Catwoman’s Very Complicated History With Sister Zero
Magdalene ‘Maggie’ Kyle is a lesser-known character in the DC Universe, but plays a pivotal role as Selina Kyle’s estranged Catwoman sister. Like two homes surviving a hurricane, Selina and her sister weather the storm of childhood trauma differently. Maggie tries to dodge the demons of her dark past but ends up being targeted by Catwoman’s enemies, suffering even deeper psychological wounds. Selina, conversely, finds comfort in adopting an alter ego and indulging his criminal mind.
After Maggie bears the brunt of the violence of Gotham’s sadistic Black Mask, she decides the one thing her sister didn’t plan for is how to protect her loved ones from harm. A deep part of Catwoman’s psyche is bound by feelings of remorse; she failed as a big sister. Although both faced the same early childhood trauma, Selina and Maggie were separated and grew up in different settings. This early break from each other deepened the cracks between them. Maggie Kyle’s story and the relationship between these two estranged sisters deserves a closer look.
Catwoman exposed her sister to greater trauma
The Kyle sisters met the same fate during infancy, losing both parents; their mother to suicide and their father to alcoholism. Maggie and Selina are then separated while in the system leading them down entirely different roads to adulthood. Maggie lives in a convent while her sister stays on the streets of Gotham, honing her skills as a cat burglar. Maggie becomes Sister Madeleine, a nun inspired to maintain Gotham’s Church of Divinity. Catwoman’s identity gives Selina a sense of empowerment, but Maggie finds peace as a devout believer. Unfortunately, Maggie’s serenity is completely shattered when she is targeted by her sister’s enemies.
Maggie spends much of her time in comics trapped in a runaway state in mental institutions to experience brief moments of lucidity. Gotham City Sirens #12 (by Tony Bedard and Peter Nguyen) has Maggie possessed as she believes her sister to be a cat demon in disguise. As “Sister Zero”, she is obsessed with saving her sister’s soul by literally cutting her off. She left the convent to take refuge in romance before being particularly terrorized by Catwoman’s enemy, Black Mask. He ends up gouging out Maggie’s husband’s eyes and feeding them to her. Maggie is in constant danger as keeping her true identity a secret is surprisingly difficult for Catwoman despite being one of Gotham’s most stealthy thieves.
Catwoman may still be able to reconcile with her sister
Two things bring out Catwoman’s compassion: the plight of Gotham’s disenfranchised youth and the suffering of her sister. Selina, a professional con artist, returns a stolen relic to the church for Maggie. She refuses to sacrifice Maggie even though it might mean saving Gotham from rogue angels and demons. Whenever her brother is in trouble, Catwoman comes to the rescue. Maggie, however, blames Selina for the turmoil in both of their lives. She insults Selina’s life of crime. It gives meaning to the world by judging it good or bad, wrong versus right.
The two relate to the city in radically different ways; Selina through the underground economy, and Maggie through religion and goodwill. From Maggie’s perspective, Selina is shaped by the criminals, villains, and whom she calls the “monsters” of Gotham’s underbelly. For Selina, on the other hand, burglary is an art and her criminal acts are her craft, a way of strutting herself as a tough survivor of personal tragedy and abuse. Reconciliation between the two is not likely any time soon. Maggie uniting with Selina against a common enemy is more believable. Maggie killed a nun, after all. She lost the heights and the idea that the two sisters could work together towards a common goal is compelling.
Both share a love for Gotham’s Alleytown’s misguided, disenfranchised young residents. Catwoman’s most honorable deeds outside of rescuing her sister include her philanthropic work with this population. If Maggie could shift her moral compass to move past Selina using dirty money for such activities, the two might find some common ground. The ultimate barrier between Maggie and her sister might be the harsh truth that neither of them has been privileged with proper treatment for trauma survivors. Even Gotham’s hero, Batman, was born out of Bruce Wayne’s need to transfer his rage for Gotham’s broken system in whatever way he thought would be most productive. The two will be at odds as long as Selina gets something out of being Catwoman and Maggie finds solace in fighting “evil.”