Alias the Cat!
Pantheon, 2007 (2007)
Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton
hat starts out as a mild fascination for his wife, Pam Butler, turns into a full-blown obsession for Kim Deitch in this surreal pseudo-biographical graphic novel. Pam has an affinity for cat dolls from the early half of the twentieth century, so both Kim and Pam indulge this desire with frequent trips to flea markets and occasional scanning of eBay auctions.
t the flea market one day, they chance upon a cat doll that strikes Pam's interest. They inquire about the doll, only to find out the owner will only part with it if offered one thousand dollars. As that's more than they're willing to afford, they pass on the offer, but agree to meet the man, to hear the story behind the cat.
pon discovering the sordid history of the doll and the adventures experienced by its owner, Kim and Pam decided to pursue the matter further, with research and repeated purchases from eBay. It soon becomes an obsession as they track newspapers and microfilm in search of more information about this cat and its links to a film serial and comic strip. Each answer brings forth more questions and while Pam has lost interest, Kim becomes manic about the origins of this doll.
eitch delivers a complex tale of nostalgic derangement mixed with commentary about consumer culture. Additionally, he incorporates interesting nuggets of the history of advertising and media when he explores old movie serials, comic strips, and newspapers. This information provides a solid background, which Deitch then assaults with a range of surreal and absurd plot twists and devices. This often keeps the reader guessing at where the tale is going, or how much stranger it can get.
hile Deitch's black and white art is rich with detail and atmosphere, it can often be too cluttered. One can feel a bit inundated in words, when turning the pages of this graphic novel. Also the font size shifts sometimes on the same page. But ultimately, Deitch's art proves successful in delivering the story, particularly when he draws a comic strip into his storyline, taken from a newspaper that the character Deitch stumbles upon in his quest. These strips are offset by green ink to differentiate from the main story.
eitch's interesting mix of facts and myth provide readers with a colorful story that is further complemented by this particular medium. Readers will certainly be challenged by the tale he has created but will be rewarded in the end.
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