "if they ever find your body -- they'll have to bury it in a closed coffin!" Instead, Batman burst in and briefly dodged Cat-Man's blows before knocking him off of his yacht into Gotham Bay. Unable to swim, Tom Blake was forced to beg for his life. It was fitting, the Dark Knight thought, "for as everyone knows, cats HATE water" (Detective Comics #509)
Early in 1983, Cat-Man and more than a dozen other villains were united by the Joker to try and kill The Batman before the upstart Killer Croc could do the job. Instead, thanks to the Joker's treachery, Croc got wind of the plot and left Cat-Man, along with fellow rogues Tweedledee,Tweedledum,and The Getaway Genius "beaten half to death". (Detective Comics #526)
Returned to prison, Blake eventually fell into a weeks-long state of catatonia, staring blankly into space while his cellmate, a burglar named Collins, talked in his sleep about his fifty-thousand dollar cache concealed in Gotham. One night, Blake awoke with a start, declaring that "I wasn't cataphoric OR catatonic -- I just like to take cat-naps."
Gazing into the evening sky, Blake observed "the moon -- in its catabibazon descending node -- and a good omen. Even catarchic astrology favors me, indicating its the perfect time to begin a new endeavor ... and its the fourteenth of the month -- catorce in Spanish!"
Shaking Collins awake, the one-time gambler Blake made a proposal, "a bet that I can steal Bast from the Gotham Museum -- and what's more, outwit The Batman in the process. ... If I win, I get your unrecovered loot in the catacombs ... but if I fail -- meaning YOU win -- you get my Catman outfit with its magical properties giving the wearer nine lives." Collins agreed and Tom Blake, using a catgut line to scale the prison wall and a catawba catalpa tree to catch him as he leaped to safety, prepared to make good. An astonished Collins suddenly began to sweat, wondering if the Catman's costume "rubs off even when you're not wearin' it!"
Luck seemed to be with the Catman during the robbery and, with the Dark Knight reeling from a blow to the head, Tom Blake prepared for his final strike with "a Japanese catan sword -- ANOTHER good omen for me." Batman was able to counter the attack with another weapon on display—a baton, or as he emphasized to Robin, "a BATon. You might even say my victory was a CATharsis of sorts."
Officially, the Catman was reported to have escaped after critically wounding Batman, a ruse to draw Collins into the open and finally lead the police to the long-sought loot from his robbery. Collins escaped and acquired the Catman costume, unaware that every stroke of good fortune that he credited to the "magic" cloth had actually been orchestrated by Batman and the Gotham City Police Department.
Just as Collins reached the cavernous location where his treasure was hidden, the catacomb began to collapse, its walls weakened by an earlier assault on Gotham by the Quakemaster. Batman crawled from the debris with the stolen goods but soon discovered that he had a new problem. The cave-in had diverted Collins directly into an opening into the Batcave. His confidence buoyed by his belief in the costume's supposed magic, the new Catman proved surprisingly resourceful, using trophies such as Joe Coyne's giant penny to strike back at the Dark Knight. Conceding that he'd "created a monster," Batman finally succeeded in subduing his foe. (Batman #371-Detective Comics #538)
Having failed to learn his lesson when he went up against Croc, Catman accepted subsequent invitations to work on behalf of Brainiac in Crisis on Infinite Earths #9 and Ra's al Ghul in Batman #400, and quickly met with defeat each time.
Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths
The post-Crisis Catman is essentially the same character as the Earth-1 Catman. As such, the history outlined above generally still applies post-Crisis. The only changes necessary are to accommodate other characters. For example, Batwoman's history was drastically changed by the Crisis, so Catman's interactions with her must be adjusted to reflect that.
The post-Crisis Catman's first appearance was not even in a Batman comic. Cat-Man's attempt to snatch a Bast statue from a museum was opposed by Manhunter (Mark Shaw). Shaw sustained a nasty gash on his chest thanks to Blake's clawed gloves but he got his man. As Cat-Man made his escape, he discovered that his cat-car was being towed away and, momentarily distracted, he was tripped up by an energy blast from Manhunter's baton. Mark had noticed Blake's license plate ("GATO-1") when he first entered the museum and reported him for unpaid parking tickets. (Manhunter #13)
Cat-Man escaped incarceration and, under an assumed name, took up residence in Gotham, living in a mansion paid for with stolen money. On a night in early 1990, Blake's pet, a white Siberian tiger named Rasputin, escaped from his grounds and went on the prowl in Gotham. After "a badly mauled, partially consumed human body" was discovered in Robinson Park, a sensationlistic news reporter suggested that the killer might be the Catwoman.
Soon, Batman, an insulted Catwoman and Catman (now sporting a revised costume with a cat's-head icon replacing the "CM" on his chest and longer ears on his hood) had all taken to the streets, each in search of the big cat. The chase invigorated Blake, who observed that "it's been too long since I felt like this. Wind in my face -- the night wrapped round me like a well-worn cloak -- the thrill of the hunt -- There's no feeling in the world like it!"
Once Catman had been reunited with Rasputin, he decided that his pet needed "a little exercise." A shackled Batman provided just what the big cat wanted but Catman didn't get to enjoy the show. Catwoman wrapped her whip around Blake's ankle, yanking him out of his loft and onto the roof of a van passing below. While Batman succeeded in beating Rasputin, a dazed Catman staggered out on the van, which had been transporting cats for illegal experimentation. Shrieking in terror, the teenage drivers ran away, swearing that they'd "never sell another cat to a research lab as long as (they) live". (Detective Comics #612)
In 1993, Catman appeared in Batman: Shadow of the Bat as a member of a villain team called the Misfits, led by Killer Moth. The Misfits were third-rate villains trying to prove themselves, anticipating Brad Meltzer's treatment of the character in Green Arrow. Catman joined forces with the other so-called "misfits" Calendar Man and Killer Moth in a plot to kidnap Gotham Mayor Armand Krol, Commissioner Gordon and Bruce Wayne for a ten-million dollar ransom. Catman recruited a fourth partner, a crook named Chancer who, like Blake, relied on good fortune. Introducing the new guy to his latest pet, a black panther named Sasha, Catman observed that "luck is relative. It's the difference between having your throat torn out and merely losing an arm."
Chancer agreed to participate and the kidnappings went off without a hitch. Unknown to the others, Killer Moth intended to kill Krol, Gordon and Wayne once the ransom was delivered . An unwitting Catman even assured Sarah Essen, who delivered the ransom, that "you have MY word they're okay, Sergeant. I'll set them free myself." Through the combined efforts of Robin and Bruce Wayne, the victims were freed and Wayne, as Batman, quickly brought the rogues to justice. (Batman: Shadow of the Bat #7-9)
Catman reappeared in a 1995 crossover between Shadow of the Bat and Catwoman.
Members of the Pacific island cat cult from whom he had stolen the magic cloth for his cape and cowl finally caught up with Thomas Blake. When one of their representative Council of Three disappeared after a confrontation with the Cat-Man, the remaining two natives hired the Catwoman to steal the cat idol and the mystic cloth on their behalf . "I've never been able to hate him with the intensity such a cruel, callous creep deserves. So this scam really appeals. Stealing Cat-Man's cape and cowl back for its rightful owners will leave HIM with a king-size flea in his ear -- and ME with a million bucks in my king-size pocketbook" .
Unknown to all, tired of fleeing Batman and justice, Thomas Blake planned his retirement. A robbery at a Gotham casino brought Catman into conflict with Batman and, inevitably, the Dark Knight and the law would close in on him., Blake promptly subdued a member of the cult and dressed him in his original "CM" Cat-Man costume .
"I'm tired of being a hunted man, hounded by the law, switching houses every few weeks. I want to be free to ENJOY the wealth my crimes have brought me. And fate sent YOU to help. A half-dozen witnesses saw Tom Blake at the casino tonight. Even more saw Cat-Man ROBBING it including Batman himself. They won't think twice when they find a body in a cat-suit with the remains of the loot -- especially," Cat-Man said as he set the timer on an explosive device, "when there's not enough of you left to identify!"
Blake's plans were disrupted when Catwoman raided his hideout, battering Blake relentlessly, raking her clawed gloves across his cheeks and finally pulling off his cape and cowl into her hands. Pursued by Blake's panthers Khan and Hun, Selina roared away from the estate in Cat-Man's cat-car.
Falling back on his tracking skills, Tom Blake followed Catwoman to the sewers, where she had unwittingly stumbled across a plot by the Ratcatcher to poison the city and Batman's attempt to prevent it. Cat-Man's arrival alongside Khan and Hun provided the Dark Knight with the resources he needed to fight the Ratcatcher's army of rodents while he rounded up the ringleader. Upon his return, Batman found Cat-Man lying unconscious and Catwoman and the panthers long gone.
When the Council attempted to renege on their deal, Selina suggested that Khan and Hun might convince them otherwise. Moments later, the Catwoman was carrying away one-million dollars while silently thinking that "you have the idol and A cloth, guys -- but what makes you think I'd give you the REAL one ? Not that I intend to keep it. If Thomas Blake thinks it's lucky, he's welcome to it. I'll let him sweat out Blackgate Prison for a year or so, then send it back to him. Anybody who has pets like these can't be ALL bad". (Batman: Shadow of the Bat #43-Catwoman #26-Batman: Shadow of the Bat #44)
Blake had scarcely been returned to prison when he and dozens of other villains were freed by the demonic Neron and offered great power in exchange for their soul. Cat-Man declined the offer. (Underworld Unleashed #1) Soon after, he may have wondered whether he made the right decision.
Blake was serving time in Blackgate Penitentiary again when the Gotham City earthquake struck and sent a tidal wave smashing into the prison. Cat-Man was freed along with the other inmates but couldn't resist going back into the prison to loot the cells. Instead, his chivalrous side was awakened again when he discovered the KGBeast attempting to murder a fellow inmate, Jared Manx, as well as a nun and lawyer who'd been with Manx at the time of the disaster. With his acrobatic skills still first-rate, Blake effortlessly distracted the Russian killer until his would-be victims escaped. Grinning, Tom dove into the water. It's unknown whether the Cat-Man ever learned to swim. (Batman: Blackgate - Isle of Men #1)
Catman remained in limbo until 2003, when he resurfaced as a foe of Green Arrow. Written by Brad Meltzer, Catman was portrayed as a pathetic, overweight loser who was looked down upon by other villains and who is easily defeated by Green Arrow. His hair had been dyed black, which he thought "made [him] look tougher". (Green Arrow #16-17) A few issues later, Monsieur Mallah sends Warp to abduct Blake, the implication being that Catman had met a rather grisly end as Mallah's dinner. (Green Arrow #20) (This situation is alluded to by Blake, when he joins the Secret Six: "You know you've hit rock bottom when a monkey and a Frenchman don't consider you worth killing". When he later meets Monsieur Mallah, he comments that he has no desire to see the gorilla's stomach again.)
In the 2005 mini-series Villains United, Catman resurfaced in Africa, where, after a failed attempt at suicide, he attempted to resalvage his life and began living with a pride of lions. He used this time to lose weight and regain his sense of self-worth and fighting skills. This 'perfect existence' would be shattered by the arrival of the Secret Society of Super-Villains, however. Seeking to unite all of Earth's super-villains under his control, Lex Luthor (secretly Alexander Luthor, Jr. in disguise) sought to recruit Catman into the fold as a minion, only to be rejected. It was initially believed that an angry Lex Luthor had Deathstroke the Terminator kill the lions Catman was living with in retaliation for being rejected by a "nobody" but this was later revealed to have been misdirection.
Catman vowed revenge against Luthor, and was subsequently recruited into a criminal syndicate known as the Secret Six. Together, the Secret Six waged war against the Secret Society of Super-Villains under the direction of an individual known only as Mockingbird (secretly the real Lex Luthor). During that time he found out that it was in fact fellow Secret Six member Deadshot who had killed his lions on Mockingbird's orders, so that he would join the organization. Deadshot would later apologise, and Catman forgave him. Although the two were reluctant allies at first, the two soon bonded and became what one could loosely call friends.
Under Villains United writer Gail Simone, Catman has achieved a new level of fame. Portrayed as a cunning warrior with a sense of honor, the character is now a potent anti-heroic character (though far from unflappable). His time in Africa seems to have helped him regain his physical abilities allowing him to fight the formidable super-ape Mallah to a standstill and blind Captain Nazi. He is different from most other villains in the sense that he has noble and heroic qualities (Cheshire notes that Blake behaves more like a hero than a villain), yet he sees heroes such as the Justice League as being arrogant and abusive of their power, as seen when he confronts Green Arrow about the Doctor Light incident. It seems he would rather be associated with people such as Deadshot who at least recognize their moral failings than a group of 'holier-than-thou' heroes. It has been revealed that during his time with the society he impregnated Cheshire and that the two now have a son, Thomas jr.
In Gail Simone's Birds of Prey #104, the Secret Six run into Barbara Gordon's team. Huntress and Catman - out of disguise, dance together, with hints of an attraction. The two teams battle, six members for six, Catman paired against Huntress amidst sexual innuendo, but the fray ends with the resurrection of Ice. The teams' unsuccessful confrontations led to the destabilizing of the group, ultimately breaking up. Commenting upon Catman's reasonings, Knockout claimed that he had "gone soft". In 2008's Salvation Run #3, Catman and former Secret Six teammates Scandal and Ragdoll are depicted amongst DC's larger villain population, exiled on a faraway planet.
Catman has recently reappeared in the new Secret Six ongoing series, which takes place after the events of Salvation Run. Blake apparently spent some time back in Africa, where he brutally attacked a gang of poachers and may have left them for dead. His actions have led Catman to wonder if he has the temperament to be on the side of the angels.
It was in his role as leader of the Secret Six that Catman faced Batman again after many years. Batman tried to warn Catman and his team to not accept their mission to break someone out of Alcatraz. The non-personal warning didn't work, so Batman went to confront Catman. Catman said in response, "The old me? Probably would've whooped his milk and cookies." He made no hesitation to throw the first punch at the Dark Knight. During the fight, Batman even offered to pay the Secret Six off, but to no avail. Catman's main goal was just to keep Batman distracted as the Secret Six broke Tarantula out of prison.
Powers and Abilities
Superb Hand-to-Hand Combatant, Skilled with Blades, has significantly above-average Intelligence.
Retains some animalistic tendencies
Catman's original look had a primarily orange outfit with a roaring cat head on his chest and a brilliant yellow cape.
His more recent appearances, however, has him wearing more Batman-like costume, with a yellow outfit with three red slash marks on his chest and brown/orange cape and cowl.
A character similar to Catman debuted in the 1950s named King of the Cats. In reality, he was Karl Kyle, brother of Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman. This version of the character was also a burglar who was motivated to steal by an intense sibling rivalry with his sister. His crimes tormented Catwoman, as she had loyalties to both her brother and her nemesis/love interest, Batman.
Batman: Legend of the Dark Knight #46-49 would reinvent Catman yet again, this time as a leather catsuit-wearing serial killer who used knife-like claws to slash young women to death because they reminded him of his abusive mother. Batman and Catwoman formed a shaky alliance to stop him, although they had different agendas; Batman wanted to apprehend him, while Catwoman wanted him dead. They eventually caught him and, between the two of them, beat him to a bloody pulp, although Batman was able to restrain Catwoman from committing murder. This story is apparently set outside of canon, or someone other than Blake was under the costume.
In other media
- Thomas Blake appeared in a 1998 episode of Batman: The Animated Series ("Cult of the Cat") not as an costumed supervillian, but as the plainclothes leader of a cat-worshipping cult. As in the comics, he wore gloves equipped with knives as claws and also had a pet mutant Smilodon. He was voiced by Scott Cleverdon.
- Before "Cult Of The Cat", a version of Catman had appeared in The Batman Adventures comic book series. This Catman was a costumed supervillian, wearing a Catman suit with colors similar to the Batman: The Animated Series version of Catwoman.
- An entirely different Catman appeared in the Justice League two-part episde "Legends", voiced by Stephen Root. He is a pastiche of the Golden Age versions of Batman and Wildcat. Catman is the only character in the DC animated universe to have multiple versions of himself, let alone three.
- Hellhound makes a cameo appearance in the Justice League Unlimited animated series in the episode, "Grudge Match." He is seen fighting Shatterfist in Roulette's new version of Meta-Brawl. Although the character shown is Hellhound and not Catman, he is often confused with Catman, due to his similar costume.
- Catman appears in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Legends of the Dark Mite" voiced by Thomas F. Wilson. He and his pet tiger fight Batman and Ace the Bat-Hound. He later makes a cameo in the episode "A Bat Divided" in a bar where a bunch of villains hangs out in.
- Adam West appeared in a few episodes of The Fairly OddParents as himself, an actor who in turn plays a superhero named Catman. Despite having the same name and a similar costume, he is more a parody of West's Batman than the eponymous villain.
- Catman was briefly glimpsed in a crowd of villain attempting to collect a bounty on the heads of Batman and Superman in the original direct-to-video animated film Superman/Batman: Public Enemies.
- Catman makes a cameo appearance in The Lego Batman Movie. He is seen swiping his right claw on all fours when the Joker quickly mentions him and other various Batman villains.
- Catman is referenced in the video game Arkham Origins. Posters throughout Gotham City allude to a show about big wild game cats from the jungle at the Gotham Zoo, presented by Thomas Blake.