Euro Reviews: ‘Cat & Cat’ – Making Simply Funny Look Effortless

by Richard Bruton

The adventures of Cat and her cat, Sushi. It’s nothing more than a cat doing the cat thing and profoundly messing up her owner’s life. It’s full of simple, wonderfully cute gags, page after page…

Single page gags, multi-page gags, all of it just gags. That’s what you can expect inside Cat & Cat. Simple stuff, all very familiar, nothing we haven’t really seen before, but still done with a lovely light touch and a sense of comedic timing that makes every gag, familiar or not, work a treat.
This is something Euro comics does so wonderfully well and US comics singularly fails. The idea of extended gag strips. Yes, you get gag cartoons, funny newspaper strips, but rarely an extended strip such as this, a page or more of things just designed to be funny. You see it in Mad Magazine of course, and there are a few American creators who can pull it off – Kyle Baker, Evan Dorkin, Hilary Barta to name but a few… but they’re the exception.
Compare that to Europe, where this style of riffed gag strip is a staple of comics, where this sort of thing sells gangbusters.
And Cat & Cat is just that sort of strip, page after page of fun, cute cartooning. Easiest way to describe it – simply show you…

In all the pages that follow, you’ll see Cat, the girl, Sushi, her cat, her long-suffering dad, a few other people – and that’s about it. Nothing complex, nothing involved, just good old-fashioned comedy nonsense of a cat and a girl.
You’ll see all the greatest hits in here; cat aloof, cat obnoxious, cat causing chaos, cat destroying things, cat being lazy, cat eating, cat overeating, cat conning neighbours (for more food), flights of fancy… you know what to expect.
And then all the old familiars with Cat the owner, bratty behaviour, fights with dad (usually caused by something the cat’s done), fights with the cat, cleaning up after the cat, failing to clean up after the cat and then getting in trouble with dad. Yep, again you know what to expect.
But the thing is, it doesn’t matter if you’ve seen it all before and this is just riffing off the standard cat versus owner gag book, it’s a fun little thing, full of very familiar but also very funny gags. It’s super light, but that’s no problem at all, you’ll be smiling your way through the book.

The art – well, you can see the art, it suits the lightweight tone of the strips. A comedic sense, all in the exaggeration of the characters, the dynamics of the page.
And of course, one thing that really adds a lot to this is that sense of fluidity in the art, all made by those open pages where panels are defined not by borders but by the images, only made more so by the colourful word balloons occupying the space where those panel borders would go, thus making that flow of the comic work even more.

There’s a lovely choreography to the pages, the way the artist uses the characters, whether cat or people, to guide the eye, naturally, easily, at the pace the artist demands… all to deliver the gag in the best way. It’s the sort of thing that always looks so simple when you see it on a page but it’s so hard to get right.
And then you look at a page like the ones I’ve included (and I could have picked practically any page in Cat & Cat) and realise that the authors get it right again and again and again.

One small thing though, and it’s something that applies with all books with this lightness, this reliance on short strips riffing on a theme – it’s a 98 page book and that’s just a little long for this sort of thing. This sort of repeating gag strip is always best served up in short bursts, all the better for the reader to enjoy it for what it is. The repetition through the gags works best in small doses and it’s something that loses the impact once it gets past 50 or so pages.
However, there’s an easy solution to that – just don’t read it all in one go – enjoy a few pages at a time, love it for what it is in short doses and then put it down to enjoy anew another day.

Cat & Cat Volume 2 – Cat Out Of Water – script by Christophe Cazenove & Herve Richez, art by Yrgane Ramon, translation by Joe Johnson, letters by Wilson Ramos Jr. Published by Papercutz, 2020.

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