Scarlett: Star on the Run – Book Review by Fred Patten
by Pup Matthias
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Scarlett: Star on the Run, by Susan Schade and Jon Buller. Illustrated by Jon Buller.
NYC, Papercutz, November 2015, trade paperback $14.99 (173 pages), Kindle $8.81.
Here is another all-ages novel by Susan Schade & Jon Buller (wife & husband) in their signature format of alternating chapters in comic-book format and in traditional-novel text. (I reviewed their three-novel The Fog Mound in 2007.) It is mostly for 8- to 12-year-old children, but it has aspects that adult furry fans will enjoy. This would be a simplistic talking-animal comic book/novel for young children, if it weren’t for the revelation that the talking animals have been scientifically made intelligent and given speech.
Is Shane Pafco, the dictatorial owner of Pafco Studios, a movie producer/director or a Mad Scientist? What year is Scarlett set in, with futuristic cars and flying spycams? When Scarlett, the cat movie star of Pafco Studios, gets the chance to escape, she is quick to take it even into a snowy, freezing outdoors. She is lucky enough to be taken in by grouchy old Frank Mole, a half-crazy, gun-waving hermit who doesn’t trust any people and hears voices. He believes that a talking cat is only part of his delusion; and when Scarlett finds out that Trotter, Pafco’s experimental talking dog, has followed her, she fast-talks Frank into believing that he needs a dog, too. Scarlett wants to be a natural cat and catch mice, until Frank’s messy, vermin-filled cabin gives her the opportunity to do so.
“I don’t know,” she muses. “Something about all that SKIN and HAIR is making me lose my appetite.” (p. 29)
She prefers to share old Frank’s monotonous diet of canned ravioli, until she and Trotter learn to impersonate his nonexistent housekeeper over the ancient landline telephone (“You should get a cell phone,” Scarlett tells Frank, who thinks he’s imagining her and ignores her) to Walt’s Grocery, and add to their diet. Fortunately Frank, who gets an automatic Social Security bank deposit, has been careful to live within his means, and even when Scarlett learns to call other stores and order more, she is careful to not overcharge his credit card.
Frank spends all day vegging out in front of his TV, watching sports games. The TV local news warns that, “Spycams continue to comb the area for several animal robots that escaped from Pafco Studios on Monday. Area residents are advised that, while these robots may look cute, they are NOT REAL. If not handled correctly, they can be very dangerous.” (p. 30) Scarlett is both insulted and frightened. If “they” are lying about Pafco’s escaped animals being dangerous robots, it can’t be good. And “several animal robots”? Who else besides Scarlett and Trotter has escaped from the studio/labs?
All is well until Frank’s horrendously unhealthy lifestyle catches up with him. He is rushed to the hospital in a coma. How long can the cat and dog go on without a compliant human to front for them? Their plight is made worse when a third Pafco animal escapee moves in with them: Vilroy, another dog who was always given a villain’s role because it came so naturally to him. Vilroy is not careful to remain within Frank’s budget, and when he starts demanding that Scarlett order expensive foods and a two thousand dollar massage chair for them, she is aware that not paying a mounting overdraft will quickly end their hidden existence.
Above all the animals’ other concerns is the overriding problem that while Scarlett, Trotter, and Vilroy are an intelligent cat and dogs, they are still instinctually domestic animals. While Scarlett and Trotter had Frank to take care of them/be taken care of by them, they were happy. Now, on their own, they are nervous and fearful, even without Vilroy to worry about. They need another human, and a more practical long-range solution.
Furry fans will appreciate the resolution. Even though Schade & Buller are Americans, this was published first as Scarlett: Star en Cavale by BD Kids in Montrouge, Paris, France in October 2013. Papercutz has specialized in “graphic novels”, with the result that several comics shops are stocking Scarlett and are listing it as #1 in a series. Papercutz is careful not to. Its advertising is all for Schade’s & Buller’s next combination of comic-art and prose, Anne of Green Bagels, coming later in 2016.