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Robert Loggia and his black turtleneck would like you to read this comic. Or he (they) will stab you. – T.H.E. Cat #2

April 16, 2013

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Has there ever been a better character actor than Robert Loggia? That categorization, so often a backhanded compliment for someone who never quite made it to the perceived top of the acting profession, can be the highest of praise when bestowed on the right person, and Loggia’s resume is certainly worthy of praise. He was Feech La Manna on The Sopranos. He was Mancuso, F.B.I. He was in the Magnum P.I. pilot. He was the drug kingpin who ended life on is knees, begging Tony Montana for mercy. He was the ever-calm general in Independence Day, the kind of man you’d want guiding you through an alien invasion crisis — or a dopey movie. The list goes on and on.

Oh, and he was T.H. E. Cat, too.

Lasting only one season, Cat was in the mold of contemporaneous shows like To Catch a Thief and The Saint. It followed the titular hero, a master of surreptitious sneaking, a reformed cat burglar, using his skills to protect the innocent. It wasn’t bad, but it came and went all too quickly, and now is mainly remembered for its feline title and Loggia’s involvement. It’s the latter that’s interesting, because Loggia, whose gravelly, tough voice defines every role, is mostly known to audiences for roles from the 1980s onwards, not for output a decade beforehand. He was no spring chicken when the episodes of Cat were lensed, but he was a younger man, and watching Loggia in his prime is a bat odd, like seeing pictures of your parents when they were teenagers. It’s what makes it kind of neat, too.

Hey, wait, there was a comic book too.

It had a run just as brief as the parent series — actually, with only four issues, briefer — but it at least had nifty photo covers (surely coveted by the hordes of Loggia fanatics around the world). Sadly, the stories on the inside were shoddily juvenile, not living up to the covert ops derring-do of the show. Take for instance the first story in this issue. It has a villain named King Leer (not a typo), a fat sheikish character who abducts a woman to his castle, prompting a rescue from the wily Cat and an underwhelming showdown (art by Jack Sparling):

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Readers weren’t dustbinning their Daredevil vs. Kingpin comics, methinks.

The second feature has Cat matching wits with an art-thieving hippie. Check out this odd sequence in the last panels:

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It’s like the creative team realized as they were throwing the story together that it was garbage, and just decided to end the story as quickly as possible. “But we don’t have a fight scene.” “Forget it. Wrap it up.” You might call this avant-garde storytelling. You’d probably be wrong.

The comic ends up as nowhere close to the quality of, say, an I Spy, and not even up to the low standards of The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. Which is too bad. Loggia deserved — and deserves — better. But character actors take what they can get, even when it comes to comics.

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