See this lady in the skintight catsuit? She's not Catwoman.
No, she's Tarpé Mills' Miss Fury, from the Golden Age comic strip of the same name.
Those partial panels are all from Sunday strips form the mid-to-late-40s, and were all scanned from the Trina Robbins-edited Miss Fury: Sensational Sundays 1944-1949 (IDW;2011), which I just started reading.
Miss Fury is really the heiress Marla Drake, who disguised herself using a panther skin her African explorer uncle gave her. Though not in the images above, the panther skin costume sometimes includes a tail, as you can see in this comic book cover from 1942:Miss Fury debuted in 1941.
Batman's villainess Selina "Catwoman" Kyle appeared a year earlier in 1940's Batman #1, but at the time she was an un-costumed jewel thief called simply "The Cat."
When she first donned a costume, it was merely a furry cat's head mask topping off a dress. My question is, when did Catwoman first start wearing a Miss Fury-like cat-suit?
As far as I can tell from the comics I've read, she didn't start dressing similarly to Miss Fury—in a dark, skintight catsuit with a cowl and ears—until 1987's Batman story arc "Batman: Year One"and the 1989 Catwoman miniseries that expanded on the post-Crisis origin story Frank Miller's "Year One" suggested She kept that suit until about 1992-1993, when she got a new, purple costume with thigh-high boots and a hole in the back of the cowl to allow her regrown, long hair to flow behind her.
The 1992 film Batman Returns outfitted her in a black, Fury-esque catsuit, albeit one with very visible white stitching zigzagging it.
When Batman: The Animated Series began, its Catwoman started in a gray costume similar to a more highly accessorized version of the late-80s, early-90s costume. When the characters were all redesigned for the show's 1997 fourth season, however, in which the was retitled The New Batman Adventures, the animated Catwoman resembled Fury exactly: In retrospect, it's fairly obvious that Miss Fury had a strong influence on Catwoman as the more popular character evolved, eventually quite heavily influencing her design.
I'm curious as to when exactly Catwoman started dressing...Fury-esque, I guess.
As far as I can tell, it didn't seem like she ditched the purple dress with green cape ensemble for an actual cat-suit until the late-80s, but then, the Bronze Age of Bat-comics is pretty much a black hole to me. Can anyone date a skintight Catwoman costume with a cowl to any earlier than the "Batman: Year One" story arc...?