This was originally posted on Criticize This!
With the addition of Catwoman in Christopher Nolan’s final Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, Anne Hathaway (pictured above in costume) becomes the sixth actress to portray her in a live-action role. And while she may be the most popular female character in the Batman universe, there are plenty of others who have left their mark on screen over the last 69 years.
The very first time Batman hit the screen was back in 1943 in a 15-part serial (serials were short vignettes that would play before feature films and would usually end on a cliffhanger so people would keep going back in order to get the full story). At the time it was made, Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend in the comics was a wealthy socialite named Linda Page so it only made sense that she would be in the serials. She was played by Shirley Patterson, who went on to star in many B-movies, such as It! The Terror from Beyond Space (under the moniker Shawn Smith). While Linda appeared in the comics for quite some time, this is her only appearance in a Batman film.
After the success of the 1943 serial, Batman returned in 1949 in the 15-part series Batman and Robin. This time his love interest was a Lois Lane-type reporter named Vicki Vale (played by another B-movie actress, Jane Adams). In the comics she would become his wife, while on screen she would be all but forgotten until Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989, where Kim Basinger made her a household name. Unfortunately she did not return in Burton’s Batman Returns in 1992 or any other Batman film since.
Portrayed by Madge Blake in the 1966 Batman film and TV series that followed, Aunt Harriet was Dick Grayson’s (aka Robin) sweet elderly aunt who loved everything about the masked duo but did not know she lived with their alter egos. Blake’s health had gotten so bad by the third season of the series that Aunt Harriet was barely in the show and the character was eventually retired for good.
In the comics, Catwoman is a sometime villain, sometime ally of Batman, and is by far the most popular of all the female characters. Her first appearance on screen was in the 1966 Batman film where she was played by former Miss America Lee Meriwether. When the television series was spawned from the film, however, Julie Newmar took over the role for the first two seasons until a movie commitment got in the way for season three. Eartha Kitt was then cast in the show and finished out the series. We wouldn’t see Catwoman again until Tim Burton’s Batman Returns in 1992. This time the sultry vixen was played by a stunning, vinyl-clad Michelle Pfeiffer, who set the bar very high for future actresses in the role (even Halle Berry didn’t come close to Pfeiffer’s portrayal in the 2004 standalone Catwoman film). Will Hathaway’s take in The Dark Knight Rises top Pfeiffer’s? Very unlikely, but at least Catwoman is back in action.
Because Catwoman was such a hit on the 1960’s television series, and because the ratings were down for season two, the producers wanted more female characters in the show and Batgirl (played by Yvonne Craig) was introduced in the third and final season. She was the young, librarian daughter of Commissioner Gordon and helped Batman and Robin fight crime when in disguise. After the series ended there was talk about a spin-off show which never materialized. Batgirl disappeared until Batman & Robin in 1997. This time the character was Alfred’s niece, Barbara Wilson (played by Alicia Silverstone), who came to visit her uncle when he fell ill. With the help of Alfred she eventually becomes Batgirl and is soon fighting alongside Batman and Robin.
Poison Ivy is one of the more interesting villains in the Batman comics, using toxins from plants as part of her arsenal of weapons in her battle to protect the environment. While there was a lot of potential for the character on the big screen, director Joel Schumacher camped her up in 1997’s Batman & Robin, and Uma Thurman, who played her, came across as cheesy and annoying. The character was quickly left out of any future films.
Dr. Chase Meridian
Bruce Wayne’s love interest in 1995′s Batman Forever was a psychologist named Dr. Chase Meridian who was hired by Commissioner Gordon to help nab Two-Face. Played by Nicole Kidman, the character was similar to that of Vicki Vale and never really added anything to the film except for being the helpless woman.
Sugar & Spice
The beautiful blonde Sugar and the dark, goth-like Spice were Two-Face’s lovers in Batman Forever. Portrayed by Drew Barrymore and Debi Mazar, they were only there to add sex appeal and one-liners and never amounted to anything outside of the film.
When Christopher Nolan took over the Batman franchise, Rachel Dawes was created as a new love interest for Bruce Wayne and was probably the weakest link in both Batman Begins (where she was played by Katie Holmes) and The Dark Knight (where she was played by Maggie Gyllenhaal). The character died at the end of The Dark Knight and it’s probably for the best as she made way for Catwoman’s return.
Miranda Tate and Holly Robinson
The Dark Knight Rises also introduces us to Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) and Holly Robinson (Juno Temple). Holly is Catwoman’s young sidekick, while Miranda Tate is a Wayne Enterprises board member who may actually be Talia al Ghul, Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter, looking for revenge on Batman for killing her father.
Who is your favourite female character in the Batman universe?