Bunty Picture Library: #161
Artist: Mike White
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.