Caturday Specials: Why You Should Read A Stray in the Woods

I’ve seen a lot of creative comics over the years and technology expands and allows artists and writers to do more interesting things. A Stray in the Woods was originally a webcomic posted on Tumblr by Alison Wilgus and ran as a collaboration between creator and audience. The fans had the ability to submit commands that would be incorporated into the next comic that was posted. This allowed the audience to have some measure of control in its creation. I found that it also led to a sense that you really did not know what would come next either since there was never just one person driving the story. If you’re looking for a fairly short and simple story to fill your cat-loving void, be sure to check this one out!

Despite the multiple people behind the comic driving it’s direction, A Stray in the Woods does in fact have a story behind the many distractions the fans throw at our furry main character. When the comic starts, you are a cat that has woken up in a house out in the woods. You don’t remember who you are, what your name is, or what happened, but there appears to be a huge hole in the roof and something mysterious going on. It’s up to you to figure out what’s going on and what caused that hole. 

I love the way Wilgus set up her comic and essentially gave the reins over to her audience. She obviously had some idea of where she wanted it to go but the interaction with the audience wound up creating a really interesting and surprising jaunt through the woods. As I said the comic was originally published on Tumblr (you can find it now on her website), and then was published in print format through a Kickstarter. I wound up finding this comic while I was at a comic convention some time ago and actually bought a signed copy at the time. I mostly bought it because it looked like an interesting and short read that additionally had a cute cat in it. At conventions like MICE where I found this, I’m always looking for indie or unknown comics to try. At the time I was also struck by the concept and the overall mysterious feel of the story. I’m glad now that I picked it up.

Wilgus’ art style is pretty simple, but I don’t think this comic really needs any more detail than she used. Online comics tend to not be that detailed in terms of their art because of the fact that these comics usually go up fairly quickly one after the other. What she did include was enough to highlight the dark and mysterious mood that our cat wakes up in. There’s enough details included in the backgrounds and setting to pique the interest of the readers and drive them to make decisions on what the character should do. Wilgus leads her audience through the story by leaving clues in her art that aren’t necessarily explicitly spelled out. Little trails of cat food on the floor, tiny paw prints, or photos on a shelf. These little clues wind up coming together in the end to spell out the full story, just so long as the audience doesn’t get distracted by a catnip toy.

I loved the mystery and the magic lurking in the background of this comic at the start. It’s what drew me deeper into the comic, and while I was never part of the community that helped create it at the start, I could imagine what the conversation must have been like in the comments and the speculation about where the story was going. Each page contained the command that the audience submitted leading to the next action, and I loved turning the page to see what would happen and where it would lead us. You quickly get invested in our little furry friend figuring out the mystery, and become equally worried when you begin to realize something much bigger is going on. I also found it really cute how the audience gets derailed by a catnip or when they really start playing into being a cat and actually acting like one. 

The magic and myth steeped in the story intrigued me as I got deeper. We know fairly quickly through the clues throughout the house that the cat was once a woman. Somehow she got turned into our furry friend and now the quest is on to figure out how and maybe even turn back into a human. The huge hole in the roof leads us to speculate that it was either a large storm or something huge that destroyed the house. The deeper we get, the more we begin to follow large footprints through the woods and see evidence of some kind of forest spirit searching for something. The clues Wilgus leaves leads the audience to find what it is searching for, leading to the ultimate choice at the end. I don’t want to spoil too much, but I love the incorporation of a forest or tree spirit into the story.

I think any cat lover would enjoy this one. It isn’t too long of an investment and the story is fairly interesting. I would definitely suggest checking it out if you find yourself interested. If you have heard of this one, let me know what you thought in the comments. If you participated in its creation, let me know what that was like!

~~Thanks for Reading!~~


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