PRINCE OF CATS OGN
Writer & Artist: Ron Wimberly
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
The stupidity of this world makes me want to pound faces into jelly. Everywhere I looked online this is what people are saying about PRINCE OF CATS, “A hip-hop retelling of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.”
Yeah, except: Romeo and Juliette were the focal characters of “Romeo & Juliette;” Tybalt, the lead character in PRINCE OF CATS, died in like the first four minutes of “Romeo & Juliet;” Romeo & Juliet at the foundational level is the story of young love and how it’s oft confused with lust. PRINCE OF CATS is the other side of “Romeo & Juliet,” the side that revels in sword play, blood lust, and the pure carnal pleasures that belong to the young.
But sure, it’s exactly like “Romeo & Juliet” – idiots! I truly hate the laziness imbedded in the rest of the reviewing community. If other sites had an ounce of self-respect, instead of cutting and pasting press releases, their reviews might sound a little more like this…
While the comic world wades in sameness,
with spandex, big events, and characters thin;
PRINCE OF CATS defies the lameness,
a smarter tale of a time that never was – yet has always been.
Wimberley channels the Immortal Bard,
with similar characters and motivation;
To say it’s a retelling though makes you a tard,
and clearly shows thy lack of education.
Tybalt was the antagonist long ago,
a foil to cock block lovers young;
PRINCE OF CATS is now Tyblat’s show,
a tale fore Romeo made him undone.
Wimberley drops pentameter in modern tongue,
infusing language yore with the time of Reagan;
as Capulet and Montague spill ancient blood,
across the streets of breakdance Brooklyn.
I won’t make you work too hard on this one. If my poetic verse is too esoteric, PRINCE OF CATS is quite simply the days before Romeo meets Juliet. I won’t call it a prequel because that would diminish the beautiful work of art Wimberley put down on page. This is a story unto itself; Romeo and Juliet are ancillary to the events of passion, frustration and honor that drove Tyblat to his untimely demise at the hands of Romeo’s blade. But even though we know how the story is going to end, can’t we say that about 90% of comics on the shelves these days? The journey is what matters. Wimberley infuses the language of urban culture inside the wrapper of iambic pentameter and not one feels forced or lacks fluidity. I’m as white as they come, so I won’t profess any credibility when it comes to the culture of urban communities. Like most, I merely have the White-Man guilt National Geographic view of the urban plight from movies and television. From what I do know of the “street” though, Wimberley hits every note of violence, territorial pride, and the fierce love and protection of family.
While I don’t know shit about the street, I do however know Shakespeare. I spent a good portion of the 90s getting my BFA in theater. I acted in three Shakespeare productions and I house managed Romeo & Juliet my first semester at school. I know Tybalt pretty well too. Given the fact he died so early in the production, our Tyblat would spend the time between his death and curtain-call trying to get me to be a pyramid notch below him in his Amway empire. You really haven’t lived until you have a man in a bejeweled codpiece espousing the financial rewards found in bulk toilet paper.
While 12 viewings of R&J hardly makes me an expert on the Bard, it gave me enough grounding to see Wimberly’s reverence to the original work without ever aping it. Juliet’s lessons in love move from the courtyard to the girl’s bathroom. Today, Juliet’s perceptions of becoming a woman would be naïve at best, and make her seem learning disabled at worst. Wimberley masterfully and tastefully winds the clock forward by having Juliet learn about love in the age when no topic is off the table for discussion. Imagine the carrot scene from Fast Times, where Phoebe Cates instructs Jennifer Jason Leigh on the finer points of pleasing a man. Now imagine that lesson delivered in poetic verse to Juliet from Rosalyn over a fine shared spliff. This is just one small example of Wimberly’s courage that cascades through every single page of this book.
Swords, mass bloodshed, hip-hop beats, love, and language – this is how you get kids to appreciate the value Shakespeare rained down on Western culture, not guys in tights using words that have been out of circulation for 500 years. While one must take a leap of faith with the flowery verse and swordplay instead of gun duels, everything about this book is completely accessible because it’s about the basic drives of humanity. We really haven’t changed as a species since Big Willy put quill to parchment; PRINCE OF CATS reminds us that the folly and pride of youth is unending and can undue even the greatest of royalty – including Princes.