Angel Catbird by Margaret Atwood

The cover of "The Complete Angel Catbird" by Margaret Atwood, Jonnie Christmas and Tamra Bonvillain. In the center of a red cover there is a white and orange cat man with owl's wings and gold feather pattern shorts. 

Snapchat caption: The title fucking sends me, but also I know what Atwood writes so.... excited to see where this goes

“Angel Catbird” is a campy and wildly entertaining superhero romp, from the classic chemical accident origin story to the wide range of eclectic characters such as Neferkitti, Count Catula and Babushkat to the super villain with questionable motives and even more questionable plans. 

Our hero, Strig Feleedus—and what a name that is—starts the story as a normal human before he’s hit by a car and spills the sensitive gene splicing concoction he’s carrying on himself, his pet cat (who had escaped and he was chasing out into the street), and an owl (who had been going after the same mouse as the cat). 

Which brings me to my first warning for interested parties. Animal death. There is more to “Angel Catbird” than a simple entertaining cat based superhero romp. The book also draws attentions to the dangers of allowing cats to free roam outside, and, as such, discusses and shows cat death, the endangerment of loss of a number of animals as a result of pet and feral cats, and the costs of poaching as well. 

The one full visible panel shows Strig Feleedus (Angel Catbird) torn about lifting a baby bird back into its nest. His thought bubble reads "Do I rescue it, or eat it?" while the bird parents cry "Thank you! Thank you! Put him back in the nest!"

Below the panel there is a shadow of a black cat and the blurb: CAT-BIRD MATH, Part 1: Cats are estimated to kill 100-350 million birds a year in Canada, in the US, the figure is roughly 2.6 billion, and in the UK, about 55 million. Feral and stray cats are thought to be the cause of more than 60% of those estimated fatalities, despite the fact that their population is smaller than that of pet cats. Protect your cat-save birds!
A small dialogue box tells us that the image on the page is of Castle Catula. A classic looking medieval castle, with turrets flying flags and surrounded by a wall and hidden in a forest of pine trees. The road leading into the castle goes through a gate that is shapes like Count Catula's face, with humanoid cat structure and large bat ears. 

Snapchat caption: Not to quibble about your decor, sir, but....

This gives the story a tendency to feel a little heavy handed in those moments, but it’s hardly out of place in the overall tone. There are many fairly bonkers and heavy handed twists. Like, Count Catula has a whole ass castle within walking distance of a city and was sired by the Actual Dracula; the hacktivist group Anonymouse comes to the rescue to help the cats save the day; the villain is a rat-man and his plans are dramatic, over the top, and plotted with what I can only call mildly-competent buffoonery. There’s a lot to get across in a short amount of time, so I think we can forgive any fast paced heavy handedness. 

A panel with two female rats standing behind a mouse in the foreground. The mouse is wearing a V for Vendetta mask like the online hacker group Anonymous uses.

The rat on the right says, "Anonymouse is a secret mouse hacktivist group."

And the mouse says, "An a filthy good one, I must say!"

Snapchat caption reads: Absolutely losing it.

While I found the relationships a tad heterosexual to my tastes I did appreciate that polyamory wound up being portrayed as the Best Solution for a number of relationships. Count Catula thought that Dracula having three wives was too stingy and says that he has more than enough love to share amongst his many many wives (and he has like so many). The love triangle surrounding out protagonist Angel Catbird was also less irritating than many comics love triangles I’ve encountered. AtheenOwl (half-owl) and Cate Leone (half-cat) are both vying for Angel Catbird’s attention and it’s a hard choice, because his owl instincts veer toward AtheenOwl while his cat instincts veer toward Cate. It’s a non-traditional love triangle conundrum.

The answer reached at the end seems to be that AtheenOwl and Cate manage to get over their species differences and are going to share Angel Catbird, which sounds great to me. 

AtheenOwl, an owl woman with brown hair and tawny wings, wearing a Roman inspired helmet and chest plate over a red flowing skirt and is meant to invoke the image of the Goddess Athena, is shaking hands with Cate Leone, who has black hair and is in her human form wearing a red dress.

The dialogue goes:
AtheenOwl: Okay. I'm in. 
Cate Leone: Shake on it.
AtheenOwl: We can settle our dispute over the feathered fur guy later. 

Snapchat caption: Or ignore the feathered fur guy and date each other, though I would settle for a polyamory resolution.

Some of my other favorite bits include the entire existence of Babushkat who adopts my other favorite character Fog, who is a little abandoned kitten who looks spot on like a Victorian orphan boy.

Babushkat, a brown cat who is dress like a traditional Russian grandmother, with a colorful red and blue dress and white headscarf, is reaching out to a small cat-boy, Fog, who is gray and wearing a white shirt, waistcoat and newsboy cap. 

Babushkat's speech bubble says, "Here, little half-cat--I'll adopt you. I'll carry you in my apron." 


The long and short is that if you’re looking for a fun, campy comic with an emotional animal motivated through line that still retains a classic comic book feel, I would definitely recommend “Angel Catbird.”

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