Review by Ian Keogh
By the time this second large collection of a mangy cat commenting on human sexual foibles appeared Tym Manley and Hunt Emerson’s two page feature had been running in men’s magazine Fiesta for over twenty years. Virgin Books published the first collection in 1985, and this selection of 136 more strips picks up in 1996, the intervening years covered in a series of seven comics issued by Knockabout from 1990.
Times have moved on. Firkin still acts as a voyeur, but he’s particularly, although not exclusively, attached to adventurous couple Charleen and Neville. As might be expected from a strip running in a late 20th century men’s magazine, the terminology might offend today’s reader, but these are generally good natured explorations of sexual desire in its many forms. Knockabout being the publisher of the collections is appropriate as the strips are staged slapstick, leading to punchlines of comedy misfortune, and Manley can put one hell of a lot of effort into guiding events toward a contrived ending. Sometimes the formula is varied to incorporate an old joke, such as Charleen meeting Sylvester Stallion on a plane, stripping off her clothes and asking him to make her feel like a woman, so he takes off his shirt and tells her to wash and iron it.
Unfortunately, a website attempting to maintain access for as many folk as possible can’t show Emerson’s work at its best. There’s barely a page without sexual activity, and most lacking it includes words some might object to, so the sample page isn’t entirely representative. Since the first collection Emerson’s become more at home on the strip, and there’s less need for fully realised locations and greater scope for Emerson’s surreal asides and little background inclusions, which are frequent, and as often as funny as the smutty goings-on Manley scripts. Caricatures of both creators occasionally feature, the best of them concerning their fantasy glamour lifestyles and the serum of youth, and Emerson’s visual imagination when it comes to the excesses of sex will never disappoint.
Despite all the sexual activity it should be made clear that the jokes are the point, not arousal, although as Firkin frequently points out, such is the variety of human turn-ons that there’s very possibly someone turned on by Emerson’s cartoons.