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Comic Book / Gear

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My upper eyes see into heaven, my home.
Gear, sometimes written as GEAR, is the first graphic novel by Doug TenNapel, originally published by Image Comics and Fireman Press Ltd. in black and white, running six issues from 1998 to 1999. It was reprinted as a trade paperback in 1999, and then again in full color in 2007.

The plot revolves around an animal war between the South Plate Insects, the North Plate Cats (who have descended from the Newton Cats, yet, refuse association with them), the Dogtown Dogs and the Newton Cats. The four states do battle with ancient giant battle robots known as Guardians. Having only one Guardian so old it barely functions, Newton sends four less-than-competent misfit cat brothers known as Gordon, Simon, Waffle and Mr. Black to hijack a new one from their enemies.

Meanwhile, the Newton cat Elder and a dog named Dr. Pilk must protect the Forbidden Mechanism, a legendary holy artifact of incredible power, from the evil forces of North Plate cat Emperor Pago and dog mob boss Big Tomato. Oh, and it's really bloody, violent, full of swearing, death and religious allegories.

Was very, very, VERY loosely adapted into a much Lighter and Softer short-lived Nicktoon called Catscratch in 2005. The only remnant of the original comic was the three main cats, Gordon, Waffle and Mr. Black (whose name was changed to Mr. Blik) as the focus, although it was originally planned just to be a more Nickelodeon-audience-friendly adaptation of the comic. Though some people remember Catscratch, the source material is practically unknown outside TenNapel fans.

Provides Examples Of:

  • Animesque: While the art is about as far from the typical Japanese cartoon as you can get, the story itself is a spot-on pastiche of a late '90s Humongous Mecha anime. Giant battle robots? Check. Grim war story mixed with incongruous cute elements? Check. Weird religious references? Check and mate.
  • Anyone Can Die: Simon's death within the first 20 pages is just the tip of the iceberg...
  • Artifact of Doom: The Forbidden Mechanism, but only really in the hands of evil.
  • Art-Style Dissonance: The art can looks cartoon-ish and a bit three-dimensional (as Napel based the art off of actual clay models he made of the characters), but the bleak and worn-out colors plus certain things that come up like people spilling blood, people comically getting hurt but their injuries are completely serious and not just a quick gag (for example, in Chapter 2, a Newton Cat is walking their dog (don't ask) and is comically crushed by a piece of the deteriorating Guardian, to prove the point in the current conversation on how the Guardian's presence is the only thing protecting these civilians yet lack of adequate maintenance might as well kill anyone that goes near it), and that's just for starters.
  • Back from the Dead: Neat little subversion. Gear performs a miracle by temporarily pulling Chee's and Waffle's souls down from Heaven and back to their now-Guardian bodies to help fight Emperor Pago.
  • Being Evil Sucks: Bob will ultimately obey orders no matter what, but that doesn't stop him from feeling conflicted about them.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: A funny subversion; Waffle the cat and Chee the insect seem to converse in spite of their language barrier, and Waffle even has a change of heart immediately after one of Chee's comments. Then, as he turns to leave, Waffle adds, "By the way, I haven't understood a thing you've said."
  • Body Horror: See Unwilling Roboticisation below.
    • And then there's Gear, after he's shoved into the Guardian's heart by Pago....
  • Book Ends: The story of the main cats begins with Waffle saying that when he has enough money to retire he wants a nice house in the woods with a pond of guppies near it, and we see it through his Imagine Spot. The story ends with Mr. Black in the Distant Finale having retired to a nice house in the woods (or at least isolated from civilization) near a pond of guppies — exactly how Waffle imagined it to be — in memoriam of Waffle, Gordon, and Simon, with the guppies reminding him of the former's gentle spirit.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Mr. Black to the Elder, after discovering that the Elder was responsible for Waffle's transformation into a Guardian.
  • Darker and Edgier: Ridiculously compared to Catscratch. There's plenty of people who have trouble believing this was its source material.
  • Death Seeker: In the Distant Finale, Mr. Black is an old cat with only guppies to accompany him in his isolation from society. He notes that he hopes that they can keep him from being depressed until he can see the boys again.
  • Genre Roulette: Switches back-and-forth between the Film Noir-influenced flashbacks and the main plot's Humongous Mecha war-story.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The two in the final chapter are total tearjerkers, Gear uses Gordon's knife to stab himself in the heart, killing himself but destroying Pago's Super-Guardian and opening up the Pits of Hell. Pago nearly escapes, but Gordon pushes him down into the pits with him, screaming "You killed my pal... I'LL SEE YOU IN HELL!"
  • Interrupted Suicide: After burying Simon, with Gordon trying to comfort Waffle, Waffle runs off into the forest and takes out a revolver handgun, believing he has to kill himself so that others won't die because of him anymore. Chee accidentally bumps into him while taking a stroll in the park and making macho poses, causing the misfire to hit a bird instead (which he promptly eats).
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold / Good is Not Nice: Gordon. He's hard on Waffle, but he has the decency to admit it and apologize for it.
  • The Mole: A Newton cat soldier secretly working for the F.M. Cult, who tries to poison the Elder and steal the Forbidden Mechanism.
    • As well as Jimmy, a colleague of Dr. Pilk, who was really an informant for Big Tomato. However, he has a Heel–Face Turn, realizing nobody should have the Forbidden Mechanism, which results in him being killed by one of Big Tomato's goons in the opening scene.
  • Posthumous Character: Simon and Waffle later on, who remain important characters even after they technically die.
  • R-Rated Opening: Despite using a Gory Discretion Shot, the opening still made it clear that this wasn't a kid's comic.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Simon. He meets his end very early. We don't even know anything about his personality until after he's dead
  • Secondary Character Title: Gear doesn't show up until the second-to-last chapter, after all. The word "gear" isn't even mentioned until then either.
  • See You in Hell: Gordon says this to Pago, while literally pushing him off a cliff and into Hell's opening.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Waffle daydreaming about having a small house in the countryside and having guppies to take care of seems similar to Lennie and George's dream of having a farm together with rabbits in "Of Mice and Men". Except here, it's a Bittersweet Ending; Waffle's dream is achieved, but only through a lonely Mr. Black.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • The Catscratch Gordon can break rocks with his bare hands, and beat Krakens and even vicious ducklings in hand-to-hand combat - but somehow, it's all done for laughs. The Gear Gordon will sneak up behind you with a knife in his mouth, slit open your neck and steal your giant robot.
    • Waffle after he gets turned into a Guardian.
  • Unwilling Roboticisation: What happens to Waffle and Chee due to the effects of Geno-Metal, may be a subversion because they die, but their bodies stay behind and become Guardians.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Jimmy and Simon.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Big Tomato threatens to hurt Dr. Pilk's baby son by burning his with a cig unless he fesses up about the whereabouts of the Forbidden Mechanism. It works.