Breakdown of a Cat Rackham: a brown, somewhat scruffy, green-shirt-toting, poo-hair having cat with severe anxiety and a surplus of existential crises. Lives in the woods by himself, sometimes getting visits from his friend Jeremy the squirrel, sometimes getting visits from his friend chronic depression, but generally dealing with the dangers of living and the onslaught of sudden despair.
I can’t help but love the little guy.
Cat Rackham is the brainchild of Steve Wolfhard, a Canadian character designer and comic artist who currently lives in LA and works as a storyboarder for Adventure Time. I don’t remember when I first discovered Steve’s work, but I do remember that it started with Cat Rackham. Disarmingly cute, Cat Rackham is a lens through which Steve explores his own anxiety issues, and by relating them in such a charming way made it seem much less threatening that I was dealing with similar anxieties. Cat Rackham doesn’t always come out on top, but he always keeps on going. He’s a character I look up to.
He is a gentle soul with lonerish tendencies, somewhat unkempt and attached to his ratty clothes, overly preoccupied with lofty matters that have nothing to do with his surroundings. With seemingly nothing to worry about he is constantly on edge. His adventures are unsought, generally falling on his head like a tonne of bricks. He is a quiet soul who wants to scrape out a living without being noticed, while at the same time feels as if he’s missing out on something important. Basically, he is like many of us. He is instantly recognizable to all his fans as that voice inside them that worries that they’re not doing enough, not pushing hard enough, that something is lacking, that fear that stifles them to inaction and doubt, all rolled in to an adorable little package. He is the mascot of those who suffer from chronic anxiety.
With Cat Rackham being a mute character, I am reminded that often anxiety is not given a voice. People often keep their insecurities bottled up inside, letting anxious thought build upon anxious thought until they feel like their mind has become a tangled mess which is impossible to navigate. For those people, Cat Rackham is instantly recognizable. All sufferers of chronic anxiety know what it’s like to experience the non-stop pounding of your heart (see Cat Rackham Can’t Sleep Because He Thinks He’s Having a Heart Attack), and the times when you just can’t muster up the drive to do or accomplish anything (see Cat Rackham Gets Depression). I admire Steve for his frank portrayal of these heavy themes in his work, as these events are when we’re at our lowest and are not always easy to reflect on. For him, perhaps, Cat Rackham works as an outlet through which he can relate these feelings to people who don’t suffer through them, or perhaps it is an attempt to rise above those feelings by giving meaning to them in the form of art. No matter the reason, having someone to relate your worries to, where anxiety sufferers often have trouble speaking up, is extremely important for a person’s well-being. Anxiety sufferers often don’t realize that they’re not alone, that those feelings are commonplace for so many people in the world, and Cat Rackham is powerful in that he reaches out to those people and reminds them of this simple fact, and it gives them strength.
Not to say Cat Rackham comics are all doom and gloom. Steve Wolfhard’s comics have a distinct sense of fun. During the course of Cat Rackham’s misadventures he often works to help others in need (see Comforts of Life) or interacts with his cute but very confused friend Jeremy the Squirrel (see Even Cat Rackham Needs Friends). We see that though Cat Rackham rarely goes out of his way to find companions, he is extremely likeable and attracts people to him (something people who have social anxiety have a lot of difficulty with). He doesn’t try to hurt anybody, and though life tends to send him through the ringer, he continues to keep on moving. He reminds us that life is often hard and unpredictable, and though we sometimes can’t help but worry, the only thing you can do is carry on, and often things will work out for the best if you let them. Particularly when you have a parasitic mushroom growing out of your head!
In my mind Cat Rackham is a folk hero to the depressed, a champion to the easily panicked. He reminds us that we’re not suffering alone, that there are likeminded others out there who are similarly affected, and most importantly that life has moments of beauty and clarity even when we’re feeling at our lowest (see Cat Rackham is Sometimes Too Sad to Sleep). Thanks Steve!
You can check out Steve Wolfhard’s collected works on his website.