Cat-man and Kitten.

CAT-MAN AND KITTEN

Medium: Comic Books
Published by: Holyoke Publishing Co.
First Appeared: 1940
Creators: unknown writer and Irwin Hasen (artist)
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Comic books were among the hottest things in American publishing during the early 1940s, and new companies were getting into the act right and left. Holyoke Publishing was a 1940 start-up, with licensed properties such as The Green Hornet and original material …

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… such as Crash Comics. The former, being a freelance crime fighter with a secret identity, fit right in with the superheroes, comics' dominant genre; and the latter, being a typical anthology comic with a superhero in the lead position, was, of course, itself a superhero title.

The fourth issue (August, 1940) introduced Cat-Man, who proved more popular than the previous star, Strongman — but not so popular he immediately started taking over the newsstands. It was another three months before the fifth came out, and that was the last. He started in his own comic, but not until another half-year had passed. Cat-Man #1 was dated May, 1941. It isn't known what writer created him, but his artistic co-creator was Irwin Hasen. Hasen's other co-creations include The Fox for MLJ Comics, Wildcat for DC and The Chicago Tribune Syndicate's Dondi.

Cat-Man was David Merrywether, who, as a child, had been the only survivor of a bandit attack on a caravan of Americans traveling through Burma. As often happens when comic book children are orphaned in this particular way, he was raised in the wild, in his case by a she-tiger. And as always happens when comic book children are raised this way, he absorbed his foster mother's powers — and if The Black Condor managed to learn how to fly that way, it shouldn't strain credibility too badly that David learned super-vision, super-hearing and how to climb and leap anywhere, just by the circustancees under which he was raised.

In fact, he even acquired the attribute of nine lives, when foster-Mom died, and her spirit began watching over him. He then returned to America, put on the usual superhero costume, and started calling himself Cat-Man. Just to make his life more complicated, with the war about to start, he enlisted in the U.S. Army as a lieutenant. And to make it more complicated yet, he assumed responsibility for 11-year-old Katie Conn when he parents were killed in a train accident. She became his sidekick, Kitten, as of Cat-Man #1.

Considering how many eyebrows have been raised over the years by Batman and Robin living in the same house, it's amazing that nobody batted an eye when David started living with a pubescent girl — but they didn't, and the team got on together as long as the title lasted, which was five years. The last issue was #32, dated August, 1946. In the meantime, the hero dropped the hyphen, and is now better remembered as Catman. Also, Kitten picked up with Mickey Mathews, sidekick of The Deacon, who appeared in the Catman back pages. Together, they were The Little Leaders, who began in #8 and appeared in most subsequent issues.

Today, Catman and Kitten are better remembered than most of the many, many 1940s superheroes. Also, they've been used by AC Comics (Femforce), where so many ownerless superheroes wound up. But neither circumstance puts them anywhere near being major characters.

— DDM

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Text ©2006-07 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics