Today (Sept. 25) is National Comic Book Day, one of the major feast-days in the comic book calendar. To mark the occasion, we at Catster humbly offer up five of our favorite comic book cats. Our selections — Supergirl’s Streaky, Scratch9′s Scratch, We3‘s Tinker, Saga‘s Lying Cat, and an itinerant Siamese from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series — include cat characters for readers of every age and reading level.
These cats will entertain you and give you pause for thought. Each demonstrates the unlimited range of possibility inherent in comic book storytelling. All can be found, either in ongoing series or trade paperback collections. Ask for them by name at your local comic shop!
Streaky the Super-Cat, introduced in Action Comics #261 (February 1960), was a stray cat adopted by Supergirl’s alter-ego, Linda Lee. When Lee improperly disposed of an experiment with the deadly mineral Kryptonite, the cat happened upon it in a wood and developed fabulous powers. This was during the Silver Age of comics, a sillier, more innocent Technicolor time, when absurdity hadn’t yet been quashed by the drive for gritty realism.
Streaky the Super-Cat joined Supergirl on many colorful adventures from 1960 to 1970, but has appeared only sporadically since. Streaky was also briefly a member of the Legion of Super-Pets, consisting of several high-powered animals, including a monkey, a horse, and Superman’s dog, Krypto. Since those halcyon days, comics have thankfully found more substantial roles for cats.
Scratch, the brainchild, or brain-cat, of Rob M. Worley, is an ongoing concern in the comic Scratch9, first published by Ape Entertainment in 2010, and currently through Hermes Press. Scratch is your typical domestic cat until he finds he can summon the assistance of his other eight lives. Scratch’s other eight lives are not continuous, but rather spiritual kin from across the ages.
They include cats from prehistory, ancient Egypt, 18th-century France, and a cybernetically enhanced cat from the future. Each of the cats linked to Scratch has his own personality, concerns, and unique skill set. Depending on what aid Scratch needs, any one may appear to him in a dire situation. Scratch9 was nominated for an Eisner Award — the comic book world’s equivalent of the Oscars — in 2011 as one of the best publications for children.
Scratch9‘s cyborg cat is aimed at a young audience. Our next cat, Tinker aka No. 2, is also technologically augmented, but this cat’s adventures are probably too intense for beginning readers. Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s three-issue series We3 (2004) examines our ongoing concern with animal testing. The military has weaponized a dog, a cat, and a rabbit as a trial for a new kind of warfare, designed to keep humans from danger.
When the team narrowly escapes being euthanized by the military department that created them, Tinker always has the backs of his other two compatriots. As a balance to the dog-leader’s unwavering optimism, Tinker the cat is pessimistic about their chances of survival in a world that treats animals as disposable. We3 tells a provocative and heartbreaking story across its three issues; I wept constantly while reading it, and can’t recommend it more highly.
If you walked into a comic book store today and took a poll of patrons and employees to recommend a current comic book cat, chances are excellent that everyone would give you the same answer: Lying Cat. Lying Cat is a major character in writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples’s ongoing series, Saga (2012). Lying Cat is a sidekick to The Will, a bounty hunter in pursuit of the series’ two lead characters, star-crossed lovers running from the consequences of their love.
Lying Cat is so named due to her ability to detect falsehood. Underscoring the fact that truth and lies are not always simply distinguished, Lying Cat meets her limitations when her subjects are people who sincerely believe things that are not factually true. The panels above are from issue No. 14, one of the series’ most frequently cited sequences, when Lying Cat provides a moment of solace rather than recrimination. Vaughan and Staples’s Saga won Eisner Awards in 2013 and 2014 as the Best Continuing Series, and Lying Cat is no small part of that success.
That’s not her name, of course, since Neil Gaiman’s Dream Country: A Dream of a Thousand Cats, No. 18 (August 1990), part of his Sandman chronicles, does not give this cat a name. This blue point Siamese cat is nothing less than an itinerant prophet of cat liberation. A Dream of a Thousand Cats takes place in the dead of night, at a graveyard conclave attended by curious housecats.
The most wondrous and mystical cat on this list, the itinerant Siamese narrates a harrowing tale of love and loss. Seeking retribution against the callousness of her human owners, the Siamese goes on a visionary quest for the Cat of Dreams. The issue is an extended meditation on the question of whether cats dream, as well as the power of the imagination to create reality. What do cats dream about? Do they think about having everything their own way?
National Comic Book Day, along with Free Comic Book Day in early May, are observances that promote interest in and enthusiasm for the comic book as an art form. From classics to critical darlings to award winners, the cats on our list and many others are all waiting for you at your local comic book shop! What are your favorite cats in comics? Share your selections in the comments!
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