Saturday, 11 April 2015

Felix the Cat: The Great Comic Book Tails

Felix the Cat The Great Comic Book Tails
Felix the Cat
The Great Comic Book Tails
 Edited by Craig Yoe 
& Don Oriolo
 "Well over two-hundred pages showcase Felix's magic carpet trips to surreal lands, time's past, and into Toy Land, as well as his hilarious domestic adventures."

   Felix the Cat is one of those characters who has been somewhat forgotten over time. While he’s still known well enough, he’s hardly a household name and most people would probably assume he started out as simply another Mickey Mouse rip off.
   In truth though, Felix has a long and storied history, not only does he predate the creation of Mickey Mouse by several years, he was also the first character to make use of “cartoon logic”, he was the first character to appear in the Macy’s thanksgiving parade, the first image to be displayed on television, became a mascot for the U.S. Navy and has appeared in countless music videos, commercials, and cameos in cartoons.
   This lengthy and respectable history is summed up in the opening chapter to this book, which presents a series of photographs of some key moments in the Felix timeline.
   It’s a great opening and sets the stage well for those new to the character, but it feels a little at odds with the main body of the book, which presents a selection of strips from the Felix comic that ran through the 1950’s.
   The intro would sit well in a book detailing the general history of the character, but presented in this way it’s a little odd, especially as the comic is a sideline to the main piece of Felix media, the cartoon shorts.

Magic Carpet Ride   Oddly placed intro aside, as I said, this book compiles several issues of the 50’s Felix comic book. There seems to be little reason behind the selections, it’s just a random bunch of strips, but that doesn’t matter all too much as most have a similar tone and there’s no overarching continuity between the strips other than recurring elements like Felix’s magic carpet.

   The strips tend to fall into one of two categories, either a generic adventure, trying to capture the style of the regular cartoon shorts, or a series which sees Felix ride his magic carpet to various distant worlds inhabited by strange Oz-like creatures. We’re treated to a Candy Kingdom, a land of aggressive vegetables a robot city on Mars and many more.
   These strips are a little more interesting and offer a wide range of unique colourful characters even if it feels like there are a lot of opportunities for gags that are missed out on.
   The regular adventures are a lot funnier, though I couldn’t shake the feeling that they’d work better as cartoons rather than comic strips.
   To be honest, unless you’re very young, the majority of strips are unlikely to keep you entertained. The writing is shallow, the characters are never complex and there’s a strange lack of jokes in many of the strips. As a big fan of the early Felix shorts, I have to say, I found this book extremely lacking.
   Saying that, this doesn’t feel like a book you’re intended to buy for the story, you’re buying it for the artwork and it’s gorgeous. The vibrant landscapes and highly animated character poses give the strips a lot of life that’s missing from the writing. Despite being created some thirty years after Felix’s creation, they maintain that classic 1920’s art style that helped make characters like Felix or Mickey so iconic. It’s wonderful stuff and you could spend hours pouring over every page, soaking in the nostalgia that comes with the hand colouring and dot matrix printing.

Felix the Cat
   As an artbook this book works perfectly, it may not be too deep in terms of writing but it’s an object you’ll want to display on your shelf and take down just to look at the pictures.
   If you’ve got young children, the strips will keep them entertained and for adults it’s an interesting slice of comics history that deserves to be remembered.

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