Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday Comics #13: Cat-Man

Back when I first got into comics, I created my own comic book characters that I would use to act out stories using refrigerator magnets. Some of the characters I created I have rewritten into stories here and elsewhere. Most of my characters were cat-themed because I was apparently going through a cat phase at that time. What was weird is that sometimes they weren't cats so it was kind of like humans and anthropomorphic cats coexisting with each other. One of these examples was Catman, my Batman clone, who was a man who dressed as a cat. One would think that it would be the felis sapien equivalent of blackface but he always got along with the feline heroes.

My Catman was originally very similar to Batman but soon became more like Wildcat with a hint of Wolverine. In-universe, Catman died along with all the other heroes I created during the Crystal Mission, where a living crystalline alien spreads across the universe engulfing earth. Catman will be reintroduced next month in Incredible Comics #5 and I hope that he becomes a mainstay around here.

The Holyoke Publishing version of Cat-Man debuted in Crash Comics #4 in 1940. Cat-Man had a very Jungle Book-y origin as Cat-Man's secret identity, David Merrywether, is raised by a jungle cat. In India, David is just a baby being raised by his parents. One night, the Family Merrywether are attacked by racist caricatures and slaughtered, leaving only baby David alive.
So much racism.
Soon, a mother tiger arrives to pick at the corpses a bit and discovers David crying in his crib. Her motherly instincts kicking in, the tiger carries David off to raise him as her own.
"This white kid is going to get me in the door of a lot of countries."
According to a giant text box, David grows up with the mother tiger's cubs and learns the language of the jungle. He ends up saving one of his "brothers'" life and is rewarded from the tiger with being shown where a human city is. Because David was raised by tigers in the jungle, he has essentially become a cat so when he returns to civilazation, disappointed by how terrible humans are, he devotes his life combating evil as The Cat-Man!

While listening to a live broadcast of a radio show, David hears an S-O-S coming from the prop machine gun used on the program. Believing that something is wrong, David doffs his street clothes to reveal The Cat-Man!!
Gah! Put the street clothes back on!
When Cat-Man arrives at the studio, he sees the voice actors tied up and no sign of the hoodlums. The criminals have kidnapped Stella Richards because Bull Jackson wants to use her radio program for evil and she refuses to do it. It's not explained how he wants to use it for evil but I assume he wants to add more annoying drive-time deejays with names like "Rockin' Randy and the Clit". Cat-Man busts in, and shows off his skills of leaping tall ceilings in a single bound and his glowing, searchlight-like eyes, saving Ms. Richards. Unfortunately, one of Bull's henchmen pushes over a chimney knocking Cat-Man out cold.

Cat-Man and Stella awake in Bull's dungeon-like prison but are able to escape due to an air vent that was left open.Cat-Man drops Stella off at a police station and then makes another appearance at one of Bull's other hideouts. Cat-Man is immediately stabbed and killed, his body lying in a pool of blood. Bull then speeds off to the police station to recapture Stella.

As Cat-Man dies, the spirit of his feline guardian visits him and restores his life because, since he is a cat, David has nine lives. Bull has taken one life so David has eight lives left. Cat-Man arrives at the police station, picks up Bull and his men and just throws them in jail. The police chief, or whoever, offers Cat-Man a job with the force. Cat-Man turns him down.
"Ok, that's fine, but why are you yelling?"
Cat-Man continued to appear in Crash Comics until Crash was canceled with #5 but then received his own series the following years that lasted sporadically until 1946. As the series wore on, Cat-Man got a better costume and a sidekick in the form of Kitten, his orphaned eleven-year-old niece. So, yes, everyone was on board the child endangerment train.

The Cat-Man has since fallen into the public domain and has been used several times by other publishers. A different version of Catman is currently associated with Batman at DC Comics and there's another, a villain, over at Marvel so there is no shortage of the use of the name.

Did...did he slaughter his Tiger Mother for those gloves?