Kirby is my cat, which is to say he is A cat who lives with me and will, occasionally, come into the house when I call and if it suits his purpose. As most cat owners know, cats do understand a few words (like “No” and “Tuna”), though they choose to ignore most of them. Kirby recognizes his name, though I’ve often thought he just thinks the word “Kirby” means simply “All cats everywhere.” As often as not when you say his name, he just looks at one of our other cats like he’s saying, “Can you get that? I’m busy.”
Here’s a photo of Kirby:
He is, I’m told, a mackerel tabby, about eight years old and weighs in around 22-23 pounds. BIG cat. A Chunk of a cat. We think he has some Maine Coon mixed into his line somewhere because he has those little tuffs on his ear tips. Despite being so large, he can move very quickly, with a peculiar tippy-toe gait reminiscent of Babe Ruth coming around third base, though his back legs tend to overtake his front legs.
We found Kirby at a PetSmart, one of those kind that has the glassed-in room with the cages. He was scampering around on the floor while the attendant was cleaning his cage and he was busily attacking her ankles. We decided to bring Kirby home in the misbegotten belief that Sammy, Helen’s ancient orange tabby, would enjoy having another cat around. Or maybe that was my idea and Helen let me have it because I was so smitten with the kitten. Looking back, that actually makes a lot more sense since Helen and Sammy had a profound understanding of each other, a co-sympathy that bordered on telepathy. Sammy didn’t want no damned kitten underfoot, a stance which he definitively proved within minutes of meeting Kirby and never, ever relented on until the day he died (which wasn’t long afterward). Having been surrounded his entire life only by other creatures who adored him, Kirby was, I think, profoundly confused by Sammy’s obstinance.
So that’s Kirby. He’s a cat. We like him. Helen calls him “Singular,” which is true, though he’s big enough to be “Plural.” I recall a point in his growth spurt where we thought he might be attempting to reproduce via mitosis — just one morning there would be two regular-sized cats, but, no, that never happened.
And then, there’s Kirby. He shares many characteristics with Kirby, except he’s fictional.
Here’s what happened: Like most people who have cats (or dogs or ferrets or hamsters or whatever), we have always created elaborate internal lives for our pets. Indeed, we compose songs — terrible jingles — to narrate their complex interpersonal wheelings and dealings. If you ever meet Helen, ask her to sing, “He’s the King of Everything,” which is Puffy’s theme (Puffy is another of our cats). It’s breathtaking.
Anyway, back in 2004 or 2005, I began scribbling down notes about Kirby and his adventures with the idea of turning it into a graphic novel. I had done a couple of stories in the anthology title Negative Burn with a British artist named Chris McLoughlin, who was interested in working on the project. In one of my previous blog posts, I showed a piece of the artwork Chris produced and here’s another:
Neat, isn’t it? We pitched the idea around to a few companies and though we received some interest, we couldn’t find anyone who was willing to commit to a page rate, which we needed to make it worth Chris’s while. Also, frankly, this was in the period — around 2006-2007 — where I was beginning to feel like I wanted to try something new. I had really enjoyed writing my licensed tie-in books, but thought it was time to take a stab at an original project. I figured I’d do a Young Adult novel, something short and snappy. I would do Kirby as a novel. It would be easy, I decided, since I already had the plot worked out.
Flash forward to 2011: I finally wrote “The End.” Except, of course, I was only getting started…
More next time.
PS – Captain America: The Winter Soldier was pretty good. A definite B+/A- effort. It felt like the directors and the actors were all having a really good time, which carried them through some of the dumber plot points. Yes, I know it’s a comic book movie, but, dammit, that isn’t an excuse for sloppy plotting.