THE BLACK CAT RETURNS
After their breakup, Black Cat drifted off into that Negative Zone where second string characters go, waiting to be called upon again. And she did return with a vengeance a year later in Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #112 (Mar. 1986) under writer Peter David.
While reprising her role as a costumed vigilante, the Black Cat’s tone changed from her usual self-absorption to something altruistic. She found a compromise between the thrill of her former criminal lifestyle and being a superhero by adopting a Robin Hood like role, stealing from the bad guys and turning over the loot to the poor and needy.
However, despite making it on her own as a superhero without Spider-Man, life threw Felicia a curve. Her bad luck powers had suddenly disappeared (Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #115, June 1986). It turned out that Spider-Man was still suffering the lingering effects of Black Cat’s bad luck powers and sought out Dr. Strange’s help. Dr. Strange freed him of those influences by going directly to the source and eliminating them.
After taking a serious beating as she’d come to depend on those bad luck powers, a new Black Cat reasserted herself. She marked this new direction by donning a new Black Cat costume.
Felicia tracked down Dr. Strange and learned that he didn’t actually eliminate her powers, but rather altered them. Her physical abilities were all heightened in proportion to a cat, including night vision and retractable claws.
She then confronted Spider-Man in Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #116 (July 1986) and blamed him for the loss of her bad-luck powers. Their heated argument allowed Felicia to unload all of her pent-up anger and frustration over how their relationship ended.
Shortly after, the Sabretooth attacked her, but Spider-Man came to her rescue. Felicia was offended by his rescue, feeling that she could have handled Sabretooth.
However, in Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #119 (Oct. 1986), Felicia got her re-match against Sabretooth. One of the side plots Peter David was exploring was how the Black Cat was more than a secondary character. Before their battle, Felicia purged herself of her unhealthy feelings towards Spider-Man and accepted their new status as friends. That commitment was quickly put to the test as she knew Peter was watching her fight with Sabretooth. Although Sabretooth came off as a cathartic punching bag, their brutal battle ended with Felicia’s triumphant victory. She topped off this emotional moment by winking at Spider-Man who had come onto the scene late.
Unfortunately, she again fell prey to a new mysterious adventurer, the Foreigner. She agreed to work with him to make Spider-Man’s life miserable. As she helped bring the Foreigner’s plans to fruition, she realized that she still had strong feelings for Spider-Man. She double-crossed the Foreigner and saved Spider-Man’s life. Fearing for her safety, Felicia fled to Europe to start fresh.
In the late 1980s, donning her classic costume, Felicia returned to North America and set her sights once again on Spider-Man (Amazing Spider-Man #331, Apr. 1990). She was mortified to learn that in her absence Peter Parker had married Mary Jane Watson.
The news was devastating to Felicia. She loved and adored Spider-Man and believed that he loved her despite her flaws. To see him in love with or even care for someone else, amplified the pain of the loss of their relationship and what might have been.
Insanely jealous and determined to make Peter realize he had married the wrong woman, Felicia started a relationship with Peter’s longtime friend, Flash Thompson. Felicia’s game put Peter in an awkward position as Peter couldn’t tell Flash what was going on without risking his secret identity.
Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and Felicia and Peter are forced to patch things up as a series of threats required their combined efforts.
Roger Stern saw the Black Cat “relating to Spider-Man as Mary Jane Watson related to Peter Parker. They both fit the role of the sometimes-girlfriend who would waltz into his life just often enough to turn things upside down. I never saw either Felicia or Mary Jane as the marrying kind. If they were really true to themselves, Mary Jane wouldn't get serious until the last party was over and the Black Cat could never settle down as long as there was still one great caper to pull off.”
What actually undid her this time was her feelings for Flash Thompson. In Spectacular Spider-Man #209 (Feb. 1994), Felicia proposed to Flash, realizing she was actually in love with him. However, Thompson refused her proposal not because she used him, but because he felt it would only be a matter of time before she left him or resented him for tying her down to a normal life.
What Thompson didn’t know was that she was ready to settle down, feeling that she could love someone normal. Confronting this issue was difficult for Felicia as well, realizing that had she been able to come to terms with it earlier, she might still be with Spider-Man.
In 2002, Kevin Smith penned a new Black Cat miniseries, Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do. While this miniseries was infamous for its delay, which finally saw completion three years later in 2005, Smith had retconned her origin. The miniseries revealed that when Felicia was a freshman student at Empire State University, she had been raped by her boyfriend, Ryan. Refusing to report the assault, she channeled her anger into training and learned a variety of martial arts. She dropped out of school and focused solely on preparing to kill Ryan.
However, she was robbed of her revenge, learning that her ex-boyfriend was killed in a car accident. With nothing to lose, she turned to a life of crime.
This update conflicted with her basic character. Black Cat’s flirtatious behavior and relationship-pattern didn’t fit well with the trauma and emotional suffering she endured. However, her Black Cat identity provided that escape, allowing her to become someone different: “I didn’t think about what had happened with Ryan [her ex-boyfriend] anymore. I justified it to myself. Something was stolen from me … so I started stealing back. I built myself a new identity. From then on, I was Felicia Hardy, thief extraordinaire.” (Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do #6, Mar. 2006)
WRAPPING UP THE ANALYSIS
While Felicia carried unresolved issues from her childhood, she is sane from a reasoning and cognitive point of view. Felicia is capable of experiencing guilt, accountability, and compassion. She knows the difference between right and wrong, but doesn’t always make the right decisions. While guilty of making wrong and self-serving choices, there’s little evidence of any true psychological disorder.
It’s also important to keep in mind that over the years, Felicia’s character has been handled by many writers, each with their own take on her. In fact, it wouldn’t be hard to argue that most comic book characters have mild forms of schizophrenia or multiple personality disorders.
A solid testament to her character is how she has become an integral part of Spider-Man’s life, accompanying him through comic book revamps and alternate versions, and into other media like TV shows and video games.
And as for her relationship with Spider-Man, now that Mephisto has conveniently undone Peter and Mary Jane’s marriage, perhaps Felicia still has another chance at winning his heart.
Osterweis, Marian, Bereavement: Reactions, Consequences, and Care, National Academy Press, 1984.
Pines, Dr. Ayala M., Romantic Jealousy: Understanding and Conquering the Shadow of Love, St. Martins Press, 1992.
Shulman, Shmuel and Seiffge-Krenke, Inge, Fathers and Adolescents: Developmental and Clinical Perspectives, Routledge Press, 1997.