- The Nine Lives of Kitty Foster – Spellbound: #61 (19 Nov 1977) – #69 (14 Jan 1978)
- Art: Carlos Freixas
In a small town in Mid West America, people gather to watch daredevil motorcycle stunt rider Damon Demon. Among the crowd is Sue Graines a reporter who wants to get a story on Damon. He isn’t too pleased when she says she would like to talk to his assistant too and quickly gets rid of her. The reason for this is his assistant, Kitty Foster, is actually the stunt rider, she performs the stunts then hides while Damon drives out afterwards to take all the glory. Sue is still eager to get a story tries to talk to Kitty, but she is even less welcoming than Damon was. The pair move on with Damon Demon wanting to try out new more dangerous stunts to draw a crowd. Sue wants to investigate further because she is suspicious that they are hiding secrets.
Not only does Kitty perform all the stunts, but she also does all the work in the background too. He is clearly blackmailing her, but what secrets he holds over her is not clear. In the caravan, Kitty cries herself to sleep, under a photo of her parents, wishing they were still alive. The newest stunt Damon wants Kitty to try is driving through a van at exactly the right spot. During the stunt, a dog runs out and Kitty is injured but manages to keep their secret. Damon keeps increasing the risks for more spectacular stunts, he wants the next stunt to involve fire. Kitty has enough and tries to run away but Damon catches her. Sue finds Kitty practicing stunts and she tells Sue that Damon was just teaching her, but Sue isn’t convinced. Damon then draws media attention by saying he will jump a narrow part of the grand canyon.
Meanwhile Sue has been continuing to investigate, discovering that Damon is actually Ken Grabe who used to be a mechanic for the Fosters. He robbed a bank and was injured in a van accident that killed Kitty’s parents. His alibi was he was fixing the brakes at the time of the robbery. He actually was uninjured in the accident but hurt himself when he climbed back down the rocks after hiding the loot. He then fixed the brakes securing his alibi. He told Kitty, her father was the thief and that he was injured because of her father. So Kitty has been helping him out of guilt and wanting to keep her father’s secret. At the same time she is terrified by the new stunt she is meant to do, even with the parachute she knows she could get caught on the rocks. Just before the big event Sue tells her the truth about Ken and her parents. When Damon Demon tells her to get out there and do the stunt she tells him he no longer has any hold over her and to do the stunt himself. He does just that driving off angrily and not even taking the safety precautions like the parachute and ends up falling to his death. Kitty is upset but Sue encourages her to start a new life and she can stay with her during school holidays.
There are familiar themes in this story, a girl being blackmailed and exploited in order to keep a criminal secret and pretending to be someone else for entertainment purposes (i.e. The Double Life of Dolly Brown). Unlike Dolly Brown this is in modern setting and there is no amnesia plot. Kitty Foster is also engaging in a very dangerous, life threatening activity. Damon Demon makes her think that the accident that scarred his face and injured his leg was her father’s fault, and that her father was a criminal but risking your life to keep family honour seems senseless. It could have been more interesting if her father was partner in crime with Ken and Kitty learned she was not responsible for her family’s mistakes, but there is a tendency for morals to be more black and white in these stories.
I like the title of the story obviously the name Kitty being a play on cat and the nine lives is appropriate as the stunts get more dangerous and she even ends up injuring herself a few times, even catching on fire! There is a sense of danger as she drives through fire tunnels and even over an open cage of lions, the reader is unsure if the next stunt could seriously injure her or worse. The art by Carlos Freixas captures these stunts brilliantly. It’s an interesting choice having a girl doing such a sport that may be more associated a man, and motorcycle stunts isn’t something we see in these comics usually so that makes it stand out from other stories. The only other example I can think of is Bunty’s “Bike Rider” but in that series the bike itself was a computerised super bike. In both of those stories onlookers assume it is a male doing the tricks!
As readers we want to see Kitty escape this hard life, and the uncaring, shady Damon Demon. We also root for Sue in her investigation, as she hunts down clues and pieces things together. The stunts, the risk, the mystery, Sue’s search for the truth all keep the story interesting and I even liked some parts of the reveal but the only letdown like I mentioned before is Kitty paying off a family debt as motivation for risking her life is weak, but Damon Demon’s grim ending does make it a good climax and ends the story on high note.