Writer: Caitlin Major
Illustrator: Kelly Bastow
Publisher: Quirk Books
WHAT IS IT?
Humans and cats reverse roles in this lighthearted and endearing sequel to last year's Manfried the Man.
It's a little like Catwalk: Tales from the Cat Show Circuit or Best in Show but, again, with cats' and men's roles reversed.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
A rich fat cat with corporate intentions wants to buy a man shelter (like an animal shelter, but for tiny men that anthropomorphized cats keep as pets) so he can bulldoze it and put up condos.
The cats who run it and love it and want that not to happen. They'll need to raise more money than what the other cat offered, so they can buy it out from under him. The best way they can get the money fast?
Rob a bank. Just kidding, they have to win Best in Show at a Man Show, where the adorable, naked men are judged on many different criteria to find out which is the best. With the prize money, they'll have just enough to ensure it stays in the right hands.
But with the show just around the corner, can the cats train their men in time? And do they even have a chance at winning the show in the first place?
The comic's opening is smart, showing how cats' and men's roles are switched, and hilariously establishes how things work in the universe, some of our main characters, and the book’s overall tone.
While it's humorous, watching tiny naked men stick their arm under the door begging to be let in, or chasing a laser pointer, reversing the roles is also an interesting way to address how we treat our pets in regards to food quality, attention, and dignity. Leaving them in a box on a doorstep, possibly overnight. Putting them in cages. Making them wear silly outfits. It all seems so different done to people instead of pets.
You get a lot of bang for your proverbial buck. At 224 pages cover to cover, it's about 100 pages more than your typical Image trade paperback.However, the rigid 6-square-panels-per-page layout leaves a decent amount of white space and causes the book to be a relatively quick read. It’s also fun to see how Major and Bastow play with that strict layout in different ways, like a page filled with profiles for each man on the shelter’s website.
The page layout isn't the only thing that makes Manfried Saves the Day a quick read. It's relatively low-stakes, compared to superhero books about saving the universe, and the role reversals make for a lot of humorous situations. Our feline protagonists deal with many “human” problems, like banks suddenly redefining the terms of student loans, or feeling overworked, and the damage that does to people’s lives.
In fact, the B-plot is about Steve, our main character cat, overextending himself in his creative endeavors. It's a theme that's probably all too real for many of us.
The men's version of meowing is them saying HEY, but punctuation and other lettering effects help to decipher the context, just like you can tell from your cat’s tone of meow what they’re trying to communicate. It's kind of surprising how well this works. Granted, the concept of cats saying HEY also works, so maybe it's more universal than one would think.
Offscreen speakers get a little icon of their face on their word balloon, which is a lettering flourish that doesn't work for everything, but I loved it here.
Balloons have extra air in them, making them more rounded and adding to the cartoony tone. They also aren’t restricted by panel borders, so they'll often use up some of that extra white space instead of crowding the panels when dialogue gets especially heavy. That being said, most of the time, balloons stay within the borders because the comic isn't especially verbose.
Kelly Bastow's illustration style is also cartoony, which makes sense with anthropomorphized cats and tiny naked men all running around. Like, it'd probably be weird if it were more gritty and photorealistic.
Chapter transitions are humorous comics in the style of what we'd imagine Steve the cat draws. They're a little like Garfield comics, but obviously, with the roles reversed.
Other favorites for this comic were its soft and approachable color palette, its use of page numbers, the unique "Manfried" font typeset and a fantastic Mulan reference.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
The cast of characters in the beginning of the book isn't entirely necessary and has an inordinate number of cat puns compared with the rest of the comic, which might throw off new readers' expectations. That being said, I personally love casts of characters and puns, so take this with a grain of salt.
There's nudity! But it's not detailed or sexual. Like, it's played way less sexually than Titanic, and that movie was PG13. Also, the fact that they draw tiny genitals on their plans at one point in the story is nothing short or hilarious and strangely adorable.
Word balloon positions can confuse the flow a little at times, but it’s not too bad.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Manfried Saves the Day is a delight. Beyond the joy and humor brought on by the role reversal of cats and men, it's a highly approachable and enjoyable comic that helps us remember what's really important in life: the people and pets who are close to us.
Even if you're more of a dog person, you'll find a little bit of yourself in this comic. Read it – it'll make your day better.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Manfried the Man by Caitlin Major & Kelly Bastow
Sheets by Brenna Thummler
Catians: Resurrection by Cortney Cameron & Luyi Bennett
If you like the art:
The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks by Sam Maggs & Kelly Bastow
Archival Quality by Ivy Noelle Weir & Steenz
Brave Chef Brianna by Sam Sykes & Selina Espiritu
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Caitlin Major – Writer
Outlander: Hails from Toronto
Multitalented: Also does illustration work and does animation composition at Skyship Entertainment
A lot of this comic is autobiographical, based on Caitlin's work/life balance and cat adoption experiences
Kelly Bastow – Artist
Was nominated in 2017 for an Ignatz award for her graphic novel memoir Year Long Summer
Outlander: Also lives in Toronto
Matthew Hoddy – Coloring and Lettering Assistance
Matthew is Caitlin Major's partner
Outlander: Lives in Toronto, too! What a coincidence!
HOW DO I BUY IT?
Manfried Saves the Day comes out May 14th. Click one of these to pre-order it:
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