Steven Heller | Essays

Animal Kingdom

Robert Grossman is an animal when it comes to satire. With his lengthy resume of comics and cartoons about politics and society, he tracks his prey with the precision of a panther and the wit of a lion (assuming lions have a sense of humor). His once regular feature for Rolling Stone, ZooNooz, had animals acting out a satirical version of current political events, and his other strips have appeared in New York Magazine, The Nation, The New Yorker, and The New York Observer. Its getting harder to find outlets for his brand of humor and, “as you likely know,” he told me recently, “the number one most popular subject on the Internet is porn and having nothing currently to contribute to the world in that department I was forced to look at the second most popular subject namely cats.”

So, in a cold, calculated, some might say cynical, effort to hitch a ride on the great cat bandwagon Grossman devised the comic strip Hillo Kitty (yes, short for Hillary). 

There have been five installments so far (they can all be seen here). Considering Grossman's reputation for barbs and jabs, Hillo Kitty should be web fave. Rather, there is a shockingly sparse audience (so far). “Each new episode was offered to a spectrum of editors and publishers for their possible exclusive usage,” he laments. “The results: one Yes (Aha! Bullseye! I thought), followed the next day by a firm No. One written response from a noted editor, ‘Amusing, but we don't do cartoons.’ One emoticon—a happy face from a newspaper art director. That was it. My dreams of a bonanza were dashed. But then again there was always Facebook. Look out virality here I come.”

The first episode of Hillo Kitty on Grossman’s Facebook page got "likes" in the high two figures. Each successive installment got fewer and fewer "likes" down to the high single digits for the last one. “I wonder how many of those came from immediate family members,” he says.

Grossman presumes that he is hopelessly out of step with the zeitgeist. But just read Hillo and its timely, witty commentary on the campaign to date, and you’ll laugh your toes off, especially at the hilariously odd character associations. In fact, I wondered out loud how he came up with the anthropomorphic puns. “Once I decided that they would all be cats everything became obvious,” he responds. “I once read the official style book for Mickey Mouse and it stipulated that Mickey must never be associated with mouse things like cheese or traps. (It also said Mickeys tail was ‘optional.’) But Hillo Kitty and the Poll Cats are cats through and through and do cat things like chasing vermin playing with yarn and scratching scratching posts. Dogs will not appear in this series although the Vermont cat Saint Bernard may think he is one.”

Grossman promises that strip will continue as long as events seem to require it—“but where we are headed for 2016 is anybody's guess.” So what's your goal, I asked: “If wealth fame and world domination don't pan out does personal amusement count?”



Comments [1]

Wow!! Funny photos and awesome written.
Taposy Rabeya

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