October 3rd, 2011

half shadow

Review: The Complete Omaha the Cat Dancer, Vols 1 & 2

The Complete Omaha the Cat Dancer, vols. 1 and 2. By Reed Waller and Kate Worley, with James M. Vance. Amerotica (NBM Publishing), 128 pp. and $12.95, each.

Reviewed by Gayle C. Straun

Omaha the Cat Dancer easily ranks as one of the most influential adult comic books of the twentieth century, one that has inspired the devotion of countless mainstream creators as well, including such luminaries as Terry Moore and Neil Gaiman. Omaha started life in the late 1970s in Vootie, a mimeographed zine consisting of comics about anthropomorphized animals and vegetables, and later appeared in Bizarre Sex Comix and Dope Comix before being published under its own name, first by Kitchen Sink and then by Fantagraphics, through the 1980s and 1990s. Among its many claims to fame is a legacy of suppression by the authorities, who regularly busted shops that dared carry Omaha, which inspired numerous writers, artists, and publishers to form the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Now, finally, the complete run of Omaha is collected and republished by the Amerotica imprint of NBM Publishing. These seven volumes (with an all-new eighth on the way) tell the story of a feline exotic dancer (there are no human characters in the series) who goes by the name of Omaha. The first volume highlights the beginning of her career in Mipple City, Minneapolis, where she dances at Kitty Corner with her friend Shelley, finds love in a shy artist named Chuck, and secures the adoration of countless fans. But everything crashes down when local authorities, spurred on by religious leaders, crack down on nude dancing and pornography. While Omaha and Shelley believe they have found some salvation in being offered star billing at a swanky, underground club that, like the speakeasy of the Prohibition era, offers now-illegal entertainment for high-end folks, the club quickly becomes the battleground between forces seeking to control the city, including Chuck’s estranged father, millionaire Charlie Tabey. At the beginning of the second volume, Shelley is believed dead in a gangland hit, while Omaha and Chuck are hiding out in California with one of his ex-girlfriends. But this ex has plans of her own, which include blackmailing Charlie Tabey, and when Omaha is kidnapped by that same millionaire, Chuck has to confront old demons to save the woman he loves.

Yes, Omaha is a soap opera, complete with dramatic revelations, characters believed dead showing up again, love triangles (and squares and pentagons), and more. Despite all these, the characters never cease to seem like real people; their private pains are never put on display for simple exploitation. For example, when photographer Rob Shaw tells Chuck that his male lover died two years back, he answers Chuck’s unspoken question, telling him that, no, it wasn’t AIDS but rather a car crash: “‘Our kind’ mostly die in the same stupid ways as anyone else.” Too, the sex does not exist apart from the story but is simply another aspect of the characters’ lives, as it is of ours, and artist Reed Waller represents both ecstatic bliss and nervous fumbling with equal aplomb, producing naturalistic sex scenes that are as hot as they are human. Two volumes in, and The Complete Omaha already proves itself a delight to read, leaving the new reader happy that so many volumes still lie before her, as yet unread.

Mirrored from Circlet Press: Welcome to Circlet 2.0.