I can't do it. I cannot choose a single Cat-Tale from 2008 to feature for the look back.
I Believe in Harvey Dent was not like any other Cat-Tale. Beginning on February 2nd, in tribute to its titular hero, it was an unprecedented event in Cat-Tales since it was not only to launch our virtual own alternate reality game at Friends of Harvey Dent, it incorporated a few details we knew about The Dark Knight movie (Gotham General Hospital and GCN), elements of the official Dark Knight viral (Gotham Intercontinental Hotel, Boss Maroni's lawyer Joseph Candoloro and John Tortericci, the father mourning his daughter Gina killed in the escalating mob violence) and a great deal of the original story of Harvey's scarring in what is probably the best Batman story on record: The Long Halloween. The tribute began with line 1: Bruce's "I believe in Gotham City."
Yet, for all that, I Believe in Harvey Dent is a Cat-Tales story. It is not set in Christopher Nolan's Gotham City nor in Jeph Loeb's. When at ancient episode of Catwoman finding the warehouse of mob money is mentioned, it is in the context of her own money-disposal problems at the temporary Iceberg-substitute nightclub Vault:
Since Vault’s opening, everyone had apparently gone on paying the house its cut of whatever they did on the premises. It was news to Selina when she discovered it, but it certainly made sense: Gotham crooks were creatures of habit, and if you were supposed to be paying off somebody, it was better to be safe than very, very—HAHAHAHA! Closed casket due to the death smile—sorry. On the same death-avoidance premise, Sly had apparently been converting all this ill-gotten gain into gems and gold bars, replacing the faux riches of her old Cat-Tales set with the real thing. It left her with a very tricky problem: what to do with it?
Her mulling over that problem leads to possibly the most bizarre but quintessentially Selina piece of Bruce/Selina dialogue in the Tales:
“Out of curiosity, would you have an aneurysm if the Foundation got an anonymous donation for, say, $800,000?”
Of her ultimate solution to the dilemma... well, I won't spoil it here, but if you've read the tale, enjoy a trip back to the Epilogue and relive the moment.
And the insertion of pop culture into the storyline has nothing to do with Nolan's Dark Knight, it's viral, or the goings on at the Gotham Post. It's from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Vogue! Because in the real world, the Fashion Institute at the Met and the iconic arbiter of all things fashion Vogue had done an exhibit and feature respectively on Superhero Fashions. Catwoman was featured the as "The Paradoxical Body" at the Met and it was all purple Catwoman: the iconic Jim Balent costume and Catwoman #1 and the classic Bob Kane original skirted costume on their website.
Vogue followed suit, having the greatest talents in fashion create designs based on the movie versions of these figures, and Dolce and Gabbana's take on the Michelle Pfeifer costume from Batman Returns, complete with the iconic and indispensable cat cowl studded in Swarovski crystals—meow!
It—along with some complimentary things "Domenico and Stefano" had to say about Catwoman and why they chose her of all the heroine and villainess costumes they could have picked—was sure to draw Poison Ivy's ire. As Bruce put it:
“You’re on the cover. Ivy is on page 26. After all the bimbos, socialites, divorcees and models, you think I don’t know what that means? A Vogue cover, thumbnail on the table of contents, splash page on the article. Bruce Wayne has seen slights like that ignite socialite wars that make Superman and Darkseid look like drinking buddies by comparison.”
Plus, I Believe... has what is, to my mind, the closest thing to an explanation of Catwoman's criminal-versus-hero stature that you are ever going to find:
It was the dawn of the 22nd dynasty. In the delta region of Lower Egypt, just southwest of Tanis on the River Nile, the capital city of the nome of Am-Khent rose to prominence, becoming the royal residence of Pharaoh Shoshenq I, and by extension, the power center of the ancient world.
This was Bubastis, the center of worship for the cat goddess Bast. Within the greatest temple dwelt the Mau-im-dwo, what the Greek settlers came to call the Oracle of Bast. Within the innermost sanctum, the priests of Bast learned a language, the Mau-im-dwo, by which they could speak with divine and mortal cats… assuming, of course, the cats were in the mood.
Near the end of the 26th dynasty, a cat which called itself Apekteina Pontiki condescended to explain the very complex and very specific feline dogmas of right and wrong. The priests were utterly mystified. The nuances that were so obvious to cats seemed, to them, nonsensical contradictions: It was natural and permissible to kill a mouse, a bird, an insect, and any other creature whose size and speed was such that it could be killed. In some cases, it was permissible—and even laudable—to play with one’s prey, prolonging its demise and torturing it with false hope. At other times, this was the most grievous of sins. There was one set of rules for morning, one for night, and none at all for midday, for nothing that hunted under a high sun was fit to call itself a cat. There was one rule if your belly was empty and another if it was full. There were rules for the flooding season, for the season of planting and for the harvest. Yet the priests could never understand which rules took precedence. If your belly was full, but it was evening and during the drought, but you were outdoors and the moon was waning, didn’t that mean you were both required and forbidden to kill and ignore the mouse in the doorway but not the lizard on the well?
Apekteina Pontiki looked on the befuddled priests of Bast, and she pitied them. The word spread among the cats of the temple and then to the ones beyond: the two-footed creatures were nice enough, but they could not wrap their simple minds around the complexities of the Feline Way. That same Feline Way that governed the torment of mice dictated that Man could not be taunted with a wisdom he could never understand. With heavy hearts, the cats resolved to spare him the frustration. As one, they stopped acknowledging the language of Mau-im-dwo.
It took the priests a while to notice, for the cats often pretended not to understand. You just had to wait for the right day and approach them in just the right way… Then the Persians invaded, and the priests, like the rest of Bubastis, had other things on their mind.
Two thousand years later, very little had changed. The woman who was born Selina Kyle had so embraced her feline nature that she was, in every way that mattered, a cat-woman. She too had a very complex and very specific code of right and wrong. She didn’t care any more than the cats of old that her rules were different from other people’s, nor that they would never be able to grasp it if she tried to explain. She only knew that her code worked for her: Her right was right, and she would keep it. Her wrong was wrong, and she wouldn’t do it. So it was and would ever be, meow and amen.
And that isn't even touching on the main story: Harvey's story. So with a Tale this rich, how could I possibly NOT look back at I Believe in Harvey Dent as the Look Back for Year 8? But then again, how can I ignore War of the Poses and Armchair Detective?
To be continued...
Oh and P.S. to the new staff writer at The Gotham Post: Meow and godspeed.