Cartoonist Steve Wolfhard has had a fruitful career in animation, particularly with his work as a writer and storyboard artist on Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time, but getting to that point wasn’t easy. He drew his first Cat Rackham comics during a period of intense depression and loneliness, channeling his emotions into short comic strips about a miserable cartoon cat. The Collected Cat Rackham from Koyama Press puts all of Rackham’s bleak, hilarious adventures in one sleek hardcover, and it’s a fantastic showcase of the expressive characterization and sharp comic timing that have transferred exceptionally well to Wolfhard’s animation work.
These preview pages spotlight two of Rackham’s experiences with death and anxiety, with both strips reinforcing his fixation with death because there’s no way of knowing when it will come. A seemingly innocuous bell strips him down to his skeleton when rung, and he would be dead if one of his bones didn’t fall out of a crow’s mouth and ring the bell again. Anxiety over having a heart attack keeps Cat Rackham awake at night, but it also saves his life when he sits up and unintentionally avoid a falling boulder that would have crushed him. The world seems to be working against Cat Rackham, and his nerves ultimately help keep him alive.
The Collected Cat Rackham is available now for readers that want to see more of Wolfhard’s dark sense of humor, and while Koyama is still releasing its Fall 2016 titles, the publisher announced its Spring 2017 slate of books last week. It’s an incredible 10th anniversary line-up featuring work from The A.V. Club favorites like Jane Mai, Eleanor Davis, Jesse Jacobs, and Ben Sears, and that high caliber of talent is why Koyama has made such a strong name for itself in the last decade.