WCO.244: Saphie: the One-Eyed Cat
So I’ve undertaken quite possibly the most foolish endeavor in my life. I am currently trying to finish reading Homestuck before the end of the year. I picked up at Act 6, Intermission 5, which pretty much induced a headache in about 15 minutes. Who’s this Davesprite guy? Why is the juggalo troll at the birth of the cherub character? Do I really have to read all this page-long exposition where all the “b”‘s are replaced with “8”‘s? What’s this deal about twelve planets and a single dead planet that has to be reborn? Where are my pants?
These unique tribulations would cause most to either a.) drink heavily, or b.) put on gray make-up and head to the local comic con to hang out with the Undertale cosplayers. Fortunately, there is a far less self-destructive solution available: find a cheery webcomic to momentarily take your mind off of your troubles. The internet is not at a loss for charming comics that can put a smile on your face. For my money, there are few more adorable than Joho’s webcomic about her cats entitled Saphie: The One-Eyed Cat.
Saphie is one of those gosh-darned webcomics that’s hosted on the Webtoons site. I’ve already spoken at length about how much I love the format, but I’ll reiterate: it’s great to be reading a webcomic that’s optimized for your phone. I read much of the run while lying down on the sofa and using my thumb to scroll down the panels, like some sort of lazy fat cat that likes to sleep in a box. This was especially fortuitous since my home internet access went down, meaning I couldn’t read comics on my laptop for a good part of the day. All webcomics today were read off my phone piggybacking on an LTE network. Long story short: Homestuck, especially when you reach a Flash-enabled panel, is a no-go on a Flash-averse iPhone.
Saphie, as you may surmise from the subtitle, is a webcomic about cats. Now, for those of you a little hesitant about reading yet another comic where cat owners anthropomorphize their cats like their little horrible babies, I hear ya. I am not a cat owner myself, so I have a hard time entering that particularly cracked mindset. I will say, though, that most everyone else in my family are cat people, which means from time to time I have to hang around cats. It’s very easy to attribute feline behavior to very human motivations. One of the most familiar responses: “I love cats because each one has their own personality.” While I don’t doubt that, I have a sneaking suspicion that the stories we generate about cats reveal more about the personality of the cat owner than it does of the cats themselves.
The human owner (Joho herself) has three cats at the beginning of the comic. (A fourth, named Sol, joins later.) Our title character is Saphie, an energetic and curious cat who has one eye. She inherited Garfield’s love of eating. Simba, he of the heavy-lidded eyes, exudes cool aloofness and mature restraint. He inherited Garfield’s Bill Murray-ness. (He’s also the oldest, and there are tantalizing glimpses of his younger life.) Sahn is the group’s excitable kid brother who says “Heng!” a lot. He’s … Odie, basically. Despite not being related, they refer to each other as “brother” and “sister” and treat each other as such.
They’re drawn in a style that resembles comedic manga, a genre that has a strong tradition of depicting cats in interesting but always kawaii shapes. Our standard shape this time around seems to be distinctly sausage-shaped. Saphie is the most sausage-shaped of all, which makes her extra adorable when she’s wriggling on the floor.
Though generally autobiographical, Saphie announces its whimsicality from the start. In the very first comic, God creates the feline threesome by baking them in his oven. He drops the dough that was used to form Saphie, perhaps the reason the cat has one eye. “A little dust never harmed anybody,” He says, nonplussed. There are some other cute tangents. At one point, the cats re-enact a Pokemon-like game. Another comic, inspired by fanart from the readers, has the cats momentarily taking on human form.
However, most of the time, it seems that Joho watched her cats up to some shenanigans, and she wrote a story in her mind around it. In one comic, Saphie takes a swipe at Simba and then scampers off. She comes to a stop when she sees Joho getting hugs from her mom. Why did she do that? Could it be that Saphie is having flashbacks about her own mother? We’d never know, since even if we had telepathy we would never be able to read the catnip-addled mind. What if Saphie was just stopping because owner-lady needs to put food on her tummy? But it’s not much of a stretch to see why Joho would think this.
There are a lot of familiar moments here you’ve probably seen in other cat comics. Such as how dogs are obedient while cats just wreck things when they get the chance. Or how cats totally hate getting brushed. What a recipe for a cat-astrophe. Amirite, guys? AMIRITE?!?! There is also a bonafide gag where, gasp, humans are serving the cats, not the other way around!
The most poignant moments, however, are when Joho reminds you that these pets are real. There’s a clever comic called “Taking Pet Photos.” Joho whips out her cellphone and, one by one, takes pictures of her cats, as cat owners are wont to do. And the cats keep turning their heads at the last minute, as cats are wont to do. She reviews the pictures she took, concluding that “They’re not that bad.” Only it’s the real photos of her cats… including one that only has one eye. Seeing a Saphie that isn’t sausage-shaped and a blank space where her second eye should be is a little disconcerting. It also turns Saphie from “just another cat comic” to “heartwarming true life story.”
A bit later on, Joho talks about the time she laid eyes on Saphie, originally named Lila, at the pet shelter. Even though Lila is initially unresponsive, it’s love at first sight. Seeing how sad the cat is, she begs her dad for them to take her home. (There are some great looking reaction shots from her dad, by the way, as he stiffly replies, “Ask your mother.”) Lila springs to life the moment they unlock the door. Lila is renamed Saphie, and she’s showered with cat kisses. The kicker here is that this story ends with video footage of the pet shelter, where a tiny Saphie can be seeing clawing at a finger on the other side of the glass. Seriously… how could you not take that sweetiepie home?
Joho also shares a hilarious story where she sends out specs to an online company whose specialty is making stuffed animals out of kids’ drawings. She wants them to make plushie of Saphie. The comic comes off as a little wordy, but it doesn’t matter because it’s well paced. “I gave them proportions of height, length, and width of the design. Head to paw. And yes. Even the butthole.” She does of a great job of using the negative space and the vertical format to simulate the passage of time. Anticipation swells every moment you scroll down and read through each step of the process. Then finally, at long last, we finally get a view of the final product… and it is glorious.
Moments like these the webcomic into a hybrid that incorporates elements of a journal blog, and it makes it into something more interesting than if it was just one or the other. I’m not saying this should always be the case. The straight up gag comics are already worth your while. However, these entries add a unique dimension to the tale of what turns out to be a very unique cat.