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!