1991: Samurai Cat

Samurai Cat (1991) #1-3
by Ralph Macchio, Frank Cirocco and Jim Hummel

We’re now venturing into the part of Epic’s publishing history that I know nothing about. Looking at the titles to come, I think there’s… one? of them I’ve read before. The rest are mostly unknown to me. I mean… Car Warriors? The Olympians? Mutatis? Samurai Cat?

Which is this series: A three issue limited series of 32 page floppies.

As I assume everybody else went when hearing “Samurai Cat”: Oh, a cat version of Usagi Yojimbo? We certainly start off like that, and a whole lot of infodumping about Japan.

But Usagi Yojimbo is basically a straight-up adventure serial, and this isn’t? I guess?

OK, I guess I need to reset my expectations: This is just meant to be funny.

It’s like a very leisurely version of a Mad Magazine movie spoof, I guess.

Oh, well. If only the jokes were better.

And I’m usually a fan of Cirocco’s artwork, but I would even have guessed that this was by him. It looks nothing like his work, and it’s kinda… all over the place.

What? “Adapted and writing”… Is this an adaptation of something? “Mark E Rogers, Samurai Cat creator”! Geez! You’d think they could have written that somewhere more prominent than here? Was Samurai Cat a big thing in the late 80s? I’ve never heard of it. What was it? A book series? A cartoon?

Research time!

So it’s a book series?:

Samurai Cat (aka Miaowara Tomokato) is the main character in a series of books by Mark Rogers. To accompany the anachronistic satire, almost every page in each book has a picture painted by Rogers, depicting the events described on that page. Each chapter is a bizarre parody of some historical or pop culture event, but the event is always treated as an entirely serious one. For example, no one finds it at all unusual that Tomokato is an upright, talking, sword-wielding cat.

But heavily illustrated? Hm. I’m unable to find any pictures of the interiors of the book (people on the internet are so useless; there’s nine million pics of the covers, but none of the interiors, which is the interesting bit), but if “almost every page” of the book has a painting, then… is it an illustrated book for children?

There were six of them, anyway.

Cirocco does a Death Dealer take on the cat. (The cat’s proportions vary wildly from panel to panel.)

Er… and the copyright on this includes exactly none of the people involved. Perhaps those are the original publishers of the book series?

Anyway, with the second issue, we leave Japan completely for a Conan parody, and the third issue is an oh-to-timely Star Wars parody.

The level of wit displayed on the page above is pretty representative.

Worst of all, the series just… stops… I mean, the “plot” of the series was just a device to send the cat on various different adventures, but it would have been nice to have some sort of structure beyond “OK, so here’s three parodies”.

I don’t mean to be this down on the project as I’m coming off here: It’s perfectly inoffensive. I’ve read a gazillion comics worse than these three. But it’s just so… weak. It’s fine, it’s fine; if you like Mad Magazine parodies, the series is a bit like that, only with a lot fewer jokes.

The series has never been reprinted, and I’m unable to find even a single review of it.

3 thoughts on “1991: Samurai Cat”

  1. Dayum! Quite unfortunate, I have this series too, with the exception of the 3rd, and will be reading it soon after I finish with some others, so I don’t feel so bad for not being able to find the conclusion, now!

  2. “Illustrated book for children?” Um, no. I mean your older children would appreciate them, but most of the humor would go right over their heads. Heck, some adults *now* might miss parts of it (especially some cultural references).

    And the difference in the comic book art from the actual Mark E. Rogers illustrations? Yes, I understand comic books by nature have simplified artwork, but Tomokato-kun looks FAR more badass in the original books. If you’re looking for any of the books, “Samurai Cat Goes to Hell” might still be available someplace, and incorporates characters from his prior books.

    In the late 1980’s, probably into early 90’s Mark would do slide show presentations of his books at Lunacon.

  3. I’ve never read the comic miniseries, but I highly recommend the Samurai Cat book series, particularly the first three volumes, which are roughly magazine sized and have stunningly gorgeous paintings. (The next three are more standard book sized and have black and white artwork… still quite good, but fewer of them and they definitely lose something without the color.) I enjoy the humor, though I’ll grant it’s not for everyone. But the art alone makes the first three volumes worth getting.

    In broad terms, the first book parodies a variety of fantasy franchises: Conan, LotR, Lovecraft, and the Norse myth cycle. The second book is more sci-fi in scope, with parodies of Barsoom, Star Wars, and, er, Indiana Jones. (So not ENTIRELY sci-fi.) And then the third book inserts Maiowara Tomokato into real-world events, like the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and a meeting between Hitler and Stalin. (With dinosaurs. And werewolves. And maybe werewolf dinosaurs, I can’t remember.)

    Anyway, definitely recommended for the art alone if you can find copies of the first three books relatively cheaply.

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