Tag Archives: Ken Branch

26May/20

Silverline Title Spotlight: Cat & Mouse Vol. #1, issues 13 – 18

Welcome to the fourth, and final, spotlight on the original classic Silverline title, Cat & Mouse.

Yes.  Fourth.  And yes. Final.

You may be thinking “What?? Final spotlight?? Each preceding spotlight reviewed a four-issue arc. This spotlight encompasses SIX issues?  An entire one-third of the original series??”

This realization may lead to thoughts such as “No . . . that’s not true . . . that’s impossible!!!”, or even “This is madness!”

Fear not, friendly reader, for this final spotlight on the original Cat & Mouse run is neither madness nor impossible.  Sit back, take a deep breath, relax, take yourself back to the early 1990’s, drink an ice-cold Crystal Pepsi and chow down on a McDLT sandwich as we delve into the conclusion of Silverline’s original Cat & Mouse saga …

Issue thirteen picks up in the wake of Cat’s (Jerry’s) brutal battle with Tooth and Nail; as Cat remains hospitalized in intensive care, Demon takes it upon himself to look after Mandy’s (Mouse’s) mental health.  A trip to his veterinary clinic puts Mandy in a better mood, enjoying the cute puppies and even assisting with some basic pet care. Playful banter and some light flirting concludes with Demon introducing Mandy to some of “his” music … to which she responds “What? Sixties music?” and rolls her eyes.  I knew I liked this Mandy girl . . . 😊

The next morning finds Demon twitterpated over his upcoming date with Mandy as he makes a rare daytime appearance at his clinic, gives his receptionist a raise, receives a grateful friends only hug and kiss in return, and muses about his apparent new “ladies man” status.

Mandy and Demon’s “floating concert on a sail barge” date goes awry as a tugboat collides with the musical barge.  Demon and Mandy heroically jump into action; Demon rushes to save the members of the 60’s cover band, Steelhammer, from possible electrocution from a fallen lighting rig while Mandy thrusts herself onto the tugboat and fights the thugs who intentionally rammed the musical barge. Demon delivers all of the band members to safety, save the guitarist who was, as was Demon, hit with an impactful electrical shock when a live speaker hit the open water.

Demon recovers, he and Mandy swim to shore to avoid any questions from the authorities (Demon’s appearance would certainly be question #1!), and Mandy explicitly tells Demon that, next time, they see one of her bands.

Again, I knew I liked this Mandy girl . . . 😊

As the light-hearted dating interlude ends, issue fourteen thrusts Mouse back into action. She reconnects with her thieving skills in an attempt to secure financing for Cat’s hospitalization and medical costs.  Her initial break-in goes awry, but she finds herself wielding her new-found pistol with ease and certainty.

Demon and Mandy continue their playful canoodling, which Demon tried to turn into a serious conversation before being interrupted by Mandy’s friend’s unexpected arrival.  Hiding hijinks ensues and Demon finds himself fuzzier after being on the wrong end of a clothes dryer cycle.Unexpected visitations continue as Martin Rossman re-enters the title, stopping by Jerry and Mandy’s apartment unannounced. Mandy has her first one-on-one conversation with Rossman, who emphatically states that he wants to help prove Cat and Mouse’s innocence but will need the two bullets that were in Cat’s possession to do so.  After visiting Jerry, and a quick phone consultation with Demon, Mandy, this time as Mouse, meets Rossman in the dead of night to deliver the evidence.  However, he is not alone . . . accompanying him are his personal lawyer and a United States Marshall. Rossman announces that he is turning state’s evidence against the Mafia . . .

And Champion returned in this issue, as well, with shadowy figures in search of him.  For what nefarious reason? Only time will tell . . .

Martin Rossman’s deal to turn state’s evidence is on center stage of issue fifteen as his family goes into witness relocation and the Mafia boss is taken into custody, though later released due to “lack of evidence” (AKA – Jury Tampering).  The Yakuza are pleased with the Mafia coming under the microscope of the United State’s State Department and Kunoichi ordains her next pair of students as ready to take the names Skull and Crossbones.  Demon’s positive impact on Mandy continues after their first “overnight stay” as she takes his suggestion to complete her GED (High School Equivalency Certificate – AKA “Good Enough Diploma”) and she enrolls in classes to earn this certification.  The nefariousness around Champion continues as an individual claiming to “work for the government” offers him a job in New Orleans. And nary a panel featuring Cat appears this issue!

Issue sixteen begins with a bang (well, technically, a BOOM) as it picks up precisely from the moment issue fifteen wrapped. An assassination attempt on Martin Rossman follows his departure from the courthouse where mob boss Vito Ruggieri had just been released.  As Cat’s return to his own title begins, Ruggieri’s name is dropped multiple times.  Officers (on the take) continue to “look after” Cat, while wondering who he is and why Rossman ordered him protected, and state Ruggieri’s interest in the hospitalized (and still unidentified) Cat.  One of the officers provides a vial – from Ruggieri – to the attending physician who, in turn, injects its contents into Jerry’s motionless body.  “Coincidentally,” Jerry’s condition takes a turn for the worse this issue as his kidneys begin to shut down and a hospital official indicates that his only chance for survival is a complete kidney transplant.

Mouse’s quest for protection – in the form of Kevlar or an equivalent – continues as she “visits” an off-the-beaten-path police warehouse that Martin Rossman identified as one that would contain such body armor.  Mouse also imparts on a quest to secure a replacement kidney for Jerry from Japan’s black market.  She approaches her former teacher, Kunoichi, requesting her assistance in setting up such a purchase.  Meanwhile, Kunoichi is battling her own issues as an unsuccessful attempt to recruit her to assassinate the Yakuza’s leader (known as the Oyabun) leaves her on unsteady grounds with other powerful individuals in the organization . . . individuals that have located the off-the-grid Tooth, who had been in hiding since the conclusion of issue twelve, and recruits her to assassinate the Oyabun instead!  Her payment? Delivery of Cat for her to extract revenge as she sees fit . . .

Rossman, still alive after taking a bullet to the chest, is moved out of New Orleans under the cover of darkness en route to his waiting family, now in witness relocation, in South Dakota.  Family connections are strong in this issue as Champion finds himself now in New Orleans, having accepted the job from the guy “from the government,” encounters his ex-wife, unexpectedly, during his first walk through the city!

Kunoichi, loyal to the Oyabun, seeks his assistance in procuring the black-market kidney for Cat.  As the Oyabun inquires what he would gain in return, a disheveled and unhinged Tooth bursts in and announces she is there to kill him. Kunoichi pledges to protect his life in exchange for the kidney and pushes for an immediate agreement.  And cue the cliffhanger music as issue sixteen ends and issue seventeen begins, picking up at the same precise moment . . .

A protracted, bloody, brutal, limb-severing battle between teacher and student ensues and concludes with Kunoichi’s absolute victory over her former student.  Champion, in uniform and in the heart of New Orleans, receives his own “field agent badge” as he meets a “contractor,” also noted as one of the founders of a “new government branch.”  The badge? Fake.  The contractor?  Ruggieri.  The other “governmental agents?”  Mafia.  The stories they tell, including one where Cat and Mouse supposedly had killed Martin Rossman?  Lies.

And what of Mouse? She’s having vivid nightmares of impregnation with Demon’s child . . . well, children . . . well, litter of children. Being delivered by reverse-anthropomorphic  versions of Vet Demon and Nurse Nancy.  Visions of Cat chastising her lack of responsibility and self-control haunt her. The nightmare is interrupted by Kunoichi, arriving unannounced, who quickly catches Mandy up on her battle with Tooth, her deal with the Oyabun, and the danger that Cat is in now that his identity and location is known by both the Mafia and factions of the Yakuza.

Kunoichi’s newly ordained graduates – Skull and Crossbones – are shown to be loyal to the Oyabun’s chief rival, Inagowa, the one who called for his death.  The duo commandeers a Dirigible and make their way to the hospital, intent on kidnapping Cat, no matter how many Mafia members they need to kill on the way to fulfilling their mission.  Kunoichi and Mandy race to the hospital only to see Cat being loaded into the airship but are too slow as Skull and Crossbones sail away with him in tow. Turning to the Oyabun for assistance, Kunoichi and Mandy come face-to-face with his rival, Inagowa, who has anointed himself as the new Oyabun upon the dishonorable departure of his predecessor.  Inagowa, as the new Oyabun, offers the women the same deal he offered Nail – delivery of Cat upon the death of his predecessor.  Kunoichi refuses a second time while Mandy emphatically announces that she will do it.  Kunoichi and Mouse locate him, hiding on a ship, sailing away to hide. Kunoichi offers him one last opportunity to regain his honor and offers him a blade to do so with.  He refuses, lunges towards the port door to escape, and is confronted by Mouse, gun drawn and ready to fire!

The Oyabun is dead. Long live the Oyabun.  Issue eighteen, the final issue of the original Cat and Mouse saga, begins with Mouse and Kunoichi delivering the dead body of the original Oyabun to his usurping successor, Inagowa.  The large gunshot wound makes it crystal clear that it was Mouse who delivered the killing strike, as promised.  The new Oyabun identifies the local zoo as the location in which they can find Cat.  Mandy locates him, in a tiger cage, being “protected” by Skull and Crossbones.  Petty banter ensues but the assassins assure no interference will occur.  Mandy enters the cage and repentantly shoots an attacking tiger to protect Cat.  The two women accompany Cat to Japan, where a donor organ is provided, surgery is completed, and prognosis for recovery is positive.  After kidney implantation, a horrifying lucid dream jolts Jerry (finally) awake from his coma.

One final mission is performed; Mouse, having an uneasy feeling about the organ donor process, asks Kunoichi to accompany her and investigate the organ donor facility.  She had a bad feeling about it  . . . and she was right.  The “donors” were unwitting individuals, mostly homeless people and missing kids, who the Yakuza provide to the “facility” who, in turn, supply human organs as needed.  The “donors” are awakened by Kunoichi and Mouse’s arrival and lead an “undead” uprising against the guards, doctors, and workers at the “facility,” an uprising that the ladies refuse to interfere in, thus allowing the “donors” to extract their revenge.

The final page of issue eighteen reunites our title characters, finally!  As Jerry continues to recover from his injuries in Japan, Mandy catches him up on everything that had happened during the intervening passage of time.  Sporting a very Nick Fury eye-patch, and still requiring a wheelchair as he is at the very beginning of a multi-month recovery, Jerry thanks Mandy for everything she has done for him.  Overlooking the mountainside, she shares that she likes the thought of them staying there and leaving the mess of New Orleans behind . . . maybe permanently.

The End!

Well, not quite . . . 😊

Although the “The End!” caption closed out issue eighteen, and with it, the original Cat and Mouse series, the final two issues also served to lay groundwork for the continuation and growth of the Silverline universe of characters!

Champion, still in New Orleans, attempts to woo his ex-wife back into a relationship.  It’s revealed that they have a daughter together.  As Champion (who we now know is named Dan) and his ex-wife (Ann) are out on the town, they encounter a shadowy creature assaulting a man in an alleyway.  Dan confronts the shadowy figure, who he (incorrectly) surmises must be Cat due to his appearance (brown fur, tails, glowing eyes . . . yeah, it’s Demon!) and, through his courageous intervention and bravery, impresses his ex-wife.  The story of Champion, working with “the new branch of government” will continue in one branch of the Silverline universe . . . more on that to come!

Demon, after departing from the alleyway (and after letting Dan know he’s “number one”), realizes how flustered he has become since the Church of Abaddon has entered his life.  The man he was assaulting in the alleyway?  A cult member who he was trying to extract information from, even if he had to “beat it” out of him . . . until he was interrupted by Champion, that is.  The Church of Abaddon saga continues in yet another branch of the Silverline universe . . . Demon’s first solo mini-series, Demon’s Tails! (available for purchase HEREhttps://indyplanet.com/demons-tailsshameless plug!  😊 )

As we close the book(s) on the original Cat and Mouse series, we look forward to the continuing adventures of many of the supporting characters introduced throughout these eighteen issues, characters featured or starring in sister Silverline publications, and some special guest stars as well.  It’s almost 2021. Do you know who your heroes are? 😊

The talent that brought these issues to life consisted of the ever-impressive:

Roland Mann – the Mann with the Plan! Cat and Mouse writer and Silverline Editorial Director, would, later in his career, become writer, editor and eventually Managing Editor at Malibu Comics.  He has been the driving force of Silverline as a publisher, including the current relaunch of the brand!

Mitch Byrd, series artist, would, later in his career, grace multiple Malibu comics with his artwork as well as provide artwork for myriad publishers on a plethora of titles.  Mitch held a notable run on the Green Lantern character “Guy Gardner: Warrior” title.

An assembly of guest pencilers pitched in to deliver issue 13, including Tim Eldred, Chris Cross, Tha Grimlen Jack, and Brian Dale!

The myriad talented Inkers over this six-issue run include:

The mighty Thomas Florimonte who also provided inks not only for Silverline’s Demon’s Tails mini-series, but also for titles from publishers including (but not limited to) Marvel, Malibu, Chaos!, Acclaim and Gallant, plus publications under his own imprint: Inferno Studios, home of Zomboy! Thomas also co-founded the industry changing Print-On-Demand service, Ka-Blam as well as its sister division, IndyPlanet!  Plus, Thomas is back at Silverline, currently inking multiple current Silverline projects!

Ken Branch, who also provided inks on multiple issues of Cat and Mouse’s sister publication SilverStorm, and also inked at Marvel, DC, Image Comics, Malibu Comics, Valiant Comics, First Comics, and Comico.

John Dell, who also inked at DC, Marvel, and Cross Gen and worked on titles including Robin, Lobo, Supergirl, and the JLA.

Dan Schaefer, who also contributed to art projects at Dark Horse Comics, Marvel Comics, Malibu Comics, and DC Comics.

Tom Romano, who is still contributing to the comic book field through his own studio, Tom Romano Art Studio.

24Mar/20

Silverline Title Spotlight: Cat & Mouse Vol. #1, issues 9 – 12

The Greatest Foil
(A literary review of Cat and Mouse issues 9 – 12)

One of the greatest debates of the 20th century has been “what constitutes the greatest foil?”  Let’s review a few of the major contenders:

Tin foil, a product introduced in the late 19th century, was the primary metal foil food wrap through World War II. Although stiff, tin foil was practical. However, tin had a penchant to inadvertently leech an unwanted metallic taste from its silver sheathe into its consumable contents.

Tin’s eventual replacement, Aluminum Foil, was more malleable, was less likely to alter the tastes of the food contained therein, was less expensive and was – all around – a welcomed upgrade from the tin standard.

Gold foil is, as you would expect, exponentially more expensive than either tin or aluminum. This foil is utilized by NASA in a variety of products including space suits, space craft, and satellite design.  Radiation (remember Cosmic Radiation??) is one of the many dangers Gold Foil protects spacefaring astronauts from – thus ensuring astronauts will not return to Earth with Fantastic Four-esque powers and abilities.

Gold Foil, in flake form, is the defining trait of the popular cinnamon schnapps liquor known as Goldschläger.

Comic books with Gold Foil enhancements – from logos to backgrounds to the entire comic cover – helped fuel the fires of comic speculation in the 1990s, but as these enhancements became commonplace and lost their luster, they also contributed to the decline – and near decimation – of the comic book industry as a whole within a decade.

And Chromium comic book enhancements . . . don’t even get me started on the ‘90s chromium bandwagon . . . the same bandwagon that seems to be re-gaining traction this generation, in fact . . .  🙂

But the concept of a FOIL, from a literary definition, is a widely used writer’s tool. When used properly, it provides the reader with an impactful method of comparing and contrasting characters – characters who may have parallel backgrounds, a shared history, or competing goals.  Developing literary foil(s) in a story allows the reader to experience and understand the main character(s) via a delivery method that is infinitely more powerful than simply comparing and contrasting characters through overtly factual, detailed, BORING, narrative passages.

Literary foils may, or may not, be adversaries of the characters they mirror, although they often are.  Some of the best adversarial foils in comics share similar origins.  Science is the foundation for both Spider-Man and the Green Goblin.  The gift of Power Rings grants both Green Lantern and Sinestro abilities constrained only by their imaginations.  The X-Men have had a number of similar foils including, but not limited to, the Hellfire Club, the Reavers, and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.  Wolverine vs. Sabretooth. The Fantastic Four vs. Doctor Doom.  Professor X vs. Magneto.  Thor vs. Loki.  The Justice League vs. the Crime Syndicate. Hawk and Dove vs. Kestrel. You get the idea.

Writer Roland Mann is a master of the “slow burn” . . . foreshadowing important characters, situations, or actions yet to be revealed.  During the previous story-arc, Wearin’ and Tearin’, you will remember that Mann introduced a mysterious and brutal duo, through cameos across the four issue arc, and dropped clues as to their origins. Brutal this mysterious duo is indeed, as they tracked police officers with known Mafia ties and executed them in cold blood. Few details of this duo were released outside of the fact that they were “specialized” Yakuza-associates who predated Cat and Mouse’s enlisting with the organization.

This provides the first of many foils that are presented within this story arc.  This duo – as we will learn is code named Tooth and Nail – is the Yakuza’s Yin to the Mafia’s Yang.  Both are ruthless crime syndicates but they hold and practice significantly different codes of honour, etiquettes, and protocols.  As Tooth and Nail were mentioned in the same breath as our protagonists, Cat and Mouse, the reader instinctively begins to mentally compare and contrast the two duos . . .the two duos that were both trained by the same martial arts sensei – Kunoichi!

When confronted with information pertaining to current crimes in New Orleans, Detective Martin Rossman, Jerry (Cat’s) superior officer, exclaims that he really wants “to nail the Yakuza.”  Jerry, in response, asks “What about the Mafia?”  Rossman stares blankly at Jerry.  Jerry knows Rossman is on the take; another layer of foil resurfaces.

Jerry continues his quest to recover a bullet used in the slaying of an officer in order to match calibers and markings to the bullet that veterinarian Keith (Demon) Grayson extracted from Mouse’s (Mandy’s) back (as illustrated in our first issue).

At the grave of fallen officer Claude Beauchamp an unplanned, but game changing, face-to-face encounter between Rossman and Cat occurs. Wait . . .I mean between Rossman and Jerry.  Actually, I mean both.

As Rossman and Cat face off, verbal barbs are exchanged and Cat removes his cowl, revealing his identity to his boss in a power play where he blackmails Rossman into collaborating with him against the Mafia and Yakuza, threatening to bring Rossman’s career and life crashing down on him should he reveal the secrets he knows. A cop acting to end all gang activities in New Orleans vs. a cop holding secret allegiances to a criminal organization. Yet another foil.The long-awaited first meeting between Cat (note: no Mouse – just Cat) and Tooth & Nail emerges unexpectedly.  The long anticipated first epic battle . . . didn’t happen. Tooth referred to their ongoing “slay” list, and stated that they have only come to kill Martin Rossman. They have zero interest in engaging with Cat.  They promise to return for Rossman when he is alone and start to take their leave.  Shocked, Cat exclaims that they “can’t do that” and lunges towards Nail, fists flying, attempting to stop them from leaving.  However, what can’t even be described as a scuffle quickly ends as Cat finds himself greatly outmatched by Nail, who had only toyed with Cat, keeping him at a distance without striking back, while Cat was physically giving his all.  The duo quietly and peacefully exited the graveyard . . . while promising Rossman that another visit will indeed follow. . .

This scene, coupled with the scene with Tooth and Nail debriefing with their Yakuza boss, is my favourite foil example in this series.  Tooth and Nail, the duo described as “more brutal than Cat and Mouse” seemed to be almost pacifist in their first encounter with Cat?  While Cat, a single individual with adrenaline pumping, was ready to engage a known dangerous pair in battle?  Nail is unquestionably stronger than Cat, yet Nail did not harm Cat even in the slightest, and even after Cat was the aggressor?  And the fact that Tooth and Nail, who, after being shown brutally killing others in previous issues, are shown to abide to killing those on their “list,” but only those on the list (IE – not Cat)?? AND, on top of that, they ultimately DO leave the graveyard in a pacifist manner.  These would not have been the actions expected by most readers, which highlights the brilliance of Mann’s writing strategy.  Provide the unexpected.  Foil. Foil. Foil.

Unfortunately, Cat’s unprovoked attack on Nail got him, officially, on Tooth and Nail’s “slay list” by authority of their Yakuza boss.

And where has Mandy Paige (Mouse) been all this time? Hanging out with Demon. Asking him about Kevlar upgrades she has in mind for her and Cat’s suits. Which led to a first date with Demon! To the movies (the movie just happened to be an adaptation Mann scripted for Malibu Comics). In public, no less! AND their first kiss afterwards.  Demon discusses, with Mandy, his Church of Abaddon problem (which provides the foundation to the amazing four issue Demon’s Tails mini-series!) and is later visited by Cat (while washing an alligator no less!) who asks for his assistance with retrieving the bullet that shot Mandy for comparison to the known mafia slug he “liberated” from the evidence room earlier in this story arc.At the onset of Cat and Mouse’s career, Mouse made mention about possibly working for the Mafia. Cat quickly denounced that idea and indicated “maybe the Yakuza, though. They have a sense of honour.”  Cat’s statement was proven true as FIVE armed Mafia agents stormed into Jerry and Mandy’s apartment in search of police officer Jerry and a package – on the orders of Martin Rossman himself. A fight ensues, the five Mafia agents come to believe that the cop (Jerry) is under the protection of Cat and Mouse (not putting 2 + 2 together that Jerry IS Cat – these Mafia types aren’t so smart, are they??), Mouse gets her hands on (and fires) her first gun (and likes it!!) and the duo quickly catch up to Rossman, on assignment, to let him know his assault squad failed and that they will not tolerate any more backstabbing. Foils galore shine here across Tooth, Nail, Cat, Mouse, Rossman, extending the range from honor, dignity, restraint vs. treachery, deceit, omission of information, to sole focus on self-preservation.

Cat tracks Rossman down to his home address and finds Tooth and Nail not only in his residence but IN POSSESSION of Rossman’s newborn child.  With Rossman and his wife knocked to the ground, Tooth and Nail give Cat the opportunity to leave without battle, but promise that his turn will be coming soon.  Cat turns and closes the door behind him, leaving the Rossman family unprotected against Tooth and Nail.But not for long . . .

As Cat focuses his chi and strategizes his plan to save the baby, Mandy and Demon go on another date, this time to celebrate Mardi Gras.  Mandy gets drunnnnnnnnnnnnnnnk as she and Demon are painting New Orleans purple, green, and gold. (And, yes, Mandy DID earn some beads while inebriated.)

But back to the action. This time, Tooth and Nail are empowered to engage Cat as he IS now on their “slay list;” an epic battle ensues. During the fight, Nail throws Cat through the front window and follows him outside to continue sparring.  Rossman gains access to his pistol and shoots Tooth, even as she is holding his child!  Rossman also shoots Nail, in the back, as Nail is battling Cat.  The two villains flee into the night with Rossman’s child. Rossman pleads for Cat to rescue his baby.  As Cat picks up a katana left behind by Tooth, he promises to – for the child.  Cat tracks Tooth and Nail through out the neighbourhood. Nail, having taken refuge in the branches of a tree, jumps down to confront a passing Cat. Cat instinctively slashes with the katana – severing all the digits on Nail’s right hand! Cat and Nail battle mano y mano after another katana cut slash relieves Cat of his weapon.  With Nail crushing Cat’s back, Cat grabs Nail’s neck, pushing his fingers deeply into Nail’s throat . . .

Somehow, off-panel, Nail escapes Cat’s clutches.  Cat crosses paths with Mandy and Demon, who had been tracking the action by scent after being alarmed by the sounds of gunshots earlier.  Demon takes hot pursuit, tackles Tooth, which causes the baby to be launched into the air only to safely land into Mandy’s outstretched arms.

Meanwhile, the ongoing battle between Cat and Nail reaches a fever pitch as blood splatters off of both participants as they continue to punch, cut, and slice each other with impunity. Cat’s face and chest had been sliced a dozen times; deep, deep cuts as a lumberjack would inflict into a redwood with an axe. As Nail turns his attention to Mandy and the baby, beaten and bloodied Cat arises, lunges in the bravest act of protection, breaks Nail’s arm, and delivers a series of emotionally charged blows. This blood rage borders on possession and leaves Nail incapacitated – permanently.

Delivered to the hospital, and after sixteen hours of surgery, the title character lays in a coma.  Rossman, Mandy, and Demon are by his bedside.  Rossman uncovers a surprising sense of loyalty and gratitude as he looks at Jerry’s unmoving body and promises him, and the others, that he will do everything in his power to clear Cat and Mouses’ name.

This four-issue story arc also included a short story that focused exclusively on Martin Rossman and his Mafia connections; connections that reveal his fragile emotional state, his regret for the slippery slope into corruption he found himself in, and, finally, the fear he feels being a part of the Mafia world at all.  This “private” Rossman interlude provided the reader an introspective look at Martin Rossman that was a distinct foil to the seriousness, bordering on arrogance, often portrayed by “Officer Rossman.”

And, as Roland Mann does so extremely well, a short sequence in this arc introduced yet another duo trained by Kunoichi – who were bestowed the code names Skull and Crossbones at the end of their training with her, providing us with still another foil for Cat and Mouse.  (And, in the future, others . . . but that is a different story for a different spotlight!)

And, the MOST important thing that occurred during these four action packed issues?  In Issue 12’s letter column, Roland responded to a young high school kid who submitted a fan letter as Cat and Mouse was his favourite comic book.  A pen-pal friendship grew from that dorky teen’s submission – which, through technology, became an online friendship, a phone friendship, and nearly 30 years later brought him (and his own publishing house) to join Silverline! (Yes, it’s me!)

The talent that brought these issues to life consisted of the ever-impressive:

Roland Mann – the Mann with the Plan! Cat and Mouse writer and Silverline Editorial Director, would, later in his career, become writer, editor and eventually Managing Editor at Malibu Comics.  He has been the driving force of Silverline as a publisher, including the current relaunch of the brand!

Mitch Byrd, series artist, would, later in his career, grace multiple Malibu comics with his artwork as well as provide artwork for myriad publishers on a plethora of titles.  Mitch held a notable run on the Green Lantern character “Guy Gardner: Warrior” title.

Ken Branch, inker of each of the four issues in this story arc, later went on to not only provide inks on multiple issues of Cat and Mouse’s sister publication SilverStorm, but also worked for Marvel, DC, Image Comics, Malibu Comics, Valiant Comics, First Comics, and Comico.

Twelve issues of Cat & Mouse – Volume 1 down. Six more to go. Keep your eyes open for the next exciting Cat & Mouse series spotlight!

28Jan/20

Silverline Title Spotlight: Krey,1-5

Oil your sword, and throw on your leather armor for a saga of fast-paced action, forbidden romance, and brutal betrayal set in a world where barbarians rage in an epic struggle with their mutant neighbors across desert steppes. Krey is the tale of a human raised by mutants who pursued battle, glory, and family.

Krey is a unique tale on the Silverline roster. This fantastical tale tells the story of a man born of humans, raised by mutants, called to battle, and longing for a familial relationship that has repeatedly been denied to him. Krey navigates social dynamics in a world divided through the eyes of a twice-orphaned foot-soldier who is driven to greatness. The reader follows Krey as he discovers his place in the world, and finds that his ability to change the world doesn’t just come from his prowess with the blade but also the depth of his convictions.

The legend of Krey begins when he is a babe in the realm of humans. Krey’s village is raided by mutants, the beings who inhabit this world alongside humanity. Years of hate on both sides have bent both factions against each other. While some try to live together, the powerful often find it easy to use the “others” as scapegoats for their wars. The mutant who stumbles across Krey as a babe proves to be compassionate and takes the boy as his own, along with the Krey’s family sword.

Krey yearned to be a warrior from a young age, growing up in the mutant village. He would sneak out to train with his father’s sword. When Krey came of age, he joined the combat games. In these games, the mutant tribesman showed what kind of warrior they were. While he fell short as a marksman, Krey excelled as a swordsman. The games are cut short when the village is attacked by a band of human raiders. Krey watches as all his friends are cut down. Krey rushes to check on his adoptive father, who has been struck down in the attack. His last command to Krey is to run, take up his father’s sword, and never forget what he saw that day. In the surrounding melee, Krey kills his first man before escaping.

The second issue takes us to Tae Steppe in the Realm of the High Priestess. The city has allowed for humans and mutants to live in a stable if uneasy coexistence. Years have passed since Krey fled the annihilation of his human village and Tae Steppe is now celebrating the Time of Rebirth. The festival is divided into three events. Each event is a different test of martial skill. The victor of each will earn an honored posting in the High Priestess’s army. Krey has joined the festival with two other warriors of note, Etedh, and Calican. All of them hoping to use the festival as a way to accelerate their military career so that they might one day join the High Priestess’s elite force, The Red Guard.

He loses the archery competition to Etedh and the melee to Celican, but he quickly earns the adoration of the crowd. The human’s love his charisma and dominating presence. The mutants are proud of him as he was raised as a mutant. This earns him the spite of Etedh, who is revealed to have a strong prejudice against his mutant neighbors. During both of the previous events, a beautiful mutant woman catches the eye of Krey. Not only is he distracted but he is immediately driven to find out what her name is. The night before the final event, Krey accepts the hospitality of a mutant family. He shares their dinner table and sleeps in one of their guest rooms. The father of the family is also able to share the name of the woman Krey spotted, Netanya. Krey defeats Etedh in the last event, the test of swordsmanship, the Steel against Steel. As champions, Etedh, Celican, and Krey are all offered the opportunity to train to join the High Priestess’s army. Krey then offers the prize wreath he earned to Netanya.

Krey and Netanya unite in what becomes a controversial marriage. Krey’s story unfolds as he struggles with balancing his goals as a warrior and having a family after his birth and adoptive families were taking from him. He must also contend with the biases that dominate the world around him when he, himself, does not understand them. The story of this berserker and his family continues throughout the saga in a story of betrayal, rebellion, and revenge.

Krey isn’t just another fantasy sage. It weaves a tale of complex social politics and dynamics through the lens of a man who was molded by two different peoples that have spent their existence trying to put an end to the other.

Krey is a man of strong conviction in a world that challenges his beliefs at every level. Krey holds only love for mutants despite being told that, as a human, he should despise them. Instead, he lives among the mutants as one of them in hopes that they might share the world with humans. He is a skilled warrior who has spent his life seeking battle, yet takes no joy in the act of killing. This conflict gets highlighted in his relationship with the xenophobic Etedh. As these worldly matters tug at the fabric of Krey’s character, Krey finds himself struggling with the balance of family and duty. All he has known of a family is loss, so to Krey, a family is the most precious thing in life. He views his duty as a warrior also as a deep-seated part of his character. The Realm of The High Priestess espouses the idea of cohabitation between mutants and humans. To Krey, that is an ideal he will fight and die for. More than once, these dreams have come into conflict with each other. Sometimes with mortal consequences.

The conflict in Krey’s personality is smartly done and drives the story in ways other fantasy series have fallen short of. Though the action, big swords, and rippling muscles are a large aesthetic plus, the emotional conflict in Krey and the social conflicts of the world are what pulls the reader into the series.

Written by Roland Mann who, besides being my boss, is an accomplished writer and educator. He currently serves and the Editor-In-Chief and Publisher here at Silverline. Roland has also had postings at Malibu/Marvel Comics. Other titles Roland has written include Tiny, Rocket Ranger, Miss Fury, Planet of the Apes, Battletech, and Demon’s Tails.

Krey was originally published by Gauntlet Comics as issues 1-3, and Krey Special Edition.

Art for chapters 1,2, and 3 was done by Steven Butler. Steven is well known for his work on Archie Comics and Sonic the Hedgehog.

Criss Cross also provided art for chapter 3. He is known for working on titles such as Captain Marvel, Firestorm, and Blood Syndicate.

MC Wyman drew the art for Chapter 4. He is known for working on titles such as The Mighty Thor, Daredevil, Silver Surfer, and many others.

Chapter 5 was penciled by Jack Keefer. Jack also inked chapters 2,3,4 and 5. He has also worked on Marvel’s Northstar.

Chapter 1 was inked by Ken Branch who has worked for just about every major publisher including DC, Marvel, Valiant, Image, and Malibu.

Floyd Robinson also contributed ink to chapter 3. He has also worked on titles such as Thor and Batman.

Nick McCalip provided letters for chapters 1 and 3. Nick’s work can be seen in works such as Silverline’s Cat and Mouse and Malibu’s SilverStorm.

Chapter 2 received lettering from Dan Nakrosis. Who has worked on titles such as Archie, Sonic the Hedgehog, Berserk, and the X-Men Manga.
Rik Mayo also contributed letters to Chapter 3. Rik’s work can also be seen in The Mantus Files.

Debbie Woods lettered Chapter 4.

03Dec/19

Silverline Title Spotlight: Pendulum, 1-4

From a small, coastal village in New England to the sprawling metropolis of New York comes Dr. Hildy Row, also known as the Pendulum. This four-issue story titled Big Hand, Little Hand follows Dr. Row’s spiritual degradation as it runs in tandem with his ascent into being a masked hero.

Pendulum is a different take on the idea of a superhero comic. More reluctant than a hero, Dr. Hildy Row tells a lot of the story through narration and reflection a reader would find reminiscent of a hard-boiled noir tale. This narration comes directly from his journal which has been recovered and transcribed post-mortem.

From his journal, we learn a lot about Dr. Row and the many ways in which life has become both tragic and extraordinary. In his own words, he is an “Unqualified Genius,” having earned a doctorate at a young age and being the only man to come close to cracking the code for immortality, despite a history of violence and social ineptitude. His dearest friend and mentor Frederick DeLaCroix, founder of Tougher Technologies, Inc., set Row up with a grant that fully provided for an isolationist lifestyle with a simple agreement. Every year, Row turns in his notes, as disorganized as they may be, then the company turns them into marketable products. No questions asked on either side. Yet at the same time, he has developed a literal death wish.

Issue 1 brings us into Dr. Row’s story after his friend and mentor, Frederick DeLaCroix’s passing. He and his wife Lucy were expecting a child, who they, unfortunately, lost in a miscarriage. The rift this caused in their relationship was so great that Lucy had to leave. Dr. Row is left alone in his home in a small ocean side village in New England. Where he remains in bed for the following three days. His sister and brother long since estranged, Hildy Row now finds himself without friends or family. His entire world has collapsed around him.

Eventually, Row emerges from his self-imposed isolation and returns to his laboratory. There he completes his work on a serum that could offer immortality. A serum he began working on as a promise he made long ago. Yet, when he decides to test it on himself, he hopes the serum fails. The result being his death. To his disappointment, he awakens, very much alive. Row walks through the park side of an inlet that he frequents to think about his current reality and what went wrong.

Through an unfortunate chain of events, the inlet is set ablaze and a boy is trapped on a jetty by the flame. Almost unconsciously, Row runs headfirst in the flame and emerges with the youth untouched by the roaring fire. Only there is no pride or sense of dignity in the actions he took that day. He knows the real reason he attempted to save that boy was in hopes that the flame would consume him.

Row returns home to wallow in his shame and the public’s new perception of him. The adoration that he feels is misplaced reminds of the way people look up to caped superheroes. Then and there he commits himself to become one of these heroes. Daily, there are confronted with life or death situations. He hopes that one of those days, the villains will catch up to him. Granting him a death that he feels would free of shame. However, a new problem arises in the form of a PARA attack. A side effect of the serum, paroxysmal atemporally rapid aging, causes him to age and de-age several years in a matter of seconds.

With a mission ahead of him and the curse of his immortality serum handicapping him, Row begins on a mission that will bring him into direct conflict with an executive at his benefactor’s company, and a member of the scientific community that he idolizes.

More than just another superhero comic, Pendulum is the story of how one man’s tragedy brings him to do the extraordinary, even if for the wrong reasons initially. The unique style of narration allows the reader to connect with Dr. Row in a way we can’t with many comic book characters. He takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster as he, himself, works to understand why he wishes for the end. Row goes through a complicated metamorphosis as he realizes that he may not need to die, but rather that he only needs to kill part of himself so that the rest of him may continue living.

This is the kind of story that flips the superhero genre on its head. The tale is an interwoven web of family trauma, corporate intrigue and espionage, complex emotional growth, and deadly dealings with one’s idols. With a rich and deep narrative delivered both in art and prose, it feels like a reader could just as easily be reading a classic noir thriller novel as much as a “cape-comic.”

Creator, writer, and penciler John Drury also gives the reader a little peek behind the curtain of his mind with each chapter in the story of Pendulum. At the top of each issue, Drury talks about the unique aspects of that respective issue’s creative process and how that translated into bringing Dr. Row’s story to life. John also worked on Silverline’s Sirens as a penciler, and Cat & Mouse as an inker.

Pendulum was inked and lettered by Ted Slampyak who also worked on Neil Gaiman’s Mr. Hero – The Newmatic Man as a penciler and cover artist. Slampyak also worked as the writer and artist for Annie in 2013.

Pendulum also featured letters by Debbie Woods in issues 3 & 4, who has also worked on Cat & Mouse.

Covers were done by Steven Butler and Ken Branch for issue 1; Ken Branch on issue #2 and #3; John Drury and Thomas Florimonte on issue #4. Tom O’Connor provided the colors for all covers. Steven Butler has also worked as the penciler on X – Men Legion – Shadow King Rising , Sonic the Hedgehog, Silver Sable, and as a cover artist on Lady Death. Ken Branch has also worked on 28 Days Later as penciler. Ken also inked titles such as Cat & Mouse, Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner and Iron Fist: The Book of Changes. Thomas Florimonte has inked Cat & Mouse and other titles, and is the creative force behind Zomboy.