Oddville and Jetcat
Melanie Ilk is an elementary schoolgirl who leads a double life as the superhero Jetcat-- Oddvilles' greatest champion, and the leader of a team of adult superheros called The Two-Fisted Five, (with Snakefist, Teen Idol, Suburbanaut, and the Neon Varmint). Her annoying neighbor and classmate Tod Johnson is the only one who knows her true identity, which makes for some interesting drama... Tod threatens to reveal Melanie's secret at every opportunity. Jetcat's enemies range from the diminutive black magician Bela Kiss to the monstrous menace Giant Radio- Controlled Robot, but her half-brother Avery Ilk might just be her worst nemesis. The city she has chosen to protect, Oddville, is chock full of the strangest characters imaginable. From Flying Babies to runaway Apples, Talking Bandages to Ghost Pumpkins, the only thing you can ever expect in Oddville is the unexpected.
Jay Stephens created the weekly Oddville comic strip in 1994 at the request of Art Director James Sturm for Seattle's alternative newsweekly, The Stranger. Though the serial revolved around a flying baby named Daisy and various townsfolk reactions and interactions, the character of 8 year old Melanie (who appears in the first episode) and her Jetcat alter-ego quickly stole the show. This was before the PowerPuff Girls, and the idea of a little girl superhero was a new one. Seattle loved the comic, and T-shirts and magnets featuring Oddville characters were popular in the city in the mid-90's. Though Oddville was picked up in a couple of other alternative papers, Jay was forced to wind down the strip in 1996 when a new Art Director at the Stranger removed the (too?) popular comic from rotation. A collection of this early run appeared that same year.
Clearly the breakout star, Jetcat easily made the transition to comic books in 1997 with Dark Horse Comics' four issue series The Land Of Nod (vol.2) in which she battled the Jetcat Haters Club and traveled into a distant future dimension. The series was nominated for the Harvey Kurtzman 'Special Award For Humor' in 1997 and 1998, and the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards in 1998 (for 'Best Limited Series'- The Land of Nod), and 1999 (for 'Best Humor Publication', and 'Best Graphic Album: Reprint'- The Land of Nod Rockabye Book).
Oddville was subsequently picked up for development as animation. Porchlight Entertainment managed to sell the show as a series of four Jetcat cartoon shorts for Nickelodeon's KABLAM! anthology program. Two shorts, entitled "SACRED IDENTITY" and "PROJECT -- EVIL!" aired on KABLAM! in November '98! Jay was nominated for a 1999 Annie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Production Design for his work on Sacred Identity. Two more shorts entitled "LUNCHTIME" and "I WAS A GRADE SCHOOL WEREMOTH" aired in 2000. The first was supposed to introduce the Two-Fisted Five, but they were cut from the episode at the last minute despite having the final vocal tracks.
In 2001, Jetcat returned to comic books in a three issue series called Jetcat Clubhouse, an anthology of short stories including comic book versions of the cartoon shorts. Her friends and costars included Tutenstein, a boy mummy with dreams of world domination, Oddette, the richest little junk-rock star in the world, and Ploppy, an incontinent space monkey. From Infinity Plus:
"On one level, Jetcat Clubhouse works as straightforward children's adventure, drawn in a style that evokes the economic versatility of Charles Schulz, the colourful exuberance of Hanna-Barbera cartoons, and the silliness of Harvey Comics like Richie Rich. In those very influences, which hark back to the 1960s, lies a nostalgic hook for adult readers. It's a wry nostalgia, though, with generous sprinklings of postmodern irony. In Jetcat Clubhouse, Stephens pokes fun of all the ridiculous clichˇs of classic Saturday morning children's programming while simultaneously indulging gleefully in those very conventions. He earnestly shows how much pleasure lurks within his source material. And that's how Stephens pulls off his delicate balancing act: despite all his sardonic jabs, he never makes fun of the reader, for Stephens, too, loves the material that he satirizes."
A collection of the Clubhouse material appeared in 2002, and a Scholastic Bookclub Edition followed later that year.
Fans returned to the city of Oddville and the adventures of Jetcat in March 2003 with the launch of Jay's new WELCOME TO... ODDVILLE! comic strip. A weekly, full-color, half-page serial for the Toronto Star's Brand New Planet section, Oddville is now seen by some 300,000 or so readers in the Toronto area four times a month. Reruns of the strip can be seen on the Jay Stephens' Funnies site.