Alias the Cat by Kim Deitch

Deitch's art swirls and enchants, creating a fairy universe bedevilled by sordid behaviour and uncomfortable eroticism

Book Review by Gareth K Vile | 07 Dec 2007
  • Alias the Cat
Book title: Alias the Cat
Author: Kim Deitch

Kim Deitch has been working outside of the comic mainstream since the late 60s: combining pseudo-autobiography with lop-sided fantasies that involve an invisible cat and the reincarnation of Judas, his Waldo stories are complex and amusing - if an acquired taste. Alias The Cat takes Waldo and Kim deep into America history, from WWI pacifism to absolutely contemporary terrorist paranoia. Deitch's skill - apart from his delicate cross-hatching and psychedelic distortions of perspective - is to introduce unbelievable beings through unreliable witnesses. Waldo the Cat, Deitch's shadowy antagonist, is only ever seen by the insane or drunk; even warning that his appearance is usually a sign of incipient madness. As Deitch is sucked further into Waldo's world, his own scepticism is replaced by belief, terror and, finally, a spell under psychiatric observation. Perfectly matching the off-kilter narrative, Deitch's art swirls and enchants, creating a fairy universe bedevilled by sordid behaviour and uncomfortable eroticism. Romanticism drives Alias The Cat, with Deitch's wife supporting her errant husband and one of the three chapters dedicated to a doomed affair from the 1910s. But unlike many romances, these are inconclusive and absurd - just, as Deitch says, like real life. Deitch's confusion seems to extend beyond his life, becoming a philosophical acceptance of uncertainty. His willingness to leave characters hanging, their motives vague or their lives lost in the past lends the book a realism that stories of bad-boy soft-toys can't usually inhabit. While Deitch is no Crumb or Alan Moore, his subtle story-telling and distinctive illustration is a slow-burning pleasure. [Gareth K Vile]

Out Now, Published by Jonathan Cape, Cover Price £11.99

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