What would the internet be without its ubiquitous canopy of cat pictures? Considerably smaller, less cute and much, much less interesting, I’d wager – but luckily for you lovers of online felines, my next selection of Old School strips just happens to feature Cosmos’ resident Felis constrictus, Murphington T. Catt, the Third! Murph allows me to get a ‘pet’s-eye view’ of the inanities (and insanities) of suburban life: given that he is generally restricted to the confines of Gene’s property – unless it’s Vet-Day, Newton is dragging him off on an ‘epic quest’, or the Dog Next Door has chased him down the street – Murph must entertain himself indoors or in the garden. Which usually means getting up to mischief, testing the boundaries of the pet-owner relationship (both Gene and Murph believe they belong in the latter category, obviously), or just being a layabout couch potato. Just like a regular cat’s week, then….
Top: how does one scratch that troublesome itch when has no hands? Murph has three options – rub up against something, use the flexible (if imprecise) tip of his tail…. or rely on the dexterous digits of that bipedal oaf he deigns fit to share the premises with him. Very obliging, those bipedal oafs.
Bottom: remember two of the Rules of Humour I detailed in my last blog entry? ‘If you can say it in five words, don’t say it in twenty’, and ‘Let your artwork do the talking’? Here’s a strip that combines both of them – it certainly doesn’t need any extra dialogue to make sense (or be funny), and the visuals are just the right level of ludicrous; especially given that both Artie and the audience’s expectations are so abruptly subverted in panel three….
Above: Tail Chasing 101, part two. Murph’s whippy, snake-like body is ideally suited to the rigors of his chosen sport, since he can easily bend his body into a smooth circle and then whirl around like a fly-wheel, in the never-ending pursuit of his foe. Dizziness? Potential humiliation? Fah. When he manages to sneak up on his tail unawares, and actually catches it, though? Well…. the second strip on this page earned a comedic shudder and a ‘Waauuugh, that’s just wrong….’ from my friend Jeremy; which I consider to be a complement of the highest order where Cosmos is concerned!
Top: Sometimes, much like Hobbes the tiger from Calvin and Hobbes, Murph decides to stalk and capture much more dangerous and active household prey than his tail…. which, as we can see here, rarely ends well for anyone concerned. Ouch.
Bottom: then, of course, there’s his blatant disregard for the well-being of unattended (and, therefore, unguarded) captive sources of food – in Murph’s world, rules are things that can be bent, broken or out-and-out ignored as his whims dictate. After all, if he’s hungry, then he needs food; and if he needs food, and there’s some Right There, then surely logic dictates he should eat it, right?
Top: psychological warfare, cat-snake style. This strip is also (insert another plug to my last blog entry here) a prime example of the ‘Rule of Three’ principle – Gene is irritated in panel one, attempting to maintain his composure in panel two, but finally blowing his stack in panel three; allowing the gag to smoothly transition to the denouement / punchline in panel four without everything overstaying its welcome.
Bottom: one wonders how Murph managed to actually build his scrap metal exo-suit without any hands to hold the tools…. until we remember that his somewhat-prehensile tail would serve the purpose quite nicely (as he has used it as a surrogate limb in a number of Cosmos strips before and since). Either that, or he had Newton there to help him out – just remember to share the spoils of your victory, Mr. Catt!
Top: Murph, in the most literal sense of the word, clearly likes to play with his food. And there’s that pesky Rule of Three again! You’ve had your time! Let some other rule have a go! Shoo! Shoo!
Bottom: what is it with cats and balls of yarn? Where, in fact, did the whole feline / knitting material dynamic come from? Does history record some sort of mythical ‘first contact’ event, deep in the antediluvian past; when the primitive ancestors of cats and yarns began their utterly adorable Dance of Death? Unfortunately, Murph seems to have forgotten that this relationship can go both ways…. Those fuzzy balls have defense mechanisms like you wouldn’t believe!
Top: I’m not sure whether Murph is exaggerating about the Dog Next Door’s predatory prowess – especially in panel four, which smacks a little of me fishing for a good punchline, but having to go with what I had – but there’s no doubt (based on my own encounters with large and unpleasant canines here on Earth) that he is a palpable threat to anything that sits still long enough to be folded, spindled and mutiliated. Or, no doubt, anything that dares NOT to sit still….
Bottom: one of the untold tales of Cosmos Past I really must address at some point, is how exactly Murph and Newton first met; let alone became such staunch allies. Cat-rodent relationships in cartoons are in the main antagonistic (Tom and Jerry, Garfield and Squeak the Mouse, Itchy and Scratchy), so their fast friendship – as Correctly pointed out by Newton himself – is rather anomalous. There must be some incident in their pasts which first brought them together, and then bound them together; but what? Er, watch this space. Speaking of anomalous, though, Newton is clearly still going though his ‘Character design identity crisis’ phase: he has lost his belly-stripes (since 2001, Part 2), but he still has his stripy tail (also present in 2001, Part 11) and – Jeez Louise, 2001-Jon! – possesses four-fingered hands instead of his proper three-fingered ones!
TO BE CONTINUED….