Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Claws of the Cat: Marvel's Forgotten Feline

I have a soft spot for super heroes who never found their audience, and one of them is Greer Nelson, the Cat.
Created by Marvel in 1972 as a feminist heroine (Shanna the She-Devil and Night Nurse debuted simultaneously), the Cat joined a seemingly endless line of cat-themed females, from DC’s Catwoman, to Harvey’s Black Cat (and Marvel’s Black Cat), to DC’s Cheetah, to Republic Studios’ Panther Girl, to Archie Comics’ Cat Girl, to Dell’s Tiger Girl to, arguably, Ian Fleming’s Pussy Galore, “the female who is all feline,” according to Goldfinger’s movie trailer.
As the Diversions of the Groovy Kind blog noted, “Written by the soon-to-be-Mrs. Herb (Incredible Hulk) Trimpe, Linda Fite with art by the incomparable team of penciler Marie Severin and inker Wally Wood, The Claws of the Cat #1 (Aug. 1972) had all the earmarks of another hit for Marvel. A likable, realistic, tragic lead character thrust into the role of a superhero. Story wise and art wise, The Cat #1 was a wonderfully crafted tale that could have come straight from Marvel's Silver Age heyday, but given a ‘modern’ 1970s sensibility. Fite’s plot was heart-wrenching and moody; her dialogue straight from the Roy Thomas/Gerry Conway/Denny O'Neil school of ‘relevance.’ The art by Severin and Wood was lush and as moody as Fite’s story. It should have been a smash hit.”
For somebody who reportedly didn’t care for superheroes, Wally Wood certainly knew how to draw them. His figures are models of convincing clean-limbed power. But the title’s feminism, while well intentioned, may have been a little too heavy-handed. To be effective, the social message has to be in service of the story, and not the other way around.
My own private theory is that the title failed because the heroine didn’t have the traditional alliterative superhero name, like Peter Parker, Clark Kent, Matt Murdock or Jessica Jones. 
Greer Nelson. Meh. Try Greer Garson. Now there’s a name which with to conjure.


  1. Then you must have liked Marvel Premiere #42 (June 1978), where Tigra was mis-identified as Greer Garson!