By Dan Traeger
I love it when comics teach me something without actually beating me over the head with it. Catapulted does just that. Writer/Artist Sebastian Chow has a soft touch with heavy subject matter, and he spins a good yarn in the process. The central conceit of Catapulted is rooted in the real world French space program that in 1963, in an effort to make themselves appear as contenders in the burgeoning space race, sent a cat into orbit because, you know… cats. Apparently, the United States and the Soviet Union had all the dogs and primates pre-scheduled for missions already, so you know… cats.
I know what you’re thinking, “It’s weird!,” and I had to mull it over for a minute as well. I mean, my cats are utter jerks. I have three of them. They dislike pretty much everybody unless there’s something in it for them, and I’m still trying to wrap my brain around how you would motivate a cat to give you reliable feedback. Then again, if something is wrong who’s going to tell you about it? 13.5 kibbles left in the bowl, the cats are in your face. Water bowl down by ¾ of an inch, the cats are on it. The dog broke the table lamp, who do you think is right there pointing the paw when you come home? You know...cats. It’s an interesting framework, to say the least.
Sebastian Chow is a British writer/artist, and as near as I can tell this is his first comic book work. He self-published Catapulted and funded it through a Kickstarter campaign that did smashingly well. In fact, if you get the chance, I highly recommend checking out his blog sebastian-chow.com. He has some excellent insights about working with crowd-funding and the play by play for the creation of Catapulted #1 is a fascinating read. And yes... there are cats aplenty, even though he's not French.
The artwork in Catapulted, is simple brushed line black and white and backgrounds are sparse, but Sebastian puts some serious work into the character details. As a reader, I had absolutely no problem differentiating between characters from a purely visual perspective and that matches up nicely with his dialogue. Every character has a distinctive look and voice and that’s especially important here because halfway through reading Catapulted you suddenly realize you’ve stopped retroactively poking fun at the French for, you know...cats, and that you’re thoroughly immersed in a story about love, loss, and loneliness. You’re suddenly relating to how we connect to each other as humans and how we, in turn, connect to the animals under our care. For all of that, I will excuse Sebastian Chow the highly implausible ending to the first issue and suspend my disbelief long enough to see where he goes from here.
Catapulted has a bit of a languorous pace but I suspect it will pick up with the second issue, so those of you with short attention spans won’t feel left out. In the meantime check out the first issue of Catapulted. If you’re in the mood to learn something interesting about France’s always astounding capacity to think outside the box, or if you simply just enjoy a nice leisurely paced story about humans and the consequences of how we treat each other and our animals, this story is one I think you’ll like. Sebastian skirts the edge of some pretty horrific stuff here. The space race was not kind to the animals we sent up. Laika overheated and smothered to death in her capsule (obviously nobody told the Soviets that dogs die in hot cars) and the United States killed buckets of animals before Ham the Chimpanzee made his successful flight. There are consequences to how we treat our animals and it can drastically affect how we treat each other. With Sebastian Chow’s gentle guidance, I think we’re in good hands.