In twenty years, there hasn’t been a breakout character from the Catwoman solo comics quite like Eiko Hasigawa. Featured front and center on a recent run of covers in the titular role herself, Gotham’s yacht-set yakuza queen has long been a star on the rise who has been reaping the attention she so richly deserves. But what is it about Eiko that makes her so captivating? What makes her such a necessary part of Selina’s life and the legacy of Catwoman? Well, to answer that, we have to examine exactly what Catwoman means, and how her story has changed to the point that Catwoman needs a Catwoman.

From the cat’s first footsteps into Bruce Wayne’s world in Batman #1, the presence of Selina Kyle has been making Gotham City a sultrier place. The seductive dance of cat and bat has been loosening the cowl of the city’s staunchest protector for over eighty years, allowing for the possibility that maybe, just sometimes, the grim mission Batman had undertaken could be just a little bit fun.

As Catwoman’s legend grew, so too did her capacity to break outside the Shadow of the Bat and strut her own stuff. In time, Selina developed her own motivations more complex than the next big score—a legacy rooted in Frank Miller’s characterization of a woman who knew what it took for a woman to survive in Gotham in his Batman: Year One. By the turn of the 21st century, Catwoman had taken responsibility for one of Gotham’s poorest neighborhoods, functioning as a modern day Robin Hood redistributing wealth from its vile hoarders. To many, Catwoman has become as important a symbol for Gotham as Batman himself. And as Batman has developed his own Bat-Family, this Robin Hood has earned her own staff of Merry Men.

So, here’s the rub: when establishing Catwoman as a leading lady, laden with duties and responsibilities of her own, who can there be in her own orbit to lighten the mood and remind her of the thrill? Batman is the firm order to Catwoman’s mischief, but the role of a Catwoman to Selina’s own Catwoman remained vacant.

In 2014, Genevieve Valentine and Garry Brown would introduce us to Eiko Hasigawa, heir apparent to the Hasigawa crime family, controllers of Gotham City’s own branch of the yakuza. The legend of the yakuza goes back to the early 17th century as Japan’s homegrown organized crime ring. But depending who you ask, the legend goes that they were formed with more noble intentions—to provide services and freedom for the people of Japan under an otherwise corrupt and oppressive shogunate. Others consider this perspective mere propaganda.

In the Hasigawa family, both points of view are represented through the idealistic Eiko and the Hasigawa clan leader Tatsuo, who knew well the cost of doing business in Gotham. As overseers of Gotham City’s docks, the Hasigawa family are an inescapable element of organized crime, completely controlling sea transport of contraband.

Valentine and Brown’s stint on Catwoman began with the revelation that Selina Kyle was the heir to the Calabrese crime family, a position she would leverage to change Gotham’s underworld by abandoning her Catwoman persona to focus on reforming its operations from the inside. This move would attract Eiko’s attention for two reasons. First, she appreciated having an ally in the higher ranks of Gotham’s crime world who saw things the way she did. But second was a fear that with no Catwoman, the criminal upper class she kept in line would start getting greedy again. Gotham’s elite needed to know that the city still had a protector with claws. And so, in secret, Eiko began operating as Catwoman on her own—primarily to uncover corruption in her own family’s organization.

Historically, when Batman discovers a new crimefighter co-opting his symbology, he tends to get pretty territorial. But Catwoman isn’t Batman. When Selina Kyle discovers there’s a new Catwoman in town… she finds it pretty hot. By Catwoman #39, the two Catwomen have their first rooftop kiss—confirming years of speculation on Selina’s bisexuality.

In practice, Eiko’s Catwoman isn’t exactly the same as Selina’s. Where Selina prefers the whip, Eiko relies on knives, emphasizing the claw of the cat over its nimble tail. It’s a preference which perhaps reveals the more focused, vindictive nature of Eiko’s Catwoman as more proactive than playful. She even takes on a few proteges of her own—including, quite surprisingly, Gotham’s own Stephanie Brown, welcomed back into the crimefighting fold after a long absence under Eiko’s tutelage in 2015’s Catwoman #42.

Unfortunately, there is one dark cloud both Catwomen share: a history with the same nemesis, the sadistic criminal kingpin Black Mask. Black Mask has been on Selina’s hit list since he tortured her sister nearly to death and into permanent trauma. But it got personal for Eiko as well when, in a grab for power, Black Mask assassinated her own father, leaving the less experienced Eiko in control of Gotham’s yakuza.

Eiko would rise to the challenge of being the new clan leader. Perhaps, in Selina’s estimation, even too ruthlessly. By the end of Valentine’s run on Catwoman, the two would be driven apart when Selina barely stops Eiko from orchestrating a master plan that would have killed the heads of all of Gotham’s crime families at once.

Years passed. Catwoman centered her life around Batman through a rekindled romance which nearly ended in marriage, but resulted instead in an escape from the country. (Eiko graciously accepted a role as one of Selina’s bridesmaids, despite the wedding never taking place.) And as we’d learn with the start of Tini Howard’s ongoing Catwoman run in 2022, as Selina got back to the East End of Gotham, Eiko was consolidating and bolstering her own power as leader of the Hasigawa clan. Like her father, she was making deals with Gotham’s most unsavory crime lords to support her organization—including, to her great disgust, Black Mask. But as Selina has continued to follow her heart around Batman and then around the world, Eiko has always maintained focus on the mission: improving the lives of Gotham’s people by reforming the principles of its underworld from the inside.

Through Howard’s ongoing run, the two cats have rekindled their former partnership, bordering on flirtatious as they work in secret once again for the common cause they shared when Selina was a Calabrese. In public, Eiko goes to great lengths to feign a revulsion to Catwoman shared with the rest of her criminal table, as the two collude in secret. And when Selina must leave Gotham unattended, Eiko has once more taken up the Catwoman costume, even sharing custody of a new protege with Selina: Dario Tomasso, son of the Tomasso crime family and self-dubbed “Tomcat.” As Catwoman, Eiko has taken on Punchline for control of the docks in a crossover with Alexis Kaye’s own miniseries, corroborated in a daring heist with Selina against the powerful Orgham family in Ram V’s Detective Comics, and underscored how important Catwoman has become to the framework of Gotham.

Who could have predicted back in 1940 when she was organizing jewel heists that the city would need a Catwoman just as much as it needs a Batman? But just as Batman’s many partners have proven that his legacy is greater than just one man, Eiko Hasigawa proves that Catwoman means more than the whims of Selina Kyle. Catwoman is a promise that power and wealth changes hands, and the greedy and corrupt are never so secure as they imagine. And on the night they find their coffers bare, they’ll find Gotham City’s own street justice—executed with feline grace.

Alex Jaffe is the author of our monthly "Ask the Question" column and writes about TV, movies, comics and superhero history for Follow him on Bluesky at @AlexJaffe and find him in the DC Community as HubCityQuestion.

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Alex Jaffe and do not necessarily reflect those of DC or Warner Bros. Discovery, nor should they be read as confirmation or denial of future DC plans.