Alias the Cat (Pantheon)

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Fantasy and reality collide in this remarkable tale of an author obsessed with his own creation.

 

 

136 pgs B&W; $23.00

(W / A: Kim Deitch)

 

Kim Deitch's Alias the Cat is a book that blends reality so seamlessly into fantasy that readers will be hard-pressed to say where exactly the lines are drawn between truth and fiction. The three intertwining stories are richly illustrated in Deitch's very distinctive and highly textured style. They read like the diary of an enthusiastic collector at first, but the plot centers increasingly around Deitch's obsession with his Waldo the Cat character, leading to a bizarre final confrontation with his own creation.

 

Fans of Deitch will remember Waldo from the masterful graphic novel The Boulevard of Broken Dreams, in which the tough-talking and possibly evil Waldo is a parody of Felix the Cat. He appears as a hallucination by his fictional creator and torments him throughout that book.

 

The cover to Alias the Cat by Kim Deitch. Click thumbnail for a larger image.Alias the Cat begins with Deitch rhapsodizing on the joys of the flea market, where he and his wife Pam go to collect relics of movies and cartoons from the 1920's and 30's. His wife particularly enjoys stuffed toy cats from this era, and they spot one that bears a spooky resemblance to Waldo. The seller tells them a yarn about meeting the demonic cat when he was a sailor in the South Pacific.

 

More paths lead to Waldo in the second chapter, when Pam buys an antique cat-superhero suit on eBay. They discover that the suit has a peculiar history; a man used it to create a character for a comic strip and movie serial in 1915, but also wore it in real life to fight the injustice of war as Alias the Cat. Deitch portrays himself feverishly researching the man, becoming obsessed with a possible link to Waldo and seeking out connections to people who can help him find information. Ultimately, he ends up in the legendary Midgetville, New Jersey, searching for the truth behind these mysteries.

 

The wonderful thing about the tall tales told in Alias the Cat is that they are really no less believable than some of the sensational scandals that truly took place around early film and cartoons, and which we stumble across with fascination today. It is this plausibility that allows readers to make the leap with Deitch when he completely severs ties with reality by introducing Waldo as a character. Waldo, or Deitch's fixation with Waldo, is what keeps this story going, what ties plot points together and makes this a cohesive work.

 

Alias the Cat is a very complex book. Its dense and intricate plot make it a pretty serious read when you compare it to many of today's graphic novels. Fans of action and adventure probably won't find satisfaction here, despite the fact that Alias himself is a superhero. This book is for the comics reader who wants a very rich story that requires a lot of thought.

 

Kim Deitch truly has a gift for showing the world the way he sees it. He reflects the real world but makes it more grotesque, and in doing so highlights what is truly grotesque in reality. Alias the Cat showcases this in a far more personal way than his previous work. This is where Deitch confronts and explores himself as a character, and the result is quite remarkable. | Elizabeth Bolhafner

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