Beware! The Claws of the Cat #4 (1973)

So as you know I bought a stack of comics this weekend because they were old and obscure and cheeszy and perfect blog fodder. One of the reasons I started this blog was to write about goofy old comics and find something interesting about them. One of the comics I bought was this issue of The Cat.
It’s got a few interesting things going for it, none of which writer Linda Fite probably intended. For one thing, this comic has some of the first professional art by Jim Starlin and Alan Weiss. Starlin and Weiss were fans who turned pro, to great success. Starlin especially became a very popular cartoonist due to his work on Captain Marvel, Warlock and Dreadstar, among others. Starlin always had a very flashy style, full of dynamic gestures and exciting action rather than clean and solid storytelling. And that’s fine, he was drawing for mid-’70s Marvel when things were looser, and a guy like him could find lots of work.
To digress for a minute, ’70s Marvels are an odd beast. Many people, like me, love them for their looseness, their weirdness, their odd abritrariness. Others, quite logically, hate the books for their lack of artfulness, their incoherence and their weirdness. And also because printing and paper got cheaper and production values lowered as the line grew and grew.
There’s some merit in that argument. There’s no question that much of the early Marvel comics were better than the ’70s books, and that as the company got more hidebound, it started to become more dull. But there’s no denying the wonderful charm of many comics of that era. Up to 1968, Marvel put out roughly ten comics per month, under one editor. From ’68 to Jim Shooter’s ascendence about ten years later, Marvel’s line grew exponentially while its editorial staff didn’t grow. This means that most of the attention of the editors was paid to the mainline, long running series, and the more obscure series were much more free.
This meant, of course, that many of the more obscure series were left to flounder, but this system also produced some wonderful obscure comics.
The Cat is no great comic. In fact, it probably shows how bad drift could be for comics. From her dull costume to her ill-defined powers, from her cipher supporting cast to her faux women’s lib attitude, this is a very blah series. At the same time, though, this issue gains from its attitude. It’s clear that Starlin and Weiss are really enjoying being able to show off their art to a larger audience, and if they skimp on backgrounds and have some awkward poses, they also have great energy and obvious fun. It’s a silly comic but it’s got some energy and enthusiasm behind it. And the story speeds along, which is something you can’t say about many more modern comics. 
The Cat, in her secret identity as Greer Nelson, is on vacation in Chicago at the Union Stockyards. Why a tourist would want to visit an abattoir is beyond me, but anyway, she and her friend get tired and go have lunch at a tavern. While there, they get hit on by an obnoxious dude. Naturally she rebuffs him, but the dude has a secret: when he drinks a serum, he turns into a nasty monster bad guy: the Man-Bull. Complete with horns and hairy feet, the Man-Bull proceeds to terrorize the stockyards until the Cat can stop him.
It’s dumb, it’s abritrary, it makes little or no sense. Comics sure are great, aren’t they?

2 Responses to “Beware! The Claws of the Cat #4 (1973)”

  1. Unknown Says:

    I was talking about The Cat with a friend of mine just yesterday. It seemed designed for a girlish audience, with a woman for the writer and Marie Severin as artist on the first issue… but Wally Wood on inks must have been assigned with the boys in mind. As I recall, Wood and Bill Everett (#3) completely dominated their pencilers (which is good), while #s 2 & 4 were painful to look at. A different artist for every issue. Sabotage?

  2. Darci Says:

    Re: “And the story speeds along, which is something you can’t say about many more modern comics. ”

    One reason it speeds right along is it’s only 15 pages. To fill out the rest of the issue, there’s a 5-page reprint of a Marvel Girl vignette from X-Men #57. This is not the story promised at the end of issue #3. We’ve seen portions of “The Cat — Spawn of the Devil? So Cries the Witch!”, written by Linda Fite and drawn by Ramona Fradon, but it sure would be nice of Marvel to present the whole tale some day. Perhaps they could even get Linda Fite or Roy Thomas to comment on what happened to it?

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