Two of Roman Dirge’s early works see a reprinting in an attractive, if slender, hardback volume from Titan Comics. The Cat with a Really Big Head was first published in 2002, while The Monsters in My Tummy first saw light back in 1999, but neither have lost their impact or originality, despite the multitude of imitators that followed.
In his introduction, Roman acknowledges his inspirations for both stories, the former based on the Elephant Man while the latter was a bitter reaction to a breakup. It shows; right from the start, Dirge has his heart on his sleeve, yet he manages to be wickedly funny as he personifies a range of emotions into grotesque forms, battling it out for control of the body. These creatures, however odd, are drawn in such an expressive fashion that it's hard not to empathise with them. New colouring from Adam Bolton brings these beings to extra life, ensuring that each is given its own distinctive personality; they're monsters for sure, yet they are somehow endearing.
The book opens with its titular tale, words and pictures combining to create a story that is laugh-out-loud hilarious. It's also somewhat moving, prompting a few sympathetic clucks along with the guffaws. There's some biting satire in here too, as there is in Monsters, highlighting the shallow nature of our world; food for thought going hand in hand with the entertainment. There's also a wonderful twist that pulls the rug out from under the readers feet, while also tugging on the heartstrings. Sandwiched between these two is the short piece A Big Question which, while not of the high standard of the other two, is sure to raise a smile.
Roman Dirge may be best known for Lenore, but The Cat with a Really Big Head is well worth seeking out, sure to be loved by his fans, anyone who has a taste for the bizarre or fancies a macabre version of Dr. Seuss. It's a glorious off-the-wall example of how raw emotion can be tempered into art, made into something that is quirky, fun, and hugely entertaining despite – or perhaps because of – its darkness. Weird, certainly, but also quite wonderful.
THE CAT WITH A REALLY BIG HEAD / WRITER & ARTIST: ROMAN DIRGE / PUBLISHER: TITAN COMICS / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 30TH