Watch out, boys, she’ll chew you up. Whoooa, Chelsea Cain and her Eisner-nominated Mockingbird team are back this week with a new creator-owned series titled Man-Eaters from Image Comics.
In a world where the real-life disease Toxoplasmosis has mutated, causing women to transform into killer wildcats, humanity’s hope is young 12-year-old Maude, who is about to take her own steps into womanhood.
“I live with a 13-year-old girl. And I went to middle school,” Cain told Newsarama on how she formulated the plot of the new series.
Cain, along with artist Kate Niemczyk, colorist Rachelle Rosenberg, and letterer Joe Caramagna reunite to tell a story about how Toxoplasmosis has affected the world in a serious way, and how it all comes down to cats.
Newsarama: Okay Chelsea, let's start with Man-eaters' world at large. What has happened with women and menstruation? Has it become illegal, or does it turn them into something else? What is going on here?
Chelsea Cain: It’s a story about female adolescence, and a girl who’s worried she’s turning into a monster. It’s our world, with a few slight adjustments. Toxoplasmosis, a parasite found in cat poop, has mutated, and pretty much everyone is infected with it. Fun true fact: the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 60 million Americans are infected with Toxoplasmosis as I write this. The parasite affects people differently. Some just have mild flu-like symptoms. Menstruating women transform into flesh-eating wild cats.
The world’s governments have controlled the epidemic by adding estrogen to all public water supplies. Most women no longer menstruate. But occasionally, there are still outbreaks.
Nrama: You're working again with your Mockingbird crew, what is it about these artists and creators and what they bring to the table that you love?
Cain: They’re all really talented. And they get my sensibility. It makes the whole process so much easier because I don’t have to spell everything out or explain every intention. This project is really important to me, and I didn’t want to screw it up. Also, I thought it was important to work with a female artist and female colorist, because this is a story about point of view - how girls experience cultural messaging - so that gender lens is important. We’ve got one guy on the team - our letterer, Joe Caramagna. What can I say? He’s good. And I’m sentimental.
Nrama: Let's talk about young Maude here and her relationship with her dad. What's their day-to-day look like? How will this revelation with her change things between them?
Cain: Maude and her dad are really close, but she is 12 and she is defining herself in new ways, and keeping secrets. Possibly mauling strangers. He’s going to be conflicted, because he’s a homicide cop, and a reasonable guy, and he thinks the government response to the Toxo epidemic is maybe a little intense, but also you can’t have flesh eating wild cats killing people. He loves his daughter; now she’s changing and that scares him. However the series is all from Maude’s point of view. So to her, he just seems kind of embarrassing and awkward.
Nrama: Who or what is SCAT? Do you dive into the foundation of it at any time?
Cain:The Strategic Cat Apprehension Team is the law enforcement department tasked with tracking down and detaining cat stage women. SCAT used to have offices in every major city, but now, thanks to the Global Hormone Initiative, SCAT regional task forces respond to local municipalities on an as-needed basis. Each task force is comprised of a team of specialists: a big animal vet, a zoologist, a hunter, a tracker, a social worker, and an intern in charge of social networking.
Nrama: Why cats? Of all the things to turn into, why cats?
Cain: I guess I watched Paul Schrader’s Cat People too much as a kid? Also, let’s be clear. They turn into flesh-eating wild cats. Not tabbies. Though both are dangerous and inscrutable.
Nrama: Did you design these ads and logos or was something of a team effort?
Cain: There’s a lot of in-world ephemera in the series. As if the comic existed in the world we’re describing. We wanted to give the story a sense that it was rooted in reality. Because it is. Lia Miternique and I worked together to create that stuff. (It was important that it have a different visual flavor than the fabulous interior art by Kate Niemczyk and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg.) Lia also is the cover artist. Most importantly, she is my partner in Ministry of Trouble, a creative production company we formed last year.
Man-eaters is the first project of many. We are also working with Keith Baker at Twogether Studios to develop a game. And partnering with Kelly Sue DeConnick to develop a TV show. Ministry of Trouble is run by me, Lia, Jenn Ellis, and Katie Lane.
Nrama: What is it about Man-eaters that will resonate the most with readers?
Cain: It’s a really good story made by talented people who worked hard on it. Also, the cover is glittery.