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Sony’s Spider-Man universe is expanding again. After news of a Venom movie last week, now it has emerged that Silver Sable and the Black Cat are being groomed to co-headline a future project. It’s an unexpected pairing: Neither one is a household name, and nor do they share an obvious conceptual crossover, outside of them both being female characters. But who are the Black Cat and Silver Sable?
The Black Cat
Despite the obvious parallels — both are cat burglars, both engage in on-off romantic, uh, entanglements with their web-slinging arch-nemesis, both have a flexible moral code that allows them to work on the same side as the good guys every now and again — the Black Cat didn’t start out as an analogue to Batman’s femme fatale Catwoman. Instead, the Black Cat (who debuted in 1979’s The Amazing Spider-Man No. 194) was created by Marv Wolfman, Dave Cockrum and Keith Pollard using a Tex Avery cartoon about a literal black cat with the ability to cause bad luck for those around him as a model.
Felicia Hardy had to work up to her bad-luck powers, however; originally, she was the daughter of a thief who adopted a costume to break her father out of prison and used an impressive amount of advance planning to fake the misfortune others seemingly accidentally befell when they met her. Later, after entering into a relationship with Spider-Man, she became so obsessed with the idea that she’d be a liability in his crime-fighting efforts that she made a deal with the Kingpin to gain a full set of powers (including increased strength and speed, as well as finally living up to her bad-luck potential).
Neither the powers nor the relationship with Spidey stuck around, long-term, although she did stay on the right side of the law (for the most part) for a number of decades as a result of the latter. That all changed as the result of a run-in with Spider-Man at a time when he was possessed by the villain Doctor Octopus: so disturbed by his treatment of her, she swore revenge and went to impressive lengths to ensure it happened, including building her own underground criminal empire with the sole aim of taking down the wall-crawling hero. Well, everyone needs a hobby.
If the Black Cat is, for the most part, a street-level criminal close to Spider-Man’s traditional stomping grounds, Silver Sable — whose secret identity is the wonderful “Silver Sablinova” — is just the opposite. Since her introduction in 1985’s The Amazing Spider-Man No. 265, she has consistently been a globe-trotting mercenary for hire and part-time hunter of war criminals, especially Nazis.
Sable hails from the fictional European nation of Symkaria (which is, coincidentally, next-door neighbor to Doctor Doom’s Latveria, for those trying to draw a map of Marvel’s fictional countries), and she’s not just its most famous citizen — the profits from her mercenary activities, and those of her team of operatives the Wild Pack, reportedly drive the country’s entire economy, which is either a sign of her success as a mercenary, or a poor commentary on the state of the Symkarian economy.
A relatively minor figure inside the Marvel Universe, Sable has nonetheless worked with Spider-Man, Captain America, the Avengers, and a whole host of other, more famous super-characters throughout her comic book career before her seeming death in the 2012 storyline “Ends of the Earth.” (This being comics, of course, there’s more than a little uncertainty about whether or not she actually died during that story; either way, she could always return at a later date.)
One character who isn’t in her rolodex, however, is the Black Cat; despite the two characters being Spider-Man supporting characters, the two haven’t crossed paths in any appreciable manner in comic book mythology, making the prospect of a movie that teams the two all the more unexpected. For once, the movies are actually offering something that the comic books haven’t managed yet … but will that be enough to convince audiences to turn out for the movie?
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