This is another artist that we discovered at Kids Read Comics. By “we” in this case, I mean my love and my son, who brought this home several years ago and have read it several times over. They were shocked when I said that I’d never actually read it, and placed this conspicuously on top of my stack of library books waiting to be read.
Scratch9. Vol 1: The Pet Project. by Rob M. Worley. Illustrated by Jason T. Kruse and Mike Kunkel.
The cute and fluffy cat Scratch loves his owner, young Penelope, but dreams of being a free, wild cat, and so runs away when she tries to put a collar on him. Almost immediately, he is captured by one of those pound collectors so ubiquitous in children’s stories, and then sold to C.R.U.E.L. Laboratories. In the cages there, Scratch meets a scrappy little dog, a crazy squirrel, and a rooster, all of them claiming to be strong loners. But then Dr. Schrodinger, the evil scientist in charge, straps Scratch down and runs his experimental equipment on him. This unleashes Scratch’s other 8 lives, giving him the ability to call them into physical form to help him in times of need. They range from a saber-tooth tiger through a cyborg-like future cat, and Scratch will need help from all of them to rescue his new friends and to find Penelope before the evil scientist brings his nefarious plans to fruition. Meanwhile, Penelope is doing everything she can to find Scratch, with no notion that doing so could put both of them in even more danger.
This series was nominated for an Eisner award and named the Best Children’s Comic of 2010 by School Library Journal. It combines quite a few familiar elements into a fresh and fun story. While the fast-paced action is appealing to boys, Penelope’s presence, the cute cats, and the overarching message of the importance of friendship and teamwork make sure that adventure-loving girls won’t feel shut out. (Those looking for a quiet character drama can look elsewhere, but that’s really just fine.) It’s exciting without ever getting too scary or too violent for elementary-aged kids.
Sadly, it looks like this first volume is no longer generally available – it’s selling used for an outrageous price on Amazon.com. It is available from a few libraries, so you might be able to get it via ILL if your library doesn’t have it. But it looks like they’re doing new floppy comics starting in September in preparation for a new graphic novel, so you can keep an eye out for that at your local comic book shop.