Selina Kyle's early life was defined by tragedy. When she was just a girl, her brutalized mother Maria committed suicide and her violent father Brian drank himself to death not long after. Separated from her younger sister Magdalena and remanded to the Sprang Hall Juvenile Detention Center, an abusive state home for orphaned or delinquent girls, she opted instead to take her chances on the streets of Gotham City. Amid the crime and corruption of the poverty-stricken East End district, she survived through petty theft. Sharp wits and an amazing natural skill as a gymnast led to her becoming the slickest cat burglar the Gotham City Police Department had ever dealt with. To protect herself, she studied martial arts. Later ex-heavyweight champ Ted Grant (Wildcat) taught her boxing. For a time, she was the most accomplished thief nobody knew. She was also one of the most generous, spreading her ill-gotten gains among the downtrodden and destitute of the East End. She would have continued to rob with impunity if not for the Batman. Spying the Caped Crusader from her window on one of his first outings, she watched him in action and was suitably inspired to take up her own costume when prowling the Gotham night.
Although originally introduced as an equal opponent for Batman, Catwoman's status as hero or villain is ambiguous; she has her own moral code (she abhors killing, though did eventually kill Black Mask) and has occasionally teamed up with Batman and other heroes against greater threats, even saving the lives of the entire Justice League on one occasion. She represents a gray area in Batman's otherwise black and white life where the line between good and evil blurs, and his attraction to her stems from this perception that, in her way, she's kind of a female version of himself: another dark, beautiful creature that prowls the night.
Catwoman, in her first appearance, wore no costume or disguise at all, and it was not until her next appearance that she donned a mask, which was a theatrically face-covering cat-mask that had the appearance of a real cat, rather than a more stylized face mask seen in her later incarnations. Later, she wore a dress with a hood that came with ears, and still later, a bodysuit with attached boots and either a domino or glasses-mask. In the 1960s, Catwoman's bodysuit was green in color, which was typical of villains of that era. In the 1990s, she usually wore a skintight purple bodysuit, before switching to a black leather outfit that recalls Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman costume in Batman Returns.
In recent years, she has usually alternated between these two costumes. Ed Brubaker, the master-mind behind the 2001 revamp of the character, has stated that Selina's current costume was inspired by Emma Peel's iconic catsuit. It has a more high tech look, with domino-shaped infrared goggles (inspired by Snoopy) on her cowl.
Shortly after the events of The Long Halloween, Selina visited the grave of Carmine Falcone where she expressed that she believes that she is Falcone's illegitimate daughter, but was unable to find any proof. Around this time, Selina meets Falcone's son Mario who would later become head of the Falcone crime family.
During the events of Crisis of Conscience, Catwoman further proved herself an ally when she fought alongside Batman and the League against the old Secret Society, of which she had once briefly been a member. Wounded, she was taken to the Batcave to recover. When Despero and a faction of brainwashed League members infiltrated the cave and succeeded in brainwashing Batman, Catwoman was able to send a distress call out to the unaffected League members. After a fierce struggle, Despero was subdued. However, this was something of a hollow victory, since all recognized that Despero was able to pit the JLA members against one another by drawing upon pre-existing animosities and distrust. In response to Batman's inquiry about her wounds, Selina departed the Batcave after curtly informing Batman that he had already "done enough."
Catwoman appears to be completely reformed, and her love for Batman true (although brash and unpredictable). However, it is now unclear if her reformation was the result of a mindwipe by Zatanna, a procedure known to deeply affect and, in at least one case, physically incapacitate its victims. Selina had no inkling that any villains had been mindwiped until Batman informed her of the events of Identity Crisis, and he now worries that her reformation may be due to mental manipulation.
At the start of the recent storyline ("The One You Love"), an influx of supervillains seized control of the East End, leaving Selina with no choice but to join the new incarnation of the Secret Society. While her initial intentions were unclear, Selina shared her plans to infiltrate and destroy the cadre of East End villains with Batman.
Selina made a deal with a former criminal who had powers similiar to Clayface's, who had promised to help her in exchange for his freedom. The man impersonated her, and allowed several villains to shoot and dismember him, giving the impression to the underworld that Catwoman was really dead (like Clayface, the man was able to survive what would otherwise be fatal wounds). Capitalizing upon the advantage which her "resurrection" provided her (the villains believing she had somehow managed to cheat death), Catwoman dismantled the new East End cadre of criminals, one villain at time. After she was done, Zatanna appeared at her side, informing her that she had some "bad news", hinting at an important revelation about her past.
Selina ended up shooting Black Mask while dealing with the East End criminals.
One Year Later
Following the events of Infinite Crisis, the DC Universe jumps forward in time. "One Year Later" Selina Kyle is no longer Catwoman, has left the East End, and has given birth to a daughter named Helena (whose father is initially unknown). Holly Robinson takes over as the new Catwoman while Selina, living under the alias Irena Dubrovna, turns her attention to caring for her daughter. (Selina's alias was inspired by the name of the main character in the 1942 film Cat People.)
Though she takes her role as a new mother quite seriously, Selina dons the costume for a run through the East End some days after Helena's birth. Having understandably gained a few pounds, Selina finds that her costume is now a tighter fit. In addition, she is easily distracted by a common criminal. Although the situation is defused through Holly's opportune arrival, the fact that there are two Catwomen active in the city is caught on video. Selina returns home from her adventure to find that the mysterious movie aficionado Film Freak has deduced her alias, joined with Angle Man, and grabbed Helena.
After rescuing her daughter, Selina convinces Zatanna to mind-wipe Film Freak and Angle Man in order to preserve her secret identity. Following the procedure, Angle Man turns himself in to the authorities; Film Freak, however, embarks upon a murderous rampage. Ted Grant informs Selina that Holly has been arrested for the murder of Black Mask; Selina infiltrates the police station and frees Holly. Finally defeating Film Freak, Selina returns home to find that Slam Bradley has deduced that Helena is Sam Bradley's child, and therefore his granddaughter.
Batman asks Catwoman to infiltrate the violent tribe of Bana Amazons during the Amazons Attack crossover. Posing as a criminal, Selina gains the Bana's trust and thwarts a terror attack aimed at causing mass casualties in Gotham City. Shortly after the event, Selena invites herself to become the newest member of Batman's Outsiders. Catwoman and Batman also have a romantic relationship which they both try to hide and at times have their special moments.
Selina, fearing the many dangers of a post-Batman Gotham, proposes that she, Ivy, and Harley Quinn team up, living together at a single base. Ivy agrees under one condition: using home-grown drugs to weaken Kyle's resistance, Ivy demands the identity of the true Batman. In it she flashes back 3 years when Talia requested her presence in Tibet. There she made it so Selina would not relinquish the true ID of Batman under any circumstances. After the interrogation is over and Selina sees Harley with Bruce Wayne on TV Catwoman says to Poison Ivy she knows it is Hush in disguise