What happens when an ordinary house cat is caught the middle of a lab accident? Why, he gets superpowers of course! Scratch9, created and written by Rob M. Worley, follows the story of Scratch a newly superpower endowed cat with the ability to call on any of his 8 other lives for assistance. Set out to fight the evil force of C.R.U.E.L. Corp., Scratch fights his way through perils to reach his best girl, Penelope.
I recently caught up with Rob to talk Scratch9 and what’s to come for the future.
Alex Rodrik: So tell us a bit about yourself. What drew you to comics as a storytelling medium?
Rob M. Worley: Well, I grew up reading comics. Marvel mostly. A lot of Spider-Man and Hulk back when I was a youngster.
The medium creates a unique cooperative between the storytellers and the readers, which you don’t quite have in other forms. I love movies, but there the Director really controls so much of the story, and the viewer can be very passive.
With comics the reader is doing a lot of interpolation about what’s going on in between panels. And they choose how long they want to linger on a page or panel, so they’re asked to create certain aspects of the story themselves.
It’s probably why comic readers tend to be so imaginative.
Rodrik: Tell us about Scratch9.
Worley: Scratch9 tells the story of a runaway house cat who falls into the hands of a research corporation called C.R.U.E.L. There’s some mad science gone haywire and — BOOM — a lab accident leaves our hero Scratch with the ability to summon any of his eight other lives to his side to help him in his adventures.
So he has a ready-made mission to free the other animals from C.R.U.E.L. and hopefully return home to his best girl Penelope, who is out in the big city looking for him and getting into trouble herself.
It’s a four issue series. Issues 1 and 2 are in stores already and issue 3 and 4 are due any day now. The books can also be read on the Comics+ app on the iPad and iPhone.
Rodrik: While at the con you and I’d shared many-a tale about our beloved cats. Could you tell us a bit about the real cats behind Scratch and what it was about Itchy and Scratchy that inspired the comic?
Worley: Sure! I love talking about my guys. They were the first cats I ever had and raised them from kittens, so the experience was very educational for me. I quickly realized I knew very little about cats and everything I thought I knew was wrong.
The whole idea that cats are unaffectionate and aloof, for example, is nonsense. They loved spending time with their people and each other, and playing with their other cat friends.
And they’re also these crazy, rowdy, super-athletic creatures. I had so many years of fun just watching them do their thing.
With Scratch9 I wanted to try to capture the joy I got from them in a comic book form.
Rodrik: With kids comics on the rise, how do you think this will inspire new readers and affect the industry in the future?
Worley: I think it’s having several positive effects. Hopefully, first and foremost, it’s getting and keeping kids interested in comics.
The other thing I like to see is the diversity of stories and concepts at the young reader level. Sure, Marvel and DC are doing their thing with kids comics, and nobody does that better than they do. But Ape Entertainment and Boom! Studios and others have rich lines of comics, many of which feature things other than superheroes.
So hopefully that will have this new generation of readers seeking out fare that’s as diverse as, say, what shows up in the manga markets.
Rodrik: What have you found to be some of the most challenging parts of crafting a story that’s aimed at younger readers?
Worley: Probably the things I was most unsure about were content-oriented things. There are themes of animal cruelty in the book. Can you have scary or upsetting things in a story for kids? If so, how do you accomplish that while keeping it fun?
And in thinking about the better kids-oriented fare I’ve seen, the answer is yes. In any good story something has to be at stake. If you eliminate those things in some misguided attempt to soften or sanitize the experience, then you eliminate the drama.
So the trick then becomes more about how you depict it rather than whether or not it’s in there. You just find a way to look at things from an angle that gets the point across without traumatizing the reader.
It’s like the opening scene of Finding Nemo: a husband is helpless to stop a home invasion which results in the murder of his wife and children. It’s HORRIBLE stuff and gut-wrenching for adults in the audience to contemplate. But it’s depicted such that we see Marlon slapped down into unconsciousness and he awakes to eerie, silent aftermath. Young or old, you get what happened, but you can still carry on watching the rest of the movie.
So, yeah, the readers see that the lovable characters of Scratch9 are exposed to adversity but they also see how a courageousness of spirit and a devotion to one another can help overcome that.
Worley: There have been talks. That’s all I’m permitted to say. And, trust me, I wish I could say more!
Rodrik: They say that every writer places themselves in their stories and speaks through one of their characters. Who in Scratch9 is Rob, and what is it about that character that rings truest to you?
Worley: Strangely, the character that speaks my point of view most often in the book is the girl Penelope. She’s got a serious attitude about her responsibility for her pet that I share and wish all people had. So when she’s preaching pet care, that’s me talking.
Also when she uses all her goofy nicknames for Scratch, like “buddy beast” and so on. That’s stuff I said to my cats when I thought no one was listening.
Rodrik: I understand the follow-up to the initial run is in the works. What crazy adventures can readers look forward to for our fuzzy hero?
Worley: Well, first up there are to be a series of short comics that will give each of the other eight lives a chance to shine in their own time places and settings. Writing these comics has been so fun because each character has its own genre and tone. So readers are going to see some different style comics from the core book.
Those comics will probably be published on the web first, and bound into a collection later.
Then, I’m working on the next mini-series, which will be called the “Cat of Nine Tales”. And it’ll put a very interesting new spin on Scratch’s adventures and also introduce a new nemesis for him.
Rodrik: What other projects do you have comin’ down the line that our readers should look out for?
Worley: I’m working on a cool creature feature/romance comic for teens. It’s something steeped in Halloween iconography that I co-created with writer Shannon Eric Denton and artist Armand Villavert Jr. We just wrapped up the first issue and Armand’s art is crazy awesome. He’s really blowing the doors off the hinges.
And I have a top-secret crime/sci-fi thing that I’m working up with Da
vid Dumeer. It’s still early on but David and I are having fun developing that. Think of it like if the somewhat dim Vince Vega came to possess a top-secret government weapon. That one won’t be for kids.
But I do have more kids stuff coming and hopefully will be announcing soon!
Rodrik: Thanks, Rob!
Check out the first 8 pages of Issue #1 of Scratch9 below, and head over to Scratch9.com for the latest updates on our fuzzy hero!