Cat and Girl by Dorothy Gambrell, Reviewed by Chris Daily

A cat and a girl. It’s really that simple.

But for something that simple, there sure is a lot more to it than that. Dorothy Gambrell’s Cat and Girl is a webcomic that knocks you on the floor with witty repartee and smart humor, random name-dropping and off-beat themes — a voracious webcomic wolf sneaking around the flock under the sly sheep’s skin guise of a simple children’s strip about two friends and the things they do. Full of random name dropping and off-beat themes, Cat and Girl is a strip that takes many chances and makes no apologies.

With updates every Monday, the strip centers around the situational reactions of the main characters, known simply as ‘Cat’ and ‘Girl’. Cat is an adult-sized, clothes-wearing, anthropomorphic feline (‘natch) who smokes a pipe. Girl is a little, well — girl who seems to waaaay too much about ‘stuff’ for someone her age (whatever age that may be). We also meet topical representational figures like Death (their neighbor), Boy (who is often emotionally frustrated), Grrl (Girl’s hipster counterpart) and, of course, vampire beatnicks. Each new strip finds our heroes in some random situation, usually is explained by the very large title that hovers above that day’s strip. How they will react or deal with the topic or situation is usually the joke for the day, and the many tangents that occur within each strip only add to the humor level.

The comic is not so much about Cat and Girl or their friends, but rather about the things they are involved in. The characters could be totally random as well, but through Cat and Girl, we are often given both a rational and radical perspective to any given situation. In fact, the main strength of the strip is how it leaves the reader wondering what Cat and Girl will say next… and they will say just about anything. As such, Gambrell uses both characters as beacons of personal satire and public opinion to comment on just about anything she deems fitting from one installment to the next.

That said, Cat and Girl has a fairly set formula to convey its humor. Essentially, the strip will offer a topical setup, yet not make any promises that the build-up will even be remotely related to the punchline. In some cases there is no punchline, but rather a statement that seems like a setup to another topic, to which there is no resolution. Want proof? It even goes as far as to poke fun at its own formula.

The reader will come to expect references in the form of obscure pop icons, fads, eras of time, historical figures, or topical locations, all of which used to add zest to the dialogue. Gambrell never underestimates her readers, and takes the chance that some of these obscure references might scare away some visitors, because she is confident that they will surely entertain and attract others.

Each strip stands on its own — the reader doesn’t have to worry about continuity or progression of time. While there may be the occasional reference to things that happened previously (an exception’s example: one strip has Cat and Girl form a band. A few strips later the band plays, breaks up, and then gets back together), for the most part, it’s a free-for-all of expression. Very rarely, the strip will backfire by overusing the same pop reference several times over several strips, taking the fun out of the obscurity which made it funny in the first place.

The art of Cat and Girl meshes nicely with the strip’s tone. There is a simple, almost innocent design to the characters — especially Death — which makes the sarcastic tone of the strip that much more effective. The stark use of flat gray tones, strongly iconic characters, and consistent lineweights complement each other and the strip nicely. The repeated use of the same art for more than one strip is almost forgivable as it is often used in ways that bear no topical resemblance to the original strip that it was used in. Overall, the art doesn’t distract you from the writing, which is the stronger of the two.

The pop culture references and random topics of Cat and Girl might not fly with readers who are looking for something that shows character development. However, for those webcomics readers that enjoy one-stop humor and smarter gags than most, Cat and Girl will satisfy your unpredictable needs.