Billy the Cat
is a Franco-Belgian comic book series by the Belgian Stéphane Colman and Stephen Desberg. Also an animated cartoon version has been produced for broadcast and is ran through American Broadcasting Company, amongst others. Both comic and cartoon deal with the everyday and secret lives of urban animals, and while the characters are largely the same in both versions, the stories and situations are very different.
The Comic follows the story of Billy, a normal schoolboy who often pranks and bullies animals. However, early in the first comic album, he is killed when he carelessly runs out in the street and is hit by a car.
Told that his chances of getting into Heaven are slim due to his misdeeds, he is given a second chance by being returned to earth as a young cat. The comic follows Billy's attempts to adapt to living as a cat and chronicle his misadventures while he interacts with other animals. The comic is notably darker and more dramatic
than the serialized television show.
Otherwise the television show, created in 1994, follows a similar premise with some major deviations. In the show the transformation is the revenge of an angry magician
whose cat Billy had bullied, while the magician's cat assumes Billy's form and lives with his family. The cartoon is more episodic and lighthearted than the comic, though it is not completely unexpected.
Not to be confused with the UK comic strip of the same name, which ran in The Beano
and was about a teenage superhero, or with Bill the Cat
- Accessory Wearing Cartoon Animal: A number of cats wear bows or bowties — most notably Mr. Hubert, who despite being an alleycat is never seen without his green bowtie.
- Animal Talk
- Banana In The Tailpipe
- Big Brother Mentor: Mr. Hubert to Billy.
- Bratty Half-Pint: Billy as a human, with an equal measure of The Bully.
- Carnivore Confusion: Given that all animals are sapient and can talk, it potentially causes a few issues. It comes up a lot more in the comic, where most of the cats (even otherwise sympathetic ones) have no qualms trying to eat talking mice or birds. In the cartoon, the cats eat mostly garbage or food fed to them by a kindly old lady, and not their pigeon friend.
- Cats Are Mean: Averted. Cats have different temperaments and personalities, just like humans — in the cartoon, most of them are even implausibly friendly with other animals that real life cats consider food, or at least prey. A lot of Hubert's friends are Jerkasses to Billy to begin with, but come around eventually. The only cat who can really be considered mean is Sanctifer, who in the comic is Killed Off for Real while in the cartoon has been toned down and goes through quite a bit of Diminishing Villain Threat.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Several characters, though none more prominent than Jumbo the pigeon, who thinks he's an airplane — or at least that he might become one if he acts enough like one.
- Fish out of Water: Billy has no idea how to survive as a cat.
- Gratuitous English: The original French title is "Billy the Cat" (an obvious pun on "Billy the Kid").
- Jerkass —> Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Billy
- Karmic Transformation
- Kick the Dog: As a human Billy would literally do this. Cats and other animals were not exempt from being kicked either.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Mr. Hubert.
- You Fight Like A Cow: Mr. Hubert, when chased by or fighting bigger, fiercer animals has a knack for make jokes and quips to rile them up even further as he jumps out of their reach.
- A God Am I: Sanctifer slips into this — or rather, drops any pretense that he isn't like this — towards the end of the first comic after having beaten Mr. Hubert thoroughly and is about to leave him to die:
"You see, the difference between us is that you're going to die, and I'm going to live! But that's not all: No one will mourn your passing! There are thousands of cats like you, so alike that they can't even tell one another apart. I am Sanctifer, the chosen one of the divine cats, the prime example of the ressurection of our immortal powers! I'm the prophet of the rebirth of our kind! I'm the purifier!
- Animal Testing: In the Skin of a Cat has a dark, creepy underground lab in an old factory where animals are kept in cages and experimented upon. It's never made clear just what the experiments are for (nor do we see the actual experiments — just the imprisoned animals, some of whom have been driven insane by the experiments), but it seems to be a shady and most likely illegal business.
- Art Evolution: The first three comics are drawn in a noticeably different style than the latter ones; it's most noticable with Hubert.
- Bad Samaritan: Sanctifer in the first comic. He takes Billy in under his wing, but proves to be a Manipulative Bastard with megalomaniac tendencies.
- Cassandra Truth: None of the other animals believe that Billy was ever human.
- Loud of War: Hell in the pilot comic (even before "in the skin of a cat"). Eternal dance music that's really eternal. A party that never stops! Sounds great, huh? Not really according to Billy...
- Darker and Edgier: The comic to the cartoon. There's some genuinely dark stuff here.
- Fan Translation: Of the first comic at least. Translated into English into "In the skin of a Cat".
- Mood Whiplash: Most notably in the pilot comic strip, though happens in the later comics as well.
- Raise Him Right This Time: In a subversion, the wrongdoer in question is given a new life as a cat instead of a human.
- Reincarnation: Oddly, it was bestowed upon Billy by an angel. His second chance is given to atone for all the animal cruelty he perpetrated in his former life.
- Retcon / Continuity Reboot: The very first standalone story of Billy had him also getting crushed under a car, but he actually got into Heaven. Noticing that Heaven wasn't that great, he descended to Hell, where an eternal party with loud music was going on. Then, after noticing eternal was really eternal and the music would never stop, he asks a guru to reincarnate him, and as a fluke he's returned as a cat to Earth. This whole plot was scrapped when they started writing "dans la peau d'un chat" ("in the skin of a cat").
- Small Name, Big Ego: Hubert has traces of this, mixed with a hint of Know-Nothing Know-It-All. While he is genuinely skilled and competent, he is nowhere near the cultured and intelligent globetrotter he thinks he is.
- Transformation Comic
- Baleful Polymorph
- Executive Meddling: The change in the premise.
- Expository Theme Tune
- Fake Brit: Mr. Hubert.
- Freaky Friday Flip
- How Do I Shot Web?: At first Billy has difficulties with his new cat body and doesn't know how to use his retractable claws or even meow.
- Humanity Ensues: The magician's cat is transformed into a human to pretend to be Billy while he is being a cat.
- Left Hanging: The viewer never finds out what happens to Billy in the end. Does he stay a cat forever? Does he get turned back into a human?
- Lighter and Softer: And how. All the darkness and horror of the comics has been exchanged with cartoony slapstick.
- Magicians Are Wizards
- Race Lift: The second friend of Billy with whom he used to taunt cats with is white in the cartoon. In the comic, he's black, and in original French can't even pronounce the "R" letter.
- Ret Gone: The wizard's cat that was transformed into Billy's doppelganger is shown in the opening episode and never seen or mentioned again. It wasn't even present in the episode when Billy visits his former home, where the cat should logically be.
- Spared by the Adaptation: Billy, due to his cat transformation being the result of an angry wizard rather than of an untimely death and reincarnation.
- Status Quo Is God
- What Happened to the Mouse?: So egregious that it borders into Plot Hole territory. In one episode Billy revisits his human home and the magician's cat that took his place is no longer there. And what happened to the magician?