Cats and comic books: Hero Cats #10-13

Happy Halloween from the Hero Cats of Stellar City!

I have continued to enjoy the ongoing Hero Cats comic book series written by Kyle Puttkammer and published by Action Lab Entertainment. The latest four issues have been a lot of fun, as our team of crime-fighting kitties have traveled the world, and then arrived back home in Stellar City for a spooktacular Halloween.

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Hero Cats #10-12 features the three part “World Tour.” Puttkammer is joined by new series penciler Omaka Schultz, with inks by Ryan Sellers & Brandon Page.  When I first read #10, for a moment there I actually thought I had missed an issue.  Puttkammer opens the story in media res, with the Hero Cats aloft in a hot air balloon, accompanied by a little girl dressed as a princess.  By page two the balloon has crashed in the middle of the desert, near the town of Coyote Canyon.

I’m actually still trying to decide if the Hero Cats were somehow transported not just to the American Southwest but also back in time. Modern technology is completely missing from Coyote Canyon, and soon after the train out of town is waylaid by armed bandits.  Well, whether the year is 2016 or 1880, we are treated to an exciting throw-down between the cats and the gang of dastardly desperadoes.

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Although heading back to Stellar City, it is apparent that after returning the little princess home the cats somehow got detoured, as #11 opens in the aftermath of an airplane crash on an island off the coast of Africa. The cats encounter the warrior Malo who possesses the ability to talk to animals, and they join forces to combat a mystical menace that is seizing control of the island’s inhabitants.

The cats’ next stop on their way home is the Far East. They arrive in what appears to be Medieval Japan (more time travel?) where they assist a local feline heroine in rescuing a mystical cat who has been kidnapped by ninjas.  I’m not sure where the Giant Panda who’s hanging around the neighborhood came from; perhaps like the cats he’s another lost tourist?

In these three issues Puttkammer continues to develop the personalities of and relationships between the various cats. He does a good job at making this truly an all-ages book.  Young kids will enjoy the fun adventures of the cute cats, and for older readers there’s are interesting characters & story arcs.

Schultz is a fine addition to the series. He effortlessly juggles the cartoony elements and the highly-detailed real-world settings.

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With the Hero Cats finally making their way back to Stellar City, issue #13 detours into what I would classify as a “What If” or “Elseworlds” type of reality. We are introduced to a world much like the one seen in the previous dozen issues, only with several darker, supernatural twists to it.  Our feline cast is still present, but different.  For instance, Belle is an evil witch, Midnight is a vampire, and Rocco is a giant monster.  As for poor Ace, faced with a world overrun by zombies, he is the Last Cat on Earth.  I guess you could say that Ace is all alone against an onslaught of the Purring Dead.

“Hero Cats of the Apocalypse” is drawn by the art team of Sey Viani & Sarah Elkins. As with previous artists, they do a fine job handling the diverse tone of the book, drawing a story that is both cute and macabre.

While I did initially wish that Puttkammer had written a Halloween story set in the “real” world of the Hero Cats, it later occurred to me that perhaps this could serve as a prologue for a future story. We’ve previously seen the Hero Cats fight against villains from other dimensions.  So the possibility exists that at some point “our” Hero Cats might cross over into this other world where everything has gone terribly wrong and encounter their dark counterparts.  You never know.

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In any case, it was a bit of a treat to see Belle as a witch. Belle looks a lot like one of my cats, Nettie, a doll-face Himalayan.  Belle has slightly darker fur and brown seal-point coloring instead of grey, but other than that she looks a lot like Nettie.  My girlfriend Michele has always wanted to dress up Nettie for Halloween, but Nettie refuses to let us put any sort of costume on her.  One of Michele’s ideas was to give Nettie a witch hat.  At least now, courtesy of Belle in Hero Cats #13, I have an idea of how Nettie might look wearing one 🙂

One last note… after missing him at the last two New York Comic Cons, this year I finally got to meet Kyle Puttkammer. I got a couple of issues of Hero Cats autographed, and had an opportunity to see previews of a few upcoming issues.  I’m definitely looking forward to them.

Cats and comic books: Hero Cats #3-5

The Hero Cats comic book series from Action Lab Entertainment continues to be an enjoyable read.  I previously reviewed the first two issues, so now let’s take a look at #s 3-5.

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Cassiopeia, the newest member of the Hero Cats team, has been serving as the gateway character, the readers’ introduction to the rest of the book’s cast, both feline and human.  In issue #3 we see her official basic training, as the rest of the kitty commandos put her through the paces to see if she has what it takes to battle evil and protect the innocent.

Kyle Puttkammer’s script for this issue is both funny and moving.  He does a good job showing the novice Cassiopeia overcoming her doubts & inexperience to be accepted by the team.  Puttkammer also examines the motivations of Hero Cat leader Ace, and shows the developing bond between him and Cassiopeia.  The story is very thoughtful, sentimental and laugh-out-loud funny.

In issue #4 the Hero Cats explore a subterranean mystery beneath Stellar City.  They discover a civilization of trolls and help them fight off invading rock monsters.  Puttkammer uses the story to delve into the background of Belle, the long-haired telepathic member of the team.

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In prior issues of Hero Cats readers were told of how Cassiopeia’s humans, Stanley Quest and his daughter Suzie, were secretly the costumed crime-fighters Galaxy Man and Cosmic Girl.  Cassiopeia and the rest of her team finally discover this in issue #5.  The cynical Midnight and Belle are both automatically suspicious, observing that all of the bizarre menaces that have been plaguing Stellar City only began to show up after Galaxy Man first made his debut.  Cassiopeia, of course, thinks they are being ridiculous.

Actually, though, Cassiopeia’s two teammates might just be on to something.  During his latest journey into outer space to search for his missing astronaut wife Amelia, Galaxy Man unwittingly brings back to Earth a swarm of ravenous space bugs.  Fortunately it turns out they are allergic to peanut butter.  Cassiopeia, Rocco and Rocket all team up with Cosmic Girl, who has, amazingly enough, still managed to keep her identity a secret from her father.

Puttkammer’s writing on these three issues is great.  As I have observed before, he is one of those writers whose stories can be appreciated on different levels.  Younger readers will enjoy the cute cats and their funny adventures.  Adults will appreciate the development of the felines’ different personalities.  Puttkammer does a good job scripting the Hero Cats’ interactions as they work to apply their often-clashing world views and philosophies to solving the crises facing them.

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I certainly had to chuckle at the various scenes in these issues of Cassiopeia trying to talk to her humans.  We the readers obviously understand her dialogue, but to the people in the story it just sounds like “Meow meow meow!”  I expect anyone who has ever had a cat can identify with that.  Cats can be very expressive, and they often appear to be attempting to communicate with us.  You just know when a cat is telling you something, even if you may not know precisely what it is.

I really enjoy the work by penciler Marcus Williams and inker Ryan Sellers.  Their art is cute and expressive, possessing a real dynamic quality.  Williams & Sellers invest their characters with genuine emotion.  They are great at rendering both dramatic action sequences and quieter scenes featuring Puttkammer’s passages of dialogue.

Tracy Yardley once again illustrates the Galaxy Man & Cosmic Girl two page back-up stories in Hero Cats, as well as penciling the cover to issue #6.  It was interesting to see his interpretations of the various cats on that.  Yardley has a somewhat different style from Williams, but he is definitely a good fit for this series.  I hope he will continue to contribute to Hero Cats.

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Once again, I recommend this series.  Back issues can be ordered through the Hero Cats website.  There is also a trade paperback out collecting the first three issues.

Y’know, while I’ve been typing up this review, one of my two cats, Squeaky, has been sitting next to the desk.  I think she wants me to pay less attention to fictional felines and spend more time with her.  Looks like it’s time for treats and tummy rubs!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.