Joann Sfar with the inspiration for his book.
When Joann Sfar was growing up in France, his grandfather would buy him American comic books — The Fantastic Four and Spiderman would fill travel with him to school. Sfar's new graphic novel, The Rabbi's Cat is a comic book of a different sort.
No superheroes here, no modern-day eccentrics and no symbolic mice. Instead Sfar's work features an Algerian rabbi, his cat and a variety of adventures in theology.
The Rabbi's Cat, set in Algiers during the early part of the 20th century, is based on family stories. But Sfar had no photos to work from because his family was forced to flee the country. "I imagined the visual," he says.
"This cat lives in a very traditional family and he [wishes] he could talk to the daughter of the rabbi and tell him about many forbidden things, such as love," Sfar says. So the cat (which was inspired by Sfar's own Siamese) eats the family's talkative parrot and starts to speak.
When the rabbi begins to worry that he can no longer trust the cat with his daughter, Sfar says, the animal "does his best to prove he's still a good cat" by becoming a Jew.
From 'The Rabbi's Cat,' Copyright © 2005 by Joann Sfar (Pantheon Books)
After eating the family's talkative parrot, the Rabbi's cat gains the ability to speak.