Finally! A comic book that answers one of the hard pressing questions: “what would happen if heroes and sidekicks have sex?” Well, maybe is not a hard pressing question, but sure as hell is an interesting theme to explore, and Nick Marino, Daniel Arruda Massa and Rosie Knight are the ones who dared to take the task and make a comic about it, “Cougar and Cub”
Written by Nick Marino
Illustrated by Daniel Arruda Massa
Back-Up Stories by Rosie Knight
Published by Actionlab
The courageous Cougar is Megaville’s friskiest superhero, tossing crooks left and right with her loyal sidekick, the cunning Cub. But when a slow night on the prowl leads to a one night stand, their perfect partnership is plunged into peril! Can our delicious duo mend their fractured friendship and defeat Megaville’s roster of outrageous supervillains?!? Plus, visit Cougar and Cub in their natural habitat as we take you on a trip through comic book history with five frenzied flashbacks!
This book was first published by Action Lab, under the Danger Zone imprint as a five issue mini-series at the beginning of 2017, although it was cancelled in print just after the very first issue, it was published in digital and the printed trade was published later, in November of the same year.
The team behind this romp includes writer Nick Marino and artist Daniel Arruda Massa, which have worked together before in “Holy F*ck” and “Holy F*ucked”, also from Danger Lab; journalist Rosie Knight, closes the team with the writing duties on the backup stories, making this her first published work.
The story revolves around Minerva Manx and Billy Bobtail, the faces behind the masks of Cougar and Cub, and the consequences of their sexual encounter. Every issue follow the story with a theme that advances the plot, the first one introduces our characters and the defining moment happens, the second issue sets up the conflict and the breakup, the third is about what happens after the breakup, the fourth is a revenge story and in the last one they fight about the mastermind villain.
The book feels like and old, golden era, comic; they achieved that with over the top, cheesy narration inspired by Stan Lee’s Marvel Method-era of storytelling, it also utilizes mainly two stylistic devices, it’s full of alliterations and uses heavily puns, mainly double entendres.
Also, it uses a lot of sound effects, incorporating them to the art, there’s even a panel where the onomatopoeia written is “onomatopoeia”. Both Marino and Arruda are credited as letterers, which I think is worth mentioning because it tells us that they carefully planned the way their book was going to look.
On the writing duties, Marino is clearly having fun, looking for ways to add innuendos to the dialogue and narration. I think it uses a weird blend between an old style and a modern, direct way of talking. One detail I found hilarious was that the book is full of insults, sexual connotations and graphic images, but there’s not a sex scene, as if a TV show used a lot of swears but bleeped the “fucks”. He also wrote some meta moments, like in issue five, where he “missed” what happened for some pages, which works because it adds a “stream of consciousness” to the story, making it hilarious and relatable.
Arruda is the super-star of the book, not only his “regular” cartoony style is wonderful and very dynamic, he uses a wide array of styles all along the book, like two pages in issue 4 following may eras of Cougar, and the backup stories, which we will talk about later.
His style takes advantage of motion lines and simple facial expressions, creating a clear mood and geography to the story. He also colors the book, setting masterfully the atmosphere, like in issue two, with red and yellows to tense fight scenes, contrasting with blues in dialogue scenes.
The character design is another thing to praise on the book, it uses simple designs for the villains, a prototypic team, more akin to the Wonder Twins’ League of Annoyance than to more serious villains. Maybe the closer reference to the characters is Batman and Robin and the Joker, replaced by Cougar, Cub and Miss Chievous. It’s also important to note that this is a very diverse book, the main character is female and black, her villains are a team of women and men of different races and even the adoptive parents of Cub are Asian.Continued below
A great detail on the creation of the character is that the creative team made obvious a detail always ignored: Cougar is brutal, excessively violent and sometimes her actions are unnecessary, it’s even mentioned in the book, if she is a millionaire, why doesn’t she use her money instead of her fists?
Knight’s work is also great, she had de task of creating back up stories for every issue, in them, a girl gets a collection of old Cougar and Cub comics, and every issue takes inspiration from different eras: the Golden age, the romantic era, underground comix, independent books (an homage to “TMNT”) and auteur independent and philosophical books. While Knight manages to tell a compelling and fun story in three pages, Arruda shows off his abilities, imitating every style needed for the story.
Overall, it’s an hilarious book, that starts with the pitch of what would happen if heroes and sidekicks had sex, but it grows past that funny setup and tackles great themes, like harassment and bullying, abusive relationships and even a dash of police (or in this case, superhero) abuse. It is a thoughtful satire of the genre, with great comedy writing and awesome art.
It was a shame that “Cougar and Cub” got cancelled at its first issue, which means that the orders got cancelled even before issue #1 hit the stands of comic shops. It’s up to us, the readers to support independent publishers like Action Lab, they are the ones willing to give a space to new creators, people with great ideas, that have the know-how and the talent, the only missing thing is the outlet that allows them to create and be remunerated for their work. The best way to let them know that their voices are being heard and are being sought after is reaching out to them via social media and, most importantly buying the book (preferably in a Local Comic Shop).