Successfully scratched itches, part 4: The Cat/Tigra

I first became aware of Greer Nelson, alias the Cat, and then later Tigra, in the pages of the The Superhero Women (one of those great Fireside reprint books from 1970s), which included the first issue of The Cat. At that point (late 1979), I was familiar with Hellcat, who wore that same costume but who was a different person, and I had seen Tigra somewhere (possibly on the cover of an issue of Fantastic Four I saw on a spinner rack but didn’t buy). However, I didn’t yet know that she was Greer Nelson. Anyway, I really liked the Cat’s origin story (written by Linda Fite, with art by Wally Wood and Marie Severin) – it was in fact one of my favorites in the Superhero Women book, and since then I’d always been curious about the rest of the short-lived series. It was definitely an itch that I’d been wanting to scratch since then.

But then late last year, this wonderful book, Tigra: The Complete Collection, was finally published:

And so I finally got to read the final three issues of The Cat, plus a whole bunch of other stuff. (Specifically, the book collects The Cat #1-4, Marvel Team-up #8, 67 and 125, Marvel Two-in-One #19, Giant-size Creatures #1, Marvel Chillers #3-7, Monsters Unleashed #10, Marvel Premiere #42, and Tigra #1-4.)

Was it worth the wait? Well, yes.

It’s sort of a qualified yes, because the subsequent issues of The Cat don’t really live up to the promise of that first issue (Fite stayed on to write them, but each issue had a different art team). And the only other appearance of Greer as the Cat, in Marvel Team-up #8, is nothing to write home about, either. It’s too bad, because on paper at least, I think the Cat was probably the strongest entry in Marvel’s ultimately unsuccessful push in the early 1970s to attract more female readers. The other two entries, Night Nurse and Shanna the She-Devil, also folded after brief runs – and Shanna was really the only one of the three who kept appearing mostly unchanged in the years afterward.

However, I rather enjoyed the later Tigra stories. I’d read a few of these before, like Marvel Team-up #67 and 125, and Marvel Premiere #42, but I’d never read her initial appearances in Marvel Chillers or Creatures on the Loose (another, lesser itch I’d been wanting to scratch as well). It was also nice to finally read the actual origin story of her transformation into a cat person in Giant-size Creatures – I’d only seen it in flashbacks in other comics before. (Although I can’t not briefly mock the term ‘were woman’ here. Guys, that doesn’t mean… Oh, never mind.) Again, a variety of both writers and artists were involved, although Tony Isabella, followed by Chris Claremont, scripted most of these.

Mostly I just really like that a book like this exists, as I’d been wanting a collection of all Greer Nelson appearances, either as the Cat or Tigra, before her first, ill-fated stint in the Avengers. This is the character I like: the self-assured heroine, who becomes concerned about her humanity once she is changed into an actual cat-person, rather than the flighty, flirty coward that Jim Shooter depicted in the Avengers.

Kicking butt and taking names (mainly Spidey’s)

The book is padded out with the four-part Tigra mini by Christina Z and Mike Deodato Jr. that was published in 2002. I have mixed feelings about it. What I liked is that it sort of returned Tigra to the characterization I liked so much in her 1970s appearances. The story has Greer, in her human form, going undercorver at the police academy in New York with the aim of ultimately infiltrating a powerful secret society inside the NYPD that engages in violent vigilantism. However, despite the intriguing premise, in the end we’re still supposed to rest assured that it’s only a matter of a ‘few bad apples’. And then Greer *spoiler!* decides to become an actual police officer at the end. Yeesh.

Another thing I’m not sure I like is the updated look for Tigra. Specifically, I don’t really like the extra tufts of fur on her arms and legs. Not really happy with the tail, either, now that I think about it.

If anything needed updating, it’s the disco-era bikini she’s still wearing…

Overall, though, if you’re a fan of Marvel’s 1970s/Bronze Age output, I’d really recommend picking this book up. It’s a nice showcase for one of my favorite characters.

* By the way, this is something I’ve been remiss in doing previously, i.e., noting that if you click any Amazon link to a book in the post, and end up buying anything, a (very) little something comes back to us here at the Atomic Junk Shop. Thank you.

14 Comments

  1. Le Messor

    Edo, I don’t think I’ve ever agreed with you more. (I even noticed the bit about what ‘werewoman’ really means.)

    I bought that same scratching post for myself late last year, and enjoyed it – I even enjoyed the new mini-, which I didn’t expect.

    It led to me asking this question on the old site:
    https://www.cbr.com/tigra-avengers-tail-transformation-werewoman/
    (Turns out, the answer was in my collection all along – but it’d been so long since I’d read it, I’d forgotten.)

  2. When I was a snot-nosed kid, I made up a superhero character called “the Cat” and mailed my pitch to Marvel. A couple of weeks later, I got a form letter back from Stan Lee saying basically “thanks, but we prefer to make up our own characters.” A month or so later, the first issue of The Cat appeared. At the time I was all “they stole my idea!” But as an adult, knowing more about the production schedules, it’s pretty obvious that the comic was obviously written an in the process of being drawn when I sent my letter. Also, their version was a lot better than mine.

        1. Edo Bosnar

          When I was about the same age, I made up a pair of cat-powered heroes (along with an entire team of mutants): they were a brother and sister called Cougar and Puma. Yep, Cougar was the guy – shows you how much times have changed…

  3. Rob Allen

    A few fun tidbits around Greer Nelson’s comics:

    – the villain in The Cat #1 is Mal Donalbain. He’s named after the sons of the murdered King Duncan in Macbeth – Malcolm and Donalbain.

    – in The Cat #4, page 2, panel 1 has a self-portrait of the issue’s artists, Jim Starlin and Alan Weiss.

    – The cover of the collection is a reprint of the cover of Marvel Chillers #3, and again the artists put themselves in. The guy with the glasses is Howard Chaykin, and the other guy is Bernie Wrightson.

    1. Le Messor

      He’s named after the sons of the murdered King Duncan in Macbeth – Malcolm and Donalbain

      Hah! I’d never noticed that.
      (Unrelated, but: I just watched a TV show last night where a character named Macbeth came up.)

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