Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Angel Catbird Vol. 1 (Margaret Atwood, Johnnie Christmas, and Tamra Bonvillain)

Wow, so what can I say about the first volume of Angel Catbird written by Margaret Atwood, illustrated by Johnnie Christmas, and coloured by Tamra Bonvillain? Well, it's definitely interesting. I first heard of it when I saw that Margaret Atwood would be at Fan Expo 2016 in Toronto to promote the graphic novel. Unfortunately, my brother and I couldn't go to the panel/book signing because we had another panel or photo op to go to but I had already met Margaret Atwood at Laurentian University in the Fall of 2014 so I wasn't too worried about missing it, even though I would have liked to have gone because Margaret Atwood is a very interesting person. I wanted to read it later, though, because I knew that it should be interesting due to the title and the fact that Margaret Atwood wrote it. Now that I actually have a cat, I thought that it was the right time to read it. And it definitely turned out to be... interesting (wow, I just said "interesting" a lot in this paragraph).

This graphic novel is about a man named Strig Feleedus who becomes part cat and part owl (while still being part human). His head is a combination of human, cat, and owl while his body is mostly human with the exception of the cat tail, large angel-like bird wings, and feathery legs with talon feet. He is later given the name Angel Catbird due to all of this. I expected him to be the only one of his kind and to just be a hero of sorts but the story isn't that simple. There are other people who are part cat. They call themselves half-cats. And they can also switch between their forms. For example, humans who are half-cat can switch between their human-cat form and their human form but cats that are half-cat can switch between their cat-human form and their cat form. Then there are other people who have other animals in them. In Strig's case, he is part cat and part owl. Count Catula is part cat and part bat as well as being a vampire. Ray is half-raven. And the villain, Dr. Muroid? He's half-rat. Obviously he wants the half-cats gone while he and his rats take control.

These half-cats also have their own sort of community. They have a nightclub just for them and they prefer to hang out with each other rather than with normal humans. I was confused by some of their names at first. For example, some of the cats in the nightclub have names like Trash, Cataclysm, and Alley. I wondered why one of the half-cats (and Strig's love interest), Cate Leone, kept saying these words. I started thinking that maybe these were swears that the half-cats use since Cate also says "Holy cats!" as a sort of swear and there are a lot of cat-themed references. It wasn't until I looked at the collection of labelled sketches at the end of the book that I figured out that these were the names of characters and that whenever she said them, she was talking to them. I feel really sorry for the cat living with the name "Trash." Because of all of these cat references, I was reminded of a lot of children's books that do the same thing. It gets kind of cheesy after a while but it's still kind of fun. I would not recommend that children read this however, since there are parts where Strig and Cate think about sex with each other but in a cat way. For example, there is one part where Cate is thinking about how cute Strig looks in his cat-owl-human form and she thinks about how they could maybe get together next time she's in heat. In another part, Strig thinks about how he'd love it if Cate had his kittens or laid his egg. These parts are both sexual (especially the part about the next time Cate is in heat) and there are other scenes that seem a bit sexual as well. So, I'd say this book is more for adults.

A big part of this book is about spreading the message that cats should be kept indoors rather than being outdoor cats. Indoor cats live longer because there are many dangers that they could face if they were outside. Also, keeping cats indoors means that wild birds are also safe from them. There are little boxes at the bottom of certain pages with information provided by Nature Canada. The information is all about the risks of letting cats be outdoor cats and the benefits of indoor cats. There is even a website that they encourage readers to visit: These messages are even included in the story. At the beginning of the story, Strig tells his pet cat that he has to stay inside since he is an indoor cat. Before Strig changes into Angel Catbird for the first time, his cat escapes from the house and he yells that it's dangerous outside before his cat runs onto the street after a rat and ends up getting hit by a car. When the half-cats who change to cat form when they are not in half-cat form change into cats so as to lie low until the dangers that the half-cats are facing are figured out, they state everything that could happen to them outside like getting hit by cars, chased or eaten by other animals, or getting rabies. The message really jumps out at you in these parts of the story. You can see that they were deliberately placed there. I actually find that they don't fit in... smoothly, I guess? As though they are forced into the story. Then there's the big part of the story that addresses the issue of outdoor cats and the safety of wild birds from cats: Angel Catbird himself. He is part cat and part bird. So, he knows the dangers that cats face outside and he also knows the dangers that birds face from cats. He understands what both species are going through. I really like this part. It fits in nicely, even if it's weird.

So, will I read the next volume? Probably, especially since this graphic novel series is different from other graphic novels that I read and it also has that great message about cats and birds. Now that I'm a cat owner, I know the importance of keeping cats indoors. As someone who also owns pet birds and loves wild birds, I know how important it is to keep them safe too.


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