Tawky Tawny, gentleman and badassPosted: January 15, 2009
I’m a cat person, but cats can be bastards.
They are inherently violent, self-absorbed little shits who don’t know how to share and – if they were larger – would torture their owners to death before they ate them, because meat with fear-induced hormones in it tastes better.
Add to that the fact that cat sex is a disgusting, rape-like endeavor (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cats#Reproduction), and the appeal of these cuddly little buggers diminishes further.
One larger kind of cat that would eat you without a second thought is a tiger. Tigers can reach lengths of 3.5 meters long, and weights of 306 kilograms. For those of you who don’t savvy the metric system, let’s just say that’s a descent-sized, man-eating beast and move on.
However, the ferocity of Panthera tigris is only matched by the allure of these primevally handsome creatures.
As such, they frequently show up in Western Culture’s stories of the East, particularly India. In the 1940s, when areas of the world could still have been seen as untamed, savage places worthy of adventure stories, one such tiger entered into the penumbra of popculture consciousness. Well, he wasn’t exactly a normal tiger. He could talk, was a genteel, cultured creature, enjoyed wearing checked suits and bowties and he was friends with superhero, Captain Marvel, but a tiger nonetheless.
Mr. Tawky Tawny, a tiger cub that had been adopted after its mother was killed and given a serum that allowed it to speak English and develop the cultured mannerisms stereotypical of a British explorer, was used as a sounding board for stories on racial prejudice when humans didn’t want a talking tiger moving into their neighborhood or wearing plaid suits.
But for the past 60 years, Tawky hasn’t seen much action.
Until Final Crisis.
[Editor- More Final Crisis spoilers below the cut]
In the company of the ragtag band of superheroes that race to Bludhaven to confront the hordes of Apokalips, Tawky tries to capture the possessed (and slutty!) Mary Marvel with a “quantum blunderbuss confiscated from Dr. Sivana’s son.”
However, Darkseid’s son and general Kalibak, himself in the form of a humanoid tiger riding on a giant dog (effing surreal, even for Grant Morrison), attacks Mr. Tawny with his Beta Club in Final Crisis #5, leaving us to assumed the cultured, gentleman tiger is overmatched.
However, like most people who preach strength over smarts, Kalibak assumes that Tawky’s peaceful, intelligent demeanor masks weakness – a fatal mistake.
Tawky is still a tiger, and literally guts his less cunning foe, who after preaching that the strongest survive, dies begging for help. His minions, the Newborn Tiger Clan – again more humanoid tigers riding giant dogs – surround Tawky. Fixing his untidy bowtie and out of “Legendary Tiger Tea”, Mr. Tawny resigns himself to his fate with dignity. He is shocked to see the Tiger Clan bow to him as their new leader.
Besides the fact that this was one of my favorite moments in a comic book in months – maybe ever, like I said, I love cats and surreal crap – I thought this was a great message for Morrison to send. The idealism of Tawky Tawny is that anyone can overcome his or her nature and be something better, if he is given the love, support and opportunity to do so. Tawny, while not a fighter by choice, can use his feral nature to defend himself, but that is not the first option he considers. Only when pressed does he surprise his posturing, braggart bully of an opponent with a killing blow, revealing Kalibak to be a coward. It is a great repudiation of the sabre-rattling, shock an awe approach that has come to dominate geopolitics for some reason (George W. Bush) in the past eight years, and I wish it could have come from an American writer.
Addendum: Also, Mr. Tawky Tawny apparently once killed a guy with a stick, as illustrated here: