Manfried the Man: A Graphic Novel by Caitlin Major and Kelly Bastow
|Manfried the Man: A Graphic Novel by Caitlin Major and Kelly Bastow|
|Category: Graphic Novels|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: While one or two beats here seemed a bit off, this wacky species-reversal comic is still so very close to being the real deal.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: May 2018|
|External links: Author's website|
In a world where cats stand on two feet, go to work at call centres and have diminutive human beings for pets, is Manfried. He's a typical frisky but shy pet – forever getting into scrapes, demanding more food than he can suitably eat, but at the same time being the perfect companion for his owner, Steve Catson. To such an extent that Steve, who is getting known for his man-oriented thinking, is actually having nightmares about becoming the neighbourhood crazy man cat. But when a window gets left open by mistake, and Manfried goes missing, the only thing for it is a massive and energised man-hunt…
There were only a couple of times here when I thought the switching of species was not perfectly spot on. The cover art, which is the actual concept that led to the web-comic that led to this series of books, is of a man walking across a laptop keyboard and sitting in the way of the screen – and we can all recognise the role-reversal. Likewise, it's the cat who puts the TV remote, followed by as much crap as is within reach, on the human's stomach, then posts the resulting 'funny' photo on social media. The human's role is reduced to going Hey! every time a pussy-cat would normally miaow, and being very, er, catty, around others of his species, while kittens demand to be painted up as humans at parties.
But not only do you a very inventive and witty world for the book, here you also have a fine story to go with it – the hard-done-to call centre worker, who dreams of being a cartoonist, finding he has to get off his backside and show responsibility when his love for his pet man engages him. And that, clearly, will engage us. It's a slightly odd book in that I can't really put an age group on to it – the thing seems a little too light and flippant for a general adult audience, but those buying this for the young may have to explain the concept and all the relevant jokes, and of course justify Manfried's permanent nudity.
Also, I didn't find the balance of the characters to be quite perfect. Steve is definitely more human than cat – in fact he's been anthropomorphised to within an inch of his life, with his upright posture, his beers, driving and water-cooler talk. On the flip side of that, Manfried is in much more of a half-way house. When he does find a group to join, they are forever fighting, grooming, or sleeping in a puddle of naked male flesh – they're not strictly the counterpart to Steve's friends' humanoid tendencies. Yes, the equivalent story would be the smart human putting surprising amounts of effort into chasing after the dumb but surprisingly loveable animal, but with this variant on that Manfried and his kind are just lumpen, base animals now, and the whole thing doesn't actually show moggies in the best of lights. Notably, the keyboard-walking Manfried had a newspaper to read, which implies a smarter, more complaisant creature than the one we see in the book.
But I'm perhaps reading too much into what is a really pleasant whimsy – it's not for the slightly clunky and abrupt ending that I disliked the finish of this book. It's a volume that has come out of rare creative sparks and no small amount of chance, as the introduction tells us, and it's a really happy thing to have around. I would certainly take note of the two creators here, and their future endeavours together are definitely going to be books to look out for. This collaboration is certainly a witty joy, and is definitely worth a look.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
I still recall I Was the Cat by Paul Tobin and Benjamin Dewey as having a strong appeal to lovers of this kind of book.
You can read more book reviews or buy Manfried the Man: A Graphic Novel by Caitlin Major and Kelly Bastow at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Manfried the Man: A Graphic Novel by Caitlin Major and Kelly Bastow at Amazon.com.
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