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‘The Handi-Cats’: A Marvel Comics Homage about Disabled Superhero Cats Fighting the Oil Spill [WTF]

As someone who runs a comic book website, I get a lot of press releases, and I consider myself pretty battle-hardened to the incredibly bizarre things that come out of the world of comics on a daily basis. But even I was not prepared for “The Handicats,” an online comic based on a New York Times best-selling memoir by Gwen Cooper about adopting a blind cat named Homer and learning about the power of love, or something. Rather than a slice-of-life narrative, however, the comic takes a slightly different approach: turning the cat into a superhero and sending him to fight the oil spill with a bionic cat sidekick.

In their high-octane premiere adventure, Episode #1: Of Origins and Oil Spills, The HandiCats plug the Gulf oil leak with a bionic furball (it clumps and absorbs!), and punish the greedy corporate “fat cats” who created the disaster in the first place.

All of this is literally what happens. But the best part about the press release (and the comic) is not only the fact that it is completely insane, but also that it genuinely strives to pay homage to classic Marvel Comics and superheroes:

The Marvel connection is not a coincidence: Cooper and fans of Homer’s Odyssey frequently compare her eyeless cat to the Marvel Comics superhero Daredevil. There’s his fearlessness, his agility, his ability to sniff out his favorite foods while they’re still contained in their sealed cans, and-most impressively-the time when, with nothing but his “super senses” of hearing and smell to guide his attack, he chased off a burglar who’d broken into Cooper’s bedroom at 4:00am.

As CA contributor David Uzumeri said to me, “I’ve now got this mental image of this entire tragidrama where Homer the Cat is watching some mean alley cat skewer his lady love assassin cat.” The connections to Marvel go deeper than mere allusions, however, as the creators shout out some very, very specific artistic inspirations from some old-school Marvel comics:

A colorful, exciting tale, The Handicats! takes its visual and narrative cues from the classic ’70s Marvel “Bronze Age” comics Marvel Team-Up and Marvel Two-in-One. It also follows in the footsteps of the famed Superman vs. Spider-Man oversize comic of 1976. Its artwork is inspired by noted Marvel Comics illustrators of the era such as George Perez, Jim Starlin, and John Buscema.

Which… I’m not trying to be mean here, so just going to say that maybe if you are an unknown artist drawing a webcomic adaptation of a cat memoir, possibly you should not set yourself up for comparisons with some of the most revered artists in comics history, because it will not go well for you.

Nonetheless, the two supercats do take part in a number of Silver Age traditions, including over-explained origin stories…

…narrating everything they do in thought bubbles, and even engaging in the time-honored Superhero Misunderstanding, as they confuse each other for enemies in the compound of the evil corporation (presumably BP) and do battle while shouting Marvel hero catchphrases at each other.

There’s a lot of other strangeness involved, including this announcement that this “innovative approach marks the first time a comic has been used to promote a ‘traditional’ book,” which I’m sure the “Twilight,” “Dark Tower” “Anita Blake,” “Dragonlance,” “Babysitter’s Club,” “Ender’s Game” and “Ulysses” comics creators would be interested to hear about.

In fairness to the comic, though, I did actually learn something in the process: while using pet hair to combat oil spills sounds, well, like something that a comic like this would make up, it’s actually true. Less true: The idea that all BP executives look like members of the Three Stooges.

Honestly, my only disappointment here is that the BP execs were not subsequently unmasked to reveal that they were actually giant, morbidly obese, evil cats, but regardless, kudos to you, “Handicats,” for completely blowing my mind.

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