Chelsea Cain, known more for her bestselling thriller novels, pens Man-eaters, a feminist comic book series about Toxoplasmosis X, which has infected everyone. If women and girls get their periods, it turns them into deadly large cats. Boys and men are just carriers of the virus. Thanks to the Estro-corporation, which owns everything (much like Buy-N-Large in the Pixar film Wall-e) girls aren’t getting their periods anymore. Estro-corp has filled the public water system with hormones, and boys and men drink bottled water, “certified estrogen-free!” Except, someone always slips through. And in this case, it’s twelve-year-old Maude.
Maude’s mother is a large animal veterinarian who works for SCAT (Strategic Cat Apprehension Team), capturing women and girls who have turned into mauling felines. Maude’s father is a homicide detective, and though her parents are divorced, whenever there is a murder with a slashed up body, mom and dad have to work together. This means Maude is left in the hands of her doddering but sweet elderly neighbor who doesn’t realize that Maude has her friends drinking the boys’ bottled water instead of the public supply. Uh oh!
In issues #1-#3, Man-eaters is a cheeky celebration of girls entering puberty. Maude admires women in the past — Mata Hari, Margaret Sanger, Frida Kahlo, Hedy Lamarr, Sojourner Truth — and how they “. . .used to get their periods all the time. They just walked around. . . bleeding.” But when Maude gets her own period for the first time, she feels the emotional affects her hormones can have on her:
Though having a rough moment, Maude is still able to talk about her pubescent body to her father, who is squeamish about the whole thing. Her answer seems over-the-top, but I also like the way she literally shouts about her body, forcing someone to acknowledge it.
Even the team behind Man-eaters celebrates adolescent girls. Three contributors to Man-eaters are thirteen. Adult women write, illustrate, fill in the colors, do the pencils and inks, market, and are the legal representation for the people who produce Man-eaters. Only the letterer is a man. In comic books, that’s amazing.
But Maude’s role models are all women who are dead, because Man-eaters is a satire about lack of safety women feel around men, instead making men fearful of women possibly turning into deadly giant cats. To show that fear, the entire #4 issue is a made up magazine called Cat Fight, a boy’s guide to dangerous cats (winter issue, lol) that contains pieces like “How I Survived,” a brief article about a guy attacked by the woman he loved who turned into a big cat, and a “Top Twelve Guide” of survival tools against large cats for boys to take when they go camping. It also include a letter from the editor, horoscopes, and an “ask the doctor” section. The satirical magazine simulates pages folded at the top that the male reader wants to revisit, those annoying subscription postcards, and ads for products like hand sanitizer that “kills 99.9% Toxo X.”
An amazing work of feminist writing with strong illustrations that doesn’t take itself too seriously but never misses the point. I can’t wait to get my hands on Man-eaters, Vol. 2.