Tuesday 21 August 2012

The Cat #1.

The Cat #1, Marvel Comics
I think all of us at some point in our lives have wanted to create a race of women with the powers of cats - ones who can commit crimes on our behalf.

Sadly, with the various pressures of life, it can be hard to find the time to achieve it.

Not so afflicted with limited time is Mal Donalbain who in The Cat #1 sets out to do just that.

Tragically, the first of his subjects - a woman called Shirlee - proves to be barely more than an air-headed bimbo and falls to her death during her initial trial run.

Even more unfortunately for him, she's not the only woman thus powered.

For, unknown to him, Dr Tumulo, who gave Shirlee her powers, also gave Greer Nelson the same abilities.

Greer Nelson's not like Shirlee. Greer Nelson's talented, intelligent and dedicated. Now, out to give him a smacking, for killing Dr Tumulo for knowing too much, Greer does just that and justice is served.

The Cat #1, Mal Donalbain meets his fate

The Cat was of course one of a wave of feminist heroines Marvel introduced in the early 1970s, in a bid to get more girls reading super-hero comics.

I suppose there was an obvious flaw in this thinking, which is that young girls traditionally liked romance comics about beautiful women meeting nice men and marrying them. Therefore, comics about beautiful women meeting terrible men and beating them up was not necessarily giving them what they wanted.

The Cat #1, Zabo attacks our heroine

It'd be nice to say that, despite this, The Cat #1 is as good as its dramatic cover suggests but it's a fairly workmanlike comic. It's not actually bad but nor does it scream, "Buy issue #2," at you.

It's pleasantly drawn by Marie Severin and the redoubtable Wally Wood but is nothing special to look at and Linda Fite's story's fairly standard, with hints of the origins of both Daredevil and Captain America to it.

You also wonder how they got away with it, bearing in mind the central character's noticeable resemblance to DC Comics' Catwoman. It seems odd that DC sued Fawcett Comics for Captain Marvel's alleged resemblance to Superman but The Cat bears far more resemblance to Catwoman than Captain Marvel ever did to Superman and, as far as I know, DC never once called the lawyers in over her.

But maybe it's true what they say; that where there's a hit there's a writ, and failure is an orphan.


Doug said...

I think by the time DC had read the entirety of the Cat's run, they knew litigation would be a waste of their money. What a bad series! And it didn't have to be that way!


Anonymous said...

"Where there's a hit, there's a writ." Captain Marvel actually outsold Superman in the 1940's. The Cat probably didn't outsell Brother Power the Geek.

Comicsfan said...

It's hard not to wince at the one or two cliches on the cover. Though I suppose "She Stalks By Day, Too!" was probably rejected outright. :D

Ant Master said...

She stalks by night in a rather fetching day glow yellow costume

R. W. Watkins said...

Today it's The Cat, tomorrow it's... Night Nurse?

hobbyfan said...

I actually owned at least one issue of this book when it first came out. So much promise, so sad to learn it didn't last very long. Marvel had a very quick trigger back then to cancel books before they had time to find an audience.

Of course, you know, Greer Nelson was later rebooted as Tigra, and former star Patsy Walker's career was resurrected when she donned the blue & yellow and became Hellcat.....

Steve W. said...

Yep. And I have a review of Hellcat's first Defenders appearance, at the following address: http://stevedoescomics.blogspot.co.uk/2010/05/defenders-44.html

Anonymous said...

The Cat bears far more resemblance to Catwoman than Captain Marvel did to Superman. But not more than the Punisher did to the Executioner. Or the X-Men to the Doom Patrol. Or Star Brand to Green Lantern. Or Ka-Zar to Tarzan. Or the Vision and Red Tornado. Or DC's Swamp Thing to Marvel's Man Thing. Or the Spider to the Shadow. All of these similarities are sheer coincidence, of course.

Boston Bill said...

I read this one in 'The Superhero Women', the 4th volume of the 'origins' books that Stan Lee did (where he pretty much dropped the origins part).

The Cat was just too cookie-cutter a hero to make it. The only good thing they did was to get a woman writer.

Both Tigra (due to design) and the Hellcat (due to personality) were great improvements on this character!

PS: we have to do the 'prove you're not a robot' thing again!

Steve W. said...

Bill, I had to bring the "Prove you're not a robot" thing back because the site was getting swamped with spam. The spam filter was catching them all and putting them in the spam folder but it was also shoving perfectly good comments in there as well, meaning they weren't appearing till I manually released them, which, in some case wasn't until hours after they were posted.

I'll try switching it off again and hope things work better this time.

Boston Bill said...

Steve, no worries if you wanted it back on - I just remember that previously you weren't aware of it being on so I thought I'd alert you.

I just wish it wouldn't give me codes that were so close to swears!

Steve W. said...

I love it when Captcha codes give me swear words to type - but that probably says something about me.

Darci said...

DC's only stories with a cat in them at this time were Catwoman (in Adventure Comics 418-419, Lois Lane 123, and Wonder Woman 201-202), Huntress (a reprint from 1947 in 100-Page Super Spectacular DC-20), and Cheetah (in a Villainy Inc. reprint in Adventure Comics 416) who I don't think resemble Greer much. I suppose their lawyers could have gone all the way back to Batman #1 to stake a claim, but NBC-TV might have weighed in on that.

I wish I knew the sales figures for these issues. It seemed to take about 3 months for feedback from the market, plus the books were published a few months prior to their cover dates, so Linda probably had written #3 before Marvel learned how well (or poorly) #1 sold? That left the story promised in #3 for #4 (which was never published) and the hastily-created Man-Bull story that appeared instead.