The Cat with a Really Big Head, and One Other Story that Isn’t as Good
June 3, 2015
Reviewed with an advance review copy
I think everyone everywhere with an internet connection can agree that cats are having a moment, have been having a moment. We are bombarded with images, videos, and GIFs of cats doing adorable things on a daily basis. Honestly, I love this; I’m allergic to cats, but they make me so happy in all their fluffy aloof glory.
What I’m saying is, it’s really difficult for people to hate something if a cat is involved. Mix some dark, appealingly repulsive art in this story and, usually, I am sold.
Roman Dirge, of Lenore: The Cute Little Dead Girl fame, attempts to capitalize on modern cat popularity by telling the story of a cat born with a really huge head in The Cat with a Really Big Head. The 96-page comic details the tragic daily life of Cat, showcasing his relationships with members of his family and other household pets. Dirge uses his signature dark humor in an attempt to make light of the situation, framing Cat’s struggles as anything but.
I wanted to like this comic; I really did. Unfortunately, The Cat with a Really Big Head succeeded in making me hate a story about a cat within the first few pages. I hated it almost as much as I loved Monsters in my Tummy (which was a lot), the unnamed “story that isn’t as good.”
WAIT. Before you wander away, muttering about how I could possibly hate a story featuring one of the universe’s most fluffy creatures (especially one with a really big head), you should know something. Allow me to share a little-known (or well-known, depending who you are) fact about me.
Fact: I love art that looks like it just haphazardly climbed its way out of a moldy crypt. I love twisted drawings of things that you would otherwise think of as cute—like, oh you know, cats. The grosser and further away it looks from its original image, the more I like it. Give me millions of drawings of baby animals with moldy teeth and matted fur. There’s probably a name for this type of art, but I just really like calling it ‘twisted cute.’
Knowing this about me, you can probably begin to comprehend how excited I was to check out this comic. I’ve never read Lenore, but have always appreciated the art style. I took one look at the cover art and thought, “This is for me; this is the creepy twisted cat comic I’ve been waiting for.” Honestly, and this is not Dirge’s fault, I’d hoped that the cat would end up using its huge head to become some sort of cute kitty assassin, or something.
That… is not what I got. The art is everything I expected and more, but the story lacked so much. In what comes across as a book for adults made in the style of a book for children, Dirge’s attempts at dark humor just seem cruel. Every single chance that Dirge had, he took to make fun of the trouble that Cat’s really big head got him into.
The entire time I was reading this comic, I felt only one thing: uncomfortable.
I don’t think there were more than two pages that went by without a mention of someone being “stupid.” Usually, this was in reference to the two children in the story. Sometimes, it was in reference to something the cat did, like eat… or try to use the bathroom. At its most basic level, this comic makes a joke out of the life of a disabled cat; it perpetuates the idea that disability is “dark humor.” Spoiler alert: it’s not.
In one particularly difficult panel, Cat is trying to cough up a hairball. Most people probably know what it sounds like when a cat coughs up a hairball—if you don’t, youtube to the rescue (Just kidding! Here). Basically, it plays out like this:
“The first time the cat had a hairball was to become an infamous day. Neighbors had called the police to report that they heard the sounds of an old man, or perhaps a Chinese midget being water-tortured.”
… Okay? I’m a huge fan of over exaggeration as a comedic tool, but… really? There was no better way to describe this noise? There was so much that could be done with this scenario. The noise could have been described as a chorus of shopping carts, each with a broken wheel. Anything would have been better than this. This is not dark humor; this is cruel, callous, and offensive.
Disappointed as I was with the first story, I was hesitant to continue reading. I’m really glad that I did. As much as I hated The Cat with a Really Big Head, I loved the “One Other Story that Isn’t as Good,” Monsters in my Tummy
A small comic, A Big Question, separates the two longer stories. Beautifully illustrated, this comic tells the story of a young girl who dies and continues to haunt the man who performed her autopsy.
Dirge manages to develop a rich story and complex characters within so few panels. I’m a huge wimp when it comes to scary stories (surprising considering the type of art I like), so this left me feeling haunted—in a good way—and wanting more.
I got exactly what I wanted with Monsters in my Tummy.
It details the internal battle that your body wages to combat sadness and depression. The opening could be better, showing the main protagonist being broken up with by a girl who wants “a man with a Mercedes.” But, overall, I loved the way pain is brought to life in this comic (haaaaaaaaa—there is literally a character named Pain). It’s the perfect creepy counterpart for everyone excited for the super cute Inside Out (be sure to look out for a review on the site!).
You watch this young man struggle for his emotional health, his feelings taking on physical forms to wage this war internally. I really appreciated how well Dirge was able to bring this struggle to life, pushing the reader to root for Esteem in the battle against Anger and Alone. I really wish I’d seen more of this sensitivity and tact in The Cat with a Really Big Head.
This release is worth checking out for the artwork alone (if you’re into this style), but Monsters in my Tummy is a real delight if you can manage to stomach (HA) the first story.