Even more Comic Book Cats highlights

Since July of last year I’ve been posting Comic Book Cats entries on the Comic Book Historians group on Facebook. The object is to see how many different pencilers I can find artwork by featuring cats. Here are 10 more highlights, taken from entries 101 to 150.

John Paul Leon

Midnighter #8, drawn by John Paul Leon, written by Christos Gage, lettered by Phil Balsman and colored by Randy Major, published by Wildstorm / DC Comics in August 2007.

“Why the hell are cyborgs stealing cats in suburbia?” That’s the question the Authority’s resident super-viollent Batman expy finds himself asking when teammate Jack Hawksmoor convinces him to get back in touch with ordinary people by searching for a missing girl’s cat. The trail soon leads to the doorstep of the local mad scientist, with Midnighter ultimately liberating the abducted animals and finding an alternative source of test subjects for the loony doctor, namely human criminals. Yeah, Christos Gage’s story is a bizarrely effective blending of heartwarming feel-good moments and incredibly dark, twisted humor.

John Paul Leon’s art has always been impressively atmospheric. His early work on Robocop for Dark Horse and Static for Milestone demonstrated an artist who hit the ground running, and who has consistently improved since then. Leon later worked on The Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix, Earth X and Black Widow for Marvel, The Winter Men for Wildstorm / DC, and the much-underrated revamp of Challengers of the Unknown written by Steven Grant.

Thumbs up to Richard Guion for letting me know about this one.

Marcio Takara

Captain Marvel #8, drawn by Marcio Takara, written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, lettered by Joe Caramanga and colored by Lee Loughridge, published by Marvel Comics in December 2014.

“Release the Flerken” has Carol Danvers at long last discovering that her cat Chewie is actually an alien from outer space known as a Flerken. Chewie lays a whole bunch of eggs, which soon hatch, presenting us with an army of adorable-but-dangerous tentacle-spewing space cats. Carol unfortunately has to leave Chewie’s offspring in outer space as there is no way she could possibly fit 117 more cats, as well as the necessary litter boxes, into her apartment! Fortunately she finds an outer space animal rescue center to take in the adorable kittens, um, Flerkens. Soooo, anyone here looking to adopt?

Marcio Takara has been working in comic books since 2006. His work has also appeared in numerous titles, including All-New Wolverine and Daredevil for Marvel, Green Arrow and Nightwing for DC, Dynamo 5 for Image and Incorruptible for Boom! Studios. I think he’s a great artist, especially since, as seen here, he does a great job drawing cats.

Irv Novick & Joe Giella

Batman #210, penciled by Irv Novick, inked by Joe Giella and written by Frank Robbins, published by DC Comics in March 1969.

“The Case of the Purr-loined Pearl” sees Selina Kilye recruiting eight fellow felonious females to don Catwoman costumes as part of an elaborate heist. Here we see Selina and her cat Slinky mailing out invites to the future members of her Feline Furies.

Irv Novick is probably one of the most underrated Batman artists. He turned in good, solid, professional work on numerous stories throughout the Bronze Age. Here he is paired up with inker Joe Giella, another artist who has a lengthy association with the Dark Knight, including a four year stint drawing the Batman newspaper strip during the 1960s. The combo of Novick & Giella works very well on this story.

The writer on this issue is the great Frank Robbins, another regular creative presence on Batman and Detective Comics from the late 1960s thru to the mid 1970s. Robbins wrote some very clever and imaginative Batman stories, as well as occasionally illustrating them. His artwork was spotlighted in a previous Comic Book Cats entry.

George Herriman

Krazy Kat, written & drawn by George Herriman, published on July 30, 1916.

The newspaper comic strip Krazy Kat ran from 1913 to 1944. The main characters were Krazy Kat, a playful, innocent black cat, and Ignatz Mouse, a mischievous rodent who frequently throws bricks at Krazy’s head. The naïve Krazy is hopelessly in love with Ignatz and thinks that the mouse’s brick-tossing is his way of returning that love. This Krazy-centric Sunday page is a good example of Herriman’s artwork, energy, humor and narrative style.

George Herriman was born in New Orleans on August 22, 1880 to mixed-race Creole parents. He began working professionally as an artist in 1901 when his illustrations were printed by the weekly satirical magazine Judge. Herriman’s work on Krazy Kat very quickly gained appreciation among critics and intellectual, and he has been cited as a major influence by numerous other artists throughout the decades. He passed away in April 1944 at the age of 63.

Inaki Miranda

Catwoman / Tweety and Sylvester, drawn by Inaki Miranda, written by Gail Simone, lettered by Taylor Esposito and colored by Eva de la Cruz, published by DC Comics in October 2018.

I don’t want to give away too much about this fun crossover between the DCU and Looney Tunes. Suffice to say the story eventually culminates in nearly every single cat and bird themed character from DC coming together in a monumental clash. Before that, though, we have Selina Kyle encountering the very animated, so to speak, Sylvester the Cat.

Inaki Miranda broke into comic books in 2003, working on the Judge Dredd feature in 2000 AD. He then drew Fables for Vertigo / DC, which led to work on a number of mainstream DC series.

Miranda did a great job on this special. The requirements of the project meant that he had to render Sylvester as much closer to a real-world cat. He did so quite successfully, managing to still retain much of the puddy tat, um, I mean pussy cat’s personality.

Sam Glanzman

Kona, Monarch of Monster Isle #5, drawn by Sam Glanzman, written by Don Segall and lettered by Charlotte Jetter, published by Dell Comics in January 1963.

A denizen of one of those mysterious lost islands in the South Pacific inhabited by cavemen, dinosaurs, giant animals and other fantastical menaces, the prehistoric Kona made his debut in Four Color #1256. Following that he starred in his own series which lasted for 20 issues (confusingly numbered from #2 to #21). The highlight of the short-lived Kona, Monarch of Monster Isle was definitely the stunning, detailed artwork by Sam Glanzman.

Issue #5 featured a gigantic cat. The titanic tabby is revealed to be Amsat, a previously-ordinary cat kept as a mouser on a U.S. Navy ship. Accidentally left behind on an island where the military was testing nuclear bombs, Amsat grew to giant size, eventually tussling with the sharks in the waters around his island home.

Amsat is obviously intended to be a dangerous animal, but Glanzman draws him just so cute and adorable that when “the Monster Cat” is finally defeated and killed I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him.

Sam Glanzman is best known for the numerous war comic books he drew during the Silver and Bronze Ages. Among these were a series of autobiographical war stories about his service aboard the U.S.S. Stevens during World War II.  Glanzman also worked in the horror and Western genres. Kona, Monarch of Monster Isle enabled him to try his hand at “lost world” adventure-type stories, and he did some good work on the title. The entire issue is archived on the Comic Book Plus website.

Val Semeiks & Denis Rodier

The Demon volume 3 #8, penciled by Val Semeiks, inked by Denis Rodier, written by Alan Grant, lettered by Todd Klein and colored by Robbie Busch, published by DC Comics in February 1991.

Having been introduced by Jack Kirby in the original run of The Demon, the next major appearances by Klarion the Witch Boy and his cat familiar Teekl were in Alan Grant’s revival. Grant invested The Demon with a blackly humorous tone, which was certainly a good fit for the diabolically mischievous Klarion and his shape-shifting kitty.  This scene, with Teekl dancing to Mussorgsky, certainly encapsulated the grim, bizarre comedy of the series.

The artwork of Val Semeiks & Denis Rodier certainly enhanced the nightmarish hilarity of Grant’s story. Their depictions of the Demon Etrigan, Klarion, Teekl, and numerous other unearthly fiends were both chilling and comical. Semeiks’ inventive storytelling also effectively created a tangibly askew mood.

Semeiks’ first work in the comic book field was on Conan the Barbarian and Savage Sword of Conan for Marvel between 1986 and 1989.  Moving to DC, Semeiks had a three year run on The Demon, and following that penciled Lobo, which was also written by Alan Grant. Since then Semeik has worked on a variety of projects for the Big Two and several issues of Forgotten Realms for Devil’s Due Publishing.

Jim Aparo

The Many Ghosts of Dr. Graves #4, drawn by Jim Aparo and written by Steve Skeates, published by Charlton Comics in November 1967.

Housewife Ruth Roland is an anal-retentive neat freak (seriously, she should have married Felix Unger; they would have made a perfect match) is more than a bit perturbed when her husband’s two friends from college drop off their cat uninvited en route to a two year stint in the Peace Corps. Ruth’s worst fears are soon confirmed, as the cat begins to run amok, destroying her domestic bliss. And, of course, since this IS a horror comic book, things soon take an even more bizarre turn.

Jim Aparo got his start at Charlton Comics during the second half of the 1960s. Aparo drew a variety of material for Charlton: The Phantom, romance, sci-fi, Westerns and, of course, stories for their horror anthologies.

Even here, at the start of his career, we see that Aparo was doing solid work. I definitely love the very effective “My cat is an asshole” montage in the bottom panel. I can so totally relate! Aparo’s editor at Charlton was Dick Giordano, who in the late 1960s went to work for DC Comics. Giordano was soon giving Aparo work at DC.  Aparo was a prolific artist for the publisher over the next quarter century.  He became one of the definitive Batman artists of the Bronze Age. Semi-retired by the mid 1990s, Aparo continued doing occasional work for DC up until 2001. He passed away in July 2005 at the age of 72.

Christopher Weyant

The New Yorker, drawn by Christopher Weyant, published in July 2017.

It’s a political cartoon featuring a cat and a dog. I’m not going to say anything else, other than I found this one really funny. The angry expression on the cat’s face is hysterical.

Christopher Weyant is a regular contributor to The New Yorker. He has also illustrated several children’s books that were written by his wife Anna King.

Jim Davis

Garfield by Jim Davis, published on June 19 and July 15, 1978

Here are two early Garfield comic strips, the very first one which introduced fat, lazy cat Garfield and his long-suffering human Jon Arbuckle, and the one that revealed Garfield’s love of lasagna for the first time. (Our late, much-missed cat Squaky, who was on the chubby side herself, attempted to snatch lasagna off our stove on at least a couple of occasions.)

Garfield initially started out looking very different from the form that we are all familiar with today, but his slothful, greedy behavior has basically been the same since day one.

Jim Davis has used several uncredited assistants for most of the history of the Garfield comic strip.  So I figured I’d go right back to the very beginning, which is likely pure Davis, or close to it.  Davis has been up front about the fact that one of his main reasons for creating Garfield was to “come up with a good, marketable character” so I suppose he can’t really be criticized for relying on assistants in order to focus on the licensing end of things. Whatever his specific level of involvement in the day-to-day work of drawing the Garfield comic strip, it’s undeniable that he created a genuinely iconic character.

Thanks for stopping by. Please check out First Comics News to see all of the Comic Book Cats entries, as well as for the Comic Book Coffee archives. Although I’m no longer doing these on a daily basis, I am posting new entries whenever I happen to come across something by an artist I haven’t previously spotlighted.

Comic book reviews: Klarion by Ann Nocenti

Regular readers of this blog will recall that I am a fan of Ann Nocenti.  Between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s she wrote many offbeat, thought-provoking stories at Marvel Comics.  After leaving the comic book biz, Nocenti was involved in various other fields, working as a journalist, filmmaker and teacher.

I definitely missed the unique perspective that Nocenti brought to her work.  So I was happy that after DC Comics began their New 52 soft reboot, they hired Nocenti to write several of their titles.  Nocenti had runs on Green Arrow, Catwoman and Katana.  Her most recent work at DC was on Klarion.

Klarion 1 cover

The character of Klarion the Witch Boy was created by none other than Jack Kirby, and he made his debut in 1973 in The Demon #7.  Klarion appears to be something of a favorite among comic book creators, since he’s popped up semi-regularly in the decades since then.  I’m most familiar with him from his appearances in the revival of The Demon in the early 1990s by Alan Grant & Val Semeiks.

Klarion is admittedly an odd character to give an ongoing title, and when this was announced my first reaction was “That’s probably not going to last too long!”  Indeed, Klarion made it six issues before getting canceled.  It appears Nocenti herself recognized that she had a limited window of opportunity and made the most of the circumstances, going in and writing the hell out of the book for half a dozen issues.  The result is some very interesting stories.

As the first issue opens, Klarion is hitchhiking the crossroads of the multiverse, having run away from school after zapping his professor in the dark arts.  He gets a ride from Beelzebub, a demonic barber who specializes in close shaves.  Arriving on Earth, Klarion rescues a teenager named Rasp from getting beaten up.  Klarion is looking for a place to stay, and Rasp directs him to the Moody Museum.

The museum’s proprietors, Piper and Noah, offer Klarion a room and a job.  Klarion is immediately drawn to the lovely teenage mystic Zell.  Rasp, meanwhile, heads over to the Necropolitan Club to get some of the cutting-edge cyber-technology the proprietor Coal is disseminating.  Like all good drug dealers, Coal tells his customers “The first hit’s free.”  But after that, once he has his clientele hooked, he knows they will pay literally anything to maintain their upgrades.

That evening Klarion and Zell go to a party at the Necropolitan Club where they run into Rasp.  The teenager, who has an unrequited crush on Zell, is furious to see her with Klarion.  Using his new tech, Rasp lashes out at Klarion.  The Witch Boy is ready to hand Rasp a beating, until Piper and Noah step in and defuse the situation, at least temporarily.  Meanwhile, back at the Club, Coal proceeds with his plans to roll out his “Buddybot” technology, hoping to snag a large, well-paying group of customers.

Klarion 2 pg 2 & 3

As someone who is not a fan of decompressed storytelling, I very much enjoyed Nocenti’s writing on Klarion.  She packed a heck of a lot of plot and concepts into these six issues.

One of the main themes is that Klarion is an amoral individual who uses his powers recklessly.  He is walking along a moral tightrope, one he could slip off any minute.  Various factions recognize this.  Piper and Noah are hopeful that they can guide Klarion, teach him to use his powers in an ethical manner.  Coal and Beelzebub both recognize that the Witch Boy needs only the slightest nudge to send him into darkness.

Nocenti also addresses the extremely rapid advancement of science, the concern that technology evolves faster than the ability of human beings to utilize it responsibly.  Various characters debate whether the tech developed by Coal is value-neutral, or if it is good or bad, an asset or a curse.  Will humanity be able to utilize this new science, or will they become addicted and overwhelmed by it?  An argument between Klarion and Zell in issue #4 encapsulates this…

Klarion: Trust me, we’ve got to smash these things. Starting with your Petbot. Her tech is predatory.

Zell: She’s just a machine like any other. Is a phone evil? Only if you use it to hurt someone.

Klarion: They aren’t phones! They don’t just sit quietly in your pocket till you turn them on. They’re parasites. They feed off you and learn and grow.

Zell: Grow in good ways. I program my Buddybot. She’s symbiotic with me.

The idea that the Buddybots can be “grown” into the “perfect” lover or friend or pet is unsettling.  What exactly does that mean?  If the Bot you have always agrees with you, never argues with you, is it an actual entity?  Or is it merely just a projection of your own self?

Nocenti is exploring the same territory that she touched upon in the late 1980s in Daredevil with the character of Number Nine, who had been genetically re-engineered to be the “perfect” woman and wife.  Is that really someone who can be a genuine life companion, or is it merely a parrot in human form, feeding back to you what you want to hear?

Would you want a Buddybot?  Anyone who has been in a relationship and had a huge blow-out with their significant other, or who has been alone for a long time, is going to find that choice incredibly tempting.  Imagine always having a companion & lover and never fighting!  But would that be an authentic relationship?

I have sometimes heard love described as wanting to be with another person in spite of their flaws and mistakes.  Real relationships challenge you, force you to grow, require you to make compromises, to understand the other person.  Being involved with a “perfect” companion could be just the opposite of that, a narcissistic rut.  In the end, would you actually be happy?

Klarion 6 pg 5

Nocenti draws a parallel between Klarion’s struggle and that of humanity’s.  Just as the Witch Boy is at risk of misusing his mystic abilities, of being seduced by the power that he can tap into, the humans acquiring the nanotech from the Necropolitan Club are in danger of becoming addicted to it, of letting it overwhelm them.

Nocenti even argues that perhaps there really isn’t any difference between magic and technology, with one character stating a variation of Clarke’s Law:

“You know how everyone thought thunder was God’s bowling league? Everything mysterious turns out to be no big deal in the future.”

There is a whole lot to digest in Nocenti’s writing.  I’m looking forward to re-reading this series in the near future, seeing if I gain a different perspective.

While the final issue of Klarion did seem a bit rushed, on the whole Nocenti wrapped up her six issues in a very satisfactory manner.  She tells a more or less complete story while leaving open the possibility of certain character arcs and subplots being picked up in the future if the opportunity arises.

Klarion 1 pg 4 & 5

The majority of the art on Klarion is by Trevor McCarthy.  Wow, does he do some absolutely stunning work!  McCarthy lays out these incredibly striking multi-panel double page spreads.  He is incredibly inventive with his storytelling, yet he also knows exactly how to place everything so that the action moves from one panel to the next.

I have seen certain artists who attempted to be clever with their sequential illustration, and unfortunately as a reader I was not able to figure out what the hell was actually going on.  McCarthy, on the other hand, designs these sophisticated pages through which the narrative effortlessly flows.

On the pages where McCarthy also does inks / finishes, he packs in a tremendous amount of detail.  His work is very beautiful.  McCarthy’s character designs for Zell, Piper and Noah are striking and unique.

Guy Major does the coloring on the entire series.  He does impressive work, and it suits the art very well.

Klarion was an intriguingly written series with excellent artwork and coloring.  It’s well worth a look.  There is a trade paperback scheduled to come out in August, and I recommend getting a copy.