BOOK REVIEW: Manfried the Man – written by Caitlin Major & Illustrated by Kelly Bastow

When I was first sent Manfried the Man, I didn’t know where to begin. One – I’d never really read a graphic novel before [that is what Manfried the Man is] and two, I had no idea how to review it. Do I talk about the illustrations [which are wonderful], what about the plot? How do graphic novels work? Am I asking pointless questions [yes]? Turns out, I needn’t have worried – Manfried the Man is joyous and utterly delightful – a more than worthy read.

Written by Caitlin Major, illustrated by Kelly Bastow and published by Quirk Books, the novel is set in a flipped round world where felines keep humans as pets – specifically male humans. The tale is weirdly comical and, at times, oddly touching. In the pages we find Steve Catson, a humanoid cat, and resident of Catlanta. He’s a regular sorta’ feline, a slacker working in a call centre with his life going nowhere and an apartment that’s buried under six feet of mess and rubbish. His pet human – Manfried – is his pride and joy, that, and his drawings [which are all of Manfried]. He’s known as the “crazy man cat” by his co-workers too – and so you get the picture.

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Yet when Manfried goes missing, his life is changed forever. It’s cheesy but also, it’s not. It’s predictable too [you can guess the ending now and you’d probably be right], but that’s not to its detriment. Major and Bastow have the knack for making it personable – and resonant. Steve, although a cat, is not unlike us mere humans. That, of course, is their point. Nuanced it isn’t, but again, it all works; to have our lives mirrored back to us – especially those who have pets – is sonorous to say the least.

The struggle of adulthood and ownership, failure and the passivity of life – each are the base from which Manfried the Man is truly built. The addition of Chelsea, Steve’s neighbour and friend, amongst other characters, is also neat and creates a body to the novel, fleshing out Steve’s narrative as well as the piece as a whole.

The illustration is charming in its own right – jokey and playful, making the human pets less weird and more adorable [they’re naked, but again, it’s done in a comical way]. They’re captivating too – Bastow making the most of the pages where dialogue is absent, the art speaking for itself, and the characters, as it were.

Manfried the Man is a quiet delight. I enjoyed it far more than I anticipated [note to self not to pre-judge] and found it sweet and inviting. Yes, the narrative is nothing new – but it needn’t be. It’s heartfelt without forgetting its humorous roots.

You know, sometimes there’s a lot to be said from simply just enjoying what you’re reading, and Manfried the Man embodies exactly that.

Manfried the Man is published by Quirk Books and is available here.

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Caitlin Major

Caitlin Major is a Toronto-based comics writer and illustrator. She and her partner, Matthew Hoddy, have run successful Kickstarter campaigns to print comics Space Pyrates and The Saga of Metalbeard. Caitlin also works as an animation compositor at Skyship Entertainment, a small animation studio in Toronto that specializes in kids’ programming on YouTube.

Kelly Bastow

Kelly Bastow is an illustrator and comics creator best known for her ink and watercolor paintings of landscapes and body positivity. Kelly illustrated Quirk’s Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy and has drawn for the comics LumberjanesAdventure Time, and Capture Creatures.

Reviewed by Emily Harrison

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