Ronald Wimberly is hardly the first person to note the similarities between Shakespeare’s poetic dialogue and hip hop, and stage a performance of the former in the trappings of the latter. Nor is Wimberly the first to note the parallels between modern gang culture and the warring houses in Romeo and Juliet. Nor is he the first to extrapolate an entire new story based on a minor character in one of Shakespeare’s plays.
He may, however, be the first to do all of that simultaneously, while including other elements of apparent personal fascination, and the first to do so in the comics medium. The result is the original graphic novel Prince of Cats, originally released by Vertigo and recently remastered and reissued by Image. The book stars Juliet’s cousin Tybalt, the “fiery” dueler who is mocked with the words that give the book its title. The dialogue reads like Shakespeare, the action moves like manga, and it looks like nothing else --- even if the sources of the individual elements are readily apparent.