1990: What’s Michael?

What’s Michael? (1990) #1-2 by Makoto Kobayashi.

Eclipse and Studio Proteus try yet another format for their reprints of Japanese comics: Slim (110 page) trade paperbacks. I assume that each of these reprint about half of one of the original Japanese paperbacks?

Editor cat ⊕ yronwode, after comparing What’s Michael? to Garfield in the in-house Eclipse ads for the book, explains that What’s Michael? is nothing like Garfield, and what’s more Michael isn’t a single cat, but every Japanese orange tabby? Or something? Sounds kinda unlikely.

Aaand… yes, that’s nothing like Garfield. (The cat dies.)

So most of these are vignettes about non-anthropomorphic cats, and they’re extremely well-observed, like above where a cat will always pretend that its plan was successful. And the body language is just perfect. Makoto Kobayashi does this stuff extremely well.

And then there’s these… other random skit things with anthropomorphic cats that are just… insane…

… and these that are even… I can’t even. It’s the most brilliant insanity ever.

And even in the “realistic” bits, the level of kookiness is just off the scale, like this Japanese mafia guy and the way he worries about what would happen if his co-workers (so to speak) should find out that he likes cats.

And is that how Japanese people clean the litter boxes?

Well, the first volume was really good, and it sold well for Eclipse, so there’s a second one. And in this volume, the humour is sharper, and there’s more clarity to what Makoto Kobayashi is doing. We’re basically following a number of cats and their owners, and all the owners have at least one cat called Michael, and it’s an orange tabby.

And it’s difficult to quote just a single thing that shows how funny these strips are, because every one just builds and builds, and the book had me laughing out loud like an insane person. It’s the mixture of the extremely well-observed and the unpredictable flights into fancy that’s irresistible.

And it deals with situations that you wouldn’t really expect it to.

And in addition there’s these more free-form conceptual bits that break up the more observational strips.

It’s just a completely brilliant reading experience, and now I’m sad I didn’t read these in the 90s.

I see that Studio Proteus took the book with him to Dark Horse after he left Eclipse (and sued Eclipse into bankruptcy for failure to pay him), and Dark Horse published all eleven volumes. Which are long out of print now.

So weird that they haven’t reprinted them “unflopped”, and in thicker volumes, like the Japanese originals.

Anyway, a quick stroll down Ebay later, and I’ve now bought all the volumes I don’t have used, so nyah.

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