I like to think that I’ve reviewed some pretty interesting and unusual things in my time, but this one may just take the cake — not because cartoonist Kriota Willberg’s latest self-published mini (it came out in late 2019), Cat Friends, Bird Acquaintances, And Their Human Furniture is necessarily challenging either conceptually or technically, but because it’s well and truly one of those things that you sort of have to see to believe that it even exists, since at first glance one could be forgiven for assuming that any sort of readership for it, well, doesn’t.
Not that “readership” is the right word here exactly, given this is a small — and silent — “suite” of thematically-linked anatomical illustrations with a twist, but honestly, that’s neither here nor there. The main point I’m at least attempting to get at here is that the existence of a publication this specialized, this unique, this singular — well, I think it speaks very well of the current “anything goes” state of the small press and self-publishing scene. And of the commitment level of many of the cartoonists within it — most notably in this case, of course, Willberg herself.
It’s also worth pointing out that this is a handsome and well-made mini, with heavy-duty cardstock covers, glossy paper, and luscious full-color printing — which means Willberg’s chances of breaking even on it are likely pretty slim. That marks it as a genuine labor of love, pure and simple, as well as a prima facie example of an artist following her inner muse for the most pure and noble reason of all, that being : simply because she can.
With all that in mind, then, it’s incumbent upon me to point out that, no matter how narrow her set of concerns with this one was, Willberg has created an absolutely delightful ‘zine here, rendering the human musculoskeletal system at multiple angles over a series of two-page spreads with her cats Leski, Didi, Gorgo, and Nibs — and a couple of birds they no doubt love to keep an eye on — making themselves at home in various places on and within said anatomical structures. Willberg’s drawings are meticulous and precise, and the decision to render the animals fully but the people as bones and muscles only is an interesting one — I couldn’t say what it means per se, but I think that’s rather the point : it only means this is the sort of project Willberg wanted to immerse herself in for a short while in order to exercise and hone her skills and to metaphorically scratch an equally-metaphorical creative itch. I can think of no better reason to create art than that — largely because there isn’t one.
Willberg’s cats have always been a source of inspiration for her — see her earlier mini Stubb And Leski’s Catsmas, also reviewed on this site — and she’s produced a number of these anatomical drawing ‘zines, but merging the two is frankly an inspired decision, and the end result is a series of drawings that, cliched as it no doubt sounds and is, makes learning fun. One more check mark, then, on the scoresheet of noble intentions.
Perhaps what I enjoyed most about Willberg’s book, though, is the simple fact that it’s difficult bordering on impossible to say why it works — you just know, from first page to last, that it does.
Cat Friends, Bird Acquaintances, And Their Human Furniture is available for $6.00 from J.T. Yost’s Birdcage Bottom Books distro at https://birdcagebottombooks.com/collections/comic-books/products/cat-friends-bird-acquantances-and-their-human-furniture
Review wrist check – with summer waning, I figured I’d put my Monta “Atlas” blue dial model on this Mora black, green, and red striped nylon NATO strap, given that there probably aren’t too many days left this year to get away with wearing a “Bond-style” NATO —and I don’t care what anybody says, I think a dress watch like this looks cool paired with one.