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Underrated: I Was the Cat

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way.

This week: I Was The Cat

I don’t know how I missed this book when it first came out, and after having a conversation with the owner of my LCS, it turns out she wasn’t entirely sure how she missed it either. I Was The Cat is an autobiographical tale about a cat who has, through his various lives, lived thousands of years through history trying (and failing) multiple times to take over the world.

Burma, the cat in question, can talk. And seems to be an incredibly wise and influential animal who wants the world to know his story. To that end he invites Allison Breaking to begin writing his memoirs so that he can reveal to the world just who he is… and that it’s totally normal that a can had been trying to take over the world across centuries, and failing every time because… well because he’s a bloody cat.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the story is how Paul Tobin structures so many different tales within Burma’s history, and never once explains how Burma can change his appearance with ease – it lends the character a mystical aspect that’s never really explored, and I think the story is strong for that because this book is what Burma wants to tell us, not a historical accounting of his accomplishments.

Yes, I am aware that Burma is fictional.

I Was The Cat is probably one of the most interesting comics/graphic novels I have read in some time; it’s an engaging and entirely light hearted affair with only a handful of gorier moments (in a story set across history, there’s a lot that’s alluded to, but only one real moment where you see an animal get injured, and it’s such an ordinary occurrence that you’re going to wonder what kind of person you are that it doesn’t really phase you.

Perhaps one of my favourite things about the book is how Tobin gently critiques our current society through the eyes of a cat. It’s amusing without being deeply hilarious, and yet just unsettling enough to make you really think when you close the final page. Burma is easily one of the most interesting feline characters in comics, and I’d love to read more, but at the same time, this is a complete story and it doesn’t need a sequel.

This came out in 2015 or so, and went far below my radar for several years. It’s a lot of fun – and that’s why it’s a great candidate for today’s Underrated column. Check it out if you ever get a chance.

Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.