Freedom of expression! Enshrined in the US Constitution, it's one of the hallmarks of our modern free society, the ability to speak, write, draw, and publish whatever we want, free from government censorship or oppression. And most of the time, this is a good idea.
Most of the time.
Then there's this. Let's just give this a quick rundown, shall we? YES it's a mid 1980s black and white boom comic. YES it stars cat-headed people who are normal human people dressed in 1940s cosplay. Except for their cat heads. YES there is some sort of inexplicable thing happening with colors in which a green spotlight casts a blue shadow and there's a red background and someone splattered Jell-O brand vanilla pudding over the whole thing. No, not just my copy of this comic book, but *every* copy of this comic book looks like someone splattered Jell-O brand vanilla pudding over the cover. Which gives that green spotlight beam a weird Christmas tree look.
Now I know what you're thinking. Why didn't I just set this thing on fire? And also, what on Earth does "The Hush-Hush Wars Begin" caption refer to? Well, you see, back in the mid 1980s is when Marvel and DC Comics began to do big cross-over events involving all their characters, and one of those events was called "The Secret Wars". So already, right here on the cover, we're given full warning that this is going to be one of those parody comics full of references to the comic book industry that is completely impenetrable to readers not already buying a stack of comics every week. Which, I know, again, only makes you wonder why I didn't just set it on fire. Well, just you wait. That feeling is only going to intensify.
Oh good, I like it when the plot of a comic book begins on the first page! It's even better when there's a caption reminding us that the plot begins at the beginning. If only there was a caption explaining that caption, to remove any further confusion.
Speaking of confusion, there's a lot going on here in this two-page spread, so again, we're going to have to break it all down for you, we're going to have to decode the meaning behind this particular piece, as if this was a painting hanging in a gallery, instead of a cheaply printed pamphlet that is dangerously close to being set on fire. So yeah, when they made this animal-head parody comic, the very first thing they figured they'd do was to reference Da Vinci's Last Supper. So already we can see the importance comic book culture has on the creators. Because this Last Supper reference, well, all the animal-headed people in it are thinly disguised references to real people in the comic book industry of the late 1980s. Let's see, taking the "Jesus" position is a pastiche of Marvel editor in chief Jim Shooter - he was tall. Over on the left we have animal-head versions of Dean Mullaney and Cat Yronwode, the publisher and EIC of Eclipse Comics. And I'm sure if you were in the in-crowd hanging out at the comic book store in 1986 wasting the cashier's time and driving away other customers with your blustery know-it-all comic book shop drugstore cowboy line of complete bullshit, you might know who these other caricatures were caricaturing. Like, is that supposed to be Comico's Diana Schutz?
United in their plan to take over "the industry", only one thing stands in their way, Kamikaze Cat. Plans are afoot, however, to eliminate him! We don't know what industry they're going to dominate, or how exactly Kamikaze Cat threatens those plans, or why this group is meeting in what is clearly labeled the "Ka-Ka Room," or why this comic hasn't been set on fire yet. So much we don't know.
Are we about to meet our hero, who, like all true comic book fans, stands on street corners at dawn waiting for comic books to be hurled out of moving trucks? Maybe this is why comic book sales are falling, we're all standing around on street corners at dawn waiting for that truck.
Yes! It's our hero, Kamikaze Cat, the cat with a man's body and Humphrey Bogart's wardrobe, who loves comic books most of all! Because all of those things together, they make sense, right? They aren't just a bunch of disparate elements thrown together at random by someone desperate to publish a comic book in the worst way?
Now what we got here is, we got a terrible comic book in which a terrible comic book character opens up and reads a terrible comic book and is irritated at the terrible comic book he's reading. Art imitating life imitating art! Where's my lighter?
Now you and me, when we read a terrible comic book, we put it back on the shelf and we don't buy it, and eventually the publisher goes out of business and the comic book gets made fun of decades later via an interconnected web of communications networks that has transformed the modern world. But Kamikaze Cat is outraged right then and there!
Using all his amazing cat-headed human skills, Kamikaze Cat flies his aircraft - possibly a Navy Aichi D3A dive-bomber -into the bridge of the... no wait, Kamikaze Cat discovers who wrote and drew the comic book by the simple expedient of reading the credits. Also he totally destroys half a page in doing so, a space-wasting trend that we've already seen in action here as this comic stretches a thin premise to the breaking point - and beyond.
One thing we hadn't seen yet in this animal-headed kamikaze detective comic book industry insider parody comic was some good old fashioned cat-headed sexy woman cheesecake, and so here it is, delivering pancakes and listening to her unshaven, smelly, up-since-dawn-to-wait-for-the-comic-book-truck boyfriend to interrupt her at her job.
Oh good, he's going to mansplain her right out of a job. My hero!
Hey, he really DID mansplain her out of a job! Jobs are for suckers, anyway! All they do is get in the way of your vital, vibrant comic book reading lifestyle of standing around every week waiting for the new books to arrive so you can complain bitterly about them.
Okay, I have been to NYC exactly twice in my life and even *I* know that you don't take the train from Manhattan to Staten Island. There's a ferry. You can take the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge or even the Bayonne Bridge. But a train, nope.
After an amazing train ride filled with caricatures of comic book industry people farting a lot and exploding - I didn't scan those pages, YOU'RE WELCOME - our "heroes" arrive at the headquarters of "Half Moon Publishing." Eclipse Comics at the time was headquartered in Staten Island, but by the time "Kamikaze Cat" appeared Eclipse had moved to California, making this confusing animal-headed suicide attack comic book industry parody comic even less coherent, if that's at all possible.
So what did Eclipse Comics do to these people, anyway? What would the publisher of such widely disparate features as Zot, Airboy, Miracleman, Ms. Tree, and DNAgents have done to piss off people to such an extent that they would waste months of their lives writing and drawing this incoherent mess of words and pictures? Because let me tell you, there are more effective revenge plans out there. I'm just saying.
Hey, I bet you thought you'd get through this entire comic book without seeing two cat-headed people have sex in the cab of a truck. Well, sorry to ruin your day. Ruin it further, I mean.
He's tracked these bad comics down to their ultimate source... the ridiculously poorly researched printing press. That's where comic books come from, nobody writes or draws them, nobody shoots negatives or burns plates, they come off the press trimmed and collated and stapled and ready to go, that's how it works... if you're stupid.
Knocked out by someone who doesn't even spell her own name with capital letters? Some tough guy!
(that's a comic book industry reference there kids, see, Cat Yronwode didn't capitalize her name, so you'd see one of her many columns or editor's notes and they'd be signed "cat yronwode", that's how that worked. Just wanted to explain this bit of mid 1980s comic book trivia for you.)
This is why print industry professionals don't wear ties. Or if they DO wear ties, they're clip-ons. Those big presses are dangerous!
But now Kamikaze Cat has a suit with comic book panels all over it, and that's kinda cool.
So here's where the bad guys find out why he's named Kamikaze Cat - well, it's because the illustrator Mark Rogers had a line of best-selling books titled Samurai Cat, about a cat who wore samurai armor and had a series of fanciful adventures, that's why. Yes, it's just one more pop culture reference, the kind of pop culture reference that completely unfunny people use for comedy when they're trying to be funny. Like, say, everything that happens in this entire terrible comic book.
The uncanny part is that Eclipse Comics out in California did actually suffer a terrible flood that destroyed a good portion of their inventory. The flood, and the rapid changes the early 1990s brought to the comic book industry, spelled eventual doom for Eclipse. Not that Kamikaze Cat had anything to do with it, festering as he was in the 25-cent bins of musty comic shop back rooms across America.
If only all terrible comic books could be stopped with the mere yank of a plug! If only the people behind Kamikaze Cat had written a letter, or made a phone call, or cornered Dean Mullaney at a comic book con somewhere and drunkenly harrassed him until con security took them away! If only they hadn't vented their spleen over the course of weeks and weeks scribbling away at this absolute nonsense, this piece of cat-headed junk that doesn't even have the courage of its own half-human convictions - what was their plan to conquer the industry, anyway? Hadn't they already conquered it? How did Kamikaze Cat figure into their scheme at all - I mean, *before* the bad guys deliberately invited him into their scheme, that is?
Like all the best terrible comic books, this one raises more questions than it answers, just one more riddle in the endless parade of bad decisions and bankruptcy proceedings that we laughably call a comic book industry. Will we ever see its like again? Will the racks of comic shops again be filled with insipid parodies and spite publishers? Or will I succumb to temptation and take this thing out back and light it on fire, thereby ending the cycle of confusion for at least one bad comic book? No one can say for sure... but keep those matches handy.
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