Today, the first issue of Man-Eaters by Chelsea Cain, Kate Niemczyk, Rachelle Rosenberg, Joe Caramagna, and Lia Miternique is in stores. But should it be? Or should it be banned, burned, or both? Or maybe stabbed on YouTube. To find out, we bravely read this comic, despite its overtly glittery cover, and applied the standards of the venerable Comics Code of 1954 to what we saw. The results, sadly, are probably less than shocking to anyone who has been following Cain's outspoken and disruptive work.
Going through the list of rules in the Comics Code from top to bottom, we've listed the ones which are violated by this comic and the ways in which the comic violates them. Note: sensitive readers may wish to avoid not only this comic but also even this review, as some of the scenes mentioned could prove dangerous and unsettling, even just to read about them in the abstract. If you feel in any way that you might be negatively affected by hearing about things like "cat attacks" or "menstruation," then we recommend you seek out a more wholesome comic, like The Punisher or Batman: Damned.
Now, let's take a look at all the ways Man-Eaters #1 violates the Comics Code of 1954.
General standards—Part A
(1) Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal, to promote distrust of the forces of law and justice, or to inspire others with a desire to imitate criminals.
The comic divides its time between world-building, explaining the status quo of a world where girls transform into violent, bloodthirsty were-cats when they get their period, and showing us a glimpse of the series' 12-year-old protagonist, Maude, including her relationship with her father, a divorced cop. After showing us that these "cats" attack and murder innocent people, we see Maude get her first period at the end of the issue. Though we know she will now become a cat and commit murder, a crime, we can't help but feel sympathy for her.
(3) Policemen, judges, Government officials and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.
In the wake of cat attacks, the government has created regional Strategic Cat Apprehension Team to capture cats and protect the public. However, Maude's dad is shown to be resentful of SCAT, complaining that they are "overfunded" and lack "transparency." This kind of disregard for authority can have a profound moral effect on impressionable young readers, and Man-Eaters is irresponsible in promoting it.
(5) Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position which creates a desire for emulation.
In Man-Eaters, girls who get their periods despite government interventions and transform into man-eating cats are rounded up and imprisoned, as shown in one panel in the comic with a line of girls wearing manacles as stern government officials oversee their transport. However, these girls can be seen wearing trendy, fashionable feminist t-shirts, which readers might see as desirable to emulate. If so, why shouldn't they also emulate depravity and murder? It's a slippery slope from one to the other, as we all know.
(7) Scenes of excessive violence shall be prohibited. Scenes of brutal torture, excessive and unnecessary knife and gunplay, physical agony, gory and gruesome crime shall be eliminated.
Gruesome scenes are depicted multiple times in the comic, once while Maude's father and his partner are investigating the bloody crime scene following a cat attack, and once during a flashback when an actual cat attack is depicted.
General Standards Part B
(2) All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism shall not be permitted.
See General Standards Part A, Rule 7.
(3) All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be eliminated.
In addition to the aforementioned depictions of gruesome violence, the final page of the comic shows blood on Maude's underwear after she's gotten her period. To that same effect, the book also contains an illustration of a uterus, and the opening page shows Maude daydreaming about a superhero who is actually a tampon. Not only does this violate the rules for unsavory illustrations, but even worse, it could also make male readers uncomfortable. Did Image Comics even have a censor look over this book before publishing? If so, they were clearly not paying attention or grossly incompetent.
(5) Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited.
The entire premise of this book is based on girls transforming into were-cats. It should probably have never been greenlit, as it's hard to imagine how a comic about this subject matter could be produced without violating this rule.
General Standards Part C
(1) Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden.
Maude's father, after looking over a crime scene, says the word "crap." Another character, shown only in passing, discusses his desire to grow a "porn stache." Yet another character mentions a "dominant heteronormative society." These and similar instances of vulgarity have no place in a children's comic book.
(2) Special precautions to avoid references to physical afflictions or deformities shall be taken.
Despite the government's best efforts to prevent it, some girls still do undergo menstruation in this comic. Under the rules of this utopian society where menstruation is outlawed, this clearly falls under the category of "physical affliction" or "deformity." And that's without even mentioning the whole cat thing.
(1) Nudity in any form is prohibited, as is indecent or undue exposure.
None of the cats depicted in the comic are wearing clothes. Though they are technically cats and also technically covered in fur, astute readers will recognize from context clues that they are actually girls who have transformed into cats. As such, we must insist that all future depictions of man-eating cats feature, at the very least, a t-shirt and some ripped pants.
(3) All characters shall be depicted in dress reasonably acceptable to society.
Remember those feminist t-shirts? Does someone here have some kind of agenda?
Marriage and sex
(1) Divorce shall not be treated humorously nor represented as desirable.
Though the comic does mention that Maude's father was "at his worst" after getting divorced from Maude's mother, it's clear that Maude's relationship with him has improved since then and also that he has become well-adjusted as a working single father. This could lead readers to believe that divorcing their spouse is an acceptable option rather than remaining in a dysfunctional or even dangerous relationship, and what would happen then? Marriage is barely holding on by a thread in our society as it is.
(3) Respect for parents, the moral code, and for honorable behavior shall be fostered. A sympathetic understanding of the problems of love is not a license for morbid distortion.
In one panel, Maude gently mocks her father, calling attention to his "beard dandruff" and mocking his shirt as "embarrassing." Is that showing respect for her parents? We think not.
(7) Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.
The whole comic is about menstruation, a subject that we thought we all agreed should never be brought up in public.
The Bottom Line
Overall, while Man-Eaters does a fine job illustrating the dangers of feminism and menstruation, we unfortunately cannot recommend it due to the flagrant disregard for the rules which are designed to protect our industry and ensure it behaves responsibly and with respect to our obligations to a pure moral society. While scholars and professionals may be interested in reading the comic from an academic standpoint, just to see so many examples of comics gone bad, the potential corruptive influence is too strong.
Man-Eaters #1 is in stores now. Avoid it at all costs.
(W) Chelsea Cain (A) Kate Niemczyk (CA) Lia Miternique
Eisner-nominated and New York Times bestselling thriller writer CHELSEA CAIN returns to comics with a new ONGOING SERIES!
A mutation in Toxoplasmosis causes menstruating women to turn into ferocious killer wildcats-easily provoked and extremely dangerous. As panic spreads and paranoia takes root, the fate of the world rides on the shoulders of one twelve-year-old girl. Part Cat People, part The Handmaid's Tale, MAN-EATERS will have everyone talking.
From the creative team behind the Eisner-nominated series Mockingbird: writer CHELSEA CAIN, artist KATE NIEMCZYK, colorist RACHELLE ROSENBERG, letterer JOE CARAMAGNA, and joined by LIA MITERNIQUE, KATIE LANE, and STELLA GREENVOSS.
This September… the cat wants in.
In Shops: Sep 26, 2018