One of the best moves I’ve made recently was the decision to look through the interview with creator Steve Wolfhard in the back of the book before actually reading The Collected Cat Rackham. My glance at the content of the book made lead me to believe that this was a dark, sometimes slapstick work, fairly straightforward in what it set out to do, and not necessarily complicated to read with a review in mind — is it funny? If it’s funny, it succeeded. Looking at the comics that way, it interested me that there was a creator interview. If it was so simple, what was there to say?
In the interview, Wolfhard talks about the reason he did these comics, as a way to reach out into the world from his loneliness. In the end, the comics became a portrayal of and commentary on depression, examining not only the way depression felt, but also the cycles through which it came and passed, and the effects this rhythm could have on a person.
That’s an awful lot to try and accomplish with a mostly silent humor comic about a stocky brown cat in a green t-shirt who has over-the-top, destructive, harrowing and relentless calamities happen to him, that requires some level of perseverance even as his entire being threatens to crumble in their wake. And it’s unexpected that any comic I could describe that way could actually be funny. But it is.
A lot of it has to do with Wolfhard’s cleverness. He’s great at translating the intangible into the comical, and building absurdities onto actions as a way of doing so. Cat Rackham’s life seems exhausting, the challenges seem relentless, and I suppose it could appear so for Wolfhard himself. But the fact that he can make these comics that touch on his own personal experience and move along in life speaks to his artistic strengths, the ability to stand back and transform the personal into the universal in such a wacky way.