AHOY Comics Deep-Dive: Captain Ginger by Katie Liggera

2020 has been an absolute maelstrom of disasters, but two bright spots illuminated the latter half of this dreary year for me: I started reading more and I discovered AHOY Comics. As an English/Creative Writing major, reading all the time for classes stole away my energy and time to read for pleasure. After four years in and out of colleges and jobs, I delved back into my passion for reading both novels and comics. During my comic-reading/researching/endlessly making a TBR list extravaganza, I found out about the satirical genius writer, Mark Russell (more about him in the future!). Then, on a Mark Russell-induced researching frenzy, I found AHOY Comics. But my favorite AHOY Comic (also known as my favorite comic of all-time) was the first AHOY Comic that introduced me to this wonderful publisher: Stuart Moore and June Brigman’s feline-space adventure-science fiction conglomerate, Captain Ginger.

After I read Captain Ginger #1, I saw that there was bonus material in the back of the issue. Unusual, perhaps, but an absolutely wonderful addition to the individual issues. I looked up AHOY Comics online and found an entire universe of comics from the publisher. If any of them were as humorous as Captain Ginger, I had to read at least another AHOY title, right? 

Reading every new issue and trade published by AHOY has entirely consumed these too-short days in quarantine where the sun goes down by 5:00 p.m. I’m serious when I say that I’ve been waking up every morning, loading up my comiXology/Kindle Unlimited app with issues, and reading a new AHOY comic every single day. I’m on Twitter sending continual Tweets and updates to the AHOY team far too often, but I have no regrets about the countless hours I waste constructing a perfectly crafted Twitter review. Everyone needs to read their comics! 

AHOY Comics promote their brand with a simple slogan: “Expect More.” I quickly realized that AHOY markets themselves as a unique comic format called “Comic Magazines.” After the conclusion of each issue, the endlessly comedic editor of AHOY, Tom Peyer, provides a “Letter From the Editor” to both inform and delight. Readers can write letters to Mr. Peyer with hopes of seeing their letters (and a response!) in the back of the comic. I’ve written a total of two e-mail letters to Tom, and I will continue to do so until I see my ridiculous, fan-girling text on that editor’s page.

Additionally, each issue also contains several pieces of prose/short stories with corresponding artwork. Some of these stories are submitted by fans, which means that you (or me!) could find their own work published in an amazing AHOY comic! What comic company gives you so many opportunities to see your name in print? These stories consistently pack a punch with surprising humor and baffling twists. You’re seriously getting your money’s worth if you buy an issue from AHOY: a riveting plot, remarkable art, and a generous amount of bonus material.

I’ve explained the basis of how AHOY Comics distinguish themselves from other publishers — and why you need to at least check out their website. If the premise alone doesn’t entice you, the goal of this column (written by the biggest AHOY superfan) is to lure you into a similar chaotic love for at least one of AHOY’s comic lineups. They deserve all the praise and readership for their broad variety of hysterical comics. Without further ado, I will first rave about my personal (and completely biased) ideal AHOY Comic, Captain Ginger

As I’ve mentioned several times already, Captain Ginger brought me to AHOY Comics and provided a story I never stop thinking about. Originally, AHOY launched four different limited series titles in 2018. Captain Ginger was the third title released, and I wish I had discovered this bountiful cat comic years ago. The cover of the first volume consists of an orange cat in a space uniform holding a very small cat, an Egyptian Sphynx cat in a lab coat, a rotund black cat weilding a gun, and many, many frantic kittens running amok on a spaceship. All anyone ever had to do was shove the cover of Captain Ginger: Survival Instinct (2019) into my face and shout, “Read this! There’s cats in it!” Did I mention this comic is about cats?

If you have a cat, this cover quintessentially encapsulates the love/annoyed relationship of owning those furry felines. I saw this cover and read the first issue without hesitation. June Brigman’s incredible art captures both action and emotion, bursting loudly off the page here. I can audibly hear this cover. 

A quick glance at the Volume One cover for Captain Ginger informs you that this comic is about anthropomorphic cats in space. Oh, and they definitely know how to use a gun. Page 1 of Issue #1 transfers the tumultuous energy on the cover in an absurdly adorable fashion. If a yelling ginger cat donning a fancy space uniform yelling at his second-in-command eye-patch-wearing Sergeant while obviously-sweet-faced kittens swat at their feet doesn’t urge you to read Captain Ginger, then you must genuinely hate cats. 

Beyond the utter cuteness of June Brigman’s character designs, Stuart Moore absolutely showcases his writing talent through the entirety of Captain Ginger’s ongoing run. Moore and Brigman have crafted a tale about evolved cats manning a spaceship in order to both survive and avoid a murderous alien threat called the Lumen. All of Ginger’s immediate crew can talk, are bipedal, and possess completely humanistic characteristics. Meanwhile, the kittens have not yet evolved, and the feral cats onboard don’t appear to exhibit the advanced behaviors of their anthropomorphic companions. Also, humans have gone extinct in this cat-centric society! The cats also refer to the humans as “Feeders” — a hilariously ironic nickname.The exact reasoning for mankinds’ demise is left purposely murky, as of the end of Volume Two. Implications of a rogue virus are involved in the death of the Feeders. With our current situation, I’m not surprised if a virus is the formal explanation here. 

Although the plot might come across as generally confusing at first, Moore paces the comic well, like the expert storyteller he is. I love that Ginger is telling this past-tense story in present-tense dialogue boxes throughout, so we know that Ginger must survive in the end. Moore also avoids excessive information dumps on each page. Ginger’s narration supplies seamless shifting between the past and present while also divulging pertinent, backstory-hinting details. Balancing what crucial plot points to keep hidden and then slowly reveal can be tricky in terms of comic-writing. Personally, I see Stuart Moore chiefly excel at this balance in Captain Ginger by the end of the second issue. If the first few issues leave you baffled, keep reading. The revelations and plot twists will be well worth your time. 

For me, Moore and Brigman’s characters surface as the main draw to Captain Ginger. The story itself is great, and the comic really hits its stride in the action-packed, heart-wrenching second volume. But I would enjoy any plot that includes these cat characters. 

Let’s talk about Ramscoop, because the ship wouldn’t run without her. She’s in fierce competition as my number one favorite character in Captain Ginger. The first time we meet Ramscoop, she is following orders without missing a beat while simultaneously pregnant and managing her dozens of other kittens. Nothing disrupts this unstoppable mother. And Brigman’s gorgeously detailed art captures the endless motion and stalwart focus Ramscoop must endure. I give huge props to Moore and Brigman to this positive portrayal of a working mother that can perform any task thrown her way. Furthermore, take a moment to bask in the breathtaking colors and flawless line work in this page of Captain Ginger #1. Cat-tastic. 

Captain Ginger includes a plethora of powerful cat-women that exhibit both cat-like and humanistic idiosyncrasies. Another prominent female character is none other than Captain Ginger’s mother herself. She’s an older cat, displaying all of the irritated and lazy behaviors old cats tend to manifest. Ginger’s mom won’t talk about her estranged husband (a plot detail still left to be revealed!) and her cantankerous attitude puts her strong-willed son in his place. The dynamic between Captain Ginger and his mom directly reflects realistic adult relationships between adult children and their parents. Just because Ginger is a starship captain doesn’t mean he’s in charge of his mama, and she lets him know that! 

Ginger’s mom is given a much bigger role in Captain Ginger: Dogworld. Brigman wonderfully captures the personality of this cranky cat in both facial expressions and her grandma-esque flowered dress. Her age doesn’t stop her from stepping up as a team leader to all the young’uns when she gets separated from her son. If there’s comic relief to be had, especially in the emotional trenches of Dogworld, count on any panel with Ginger’s mom to relieve the tension. I love Mama Ginger and her feistiness. Although she would probably scare me in real life, it’s a blast to watch our fearsome leader, Captain Ginger, have an outburst after she metaphorically ruffles his fur. Go Mama Ginger.   

If you caught that eye-patch black cat on the Volume One cover and he scares you, you have nothing to fear. Sergeant Mittens is — by far — the funniest cat Captain Ginger offers. Most comics don’t make me audibly laugh out loud, but gruff and tough Mittens pouting about litter-box duty brought tears to my eyes in Issue #2. Look at that face! Could Brigman have drawn a humiliated Mittens any better? I think not. 

Mittens also functions as a foil to Captain Ginger. At the end of the Captain Ginger: Survival Instinct trade paperback, readers are given the origin story of the kitten-hood friendship formed by Ginger and Mittens. Though the two both struggled in childhood, their shared trauma bonded the felines for life. This is an origin story that will make you weep with affection for the troubled kittens. I love this extra origin tale, simply because it emphasizes the power of charity and gratitude in life. Simple acts of kindness can alter fate in the most beautiful of ways. Brigman draws cats as if they were an extension of her own heart. The love Brigman and Moore have for their subject is undeniable.

Mittens and Ginger experience a hilariously volatile but inwardly unwavering relationship in both volumes of Captain Ginger. Their banter and literal cat-fights (complete with hissing and scratching) elevates the humor in this comic to a higher degree. While I find most of Brigman’s visual puns and Moore’s general wit hilarious, the pages with Mittens and Ginger exemplify why Captain Ginger works so well. Despite their anthropomorphism, the two friends are still cats. They act like littermates, fighting and trying to emotionally dominate one another, even though they were not born together. Mittens tries his best to impress Ginger, even if he won’t admit it. When Mittens becomes stranded on a planet with dogs, his emotional barriers drop. 

Moore’s characterization for Mittens almost supersedes Ginger’s, which is impressive (since Ginger is the protagonist, after all!). Brigman often accentuates Mittens’ hostile features, yet always succeeds in reflecting his effusive nature. Mittens is always a captivating cat to look at in this comic!

Lastly, I obviously have to talk about why this AHOY Comic truly hits home for me. Captain Ginger is an orange, talking cat, and I could read about his adventures for hundreds of issues. Cats are the animal I prefer over any other animal, but orange cats have a specific essence about them that solidifies my specific adoration for Captain Ginger. Why wouldn’t I want to read a comic about a supremely cute orange cat? 

Orange cats are designated by their fur color, but also by their affectionate behavior. Moore addresses both of these areas in Captain Ginger, and Brigman and the colorists use Ginger  to capture the readers’ eye. Captain Ginger directly inquires about his coloring to his mother in Survival Instinct. He asks his mother why he is the only ginger cat, and I am still bugging Stuart Moore on Twitter about the answer to this painfully unresolved question. Ginger is also not a forceful or aggressive captain. Instead, Ginger wears his heart on his sleeve and gives his crewmates accolades and praise whenever necessary. Ginger embodies the loving spirit of orange cats, and I want to own an orange boy even more after reading this comic. 

Very quickly, I need to point out how unbelievably adorable those kittens are in their tiny orange space suits! I squeal in delight way too much whenever I read Captain Ginger.

In Dogworld, Captain Ginger stuns his crew by making a vital error. Ginger, though his imperfections clearly catapult him into disasters, practices resilience. He leads his crew and listens to their suggestions without treating the other cats like useless subordinates. Moore and Brigman don’t let readers forget that Ginger must rely on his cat instincts, regardless of his physical and mental evolution. Therefore, Ginger is a relatable character you’ll feel empathetic toward–humans and cats alike. 

If I haven’t pleaded my case for Captain Ginger well enough for the cat-haters out there, know that the second volume has dogs in it! Volume Two is guaranteed to break your heart. The emotional complexity in Dogworld was unprecedented for me, and I was unprepared to cry while reading a comic about talking cats. Rob Steen’s lettering never distracts from the lavish art or immensely heavy dialogue in AHOY Comics. His masterful work proves itself in Captain Ginger

Captain Ginger will always remain close to my heart. This comic was tailored to cat-crazy people like me, and I ate up every glorious detail. From the emotional depth, to the action-packed urgency, from the lush color palette, to the multitude of kittens exploding from the pages, Captain Ginger reinforces itself as an un-fur-gettable AHOY Comic.

If Captain Ginger doesn’t resonate with you, I’ve got plenty more AHOY Comics to ramble on about in the future. I’m a fan of every title AHOY puts out, so expect more recommendations from me. Anchors away!

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