Cats and comic books: Hero Cats #1-2

Michele and I like to joke that our cat Nettie Netzach is secretly a superhero, that when we aren’t around that she moonlights as the dynamic Netzach Wondercat.  So when I found out that there was an actual comic book series about crime-fighting felines, Hero Cats, of course I had to pick it up.

Hero Cats 1 tri-fold variant cover
Hero Cats #1 Tri-Fold Variant Cover (click on it to see super-sized version)

I actually learned about Hero Cats back around this year’s New York Comic Con.  I wasn’t able to go to the convention, but Jim Hanley’s Universe was having a signing event to tie in with it.  One of the guests was Marcus Williams, penciler of Hero Cats.  I looked at his work on Facebook, and thought it was fantastic.  Unfortunately I ended up not being able to go to the JHU signing either, due to a last-minute emergency.  But shortly afterwards I found the first two issues of Hero Cats for sale at Forbidden Planet and Midtown Comics.

Hero Cats is released by Action Lab Entertainment, the publisher of many fine comic books, including Molly Danger by Jamal Igle.  Hero Cats is written by Kyle Puttkammer, penciled by Marcus Williams, and inked by Ryan Sellers.  It is a fun, adorable, exciting series about six cats who have joined forces to protect the human population of Stellar City.

In the first issue, we are introduced to this group of brave felines by Cassiopeia, an orange tabby.  Growing up a stray alongside her brother Bandit, a black & white kitty, Cassiopeia was a literate feline who would read the books & magazines sold at the newsstand above which the two of them lived.  One day Cassiopeia spotted a signing by Lillian C. Clark, her favorite author, at the book store across the street.  Waiting outside for a chance to meet her, Cassiopeia was adopted by Lillian, and the two become very close.

Hero Cats 1 pg 8

Lillian’s niece Amelia was an astronaut, and her spaceship became lost on a mission to study a comet striking Mars.  Lillian knew how upset Amelia’s astronomer husband Stanley and their daughter Suzie both were.  Realizing that Cassiopeia would be of great comfort to Stanley and Suzie, she gave her cat to them, pretending that with her book signing schedule that she could no longer care for her.

Around this time humans in Stellar City started manifesting super-powers.  Some, naturally enough, became criminals.  Cassiopeia decided to fight against these villains, joining up with five other cats:  Midnight, Belle, Rocket, Rocco and Ace.

Unknown to Cassiopeia, her humans have also gained powers, and have both adopted costumed identities to fight crime.  Stanley is Galaxy Man and Suzie is Cosmic Girl.  In short epilogues illustrated by Tracy Yardley we get to view the events of each issue from their point of view.

Hero Cats 1 pg 25

Puttkammer invests each of the six crime-fighting kitties with distinct personalities and perspectives.  The artwork by Williams & Sellers very much brings this band of brave felines to life.  Through the combination of script and art these cats are each unique individuals, with their own charming quirks.

Having introduced the cast of cats in the first issue, Puttkammer takes to time to explore their personalities, and examine how they interact with one another.  Belle and Ace are arguing about whether or not it was a good idea to allow Cassiopeia to join the team so soon.  Belle believes that Cassiopeia is untrained and should not be fighting alongside them.  Ace says he has full confidence in Cassiopeia.  Belle responds that she believes Ace’s feelings for Cassiopeia are affecting his judgment.  The two of them also end up debating the merits of human crime-fighters such as Galaxy Man and Cosmic Girl, as well as discussing the latest threat to Stellar City: an irresponsible teenager known as Johnny Arcado who is bringing video game monsters to life.

The entire team gathers, and they set out to stop Johnny Arcado, who lives in the house next door to Belle’s human.  Soon enough the cats are fighting Johnny’s computerized creations.  Cassiopeia proves herself to the team when her ability to read enables her to instruct Ace on how to operate Johnny’s alien-augmented arcade machine.  Ace uses it to create a giant robot to crush the monsters.  Meanwhile in the epilogue we see Galaxy Man and Cosmic Girl dealing directly with Johnny Arcado himself, all of them unaware of the crucial role Cassiopeia and her four-legged friends played in thwarting the threat to Stellar City.

Hero Cats 2 pg 11

If you like both cats and comic books then Hero Cats is highly recommended.  Puttkammer is a writer who is successful at crafting stories that are genuinely all-ages.  His scripts are genuinely fun, as well as intelligently written so that they do not talk down to younger readers, with a level of sophistication that will appeal to adults.  The artwork by Williams & Sellers is both cute and dynamic.  The cast of cats are all so wonderfully expressive.

According to the official Hero Cats website, issue #3 is currently available.  I’m definitely looking forward to picking it up.  You can order copies of all three issues through the website, along with plenty of other cool goodies, including issues of the Galaxy Man series and some cool t-shirts.

Catwoman by Ramona Fradon

It feels like I’ve been missing out on quite a bit lately: the 2014 New York Comic Con, the big Doctor Who convention that was held on Long Island last weekend, even my upcoming 20th high school reunion.  I’ve been short on funds so I wasn’t able to purchase tickets to any of those.

I finally decided to splurge a little though and pick up an early holiday present for myself.  Last week I received an e-mail update from Scott Kress of Catskill Comics Original & Commission Art.  I’ve bought a few things through Scott in the past and always found him easy to do business with.  It’s been a while since I’ve purchased anything though because of that aforementioned shortage in cash flow.  But I’m still on the mailing list for new artwork and special sales.

The latest e-mail update mentioned out that most of the artists were having a pre-Christmas sale between November 4th and 30th with 10% and 30% off original art.  Even though I figured I wouldn’t be able to afford anything I figured I’d browse around anyway just to see what was available.

One of the artists represented by Catskill Comics is Ramona Fradon.  I’ve been a huge fan of Fradon’s work for many years.  She was one of the first female creators to work in the comic book biz, first working for DC Comics in 1952.  During her lengthy career she illustrated the Aquaman feature in Adventure Comics, co-created Metamorpho the Element Man with writer Bob Haney, worked on series such as Super Friends, Plastic Man and House of Mystery, was the artist on the Brenda Starr newspaper strip from 1980 to 1995, and even did a few jobs for Marvel.

I was looking through the art by Fradon for sale at Catskill Comics, and of course I ended up finding a piece that I loved.  I just couldn’t resist.  So I  purchased this lovely pencil illustration of Catwoman and one of her furry friends:

Catwoman by Ramona Fradon

I really like this one a lot.  Catwoman is simply beautiful.  That cute kitty reminds me a bit of my cat Squeaky, as well as being reminiscent of Sebastian from Josie and the Pussycats.

Offhand I don’t recall if Ramona Fradon ever drew any stories for DC Comics featuring Catwoman.  But if you look through her artwork at Catskill Comics you will see that she’s previously created quite a few wonderful commission pieces featuring the feline femme fatale.

Something I have observed as a long-time comic book fan is that it is often it is women artists who draw the most beautiful, sexy females.  Yes of course there are a number of talented male artists with a fine mastery of the female form.  But there are even more who draw women that have such impossibly unrealistic body shapes, with giant breasts, tiny waists and thrusting rear ends.

I think that the main reason why women artists draw female characters so well is because as females themselves they know first-hand how the female form works, how gravity affects a lady’s assets, how a woman looks when she is in motion.  Perhaps female artists are also likely to have more of a sensitivity for wanting to render women who have a certain presence and dignity about them rather than drawing them as figures of sexual objectification.  Instead female artists may be more interested in investing their characters with personality.

I really feel that all of this applies to Fradon.  Throughout her lengthy career she has done wonderful work drawing female characters such as Saphire Stagg, Wonder Woman, Black Canary, Godiva, Mera, Supergirl, Phantom Lady, Brenda Starr and Thundra.  Her women are beautiful, but they also possess this appealing, glamorous quality.

At 88 years old, Ramona Fradon is still going strong, illustrating numerous wonderful commission pieces.  Definitely take a look through her wonderful work on display at the Catskill Comics website.

Cats and comic books: Counter Attack by Alisa Harris

This past February  on Kickstarter there was a fundraising campaign that I happily supported.  Ever since then I have been eagerly anticipating the project that was in the works.  Yesterday the completed book finally arrived in the mail: The Collected Counter Attack! by Alisa Harris.

Collected Counter Attack cover

Alisa Harris is a Queens-based artist & cartoonist.  Michele and I first met her in May 2011 at the Mini Zine Fest held at Pete’s Candy Store, a bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Among the mini-comics that Harris had for sale was Counter Attack, a cute series about her two mischievous cats, Moe and Fidget, that she has been creating since 2005.  Michele and I have two cats of our own, Nettie and Squeaky, and in the last few years I have become a huge cat lover.  I purchased Counter Attack from Harris, and I found it adorable.  (The series is so titled because, as Harris explains “Any cat will tell you: the best position of attack is from the kitchen counter.”)

Collected Counter Attack Moe and Fidget

Harris does a fantastic job investing the illustrated versions of Moe and Fidget with the personalities they posses in real life.  Anyone who has ever had a cat can tell you that felines have very distinctive temperaments.  They can be funny and adorable and mischievous and bossy, often all within the space of a few minutes!  Harris’ ability to capture those qualities, as well as her charming art style, made Counter Attack a big success.  The comics kept selling out and she kept having to re-print them.  That’s when she came up with the idea for a Kickstarter campaign to fund a collected edition of Counter Attack, with brand new material included.

Personally speaking, I believe that mini-comics are a real fount of creativity.  There are many very cool self-published comics out there from numerous talented creators.  That said, I never know how to store or organize them!  So, yeah, since I kept re-reading my copies of Counter Attack, and I also kept misplacing them in my jumbled, disorganized piles of books and comics, a hardcover collection was something that appealed to me.

Collected Counter Attack Alarm Clock

As a cat owner (or perhaps that should be a human who is owned by cats?) I have a lot of identification with the anecdotes and misadventures of Moe and Fidget that Harris illustrates.  I am certain that many humans with feline friends will also find these episodes vary familiar.  After all, what human with a cat has not been woken up at the crack of dawn (or earlier) by a cat who wants their breakfast?  Evidently in Harris’ household, her cat Moe likes to tap her on the head.  In my own case, Nettie will lean over my sleeping face and start poking me in the nose with one of her paws.  If that doesn’t work, and I still refuse to get up, on occasion she will extend one claw and begin prodding the tip of my nose with that, which inevitably works.  Yeah, sometimes Nettie can certainly be bratty!

Collected Counter Attack Well Trained

Cats also like to sharpen their claws.  I understand that this is a natural habit they engage in.  That’s why most people purchase a scratching post for their cats, so that their personal property will not get shredded.  Michele and I got one for Nettie and Squeaky.  I can count on one hand the times each of them have used it.  Instead they scratch everything else: the bed, the chairs, the sofa, the bookshelves, even my comic books!  And all the while they ignore a perfectly good, practically brand new scratching post!  I see from the pages of Counter Attack that Harris also experiences this phenomenon.

The Collected Counter Attack! is a cute, funny book.  Copies can be ordered through Alissa Harris’ online shop.  Also available is a “fun pack” containing the issues of her series Urban Nomad, which she describes as “Quirky true stories about living in the many boroughs of New York City.”  I recommend purchasing a copy of The Collected Counter Attack!, especially if you love cats.  You will be looking through the pages of the book and constantly saying to yourself “Yep, that’s my cat, too!”

Cats and comic books: Captain Action Cat

Captain Action was a doll-sized action figure who debuted in 1966. The gimmick was that kids could purchase the costumes of various comic book & pulp heroes (Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, the Lone Ranger, Flash Gordon, etc) and dress up the Captain Action figure in them, transforming him into different characters.  There was also Action Boy, the teenage sidekick to Captain Action, and Dr. Evil, a blue-skinned alien with an exposed brain.  DC Comics published a short-lived Captain Action series in 1968, with artwork by Wally Wood and Gil Kane.  Four decades later, in 2008, Moonstone Books began publishing a revival of Captain Action.  And in 2010 TwoMorrows Publishing released Captain Action: the Original Super Hero Action Figure, an oversized hardcover volume by Michael Eury.

Action Cat is the creation of Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani, the duo who have previously brought us such fun comic books as Tiny Titans and Itty Bitty Hellboy. The super-powered feline Action Cat and his partner Action Bug hail from beautiful downtown Skoakie, Illinois.  They star in the adorable, humorous self-published series Aw Yeah Comics.

Captain Action Cat 1 cover

You may well ask, what does one have to do with the other? Well, put Captain Action and Action Cat together, with Art, Franco and co-writer Chris “Zod” Smits at the helm, and you get Captain Action Cat: The Timestream Catastrophe.  Published by Dynamite Entertainment in collaboration with Aw Yeah Comics and Dark Horse, the four issue Captain Action Cat miniseries is one of the most offbeat, irreverent, undeniably cute team-up comic books of all time.

Action Cat’s arch nemesis, the fiendish Evil Cat, utilizes his “Evil Timestream Device” to search through the myriad parallel universes for a like-minded ally. He discovers Dr. Evil Cat, a villain from the Silver Age who is the enemy of Captain Action Cat, an alternate reality kitty counterpart to the human Captain Action.  Along the way Captain Action Cat encounters the Golden Age Action Cat, who is across between Batman and Captain America (he wears a utility belt and he’s discovered frozen in an iceberg).

Evil Cat tries to snag Dr. Evil Cat with the Device, but the beam goes wild, bringing together the inhabitants of numerous other universes. Soon Captain Action Cat, Golden Age Action Cat and Dr. Evil Cat encounter the human Captain Action and Lady Action, the vigilantes Ghost, X, Skyman and Captain Midnight from the Modern Age (courtesy of Dark Horse) and the supernatural guardian known as the Phantom Lemur.  And back in beautiful downtown Skoakie, Modern Day Action Cat and Action Bug are attempting to stop Evil Cat and his Device before all of reality gets turned into Swiss cheese.  Next thing you know, everyone comes together for a final time-crossed titanic tussle.

Captain Action Cat 2 pg 7

And, um, that’s more or less it for plot. Really, this isn’t exactly War and Peace, y’know?  Captain Action Cat is a fun, charming miniseries that younger readers will no doubt enjoy, and adults will find more than a bit amusing.  The story by Balthazar, Franco and Smits is a chance to humorously throw a whole bunch of disparate concepts together for the sake of having some fun and generating a bunch of laughs.  Balthazar’s artwork is, as always, just too darn cute.  There are also a few fun pin-ups and back-up shorts by Franco, Scoot McMahon and Kurt Wood in the third and fourth issues.

I suppose if you like cats then Captain Action Cat is also a recommended read.  After all, ever since Michele and I adopted Nettie and Squeaky several years ago, I’ve become crazy about all things feline.  (Right now, as I’m typing this blog post, I’m sitting on the edge of my chair, because Nettie is taking up the rest of it, and she won’t move.  Yeah, that’s a cat for you.)

Captain Action Cat 4 pg 6

By the way, a heads up to parents with young kids: Dynamite’s marketing department must have been asleep at the wheel in a major way when Captain Action Cat #1 was put together, because the back cover features an advertisement for the dark fantasy series The Blood Queen, with the title character displaying her cavernous cleavage in all its glory.  As they say, there’s a time & place for everything, but I don’t think this was it.  At least the next three issues of Captain Action Cat contain somewhat more appropriate ads.  Did you know that Dynamite is publishing Doodle Jump and Bob’s Burgers?  Hopefully when those two series come out Dynamite won’t be running ads in them promoting Vampirella or Purgatori!

For those who missed Captain Action Cat when it first came out, all four issues can be purchased on the Aw Yeah Comics website, along with many other fine products by Art, Franco and the rest of the gang. So go check ‘em out!

Spotlight on Streaky the Supercat

It’s a bird!  No, it’s a plane!  No, it’s… Supercat?!?

Sometimes the Silver Age of superhero comic books, specifically the various series published by DC Comics, is considered by contemporary readers to be too silly.  Of course, in the last quarter century the pendulum has swung much too far in the opposite direction, with both DC and Marvel taking everything way too seriously.  They’re often afraid to have any sense of fun about their stories.  I really think you need to have a balance between those two extremes.  Anyone who follows my blog has no doubt noticed that I have very diverse interests, and my tastes run, as the saying goes, from the ridiculous to the sublime.

And so, even though there was a great deal of nonsense to DC’s books in the 1950s and 60s, I think there is quite a bit that’s fun & charming about those comics.  That includes Streaky the Supercat.

Making his debut in Action Comics #261 (Feb 1960), Streaky was designed by artist Jim Mooney, who in later years would say the character was one of his favorites.  Streaky was one of the only non-Kryptonian members of the “Superman Family” (there was also Comet the Super-Horse, but he’s much too weird to get into right now).  An ordinary Earth cat, Streaky was the pet of Supergirl in her civilian guise as Linda Lee.  In a failed attempt to find a cure for Kyrptonite, Supergirl accidentally created “X-Kryptonite.”  She carelessly tossed it away, but when Streaky later came across it, the substance imbued him with Superman-like powers.

Action Comics 373 pg 7

Here’s a page from “The Battle of the Super-Pets,” which originally appeared in Action Comics #277 (June 1961).  Streaky, jealous of the attention that Supergirl is giving to Krypto the Superdog, begins a rivalry with the Kryptonian canine.  To avoid the inevitable property damage, Supergirl takes them off-world to resume their contest on a small planetoid.  You can see from the artwork that Mooney really invested Streaky with a great deal of personality.  As someone who loved cats, he must have known all about feline “cattitude.”

(I scanned this from a reprint of the story that ran in the somewhat more affordable and easy to locate Action Comics #373, a giant-sized special which collected together several earlier Supergirl tales).

Although Streaky was never a major fixture of the “mainstream” DC titles, he eventually went on to make appearances in stories that were, appropriately enough, geared towards a younger audience.  Streaky was one of the main characters in the Krypto the Superdog animated series which ran from March 2005 to December 2006.  Streaky has also popped up in the Tiny Titans and Superman Family Adventures comics by Art Baltazar & Franco Aureliani.

It was probably inevitable after Michele and I adopted our two cats Nettie and Squeaky that I would become a fan of fictional felines.  And that includes Streaky the Supercat.  Although not a major theme for me like Beautiful Dreamer, I have obtained a few sketches of the heroic housecat.

streakycohn

Scott Cohn is a versatile artist who has worked on such comic books as Army of Darkness, Ben 10, Justice League Unlimited and Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  He has also done licensing artwork for various properties, including the Krypto the Superdog series.  So I asked him to do a sketch of the animated version of Streaky.  Hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to get some other sketches by Cohn. He does nice work.

streakyharris

Independent creator Alisa Harris has self-published several comic books.  One of these, Counter Attack, is a whimsical look at the antics of her cats Fidget and Moe.  Harris recently ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the hardcover publication of The Collected Counter Attack!  I’m looking forward to receiving a copy in the mail later this year.  Harris has drawn a couple of cat sketches for me, including this cute Streaky.

darkseid vs streaky franco

When I met Franco Aureliani at the 2013 New York Comic Con, of course I had to ask for a drawing of Streaky.  I requested that he draw “Streaky vs. Darkseid,” because the lord of Apokolips is a frequent fixture of Tiny Titans as the evil lunch lady.  Franco knows his cats very well, because faced by Darkseid’s menace Streaky simply can’t be bothered and decides to take a nap.

Last but certainly not least is my girlfriend, the beautiful and talented Michele Witchipoo.  I was friends with Michele for several years before we started dating.  During that time, she began self-publishing two comic book series: Psycho Bunny features the misadventures of an antisocial alcoholic rabbit living in Astoria, Queens, and Babalon Babes is a collection of sexy pin-up girl illustrations.  Over the past decade Michele has really developed as an artist.  She is constantly creating better and better work.

Streaky Silver Age Witchipoo

Michele has loved cats since she was a little girl, and grew up with them.  When I first told her about Streaky the Supercat in 2009, she did this charming drawing of the Silver Age version of the character for herself.

streaky animated witchipoo

A couple of days ago, I mentioned to Michele that I was going to do a blog post about Streaky.  She insisted that she wanted to do a brand new illustration of him in my convention sketchbook.  Michele decided to draw the animated version of Streaky this time.  And here he is, attempting very much to look like the Cat of Steel.  Michele definitely captured Streaky’s personality in this piece.  The “super tuna” was certainly a cute touch.

Perhaps I’ll get other Supercat sketches in the future.  I have to see which artists I run into at conventions.  I just hope that Nettie and Squeaky don’t mind.  They tend to get jealous, but that’s cats for you!

Attack of the Rocket Cats

One of the women I work with usually gives me her newspaper in the afternoon, once she’s done reading it at lunch. Friday afternoon, she handed me the day’s edition of the New York Post.  Now, the Post is really not my thing, since I find it to be a sensationalistic right-wing rag. I much prefer the Daily News which, as a sensationalistic left-wing rag, is at least somewhat more palatable.  But, anyway, I took the Post so I’d have something to read while waiting for the subway going home. And, browsing through the pages of the paper, I came across this item:

Rocket Cats article

Okaaaay!!!  Yes, according to University of Pennsylvania researcher Mitch Fraas, it seems that the early 16th Century artillery master Franz Helm actually proposed the creation of feline-deployed WMDs.  He even had full-color illustrations prepared to demonstrate these meowing marauders in action.

Doing a little bit of a Google search, I found a similar article in the UK newspaper The Guardian, which stated…

“Circulated widely and illustrated by multiple artists, Helm’s manual is filled with strange and terrible imagery, from bombs packed with shrapnel to missile-like explosive devices studded with spikes.”

Ah, the brilliantly twisted ingenuity of the human mind!

That said, I am not quite sure how exactly Helm arrived at the notion of placing an explosive pack onto the back of a cat and then sending it off to blow up an enemy installation.  There seem to be certain practical issues that he did not consider, such as equipping the gunpowder pack with a long enough fuse to make certain the tabby time bomb did not detonate while still in your vicinity, or a method of ensuring that your kitty commando actually headed off to the intended target.  And, of  course, as any cat owner will tell you, most felines do not like to be picked up. It is difficult enough to wrangle a domestic cat so that you can brush its fur or give it a bath (I speak from experience here).  So the possibility of successfully snatching up a stray cat and strapping a ticking bomb to it without getting your eyes clawed out seems terribly unlikely.

Rocket Cats color illustration

Obviously Helm’s contemporaries felt the same way regarding the drawbacks inherent in successfully creating a weaponized felis catus and tabled the discussion.  After all, there is a glaring dearth of recorded instances of rocket cat attacks in the annals of European history.  Good thing, too; I doubt the SPCA would have approved.

That said, there are two things that we can learn from this.  One, the phrase “military intelligence” has always been an oxymoron. Two, even as far back as five centuries ago, long before the creation of Facebook, people still liked sharing silly cat pictures.

Lil Bub in the Big Apple

Cats are everywhere on the Internet.  Cute cats, funny cats, strange cats, crazy cats.  You even have your celebrity cats, such as Grumpy Cat and Colonel Meow.  And then there is Lil Bub.

For those unfamiliar with Lil Bub, she is a dwarf cat with big eyes, extra toes, no teeth, and a tongue that hangs out of her mouth.  Lil Bub and her human, Mike Bridavsky, are from Bloomington, Indiana.  They travel around the country making appearances to raise money for animal-related charities.  There is actually a documentary about Lil Bub that is going to premier at this year’s Tribecca Film Festival, with a book coming out in the Fall.  Here is one of Lil Bub’s official photos:

Lil Bub official photo

On Tuesday morning, Michele and I took the subway to the East Village.  We had found out that Lil Bub would be visiting Social Tees Animal Rescue from 11 AM to 1 PM that day, and we really wanted to meet her.  After wandering around for a while, we finally located Social Tees at their new location, 325 East 5th Street.  I later remarked that, since we had been trying to find Social Tees in its old spot, we had been “Looking for Bub in all the wrong places.”  Michele booed me very loudly.

When we got there, the first thing I noticed was that there were several cops standing around.  For a second I thought that maybe Lil Bub had actually gotten a police escort.  Nope, it turns out that Social Tees is next to the neighborhood precinct.  According to the owner, the cops pop in to visit the animals all the time.  It was around 10:30, so we the line was luckily pretty short at that point.  As we were waiting over the next half hour, though, it really grew behind us.

A little after 11:00, Social Tees started letting people in, two at a time.  They were accepting donations of cash or animal food.  If we had known, we’d have brought along this bag of food that our two cats, Nettie and Squeaky, are too picky to eat.  I guess we can drop it off some other time.

Michele and I soon got in.  And, wow, Lil Bub was such a cutie!  Plus she was so small.  I mean, I knew she was a dwarf cat, but she really was tiny.  I think Bub was sort of shy & nervous about meeting all of these new people, but she was still very well behaved.  Here is the photo that Michele took of me petting Lil Bub:

Lil Bub and Ben

Michele said that I had such a happy look on my face when I met Lil Bub.  Having Nettie and Squeaky has really turned me into a cat-lover.  As I said afterwards, it was Bub-tastic.

I think we both wished we could have spent more time with Lil Bub.  But it was a long line, and obviously everyone else needed to get their chance to meet her.  We’re hoping that we’ll be able to go see the Lil Bub & Friendz film in the near future.

Holiday daze

So, another year comes to an end.  I would be lying if I didn’t say I would be happy to see 2012 pass by.  The past twelve months have had so many personal highs and lows, a total rollercoaster.  I’m looking forward to 2013.  Hopefully it’ll be a better year, and I’ll be a better person, as well.

In any case, the last week has been pretty good.  Michele and I invited her parents over for dinner on Christmas Eve.  Michele is one hell of a cook.  This year she made a turkey, stuffing, homemade mashed potatoes, and several vegetables.  It was a really good meal.  The cats went totally crazy, of course!  Squeaky and Nettie love their turkey.  Squeaky even ended up jumping on the kitchen counter in an attempt to get at the turkey before Michele had even had the opportunity to cook it yet!  Anyway, there were plenty of leftovers, so the cats had a chance to gobble down plenty of turkey.  We also gave a few pieces to the turtle.  Yes, Meeshee Gamera refuses to eat vegetables, but she loves poultry.  We gave some food to Michele’s parents to take home.  From what Michele tells me, when they got home, Little Ginger the kitten went nuts when they fed her some turkey.

Michele's delicious turkey
Michele’s delicious turkey

Finally, a few days later, there was only a little bit left.  After I threw out the carcass, I made the mistake of leaving the remaining turkey on a plate by the stove, planning to give it to the turtle the next day.  Well, when I woke up the next morning, it was all gone, except for the wish bone.  Michele and I were looking at each other, puzzled.  “Did you eat it?”  “No, I didn’t, did you eat it?”  Finally it dawned on us that in the middle of the night one of the cats must have jumped up and taken it!

Between the cold weather and the turkey rendering us semi-comatose, we ended up watching a lot of television.  When Michele’s parents came over for dinner, I turned on Animal Planet for the Too Cute marathon.  That show features oodles and oodles of kittens and puppies.  I think I overdosed on adorable.  Then Michele put the Laurel and Hardy film Babes in Toyland aka March of the Wooden Soldiers on the DVD player.

Christmas morning was pretty much dominated by our yearly tradition of watching the 24 hour marathon of A Christmas Story on TBS.  Somehow, we never end up viewing the movie from beginning to end.  Instead, we catch 15 minutes here, a half hour there, and by the end of the day, when you add up all the bits & pieces, we’ve seen the entire movie at least once.  That really is a hysterical film.  As with so many other great cult classics, it apparently did poorly in the theaters, only to find new life on home video and television.

Other viewing material that day was the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode of Santa Claus, a truly bizarre 1959 Mexican movie which features the war between St. Nick and the Devil.  Yes, really!  It is a strange, strange film.  To quote Mike & the Bots, “This is good old fashioned nightmare fuel!”  Then it was time for this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special.  It was pretty good, albeit uneven.  I may review “The Snowmen” on this blog in the near future.

Another show on Animal Planet that I’ve gotten into recently is Pit Bulls & Parolees.  I really like that one.  I think pit bulls are misunderstood.  If you treat them kindly and train them properly, they really can end up being very sweet, loyal dogs.  Another reason I like the show is that it gives people who have been to prison a second chance.  Maybe I’m too sappy, but I honestly believe that there are some people who have made mistakes, but who now genuinely want to turn their lives around.  I honestly feel that they should be given that opportunity.

I think the cats have been happy to have us home, since they’ve been leaping onto the couch to watch TV with us.  Nettie has been sleeping in my lap.  At one point Michele was relaxing on the couch under the blanket, and, as can be seen below, Squeaky curled up on top of her head.  I think she was actually very comfortable there.

Michele and Squeaky
Michele and Squeaky

In the last few days, Michele has gotten a nostalgic craving for that late 1970s series The Gong Show, hosted by Chuck Barris.  She’s been watching all of these clips of it on YouTube.  I’ve never actually seen the original version of The Gong Show before.  I saw a few episodes of the 1980s revival, which never impressed me, so I couldn’t understand what the big deal was.  But Michele pretty much forced me to watch those clips of the original incarnation and, yeah, it is a million times better.  I have to agree with her, the people involved in making the show must have been on some serious drugs!  Of course, while we were browsing through all these old television clips, we happened to learn that a serial killer was once a contestant on The Dating Game.  Oh, wow, truth really is stranger than fiction.  I’m surprised that this never inspired an episode of Criminal Minds.

So now it’s New Years Eve.  I have no plans yet.  Since I quit drinking, it just feels really weird hanging out at bars or parties with people who are getting smashed.  A couple of nights ago, we were at The Cobra Club in Bushwick again, hanging out with some of Michele’s friends.  It was fun, yeah, but after a couple of hours I just started to get edgy, being around all that booze.  And, y’know, if you aren’t drinking, bars are kinda boring.  I don’t know, maybe I just overthink these things.  Anyway, I’m not sure what I’m going to end up doing tonight.  Perhaps I’ll hang out with Michele for a little while and then call it an early night, catch the Twilight Zone marathon or something.  We shall see.

In any case, I hope everyone has a wonderful 2013.  See you next year.

Little Ginger the rescued kitten

My girlfriend’s parents used to have three cats who lived with them: Tabitha, Champ and Leo.  I never met Tabitha, because she died right before Michele and I started dating.  But according to Michele, Tabitha was really close to her, as well as a cat with attitude.  “She would have put you in your place,” Michele likes to tell me.  Four years later, Michele still misses her.

So for the last four years Leo and Champ were still with my girlfriend’s parents, keeping them company.  I met both feline friends on several occasions, when Michele and I went to visit her parents.  The cats seemed really sweet.  Even though we had two cats of our own, I grew to enjoy our visits to there, because I would get to see Leo and Champ.  I especially like Champ.  I was told she had been the runt of her litter, but she had survived, and grew up to be a very affectionate cat.

Unfortunately, last winter Leo passed away from old age, and this spring Champ followed him.  Michele’s mother May is a very sweet woman.  She had been very close to both cats, and missed them both terribly.  Even though May claimed she was too old to take in another cat, I could tell she really would have liked another one to care for.

Late in October, only a couple of days before Hurricane Sandy came barreling through New York City, Michele’s father found a tiny little kitten abandoned in a garage in Queens.  The poor thing was all alone.  He brought it home to his wife as a present, because he knew how much she missed Tabitha, Champ, and Leo.  Cleaning up the cat, May discovered it was a girl.  The cat was an orange tabby, so she named her Ginger.

Ginger in early November
Ginger in early November

It seems certain that Michele’s father saved little Ginger’s life, because I doubt she would have been able to survive the hurricane all alone, living in a cold garage.  May started nursing Ginger back to health.  About a week after the storm, Michele and I went to visit her parents.  We met Ginger for the first time.  She was such a tiny little thing, and was constantly clinging to May.  Michele and I both had an opportunity to hold Ginger.  She really was affectionate.

About a month later, Michele and I went back to her parents’ place for Thanksgiving.  Ginger had been all cleaned up by May, and had started to grow.  Ginger really looked adorable.  She was playful, and at every opportunity was chowing down on leftover Turkey.

Ginger on Thankgsiving Day
Ginger on Thankgsiving Day

The last time Michele spoke to her mother on the phone, she heard that Ginger was still growing, continuing to get healthy, running around the apartment and playing with May.  She seems like a very sweet cat, and I hope she continues to get well & grow.  It’s obvious that May fell in love with Ginger at first sight.  I know she is going to do everything she can to give Ginger a good home.  I’m certainly looking forward to seeing that adorable kitty again.

(Photos of Little Ginger by Michele Witchipoo)

Nettie and the vet

As I’ve mentioned before, one of our cats, Nettie, is a part-Persian, part-Siamese with long fur.  It is recommended that long-haired cats have their fur combed or brushed at least once a week, because otherwise it will get tangled in knots.  Unfortunately, Nettie very seldom will allow me or my girlfriend near her with a brush or comb.  If we do try to brush Nettie’s fur, she starts to bite, claw, and kick at us.  So we long ago gave up on brushing Nettie regularly.

As a result, after several months, Nettie’s fur will become terribly tangled up.  This means we have to take her to the veterinarian for grooming.  In practice, that means she needs to receive a “lion cut,” which means the groomer shaves off all of her hair except for around her head, her paws, and the end of her tail.

We usually wait until the summer for Nettie to get groomed, because in the hot weather her long fur makes her more likely to get overheated.  Plus that’s when she sheds a lot.  We didn’t have the opportunity to get her groomed until this week, though, which is a lot later than we usually prefer.

In order for a vet to do a grooming, the animals must be up to date on their shots.  So a couple of weeks ago I took Nettie to the vet for an exam and vaccinations.  As soon as I took out the cat carrier, both Nettie and our other cat Squeaky bolted.  They know that as soon as they see the carrier, it means a trip to the vet is on hand for one of them.  Well, humans hate having to go to the doctor, so it’s no surprise that cats do, as well.  The last couple of times, I took out the carrier the night before, so that Nettie would get used to seeing it out.  That makes it somewhat easier to then get her into it the next morning, although both times she certainly struggled.

Anyway, this Monday I brought Nettie back to the vet to be groomed.  She was given a bath and a shave.  When she came back home, she was very shy and quiet, something which she normally isn’t.  I think the combination of the trip to the vet and having all her fur taken off left her feeling very vulnerable.  It’s now a couple of days later, though, and I can see she’s slowly getting back to her old self, giving me attitude and slapping me on the ankles when I pass by her.

In any case, here’s what Nettie looks like after her grooming:

Nettie after her "lion cut" grooming, looking rather annoyed that I'm taking a photo of her in this state
Nettie after her “lion cut” grooming, looking rather annoyed that I’m taking a photo of her in this state

Now if only I could manage to take Squeaky to the vet.  She really needs a check-up and, yep, a bath.  Squeaky is a sweet cat, but she smells.  She won’t let us pick her up and give her a wash here at home.  As bad as it is getting Nettie into the carrier, Squeaky is a dozen times worse.  In the past, every time she needed to go to the vet, my girlfriend and I spent almost an hour chasing her around the apartment before we finally managed to grab her up and cram her into the carrier.  It is not a pleasant experience!

By the way, the vet we take the cats to for their check-ups and grooming is Antelyes Animal Hospital in Middle Village, Queens.  They are very good and do excellent work.  The doctors and staff are friendly & helpful, and treat their animal patients extremely well.  I think that all vets are expensive, but Antelyes’ prices appear to be on the more reasonable side than some other establishments.  So if you happen to live in the area, I definitely recommend them.