Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Fear, Kitty Kitty Kitty…

Posted by Don MacPherson on October 23rd, 2016

VariantDie Kitty Die #1
Writers/Pencils: Fernando Ruiz & Dan Parent
Inks: Rich Koslowski & J. Bone
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Letters: Janice Chiang
Cover artists: Parent and Ruiz (regular editions)/Darwyn Cooke, and Ruiz & Parent (variants)
Publisher: Chapter House Comics/Astro Comix
Price: $3.99 US

I’ve been hearing about this project for a year or so, and I’ve been quite curious about it. It was originally released digitally, but I prefer comics on paper. Anticipating a print release, I waited, so I was pleased to find it on my local comic shop’s shelves this week. I hope Die Kitty Die proves to be a small-press success, because its commentary on comics publishing, pop culture as product and the poor treatment of creative forces, though a familiar refrain, merits further exposure and discussion. Archie Comics talents Dan Parent and Fernando Ruiz not only offer a sendup of their usual employers and its characters, but also target the comics industry as a whole, even including pastiches/homages of little-used Harvey properties, such as Casper the Friendly Ghost and Hot Stuff. One thing is abundantly clear from this comic: its creators really had a blast putting it together. There’s an exuberance evident here, one that flows, I assume, from the catharsis of expressing and letting go of their professional frustrations.

Kitty Ravencroft is a real witch who’s become a pop-culture icon the world over thanks to decades of her popular comic-book series. But sales are slumping, and it’s soured the magical, never-aging woman’s mood. Her friends try to lift her spirits, offering suggestions and gimmicks that might boost the popularity of her comic, but alas, those decisions aren’t hers to make. Instead, the real control lies with the publisher of the comics, who wants to turn the company around — at any cost. Ace, the frat-boy editor-in-chief, and Monica, the meek Gal Friday to the publisher, both have ideas, but the maniacal publisher arrives at the ultimate solution: Kitty must die, not just in the comics, but for real as well!

Fernando Ruiz and Dan Parent have been staples of the Archie line for some time, so it’s no surprise that they embrace that background and offer up their creator-owned project in that same classic Archie-esque style. There’s a simplicity to the visual approach, but there’s also a boundless energy. Of course, the women of the world of Archie have always been attractive and curvy, and the creators amp that to the extreme with their vivacious heroine. I was particularly amused by their design for the 1950s comics incarnation of the titular character. They mock women’s fashion, and not subtly.

I love the vibrant colors that Glenn Whitmore brings to the mix here, and I was especially pleased to see he creates a Ben-Day dots effect for the 1956 sequence that opens the comic. Janice Chiang’s big, bombastic lettering approach also evokes the Archie house style and the over-the-top tone of the satire found in these pages.

Sexuality is a big part of this comic, which should come as no surprise, since it’s such a big part of the comics the creators are lampooning here. Archie stories are often about sex; they just don’t mention sex. Archie’s obsession over Betty and Veronica for decades has always been about hormones first and emotional connection second (though that’s less the case with the relaunched titles being offered today). Parent and Ruiz amp up the sexual aspects with this industry satire. I was particularly struck by Kitty’s powerful rejection of a handsy suitor despite her initial naiveté about his intentions. The creators reinforce the message that a woman ought not have to worried about her attire or appearance being a catalyst for sexual violence. And it is. It was the predatory male who was the problem, not Kitty’s look. Mind you, one has to balance this element with another character’s mystical disrobing of the protagonist against her will. That’s an assault too, but it’s treated as more of a joke. I was puzzled by their decision to censor themselves in this creator-owned book. If they’re going to make sexuality one of the central elements of the book, why not be completely bawdy? I’m sure they could have achieved a balance between cheekiness and respect.

Ultimately, this comic strikes me as rather empowering, mocking how the industry treats female characters. This comic’s release at this time is particularly fitting, as it explores the notion of a woman being an obstacle to power, influence and money; I doubt Ruiz and Parent had the election season in mind when crafting this story, but it just goes to show how pervasive misogyny is in society. 7/10

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