Pet owners—especially dog and cat parents—will swear up and down that even if their furry loved ones don’t understand every word that you say to them, they get the general gist. They can read tone, both body language and voice modulation, and are highly empathic at reading moods. Furthermore, like humans, every cat and dog has its own distinct personalities, even within individual breeds. They’re funny creatures that reveal their inner lives with each nuzzle, every meow or bark, every breakneck tare across the house.
Maybe that’s one reason why Nancy Peña’s graphic novel Madame Cat from Humanoids feels so true to life, brimming with the joy, frustration, humor, and love that comes with being a pet parent—in this case to the titular Madame. In Madame Cat, Peña chronicles a cat mama who has a sometimes adversarial but always loving back-and-forth with Madame, documented in short one- to two-page vignettes that dive into the big and small moments of being a cat owner. From Madame’s fussiness to making observations about her mother’s peculiar human rituals to the being fully and firmly feline, Madame Cat is at once breezy and emotionally resonant, having readers nodding in agreement at Madame’s peccadilloes while laughing at the jokes Peña packs into her story (including an unexpected Dada reference that’ll smack you in the face with the funny).
So much of that funny is owed to Peña’s ebullient, gorgeous linework that pops off the page. There’s a sometimes minimalist quality to her art, as she only illustrates what she needs to convey the story, but that serves to give her lines room to breathe and play with the space of the page—particularly in action shots that show the occasionally erratic behavior of Madame’s movements. The use of blues and blacks is also particularly inspired; colors that are often associated with somberness pair with the illustrations not to evoke sadness, but a groundedness. Madame’s antics may be scattered, but the color palette helps to convey that this is just life, the status quo of being a cat mom—and that’s more than okay.
Nancy Peña’s Madame Cat is at once a familiar story that feels like a warm blanket, while at the same time using novel storytelling and artistic approaches that serve to make her story feel like a love letter to pet owners across the board.
Madame Cat is on sale now from Humanoids.
From the official graphic novel description:
Madame means mischief in this series of slice-of-life vignettes that present the private love, laughter and frustrations of a pet who thinks she’s an owner! Whether she’s tearing up clothes, spilling ink on the carpet or filling the air with stinky tuna-breath, Madame is both wonderfully frustrating and endearingly whimsical. With narrative mastery, Nancy Peña brings us small, hilarious sketches that appeal to cat lovers of all ages!
Be sure to check out these gorgeous preview pages for the graphic novel!