Sunday, March 1, 2009

Reprint This! Cat's Eye

Reprint This! is a periodic feature where I talk about some out-of-print comic book gems that are not available in collected form for readers to enjoy. This is hoping to let rights owners know that, yes, readers are out here, and we'd like to buy the things we can't get at this time!

Despite such an enormous variety of books available these days, and genuine efforts to present the material in reasonably-priced, archival volumes, there are still countless fabulous series from the US, Britain and Japan which are overdue for new editions. I've selected several titles which should be on bookshelves, but at this time are not.

One missing gem is CAT'S EYE by Tsukasa Hojo. It's very 1980s, but it's a really entertaining story about three sisters who have turned the art world upside down with a string of spectacular heists from museums. It's all for allegedly good motives, of course, but it's great fun watching them run rings around the policeman assigned to bring them in, unaware that he's dating one of the thieves.

When I first flirted with Japanese animation fandom in the late 1980s, Cat's Eye was never a series that I was especially interested in. It was just one of dozens of shows based on comics that people passed around and enjoyed a little. A few months back, I ran across some volumes of the comic and was pleasantly surprised to learn how fun it is. The series is set around the Kisugi sisters, Rui, Hitomi and teenaged Ai, the daughters of a German art dealer. He had assembled one of the world's greatest collections, but had to break it up and sell everything in a big hurry when he went underground to avoid some ugly criminal interest in him. The sisters believe that he may have left clues to his present whereabouts in some of the paintings, so they begin reacquiring them.

The sisters - skilled to implausible levels in everything you'd need for a criminal career as top-drawer art thieves - leave a calling card with a cat's eye at the scene of every crime, probably because that's what they heard Lupin III did, or something. The girls even have an inside man of sorts, as Hitomi has agreed to marry a clumsy detective working the case, who unwittingly reveals facts about the police investigation, and security plans for pieces on their list to swipe.

Cat's Eye was the first regular series by Tsukasa Hojo, and it originally ran between 1981 and 1985 in the pages of Shonen Jump. Hojo, who is probably better known for his work on City Hunter, used a very realistic style in the comic and dressed his characters in the trendiest early-80s fashions. Along with some other design flourishes in the collected editions, Cat's Eye looks about as close to a comic populated by characters from a Patrick Nagel print as you're likely to see.

The series was collected in a run of 18 digest-sized volumes. Honestly, it's not the most unique or original series in the world, but it's full of harmless, charming fun, with some engaging characters. Viz could certainly do worse than snap up the rights to this comic and find a new way to take my money. So how about it, Viz?

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