Whenever people ask me what the first comic I ever read was, I always tell them about my first Batman comic I read one day when I was home sick from school. But that was just the first comic book I ever read. I’d already been reading newspaper comic strips for years at that point. They were my first introduction to the world of sequential art and strips like Garfield, Zits, Foxtrot, and of course Calvin and Hobbes still hold a special place in my heart.
Cat and Meringue is very much in the vein of these old strips. In fact, creator Nich Angell even talks about how he was influenced heavily by Calvin and Hobbes in the introduction to the collected edition of all 1000 strips. And it shows, in the best way possible.
The premise of the comic is very simple. A cat and a meringue are sailing the open sea in a catamaran. Their choice of vessel is not a coincidence as the strip is full of silly puns and visual gags. The pair go on a variety of adventures, including a wacky race, trips to various other dimensions, and even a hilarious journey to their catamaran’s basement – and that’s just in the first 250 strips!
The thing that really makes Cat and Meringue shine is the injection of Angell’s own personality. The collected edition includes his thoughts about most of the strips, written as he was putting the collection together. Through his comments, you can see how much he enjoys the strip’s brand of humour. You can start to tell when a particular strip made Angell himself chuckle as he was drawing it.
The overarching plot involves the pair discovering that they are comic characters and they begin to rebel against their creator. Not only do they break the 4th wall, but also the borders of the panels (bringing them to “Gutterworld”) and even the rules of time and space. Or at least the comic strip rules of time and space.
This strange twist means that the very nature of comics is explored, with Angell employing unique quirks of storytelling that are much more intellectual than one would expect from this simple looking comic.
As I mentioned, I’ve only read the first 250 strips so far; they make for such a great breezy summer read that I’m trying to slow myself down and savour the rest of the ride (I blasted through the first hundred strips in about an hour). I’m also a little concerned as I’ve recently discovered that Cat and Meringue have found a way out of the comic and into the real world in the form of adorable plushies currently funding on Kickstarter. Nich, I really hope you know what you’re doing bringing these two out of the world of the comics – and don’t take it personally when I say I’m going to choose their side if they do decide to finally come after you.