Having just read Saga #34, which came out last week and still did not give me Lying Cat, I’m left to hope Brian K. Vaughn has her in one of the next two issues. A whole arc and hiatus without Lying Cat is too much suffering! Too much! To try to cope with my withdrawals, I’m going to give you some reasons why she’s incredible.
It’s more or less a fact that anyone who’s read Vaughn & Fiona Staples’ Saga loves Lying Cat. For the unindoctrinated, Lying Cat is a massive hairless cat who can tell whether someone is, well, lying. When someone is, she immediately announces that fact with the one word she says – you guessed it – “lying.” While she could easily be a one-note character or a slightly more cuddly Hodor, Vaughn and Staples ensure that she is not.
She is sidekick to The Will, a freelancer hunting protagonists Marko and Alana, and is quick to snarl, jump in a fight beside him or defend him. She also doesn’t hesitate to call him on his self-deluding pity parties, giving him side-eye and an exasperated “Lying” when he deserves it (and when he maybe doesn’t). At times, she is as perplexed as everyone else to find that a scumbag is telling the truth and sometimes disappointed that another is lying. You get the feeling she takes being lied to as an insult. Why even lie to a Lying Cat – which is a whole species, not just her name – in the first place?
While her size, teeth and claws make her a formidable killer, she’s also a protective cuddly friend for a 6-year-old girl whom she and The Will rescue from sex slavery. Her relationship with the girl they call Sophie is starkly different from the way she behaves with anyone else. If any reader wasn’t already fully smitten by Lying Cat, one scene in Saga #14 quickly took care of that. Ship damage has them grounded for a while and Lying Cat appears to be napping, the girl leaned against her. Sophie is sort of self-soothing by talking, telling her own story, including the bad bits. Then, such a simple “Lying” comes out.
Though she lifts her head ever-so-slightly, Lying Cat does not even bother opening her eyes for this gentle correction. She knows this little girl snuggled into her doesn’t fully believe what she’s saying, and knows not to make a big deal of her reply. It’s such a brief, beautiful thing that says so much about Lying Cat and what Vaughn and Staples can do with her.
Thus far, we have learned that she is loyal and fierce, evidenced many times over by her willingness to join (and often end) a fight. She is sometimes comic, like happily toting around the head she ripped off a troll, just another cat with a mouse. When she appears out of nowhere to kill that troll, who is threatening Sophie, she’s all badass, snarling “Lying” at him just before leaping. In #18, we learn that Lying Cats play by the rules, and get a bit of insight into our own Lying Cat when we see that she’s the runt of her litter and was treated harshly because of it. Perhaps that explains some of her tenderness toward Sophie.
Lying Cat is that rare thing in a narrative: a completely reliable and trustworthy character. She serves the reader as part-proxy, part-context provider. Even when she doesn’t know all the details of a situation, she still knows whether or not people are lying. She has to say “Lying” whether or not it’s helpful to her or The Will. This casts every scene she’s in differently, giving the reader something of an edge for interpreting those panels.
Having to tell the truth in every panel is something that could hamstring a writer less wily than Vaughn. He makes Lying Cat another layer of depth in the story. A clever way to dispense with distractions and make the reader focus on the important bits. In a work as complex and sprawling as Saga, it’s nice to have a few panels in which you know where to look and who to trust. It doesn’t hurt that it comes in the form of a cute kitty with a fantastic smirk.
I’m very curious to see where she ends up next, because we last saw her confused and sad, leaving with Sophie & Gwendolyn after The Will has screamed at them all to go away, in #30. And because Vaughn is a cruel tempter who enjoys our pain*, we haven’t seen Lying Cat since. The Will is off and running on his revenge mission, accompanied by a different huge animal partner. As the years have passed in Saga, Lying Cat has become Sophie’s companion and protector, so perhaps that’s who’ll she stay with. We’ll just have to wait and see exactly how Lying Cat and her particular talents will come into play as this arc wraps up and the next one begins.
*Without Lying Cat to tell me otherwise, I can only assume this is the reason. Sure, sure, one could argue it’s something about their plotlines not being as important this arc, but whatever. We all know.