Tag Archives: Costumed heroine

Catch The Cat! [1986]

Plot

The costumed French Resistance fighter “The Cat” aka ‘collaborator’ Marie Bonnet returns for her third and final story of her war of resistance against the Nazis. This culminates in Marie being forced to fake the death of The Cat when the Nazis start tearing the town apart to catch The Cat once and for all. The Nazis fall for it and think they are now rid of The Cat, but Marie vows The Cat will come back someday.

Notes

  • Artist: Hugh Thornton-Jones

Appeared

  • Catch the Cat – Bunty: #1491 (09 August 1986) – #1501 (18 October 1986)

 

 

Catch the Cat! [1980]

Published: #1148 (12 January 1980) – #1164 (03 May 1980)

Artist: Hugh Thornton-Jones

Writer: Unknown

Special thanks to Lorrsadmin and “Phoenix” for scans

Plot (long)

In Nazi-occupied France in World War II, Marie Bonnet is despised by her classmates, particularly her ex-friends Josee and Burnetta, for being friendly with the enemy. They do not realise it is part of Marie’s cover for her secret double life as the town’s resident Resistance fighter, a costumed heroine (or hero, as they always think) known as “The Cat”. The origin of “The Cat” can be found here at a discussion of her original 1975-1976 story. This story is the first sequel, and a second followed in 1986.

The story opens with an act of defiance that hearkens back to The Cat’s debut, where she switches the swastika flag with the French flag on the tallest building in town. Now, at German headquarters, The Cat switches the swastika flag with a flag that bears her signature – and tricks the Nazis into unfurling it – and daubs a message on the wall: “France Will Be Free”. The townsfolk laugh with glee while the Commandant fumes. However, he has no inkling that he is going to be spared The Cat for a while.

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It all starts when Henri, another Resistance fighter, leaves out the signal for The Cat to call. He tells her to warn Raphael Slane that the Nazis are going to raid his artshop, as Slane must escape with all twelve of his paintings. (Considering that Slane is a scientist as well as an artist, one suspects there is more to the paintings than meets the eye.) Unfortunately The Cat arrives too late to warn Slane; he and his paintings are captured and sent to Berlin. At a Resistance meeting, it is revealed that (sure enough) there are technical drawings on the backs of the paintings. Together they make up a blueprint for a German secret weapon, a flying bomb. The Resisters are trying to get the blueprint to the Allies. The Nazis are not aware of the secret, but the paintings are to be distributed among high-ranking Nazi officials. It’s up to The Cat to track down the paintings one by one and bring back the segments for the blueprint. Fortunately it’s school holidays for Marie, so she can devote the time to her quest in Germany while telling her parents she’s staying with her aunt.

The Cat’s adventures in retrieving the paintings are as follows:

Painting One

A General Vandienst of Berlin has acquired it. The Cat has to break into his house to retrieve the painting, and it’s not easy as the house is heavily guarded. The Cat manages to get the painting, but runs into trouble when a bombing raid sets the house on fire, and Vandienst has discovered the theft and raised the alarm. Both exits are blocked, so she heads for the roof. Unfortunately the Germans see her climb and realise she is The Cat. Now they have the building surrounded and The Cat is trapped on the roof, which is heating up fast from fire. She manages to find a bridge to the next building but is spotted by a guard. Fortunately he neglects to keep an eye on her while getting reinforcements, so she hides under the bridge. She then slips into the building and changes back to Marie so she can just walk past the guards.

Painting Two

Baron Willie Von Kutch has acquired it and he lives in Blurst, Bavaria. Marie gets a bicycle to travel there (cycling all the way from Berlin to Bavaria?). When she arrives, she is dismayed to encounter another heavily guarded fortress. Nonetheless, she succeeds in breaking in. On the way she helps herself to a piece of cake as she’s hungry. Oops – the cake was meant for an honoured guest! At least the theft only arouses embarrassment, not suspicion. The Cat locates the picture and (unwisely, as it turns out) leaves her signature after she steals it. Then she discovers the painting had been tripped with an alarm, which now goes off and the guards are alerted. A German cuts the rope The Cat is using to make her escape, which sends her diving into the river. Changing back into Marie, she manages to cycle away – though she ends up doing some dangerous cycling to get away from a roadblock – and then jump a train to the next person on the list.

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Painting Three

It has been acquired by Admiral Dantz, who lives on a huge battleship in Kiel harbour. Again The Cat has to dodge some stiff patrols at the harbour. The Cat is spotted as she gets aboard and the alarm is raised. Despite this she manages to steal the painting and again leaves her signature (is that wise?). On the getaway she is spotted again and it’s another chase from trigger-happy German guards. Afterwards Marie posts the first three paintings to Henri, who receives them safely.

Unfortunately Marie does not realise the Nazis have now caught on to the common denominator of The Cat stealing Raphael Slane paintings and leaving her signature at each theft. The Gestapo now realise The Cat is after the Raphael Slane paintings and assign a Colonel Ratzt and his aide Herman to the case. Fortunately Ratzt does not check out the paintings more closely for clues as to why The Cat is targeting them, so at least the secret is still safe. Instead, he goes for setting traps around the remaining paintings to catch The Cat.

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Paintings Four and Five

Both have been acquired by a Judge Hessler, who lives in Bonn. The Cat breaks in while Hessler is out horse riding. The Cat manages to uplift the paintings and leave her signature. Unfortunately she does not realise Ratzt and Herman are calling on everyone who owns a Raphael Slane painting – and they have just arrived at Hessler’s. Ratzt discovers the theft and orders reinforcements to surround the place. After a chase in which Hessler joins in, The Cat eventually escapes by hiding in the boot of Ratzt’s car.

Painting Six

Ratzt now heads for Brokenheim, where Mayor Krinter has one of the paintings. Ratzt plans to set a trap there for The Cat, but he does not know The Cat is listening in from inside the car boot. In Brokenheim The Cat sneaks out of the boot. A woman sees this, but mistakes The Cat for an animal Ratzt locked in the boot and tells him off. (Wow, she must be one gutsy lady as it is extremely dangerous to criticise a Gestapo officer!) Now Ratzt knows how The Cat evaded him at Hessler’s and rouses the authorities in town for a man, er, Cat hunt.

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Worse, Ratzt has Krinter’s house completely surrounded, which will not make it easy for The Cat to steal the painting. Ratzt demands to know where the painting is, and does not believe Krinter when he says it is not at his house. The Cat overhears and realises Krinter means it is at the town hall. She makes her way there, steals the painting and leaves her signature, but knows Ratzt won’t be far behind. So at a department store she changes into some ordinary clothes from a rack and takes a new bag for holding the painting. Then some of the staff arrive, which forces her to hide. When she tries to slip away they spot her and think she is a shoplifter, so she has to push a trolley at them and then slide down an escalator to get away from them. She has the advantage of everyone assuming The Cat is a man, but the security Ratzt has roused is too tight. So it’s back to the suction pads to get out of the department store.

Painting Seven

Painting seven is not far away, and it is in the ownership of Major Staffle of the SS at the Kruse army barracks. However, Major Staffle – along with everyone else who still has a Raphael Slane painting – has received warning from Ratzt about The Cat. Staffle takes his warning seriously: 20 men guarding his barracks around the clock, two guards staying in his quarters, nobody is to leave or enter his room, and anyone who tries is to be shot.

The Cat breaks into the army barracks using a trapeze trick. She manages to get past Staffle’s security, take the painting and leave her signature, but the guards are battering at the door she locked. They burst in, but see no sign of The Cat; she misdirected them into looking the wrong way while slipping out behind their backs. Several more tricks from The Cat cause one very trigger-happy, jumping-the-gun goon to shoot up a lot of Major Staffle’s property! When Staffle sees the damage the goon has done he orders him to be locked up. However, The Cat is still stuck on the roof and there are guards swarming all around.

The Cat manages to hide in a storage sack that is being bundled aboard a truck. However, she gets a horrible shock when a goon starts bayoneting all the sacks in the truck! She narrowly escapes being skewered, but when she gets off the truck later she has a nasty cut on her hand. Luckily, she is picked up by a French girl named Eve, who is being forced to work on a German farm. Eve treats The Cat’s injury and provides her with new clothes. These are male clothes as Eve assumes The Cat is male like everyone else, even though she does see The Cat’s face.

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The latest consignment of paintings is soon dispatched to Henri. However, he has discovered something that he can’t warn The Cat about – Ratzt has ordered the last four Raphael Slane paintings to be secured in the vault of a Berlin bank.

Writing/editing error: there are twelve paintings and The Cat has stolen seven, so there should be five paintings remaining, not four. Somebody on the Bunty team was not counting.

The Last Four (Should be Five) Paintings

The Cat discovers the transfer to the Berlin bank vault when she tries to steal one of the paintings from one Field Marshall Von Borrel. So it’s back to Berlin where she started. The Cat is no stranger to breaking into banks, but after sussing out the security she decides it is too strong for her Cat tricks. So she goes in posing as a civilian and manages to slip into the vault, where she uplifts the paintings. When she gets locked in the vault she starts a fire to bring the fire brigade to open it. While they do so, she slips out under cover of the smoke.

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The Cat has already changed into her costume and now proceeds to climb up the wall outside. Ratzt spots her and uses a fireman’s ladder to chase her. He catches up and holds her at gunpoint. To save herself, The Cat throws one of the paintings at Ratzt, which causes him to lose his footing on the ladder. What happens to him because of this is not recorded.

Afterwards

The whole of Berlin is now looking for The Cat. She changes back into Marie, knowing the guards will not be looking for a girl because they always assume The Cat is a man. As her task is done anyway, she now heads back to France on the train. At Henri’s, The Cat brings the final paintings she has and explains how she lost one. The Resistance assemble the pieces they have and keep their fingers crossed the loss is not serious. Fortunately it isn’t as the lost painting was a corner piece, and what they have provides all the essentials.

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School holidays are now over, so it’s back to business as usual for Marie Bonnet aka The Cat. The final panel leaves Marie feeling so sad at the usual taunts from Josee and Burnetta, and she can only take solace in the thought that one day they will understand why she is so ‘friendly’ to the enemy.

Thoughts

The story structure deviates from the first Cat story, in which The Cat stumbled into or created assorted escapades and attacks on the Nazis. It was also a story where The Cat was new and becoming established in the field of resistance work. This sequel, however, resembles the story structure followed in the Bunty PSL The Cat on the Trail of the Flying Bomb: it opens with The Cat committing an individual act of rebellion that is specifically aimed at annoying the Commandant, but the rest of the story is devoted to helping the Resistance in a mission against the Nazis. Strangely, both the PSL and this sequel both have The Cat and the Resistance trying to foil the development of a German flying bomb. Is it coincidence or the same writer?

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Making the sequel a mission story gives it a specific focus and more structure. Instead of The Cat going off on all sorts of escapades, attacks and narrow escapes with the Nazis, she has just one task: track down and retrieve the paintings before the Nazis discover their secret. Making her mission even more dangerous and exciting is that she’s plunged straight into the heart of enemy territory – Nazi Germany itself. She has to depend on her wits, gymnastics skills and suction pads even more than before because there is nobody to help her. There are no French sympathisers or Resistance fighters available, except one she stumbles across. Everyone has to be regarded as a real or potential enemy this time. The Cat is completely on her own for this one.

The unfamiliar territory also makes The Cat’s M.O. even harder than usual. For example, The Cat finds it harder to get out of the window of the room she renting than her bedroom window. The Berlin houses are further apart than the ones in her hometown, so she can’t just leap from building as she could back home.

On the other hand, the change of scene is quite refreshing and makes a change from all the familiar scenes of Marie’s hometown. It must be good for Marie to have a break from the bullying of her classmates too. Still, it does look a bit difficult writing to her parents regularly as they asked her to. Even if she squeezed in some letters, how will she be able to explain the German postmarks – her aunt took her on a tour of Germany or something?

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As the mission gets underway, The Cat does not seem to realise that the mission she’s on requires extreme stealth and discretion – which means no blatant evidence like leaving her signature. It’s fine when she commits acts of rebellion against the Nazis, but this is a mission where she must de-emphasise who is doing the work as much as possible. Otherwise there will be patterns that would eventually have the Nazis figure out what’s going on. The Cat must take the blame for the difficulties Ratzt creates for her in the story by tipping the Nazis off to what’s going on by leaving her signature at each theft all the time. The Cat should thank her lucky stars Ratzt did not think to investigate why she was stealing the paintings. If he had, he would certainly have discovered the blueprints.

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Colonel Ratzt is a more interesting villain than the colourless, flat Commandant of Marie’s hometown. For one thing, he has a given name while the Commandant is just “The Commandant”. Second, he is Gestapo, which would arouse far more repugnance than the Commandant would. So readers would be really rooting for this Nazi’s downfall and cheer Marie far more lustily. Third, there is always something endearing about a guy who wears glasses, particular in the hands of an artist like Hugh Thornton-Jones. And when it’s combined with a character that is both a Nazi and Gestapo, it really raises a smile. Fourth is Ratzt actually catching up to The Cat and pulling a gun on her – something the Commandant has not had much luck in doing. The Cat can only escape by making a sacrifice – one of the paintings – which could unseat the whole point of her entire mission. It is a brilliant piece of storytelling that delivers far more punch and dramatic tension than if The Cat had succeeded in bringing all the paintings to Henri. And fifth is the disturbing final panel of Ratzt. He has lost his footing on the ladder and yelling and screaming in panic – but Bunty leaves the final fate of Ratzt up to the readers’ imagination. Did he go kersplat on the pavement, in which case The Cat is responsible for a man’s death? It is an unsettling thought with which to leave readers pondering on.

Lucky Charm #25: Catch the Cat! [1976]

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Lucky Charm: #25

Reprinted from Bunty serial: Bunty: #926 (11 October 1975) – #955 (1 May 1976)

Artists: Hugh Thornton-Jones (cover); Unknown (story)

Special thanks to “Phoenix” for making this entry possible with photocopies

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Plot (long)

In World War II, the Nazis have just defeated France. Marie Bonnet’s father is mayor of a small French town. Marie’s friends Josee and Burnetta believe the town should do something to resist the Nazis and expect Marie’s mayor father to do something in that regard. However, he believes the Nazis are too strong for that, and submission and obeisance are the only answer if people know what’s good for them. Mum agrees while Marie secretly wants to fight the Nazis, but she has no idea how to go about it.

A scientist friend comes to say goodbye as he has to flee from the Nazis because of his occupation. His daughter Jacqueline leaves Marie a box of her childhood things for safekeeping. Its contents include a prize-winning fancy-dress cat costume and, surprisingly, suction pads. It does not take long for Marie to become really adept with the suction pads.

The Nazis arrive and replace the French flag with the swastika flag on the highest building in town. Dad and Marie greet the new Commandant with a tremendous show of obeisance and servility – much to the disgust of Josee and Burnetta. From then on they call Marie a traitor and are her worst enemies out of all the girls who soon ostracise her at school for her apparent collaboration. They do not realise that Marie has now cemented her plan to resist the Nazis, and those suction pads, cat costume and show of servility are just the thing for it.

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Next day, the Nazis discover that someone has restored the French flag to the flagpole. The only clue is a card the culprit left behind, which is of a black cat. The Commandant realises there is a new resistance fighter on the block who calls himself “The Cat”. Apart from the gender, the Commandant is absolutely right. Marie’s career as The Cat has been born. And although The Cat’s debut deed of defiance can only last until the Commandant puts the swastika flag back, it has caught the attention of the entire town.

The Cat soon shines as the beacon of hope, pride and fighting spirit of the townsfolk against the Nazis. Marie’s show of servility and friendliness to the Nazis, endorsed by her father, is now the perfect cover for throwing off suspicion and to worm information out of the Nazis. But there is a high price to pay for it – Marie becomes shunned and friendless at school for her apparent collaboration. They do not listen to Marie’s excuses that it is foolish to defy the Nazis and they call her a coward while they try to be defiant. Marie can only take solace at the thought that one day the girls will know the truth about her. For now, though, nobody must know for their own protection.

The Nazis lose no time in printing “Wanted” posters of The Cat (how odd that they include a pretty accurate picture when they do not even know what The Cat looks like at this stage) – and ironically give Marie the job of putting them up! But what’s really despicable and so typical of Nazis is that they take a hostage to force The Cat to surrender; the hostage will be executed if The Cat does not surrender by a certain deadline. The Cat rescues the hostage en route to execution and leaves another calling card.

From then on it is a long, extraordinary career of single-handed resistance work in rescuing Allied soldiers and other prisoners, sabotage, foiling Nazi plots to capture her, recovering items the Nazis have stolen, stealing Nazi top secrets, Robin Hood-style thefts of stealing from the Nazis and giving to the townsfolk, constantly dodging bullets, and all with nothing more than a costume, suction pads, incredible gymnastics skills and amazingly sharp wits that always seem to get her out of every scrape. Where possible, The Cat always leaves her calling card so the Commandant knows who to blame. In the first story it is cards with a cat or cat’s paw, sometimes carrying the words “Vive La France!”. In subsequent stories the signature will change to a scrawl of a cat’s face, sometimes accompanied by “Vive La France!” on whatever surface is to hand. This is probably because it is easier to leave a scrawl than print a business card.

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The subsequent escapades of The Cat in the Lucky Charm volume are listed below. (Note that I do not have the original run available for comparison, so there is currently no way to determine if the reprint edited or deleted anything in order to fit into the issue.)

1: The Nazis are forcing the local men to build a factory in the woods, and the location is too deep for Allied bombers to penetrate effectively. The Cat helps the Allies destroy the factory by bringing in some flares stolen from the Nazis’ ammunition stores. She uses them to lighten things up on the tallest tower in the complex so the Allied can see where to hit.

2: Marie has to hide a downed Allied airman and then steals a German truck to drive him to the coast (isn’t she a bit young to be able to drive?) where the Resistance can take him to safety. This causes an awkward moment afterwards when Marie has to explain to the Commandant as to how she came into be in possession of a stolen German truck. The Commandant swallows her cover story (she was bringing back a stolen German truck). But his new aide, Colonel Krantz, is suspicious of her, and Marie realises it when she sees Krantz keeping a close watch on her.

2: The Nazis are forcing the townsfolk to pay exorbitant taxes they cannot afford. The Cat breaks into the bank to get the tax money back for the people and offsets it against the market produce so it can be given away free. She then eliminates the Krantz threat by framing him for the bank robbery. Krantz is arrested while the Commandant cannot understand why the townsfolk are looking so happy.

3: A supply train is due to arrive and the Commandant is press-ganging all the people in town to unload it (except Marie, who is excused to work in his office). The Cat hijacks the train before it arrives (she can drive a train too?) and wrecks it. The Gestapo are called, and they send in a Herr Kranzten (later called Herr Kranz), who immediately seizes on a fatal flaw in The Cat’s costume – it does not cover the hands. So The Cat would have left fingerprints all over the controls. Kranzten then starts fingerprinting everyone in town and makes no exception for Marie. The Cat breaks into the office later and destroys all the fingerprint files taken – and also manages to dump a truckload of sand all over Krantzen while she’s at it!

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Realising The Cat must be a young person, Krantzen has everyone aged 14–30 rounded up, and Marie is among them. They will be fingerprinted again, and the Nazis will take another set of The Cat’s fingerprints from the train to compare with. Marie uses her servility to the Commandant to wangle a release and then heads back to the train to destroy the evidence. Marie decides The Cat will wear gloves from now on – but never does add gloves to her costume. So she continues to leave fingerprints around, which the Nazis never seem to follow up on again.

Krantzen tries another tactic. Recalling The Cat’s recent mission to get a British airman to safety, he rigs up a Gestapo agent, von Gelber, as a phony downed British airman to lead The Cat into a trap. The Cat finds it odd that the airman said he was from a bombing crew while a friendly bargeman, Antoine, says there have been no Allied bombing raids for weeks. However, The Cat unwisely thinks she misunderstood the airman and does not really follow her instincts that something is wrong. So she nearly falls into the trap when Von Gelber pulls a gun on her, but she manages to overpower him and sends them both toppling into the river (a soldier who can’t swim?). She brings him to Antoine for safekeeping. She then leaves a letter for the Commandant that Von Gelber will be returned in exchange for the town having double rations. Both sides of the bargain are met, but The Cat has a hard time getting away after returning Von Gelber (in a rather undignified and terrifying manner) when she slips on the roof tiles and nearly falls to her death.

Krantzen now takes his leave, but before he does he takes the paintings the town is famous for. However, with the help of a loyal Frenchman The Cat intercepts the truck and the paintings are secretly returned to the townsfolk, who hide them until after the war. When the Nazis discover The Cat has foiled their art plundering, Krantzen is stripped of all rank, reduced to Private, and wishes he had never heard of The Cat.

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5: The Cat is returning home after sabotaging a Nazi supply store by leaving a hose to run and flood the place. She sees a man making queries with Josee and Burnetta about The Cat. They tell him to shove off in case he is a spy, but Marie decides to check it out in case the man is genuine. It looks like word about The Cat has reached British intelligence, because Josee and Burnetta tell Marie that the man has a message for The Cat: London will broadcast a secret message for The Cat at 5 o’clock that evening (funny how they despise Marie as a traitor, yet they give her top secret information!). The message is coded, but Marie understands enough to realise she must meet “The Bulldog” – who is the man, of course. The Cat arranges a rendezvous, but when she gets there, she sees the Nazis capture The Bulldog, who also shoot him in the arm. The Cat manages to rescue The Bulldog and they escape on a motorcycle (so The Cat can ride a motorcycle too!).

Unfortunately the Nazis took The Bulldog’s plans of a local Resistance group – and all the names of the resisters are on it! The Bulldog goes to the resisters get his arm seen to while The Cat goes to get the papers back. She succeeds and flees on a horse, but the Nazis telephone for reinforcements. By the time The Cat catches up with The Bulldog, she, The Bulldog and the Resistance group are in danger from enclosing Nazis. The Resistance group do not trust The Cat and The Bulldog can’t vouch for her as he is unconscious. The resisters almost unmask The Cat when the Nazis open fire. This sends the resisters scattering into the woods. The Nazis try to flush them out by setting fire to the wood, but they get away by river barge. En route, The Bulldog regains consciousness and tells The Cat to stockpile as many weapons as she can for the upcoming Allied invasion of France (which indicates about four years have passed since Marie’s career began). The Cat then takes her leave of the resisters and dives into the river.

When The Cat finds a place to strip off her wet cat suit, she hides the cat suit in a bag and piles firewood on top of it. This will lead straight to her next adventure, which starts on the way home.

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6: The Nazis are on high alert following The Cat’s latest adventure with the resisters and they are stopping and checking everyone. When they stop Marie, they confiscate the bag with the firewood put it in an army truck. Marie will be in dead trouble once the Nazis search the bag properly and discover her cat costume. She jumps into the truck, but there is a guard inside who pulls a gun on her. When the truck goes over a bump in the road it gives Marie the chance to jump out, but the Nazis still have the sack and take it to their barracks. Marie manages to break into the barracks and get her costume back, but deems it the narrowest escape The Cat has ever had.

Unfortunately Marie soon discovers it is not the end of the story. At school the Nazis order an identity parade of the girls to pick out the one who broke into the guardhouse. The Nazis misidentify a girl named Yvonne as the culprit and she is arrested for deportation to Germany. The Cat has to rescue Yvonne and, knowing Yvonne cannot return to her parents, get her to her grandmother. The Cat snoops in on the Commandant to get more information on Yvonne’s deportation. She overhears what she needs to know, but then finds there are new searchlights waiting for her and guards are surrounding the place. She has to take a very high dive into a swimming pool to avoid being caught. That narrow escape has The Cat realise the Commandant is getting smarter and she must be more careful with him.

In her civilian identity, The Cat slips aboard the train Yvonne is on. They fake Yvonne jumping off the train to draw the guards out, then The Cat disguises Yvonne and puts her on another carriage, telling her to get off at Lavere station where someone will be waiting for her. Yvonne is surprised to find that person is Marie, and Marie claims to know The Cat when everyone thinks she is a collaborator. Marie ‘fetches’ The Cat to smuggle Yvonne to a sympathiser who will take her to her grandmother’s. When The Cat gets back, she has another narrow escape when the railwayman finds her hidden shopping basket and then her. Being Italian, he is only too happy to turn her over. She manages to escape while the railwayman is distracted by a German guard and jumps a train that is going in the direction she wants. On the way home she discovers the train is carrying food parcels for the German garrison. She loosens the retaining pins so the parcels will tumble out for the French to retrieve, and they are most grateful to The Cat.

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7: From this latest escapade, the Nazis know The Cat has lost a shopping basket, so they put out the alert for anyone who tries to buy one. They soon hear that only one such purchase has been made – by the Bonnets. The Commandant orders a search of the Bonnet house despite their apparent collaboration as he believes nothing is too impossible for the French. When they arrive, Marie has to hide her Cat disguise, and it goes up in the loft. Unfortunately the Nazis begin to search that too! Marie pulls the rug out from under them and then directs them to a ladder downstairs. Foolishly, they both go downstairs, leaving Marie unguarded. She now shifts the costume to her bedroom as the Nazis have already searched there. The Nazis turn up empty and decide it was a false alarm. Boy, oh boy – that was the closest the Commandant has come yet to unmasking The Cat. He later apologises to Marie for the search and gives her chocolate to make amends. What a hoot!

8: That same evening, a friend named Madame Foulard is worried because her daughter Carrie is ill. She needs medicine, but the Nazis won’t release any from their stores. So it’s another mission for The Cat. She breaks into the town hospital, which is under German guard. She grabs as many medicines as she can as she does not know which one is the right one. During the getaway she cuts her hand on a grate, and the Nazis discover this when they see the blood left behind. The alert goes out to bring in anyone with a bandaged hand. The doctor picks out the correct medicine and Carrie is soon on the road to recovery. The doctor also treats The Cat’s hand. But the doctor realises the Nazis may be onto this, so he gives out the order for everyone in town to bandage their hands – too many people for the Nazis to check. Some days later the bandages are off, except for Marie’s. Josee and Burnetta scorn Marie for still having her hand bandaged like that, not realising that they bandaged their own hands for her.

Thoughts

The 1975–6 “Catch the Cat” story was one of the most popular and enduring serials ever to appear in Bunty. The Cat is still one of the best-remembered heroines in girls’ comics. The original Cat story spawned two follow-up serials, one Bunty PSL, Catch the Cat appearances in four Bunty annuals, and was of course reprinted in Lucky Charm #25.

All three Cat serials ended on open endings to leave scope for more sequels. This meant the day Marie dreamed of where she would reveal the truth and the bullies who called her a traitor would be silenced never came. Which is rather sad, really. It would have made for some very thrilling panels to see the town liberated, The Cat coming down to cheering crowds and pulling her mask off in front of them and the captured Commandant – and then watch everyone’s jaw hit the ground! The third Cat story had a slightly more definite ending, where Marie is forced to fake the death of The Cat when the Commandant executes a manhunt for The Cat that tears up the whole town. Marie swears The Cat will return. Unfortunately this would reveal to the Nazis that The Cat is not dead after all, which makes things a bit awkward. Maybe Marie should find a new costumed identity. In any case, that is where the regular story of The Cat ends in Bunty.

There are so many reasons why The Cat is so popular. The first is that she is one of the most proactive heroines ever in girls’ comics. That incredible gymnastics ability and suction pads that have her scaling buildings, leaping onto trucks, diving into rivers, getting over fences and so many other feats of agility seem to be almost superhuman. Plus there are those amazing wits of hers. She always comes up with a plan, and whenever she is cornered she always has something up her sleeve to get her out of trouble. Sometimes this stretches the boundaries of credibility, such as The Cat being able to operate trucks, motorbikes and trains at her age. But on the whole it is exciting and admirable. Even Josee and Burnetta say The Cat is too smart to be caught by the Nazis. Indeed, it would take a Nazi of extreme wit and cunning to match The Cat, and the Commandant definitely is not it. He is not stupid or incompetent, but he is not shrewd enough to ever get the better of The Cat and he has been completely duped by Marie’s servility to ever suspect her. Which is course one of the reasons why The Cat never gets caught.

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Furthermore, the things Marie gets up to against the Nazis are more typical of boys’ comics or Commandos: blowing things up, sabotage, breaking into military complexes, hijacking, robbery, kidnapping, framing enemies to dispose of them and other things that girls are not normally expected to do, especially in the pre-feminist 1940s. Girls must have loved to see action like that in Bunty, which made a change from the more typical stories about ill-used heroines. The writer must have had a lot of experience in writing war stories in the industry. There would be some appeal to boys here as well, what with the heroine being a girl of action and the story having a war setting. Mind you, it cannot be said how many boys actually read The Cat.

And who doesn’t love a good story where Nazis get their comeuppance? Though there never is a defining moment showing the Nazis being pushed out of France, readers smile and cheer again and again as The Cat strikes yet another one over Hitler. Readers love it when the Nazis are left looking sour and furious, and they often wind up in the most embarrassing and undignified situations because of The Cat.

Also, Marie is a sympathetic heroine because what she has to endure as part of her cover: being bullied and ostracised by girls who think she is a collaborator. Marie consoles herself with thoughts that one day they will know the truth, and it would be dangerous for them to know the truth now. But she can’t help but feel lonely and miserable and having no-one who understands. Except for us readers, of course.

For all their bullying, Josee and Burnetta play an odd role in helping The Cat. They despise Marie, yet they always supply her with information, such as telling her London is going to broadcast a coded message for The Cat. Oh really, girls – did nobody ever tell you that loose lips sink ships? And if you think Marie is a traitor, she is the last person you should tell!

It is very odd that everyone always addresses The Cat as a “he”. It may be 1940s sexism, but nobody ever seems to realise The Cat is female, not even people who are in close proximity to The Cat. Whatever the reason, it must also help Marie to preserve her secret. Nobody ever discovers the secret of The Cat and she never gets caught. Of course there are moments when the Nazis come close, but a cat has nine lives after all.

 

List of Appearances:

  • Catch the Cat! –  Bunty:   #926 (11 October 1975) – #955 (1 May 1976)
    • Reprinted – Lucky Charm #25
  • Catch the Cat!  – Bunty:   #1148 (12 January 1980) – #1164 (03 May 1980)
    • [Artist: Hugh Thornton-Jones]
  • Catch the Cat! –  Bunty:   #1491 (09 August 1986) – #1501 (18 October 1986)
    • [Artist: Hugh Thornton-Jones]

Other Appearances:

  • Catch the Cat! – Bunty Annual 1979
  • Catch the Cat! – Bunty Annual 1980
  • Catch the Cat! – Bunty Annual 1981
  • Catch the Cat! – Bunty Annual 1982

 

The Cat on the Trail of the German Flying Bomb (1976)

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Bunty Picture Library: #161

Artist: Mike White

Published: 1976

 Plot:

In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, Marie Bonnet is despised for appearing to be over-friendly with the Germans, particularly the Commandant. Josee and Burnetta are two bullies who are always picking on Marie over it. Nobody suspects that the apparent collaboration is all part of Marie’s cover for her secret life as a costumed resister known as “The Cat”!

The story opens with The Cat robbing the Commandant’s safe. The silly old boy thought hiding the key in the flower vase (clichéd!) would make the money “as safe as it would be in the bank in Berlin”. Plus, he never thinks to make his window more secure though he knows how The Cat can climb.

The Cat gives the loot to the town bank manager to redistribute among the poor. The Commandant is furious of course, but his retributive measures against The Cat (searches everywhere and new “wanted” posters that double the reward money) are futile.

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Then fellow resister Henri puts out the signal for The Cat to call. When The Cat arrives, Henri says there has been a message from London to investigate happenings at the Chateau Villai. The chateau is heavily guarded, but The Cat infiltrates it (swimming the moat and then climbing the bell tower). She discovers a huge laboratory and fuel stores.

London orders a second infiltration, this time with a special camera they have sent, because they want photographs. The Cat gets the photographs (the laboratory, documents, scientists and the stores), but then a guard spots her and gives the alarm. She gets away on the top of a truck and slips into the woods. However, the Germans have now been alerted, which makes a third infiltration too risky.

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When the photographs are developed, they reveal that the scientists are developing V.1 rockets. The resisters believe that these rockets are to be used on London and send the photographs there immediately. When Marie tries to pump information out of the Commandant later with her ‘friendliness’, she gets confirmation of what they suspect, but little else.

In London, the military realise they need time to build defences against the V.1, but bombing the weapons sites are ineffectual because they are too well protected. So they decide to enlist the aid of The Cat once more, to sabotage the rocket and cause the Nazis a setback that would buy them time to build their defences. They also dispatch one of their own men and explosives to help The Cat.

The man arrives safely, but then the Germans detect the plane. It is forced to take off with the explosives still on board. So The Cat raids the Germans’ stores for some replacement explosives.

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However, at the chateau the Germans have built the launching site underground, which poses a problem in how to plant the explosives. Then the air-raid siren sounds and there is a bomb strike on the site. The bombing is accurate, but cannot destroy the launching site because it is underground. It is up to the resisters to do the rest, and the air raid gives The Cat an idea – trigger the air-raid siren to draw the Germans out.

So next night, they rig the siren to go off. The Germans are drawn out and into the air-raid shelter, and the resisters barricade them in there. They proceed to plant the explosives. But the Germans rumble the trick and manage to force their way out. They catch the resisters just as they are about to detonate the explosives. The explosives are set off, but there are still enough Germans ready to fire on the resisters. The Cat resorts to launching the V.1 that was meant for London – they have destroyed its guidance system, which turns it into a runaway rocket. It ends up landing on the chateau, where it ignites the fuel stores and creates a huge explosion that is a definite setback for the Germans and helps the resisters to escape.

Two months later the V.1s are launched against London, but the British now have defences against them. The military are pleased that more than half of the V.1s are failing to hit their targets, and are so grateful to Henri and The Cat for the time they bought them to prepare their defences. They wish they could give The Cat a medal. But until the war ends, it’s daily bullying for Marie as part of her secret war against the Nazis as The Cat.

Thoughts

This is the only Bunty Picture Library that was inspired by the Bunty classic serial “Catch the Cat”. It is a pity Bunty didn’t produce more Picture Libraries on The Cat, because they would have been extremely popular. The Cat is one of Bunty’s best-remembered characters and one of the most proactive heroines ever produced. She doesn’t hesitate to rob the Commandant in a Robin Hood style, commit acts of sabotage, help blow things up, or commit other acts of defiance that thumb her nose right at the Nazis, including leaving her trademark Cat signature. The costumed identity also adds to the appeal, as does the fact that there are no super-powers or gimmicky weapons. In fact, she isn’t armed at all. The only weapons she has are her suction pads, her incredible acrobatic abilities, and her amazing wits that can get her out of any scrape.

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The Cat’s Clark Kent identity also arouses readers’ sympathies for her, because of the daily bullying she has to endure as part of pretending to be a collaborator in order to infiltrate the Germans. She always tells herself “One day they will know the truth”, “If only they knew” or other words of comfort, but she always looks sad and never holds her head very high against the jeers and ostracism from her fellow classmates. Living a secret life as The Cat does not do much for her schoolwork either, and we have to wonder at how much sleep she gets.

We also wonder why everyone, on both sides of the war, always thinks The Cat is a “he”. Why can’t anyone see that The Cat is a female? Not even Henri realises, and he is the one who is in the closest proximity to The Cat. Is it chauvinistic attitudes, or is there something about Marie that enables her to pass a male when it’s not so obvious that she’s a female? Whatever the reason, it must help Marie to keep her secret.

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The picture library Cat story certainly is a strong, racy one. We see acts of war against the Nazis that are truly spectacular and go beyond sabotaging vehicles, sending Nazi commemorative statues to a watery fate, helping the Allies to bomb factories and such. Rather, we see The Cat helping to blow up rockets! How many heroines get to have such fun as that? And even before she starts on the rockets, she’s committing a heist on the Commandant. And it’s a heist that could have gotten her killed, because she has to haul a huge, heavy bag of loot across rooftops. We can just see that bag is so heavy that it could easily fall and send The Cat plunging to the ground with it. And how can The Cat lug anything so heavy across a rooftop? But she pulls it off, much to the gratitude of the townsfolk and the fury of the Commandant (next time, use safe combinations, Herr Commandant!).

And in her Cat identity, Marie even gets a bit of her own back on Josee and Burnetta in this story! They unwittingly get in her way during her second raid on the chateau, and she shoves them into a stream to get rid of them. They end up having to face very angry parents about their messed-up clothes. The sneaky girls twist it around to Marie later and brag that they helped The Cat. Little do they know!

But nobody must know until the war ends, which is what The Cat thinks to herself as she goes back on the prowl against the Nazis yet again in the last panel. How wonderful it would have been to see more of her prowling in the Picture Libraries.

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