Felicia Hardy a.k.a The Black Cat
Created By: Marv Wolfman & Keith Pollard
First appearancee: The Amazing Spiderman # 194 – 1979
This week on The Heroes, Villains and Sidekicks Show we’ll be having some fun learning about a character that straddles the line of hero and villain, Felicia Hardy a.k.a, Black Cat.
The character of Felicia Hardy, a.k.a the Black Cat was created for Marvel Comics by writer Marv Wolfman and artist Keith Pollard and first appeared in issue 194 of The Amazing Spiderman in 1979. And this is one of those characters that’s shown up in a lot of Spider-Man stories that I thought I knew a lot about. But there were some really interesting thing about the Black Cat that I just didn’t know.
Marv Wolfman was working on Spider-Woman and wanted to introduce a female character into the title that could act as counter to the main character. But before he could use her he moved over to The Amazing Spider-Man and took the character with him. Wolfman used the character, but changed her so much that only the Black Cat’s name and powers stayed the same. Wolfman would always be asked if he based the character of Catwoman, but he insisted that the character was based on an old Tex Avery cartoon “Bad Luck Lucy” that features a cat that jinxes people when she is near. Neat idea for powers for a cat burglar. But we’ll get to that.
Felicity, like many characters in the Marvel Universe, was from New York City, Queens to be specific. Her father made a living as a world-renowned cat-burglar, but Felicia thought he was just a traveling salesman. He excelled in his craft and instilled in his daughter that she should never settle, she should always strive to be the best that she could be. Her father, despite his prowess eventually gets caught and is sent to prison. It’s then that she learns just what her father did for a living.
Now Felicia grows, graduates high school and then makes her way to college at Empire State University in NYC and is enjoying college life until her college boyfriend, Ryan, attacks and rapes her. Feeling anger and hatred towards her attacker and never wanting to be at another’s mercy she trains herself in several fighting styles and acrobatics, all this with the intent of killing the man who rapped her.
However Felicia is denied her revenge when Ryan dies in a drunk driving accident. No big lost, but Felicia is angry she cannot inflict revenge on her attacker. Angry and needing something in their life to fill the revenge gap she now has, think Inigo Montoya after he kills the man with six fingers, Felicia tries to break her father out of prison. She puts on her cat suit for the first time and tries to free him before he dies in prison. Things do not go well and during the prison break her father, Walter Hardy is killed. Needing direction and now having all these new skills and a lot of anger, she decides to enter the family business and become a cat burglar.
During the attempt to free her father Cat comes up against good old web-head, Spider-man himself and there is instant chemistry between the two and Felicia has a fun time flirting with Peter and at the end of her first appearance actually raises his mask up over just his mouth and lays one on him. So Felicia keeps up her life as a cat burglar but is also still into Spiderman. This is really akin to the whole Batman and Catwoman thing. Bad girl and good man drawn together, bad man seeing good in the woman.
So Felicia wants to earn Spiderman’s trust and show him she’s a good person worthy of his affection so she steals a pivotal component in a plan the Kingpin was hatching with Dr. Octopus. In the process she was badly injured and Spidey got her to the hospital just in time. This brought the two together and they became a couple. This was new territory for Peter. He was with a woman who was like him in a way. She wore a mask, had another identity, they had a lot in common. Peter decided it was time to take things to another level and let Felicia into his life, and not his life as Spider-Man, his life as normal old everyday Peter Parker.
Now I actually read through the issue he reveals not only where he lives, but his identity to Felicia, and it’s painful. See, Felicia loves Spider-man, she does not feel the same about Peter. The page where he takes off his mask is great. He removes his mask and the Black Cat actually recoils in terror telling him to put the mask back on. The page is great and I’ll post it on the episodes page. Peter is hurt but they decide to try to make it work, but Peter, at that point has one foot out the door.
At this point, the Black Cat has no powers to speak of. She’s fit and athletic and is an amazing cat burglar, but she feels that without powers she is a liability when teaming up with Spider-Man. After being turned down by the Avengers, Fantastic Four and Henry Pym in a bid to gain superpowers she turned to Wilson Fisk, The Kingpin. Now The Kingpin doesn’t do anything out of the kindness of his heart. Using the same tech that made some of Spidey’s other enemies Felicia was given a real bummer of a power. It was a sort of hex power that tipped things to do bad for people around her. The classic don’t cross a black’s path or you get bad luck. But here’s the thing, that hex power rubs off on other around her. So when she’s hanging out with Spidey it transfers to him and he starts having all kinds of bad luck.
Realizing something is just not right, I mean Peter’s unlucky but it was getting ridiculous. So he went and visited Dr. Strange to see if he could figure out what was up with situation. Strange see the hex and removes it from him and in the process actually alters the source of the hex, that being Felicia’s black cat powers. Now Felicia has a power set more to her liking, she now has heightened strength, agility, balance, vision and retractable claws.
But Peter was really feeling disillusioned with the relationship and broke it off with her. Things go from bad to worse after a time when she learns that Peter and Mary Jane have rekindled their relationship and are now actually married. Felicia is not pleased about this and harassed the couple for a while. One of the drawbacks of telling someone your secret identity. She also starts a relationship with Flash Thompson just to spite Peter. But in the end Peter and The Black Cat do meet up from time to time. In one such encounter Peter loses his powers only to have them returned to him with the help of Cat. The one drawback is that in activating the machine that gives Parker his powers back, she loses hers.
Still wanting to do her thing, she enlists the aid of the Tinkerer to outfit her with all the accoutrements she needs to mimic her powers. Now her and Spidey meet up again from time to time and Felicia comes to grips with how she feels about Parker and Mary Jane and things are all right with the world.
Again, what do I always say about it when things are going well…the writer needs to add something to mess it up. Enter The Superior Spider-Man, Doc Ock ‘s mind in the body of Peter Parker. When the Black Cat meets up with this new Spider-Man things do not go well. Ock has no memory of all the good times the two had together and he viciously attacks her. Confused, Felicia is furious with the man she thinks is her friend and one-time lover. She is promptly arrested, her vast collection of stolen booty and money is confiscated and she is thrown into jail. She is able to get out of jail when electro breaks out and she uses him to help take back and build a criminal empire. During this process she also regains her bad luck powers on top of her athletic and cat-burglar skills. Now, angry and bitter after her incarceration and beating she took from who she thinks was her friend, the Black Cat is more dangerous than ever as she plans, manipulates and kills to claw her way to the top to become the undisputed kingpin of crime.