When talented artist Giorgio Giorgetti moved from Italy to live here in the UK in 1950, he set up his art studio in the seaside town of Margate. By the time 1951rolled around Giorgetti was working in collaboration with IPC comics.
During his tenure there he worked on many strips in comics such as Valiant, Eagle, and Look and Learn to name a few. But it’s his work on Sally comic, and later, Tammy, that some of his best work is known.
More specifically there is one strip in particular which was created by him, a character that young girl readers could daydream they could emulate. That character was The Cat Girl! Appearing in the very first issue of the new Sally comic, Cat Girl was an instant hit with readers, so much so that when Sally merged into Tammy comic, this was one of the strips that survived the transition.
As with all good superhero alter egos such as Peter Parker or Clark Kent, the alliteratively named Cathy Carter was the daughter of a successful yet bumbling and forgetful private detective, who was always getting himself into one scrape or another. One evening, while trying to keep an eye on her dad without him knowing, Cathy stumbles across and inadvertently opens a mystery box given to her father by an African witch doctor for solving a case sometime before. Not being able to open it, Mr Carter stowed it away in the attic and forgot about it.
Once the lock is sprung by Cathy, she finds a sleek fitting cat costume hidden inside. Cathy, full of curiosity slips the suit on and instantly discovers that she’s now developed cat-like powers as long
as she wears it. This bore more than a striking similarity to a 1940’s strip called Miss Fury, who also gained cat powers while donning a feline costume, though Cat Girl’s adventures were more lighthearted and fluffy.
Cathy wastes no time questioning the magical power of the suit, but puts its abilities to good use, in effect becoming her clumsy father’s “guardian angel” helping him behind the scenes as he travels the world as a globetrotting private eye.
During his various assignments, Mr Carter seems to keep running afoul of a master criminal known only as The Eagle. But thanks to the Cat Girl working in the shadows she was always able to keep her dad safe from the Eagle’s clutching claws, usually without Carter being any the wiser, but taking the credit for the cases being mysteriously solved. The Eagle’s usual downfall could also be attributed to a combination of
overconfidence in his own intellect, and letting a certain Black Cat cross his path!
But the question has to be asked regarding Mr Carter’s competence as a detective. How did he ever solve a case before Cat Girl came along? He’s hardly Sherlock Holmes…
Cathy Carter or ordinary Cathy as she referred to herself in the strip was a very different take on the super hero genre, wherein when she donned the suit, she didn’t pounce into action with fists flying. Cat Girl was more, well…sneaky.
Very rarely did she get into any fisticuffs of any kind, though she was more than capable of taking care of herself. There was one time when she took on a full grown leopard and lived to tell the tale! Instead she used her wits and feline cunning to trip the criminals up. As well as the powers and abilities of a cat, (though whether this was a common or garden house moggy or a panther, seeing as how the suit came from Africa is one for conjecture,) I also wondered if the magic of the suit gave Cathy certain bad luck powers too…as in the old superstition; Never let a black cat cross your path! It may have been just me but there always seemed to be mishaps happening to the bad guys whenever Cathy was wearing the suit. Was it coincidence or clever writing? If anyone knows, answers on a postcard please…
It was my sister who read Sally, then Tammy when Cat Girl transitioned into that comic, but I used to take a sneak peek from time to time when my sister’s back was turned in order to see what trouble Cathy was getting into. It’s safe to say I was a closet Cat Girl fan. Giorgetti’s quirky pencils and consistent writing kept me returning to the strip, but it wouldn’t have done much for my street cred if my mates had found out I was reading Sally/Tammy!
It used to make my sister madder than hell if she found out I’d been reading Cat Girl. As far as she was concerned, that was her very own super hero. I never understood what she meant at the time. When I mentioned to her that I’d be writing this article for the mag, I reminded her how she used to get mad at
me. Well it turns out that she thought it unfair that I had so many super hero strips I could read in Mighty World of Marvel and Spider-Man Comics Weekly. I had no right reading a strip that was essentially written with girls in mind.
She didn’t know about Wonder Woman and the like, and anyway, American Comics were hard to come by if you lived out in the sticks like we did. But having the Cat Girl nestled in among all the other girly strips of Sally/Tammy made that all hers. She also loved the fact that Cathy spoke to her audience, and that made Big Sis feel like she was in on the secret.
She liked the idea that Cat Girl needed no-one’s help, and she was just as capable as the rest of the costumed supermen out there. We were used to the ladies being the damsels in distress, and as light and sometimes comedic as the Cat Girl strip was, you always got the feeling that ordinary Cathy was more
than capable of taking care of business. So if this strip aimed solely at the young ladies could leave such a lasting impression on me, then how about others actually working in the comic industry itself?
Seven years after Cat Girl’s first appearance, a new action/adventure strip popped up in the pages of Buster. Young Billy Farmer and his costumed alter ego The Leopard from Lime Street, penned by writer extraordinaire Tom Tully skulked across the rooftops of the fictional town of Selbridge, fighting crime in his own feline manner.
Heavily influenced by Marvel Comics Amazing Spider-man, one has to wonder if Tully also drew inspiration from Giorgetti’s creation too. They say that mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery. In this instance it’s very much the case.
The Cat Girl strip was eventually dropped, but Cathy was to return years later in the pages of 2000AD, in the Zenith strip, eventually meeting her demise at the hands of Mr Why, along with other popular comic strip characters of the seventies. Her nine lives may have run out, but time has shown us that Ordinary Cathy memory lives on.
The Best of Cat Girl is out from Rebelllion in August.
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