Blessed with graceful agility, a sassy attitude and a knack for always landing on their paws, it’s no surprise that cats have served as the inspiration for a vibrant lineage of comic book superheroes. In honor of these fantastical felines, here’s a roll call of 10 all-action, cat-based superheroes (plus a nod to some of their pesky kitty-themed supervillains).
Digging in the vault back to 1940, the Cat-Man story begins with orphan David Merryweather being raised by a tiger in Burma. After developing big cat-style abilities and being granted nine lives, Merryweather journeys to the United States, where he becomes a private investigator and vows to hunt down criminals. During CatMan’s vintage adventures, he also picks up a younger sidekick known as Kitten.
This Marvel mainstay announced himself in the 1960s with an appearance in a Fantastic Four comic book, where he was billed as “the sensational Black Panther.” After eating a heartshaped herb — which might possibly resemble catnip — King T’Challa of the Wakanda tribe gains the ability to transform into Black Panther and benefit from heightened athleticism and enhanced kinesthetic senses. The character’s profile received a huge boost with the blockbuster 2018 Black Panther movie, where the hero was played by the beloved and departed Chadwick Boseman.
A recent addition to the feline superhero clowder, Angel Catbird is the creation of Margaret Atwood, a novelist whose bibliography includes The Handmaid’s Tale. Inspired by Margaret’s childhood sketches of flying cats, the hero is the genetic engineer Strig Feleedus, who was subjected to a DNA experiment gone awry that leaves him with a mix of feline and avian characteristics. Angel Catbird’s realm also features a clandestine nightclub called Catastrophe.
An iconic villain from the DC Comics world, Catwoman hit the scene in the 1940s as a sleek and provocative burglar who prowls around Gotham and enjoys antagonizing Batman. Stepping onto the silver screen, actresses including Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry and Anne Hathaway have portrayed the lithe character in various Batman movies.
After taking part in a speculative laboratory experiment, Greer Grant Nelson emerges with boosted physical and mental skills. Moving on from dabbling with a role as the crimefighter The Cat, Nelson reinvents herself as the orange-and-black-striped Tigra. Affiliated with The Avengers, Tigra’s kitty arsenal includes steel-cutting claws and the knack of being able to summon Balkatar, an Earthly ambassador for the Cat People clan of humanoids.
A mix of genetic breeding and shamanistic practices honed Native American tribesman Thomas Fireheart into the perfect feline-enhanced warrior. An on-and-off friend and foe of Spider-Man, Puma is a top-notch martial artist who can summon big cat energy and survival tactics while using his super-heightened sense of smell to hunt down prey.
Introducing herself in the 90s, Feral is a mutant from the Marvel Universe who displays both hero and villain tendencies while maintaining ties to the X-Force squad. Clad in orange fur and empowered with night vision plus the ability to control her tail, Feral’s key adventures take in a kitty scrap with Sabretooth, while her allies include Thornn, a fellow feline superhero born from the same litter.
A committed nemesis of DC Comics icon Wonder Woman, the nefarious Cheetah has appeared as a number of different incarnations since debuting in 1943. The original storyline involves debutante Priscilla Rich transforming into Cheetah after being beaten by Wonder Woman at a charity function, while a later plot features British archaeologist Dr. Barbara Minerva claiming her devious powers after discovering an ancient ritual performed for a cheetah god.
Patsy Walker was raised in Centerville by a mother who exploits her early life for financial gain — until she chances across a cat costume that was formerly worn by Marvel’s Tigra and joins the superhero ranks herself as Hellcat. Donning the outfit helps grant Walker feline-focused powers plus the ability to perform telekinesis.
Mr. Tawky Tawny
The lesser-heralded Mr. Tawky Tawny is a dapper humanoid Bengal tiger figure sporting a tweed outfit while holding down a gig as a museum guide. With dreams of successfully integrating into human society, Mr. Tawky Tawny first appeared in Captain Marvel Adventures back in 1947 and can often be spotted sipping dirty martinis and weighing up whether the occasion formally calls for him to level up into a saber-tooth tiger.