Cat Tales: Fan Fiction Worth a Look   5 comments

When people talk about Batman around me, I always like to participate.  Discussion about the character is fun, ranging from how ridiculous the idea of a guy dressing up like a bat to punch criminals is, to how awesome he is as the world’s greatest detective and one of the world’s greatest martial artists.  Heck, even Dr. McNinja recognizes Batman’s level of training and expertise.

Then people always start listing their favorite takes on the dark knight, and someone will mention Frank Miller.  That’s when I start ranting and raving like a lunatic.  And the worst part?  So few people that I talk to really understand why I dislike Frank Miller’s take on Batman so much (about half of the people who don’t understand think they do understand, which makes it even more frustrating.)

One tiny aspect of my ire involves Selina Kyle, more popularly known as Catwoman.  I try to explain just what Frank did to Selina and why I don’t like it, and people just…they just don’t get it.  They don’t see the big deal.

And then I discovered Cat Tales by Chris Dee.  Chris Dee is a writer who understands Catwoman very well.  I would venture that he understands Catwoman, and most other Batman characters, a great deal better than the writers and executives who decide what the people of Gotham will be facing in the comics.  And you know everyone who talks about how much writers and executives mess up the Batman comics?  Chris Dee probably understands these characters even more than most of those people.

Mr. Dee is also becoming a very capable story teller when he uses these characters in his Cat Tales stories.  While his initial forays into his little fictive universe were a tad generic when compared to other fan fiction on the Internet, the progression of Chris Dee as a writer, and of his characters in the stories, is very clear.

I haven’t read all of Cat Tales yet myself, I have to confess.  I’ve read the first 42 stories, though, so feel free to correct me if things vastly change in story number 44.  (My first story was Riddle Me-Tropolis, though, in the early 50s.  What can I say, the Riddler will always be my favorite character.)

Now that I’ve heaped praise onto these stories, I want to toss out a few caveats.  First of all, some of the website is NSFW.  In fact, barely a story goes by without at least a little swearing, violence, or sexual innuendo.  Not quite Vertigo territory, but still, use caution.

Next, the obvious gorilla in the room: the work is fanfiction.  It’s very good fanfiction, don’t get me wrong!  But there are still distinctive aromas of fanfiction that don’t show up as often in other textual stories.  While the characters that Chris Dee respects are all treated rather fairly, certain other characters become, for lack of a better word, Flanderized.  Talia al Ghul is a good example; in Cat Tales her obsession with Batman as a potential beloved has grown beyond Amy Rose’s fanatical devotion to Sonic the Hedgehog.  Now, I will admit, I do keep seeing signs that she might possibly break out of that mindset and become a skilled villain (or just a more rounded character) in her own right.  Every time I see that, however, those hopes get dashed.

Chris Dee also falls into a pattern that isn’t entirely uncommon in the world of fanfiction: he allows his characters to take those actions that appear to be the one thing blocking their route to happiness.  I’m not sure I can explain this phenomenon well (I’m a terrible writer…) but the more extreme cases of this involve characters breaking character enough to get together with that romantic interest that the fans want him or her to get together with, or to just stop putting up with whatever they dealt with in the original material.  The characters stop being the characters from the series, and start becoming the idealized imitations that the writer is hoping the original characters might eventually become.

Chris, I think, is aware of this in his own writing, and when it comes up he handles it well.  No instantaneous solution comes without raising its own consequences (demonstrating why the problems existed in the first place), and the flat characters are called on it by the characters with more depth.

If you’re a fan of Batman, I strongly recommend that you take a look at Cat Tales.  I don’t recommend starting with the beginning initially, however.  Scan his archives, and find a story or two that feature characters that you enjoy (you’d be surprised who does, and in some cases doesn’t, show up here and there.)  As I said above, I’m a hopeless Riddler fan, and the Riddle Me-Tropolis story sold me on the archives.  The Riddler was presented very well, and while he didn’t tell quite as many riddles as I’d hoped, the amount (and complexity) of the other puzzles presented were more than enough to satisfy me that Chris was the guy to look to for worthwhile Riddler fiction.

But I digress.  Stop reading this blog post, go meet Sly and Greg Brady, and listen to a few Cat Tales.  I think you’ll be glad that you did.


5 responses to “Cat Tales: Fan Fiction Worth a Look

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  1. Did you really write “I’m a terrible writer”? Where did that come from?

  2. Yep. I did. And I’ll stand by it, too. I still need more practice before I can move from being “terrible” to “marginally less bad.” 😛

  3. Hmmmm. What sort of marks did you get for your compositions in college? That would be an indication of how “terrible” your writing is, from an objective source.

  4. Ah, yes, but the objective source in question was an audience of one, easier to gear individual manuscripts for. 😉

  5. Well, even if your writing was tailored for an audience of one, that one would be as objective as possible, since as an academic adviser, that one is meant to be judging based on universal standards (as much as that is possible). So, if you did well there, chances are you would do well with a wider audience. So, “terrible” is probably not very accurate. So there. :-p

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