I’ve said this before in my reviews, but it’s a good bet if you pay attention to new Marvel Comics trades being released, you might have an idea what’s to come in the movies. Case in point, a new complete collection of Tigra stories. This character isn’t popular right now, nor is she on the Avengers. It makes you wonder why a 424-page collection like this needs to exist right now. That is, unless she’s showing up in the new She-Hulk TV show? Or maybe the Moon Knight show? This is an interesting character with a varied past who has played the part as a monster, animal, and a deeply human Avenger. Do your research now as this collection is robust.
Tigra’s debut begins in The Cat #1, originally published in 1972. Donning a yellow costume complete with a cat mask, her original look was similar to Patsy Walker. The four-part series written by Linda Fite with pencils by Marie Severin serves as a Catwoman style story with lots of acrobatic fighting as she takes on the Owl and a pirate villain named Commander Kraken. A year later, The Cat would show up in Marvel Team-Up in a Gerry Conway written and Jim Mooney drawn Spider-Man story.
It wasn’t until 1974 that “The Cat” became “Tigra” in Giant-Size Creatures by Tony Isabella and Don Perlin. This is an interesting development as she was formed into a new kind of were-cat character after being poisoned by Hydra. A group of “Cat People” end up turning her into an actual cat person. The intention was to give her the ability to change back to human form with a ring, but it doesn’t take and she’s permanently a cat person from then on. It’s an interesting origin in that it required three different titles to get us to the version of Tigra she stuck with for decades after. It wasn’t until another year that Tigra showed up in Monsters Unleashed #10, which was Marvel’s primo black and white monster magazine. Her place amongst the Marvel characters as a cat person who was more wild animal and maybe even monster would continue from then on.
From there, Tigra fights Kraven the hunter alongside Native American heroes, and teams up with the Thing. It appears Marvel was very stuck on the idea of Tigra being part of a monster subculture which allowed her to go on unique adventures. Those stories in this collection are fun and a nice blast from the past with Spider-Man doing his due diligence and popping in to help sales. It’s solid ’70s and ’80s comics fare.
It’s not until 2002 when writer Christina Z and artist Mike Deodato introduced Tigra as a more well-rounded person. This four-part series is quite dark thanks to Deodato’s art, but also of a more adult nature with Tigra involved in a sexual relationship and dealing with real-world stakes. Her ability to change into human form is also utilized, which allows her to have an alter ego. It’s a great way to end the book as Christina Z makes her feel modern and real while Deodato delivers on moody and noir style art. You could easily see this character making sense and her value skyrockets thanks to this modern take.
Overall this is a wild ride thanks to the rollercoaster origins of Tigra. Along the way you can tell creators had trouble making this character work and likely made choices to mimic DC characters or simply to enter her into a monster realm because that made sense at the time. By the end of the collection, I suspect most readers will be on board for more Tigra as the collection is complemented with a fantastic last story arc.