“Omaha” the Cat Dancer is an erotic comic strip and later comic book created by artist Reed Waller and writer Kate Worley. Set in fictional Mipple City, Minnesota (derived from “MPLS,” the old postal abbreviation for Minneapolis) in a universe populated by anthropomorphic funny animal characters, the strip is a soap opera focusing on Omaha, a feline exotic dancer, and her lover, Chuck, the son of a business tycoon.
The strip debuted in the funny animal magazine Vootie, and a number of underground comix in the late 1970s and early 1980s. “Omaha” the Cat Dancer became the subject of the eponymous comic book series published from 1984 to 1993 by Kitchen Sink Press; it was relaunched by Fantagraphics Books through 1995. The final chapters of the strip’s storyline were published in Sizzle magazine, beginning in 2006.
“Omaha” the Cat Dancer was the first of several comic books published in the early 1980s which integrated explicit sex into their storylines, rather than utilizing sex for shock value. The comic was the subject of a number of obscenity controversies, and was nominated for multiple Eisner Awards in 1989 and 1991.
In 1976, Reed Waller founded Vootie, a fanzine intended to promote funny animal comics. He began developing the concept for “Omaha” the Cat Dancer after one of the magazine’s contributors said that there was not enough sex in the genre. Inspired by Robert Crumb‘s Fritz the Cat, Waller began looking for a theme for his new comic. He visited local strip clubs in St. Paul with his sketchbook, and read newspaper articles about attempts to shut the bars down. Another contributor to the magazine, Jim Schumeister, proposed a comic called Charlie’s Bimbos, in which “a bevy of strippers champion liberty in the face of Puritan oppression”. This proposal sparked the idea for Omaha.
The character debuted in The Adventures of Omaha, which was published in Vootie in 1978. The first chapter of “Omaha” the Cat Dancer was published by Kitchen Sink Press in Bizarre Sex #9 in 1981. A five-page untitled story appeared in Bizarre Sex #10 in 1982, as a followup to the first chapter. In 1983, a one-page parody strip starring Omaha, titled “Hotsizz Twonkies”, was published in E-Man #5 by First Comics. Another five page untitled story, identified as “Shelly and Omaha” in The Collected Omaha Volume 1, appeared in Dope Comix #5; it was reprinted in Bizarre Sex Series #5. In 1991, the Omaha story “A Strip in Time” appeared in Munden’s Bar Annual #2, published by First Comics.
In 1984, SteelDragon Press published the first issue of “Omaha” the Cat Dancer, which featured the second chapter of the story. Waller then was unable to continue with the story. The third chapter was completed with help from Kate Worley, who continued to write the series thereafter.
The Omaha series began more regular publication in 1986 through by Kitchen Sink Press, which published 21 issues through June 1994. However, in August 1988, Worley was injured in a car accident; the series’ frequency slowed as a result of her recovery process. In November 1991, Waller was diagnosed with colon cancer; two issues of Images of “Omaha” were published in 1992 to pay for Waller’s medical expenses, featuring art and writing by several major comic creators.
In 1995, Waller and Worley ceased production of the series. In 2002, Waller and Worley agreed to complete the story; Worley was diagnosed with lung cancer, and began chemotherapy and radiation treatments in that year. On June 6, 2004, Worley died before completing the story; her husband, James Vance began to edit and complete the final chapters.
The series lasted 19 issues before being cancelled in 1993.Fantagraphics Books later relaunched the series, but it only lasted four issues.
From 1987 until 1998, Kitchen Sink, and later Fantagraphics, published six volumes of the Omaha strips under the title The Collected “Omaha” the Cat Dancer. From 2005 to 2013, NBM Publishing imprint Amerotica published eight volumes of strips under the title The Complete Omaha the Cat Dancer.
Fictional background and characters
“Omaha” the Cat Dancer takes place in the fictional Mipple City, Minnesota. The comic’s universe is populated by anthropomorphic funny animal characters. The story began as a satire of local blue laws, before evolving into a comic book soap opera.
- Susan “Susie” Jensen (though very few of the other characters know her real name) aka Omaha, an anthropomorphic feline stripper. She has a pet ferret named Squeak. She was previously married years before meeting Charles Jr., but a divorce was later amicably arranged with her separated husband.
- Charles “Chuck” Tabey, Jr. aka Chuck Katt, who turns out to be the heir to Charles Tabey, Sr. and lover to Omaha.
- Charles Tabey, Sr., a powerful, yet mentally ill business tycoon.
- Shelly Hine, a bisexual exotic dancer and Omaha’s best friend. She was caught in the line of fire and gunned down by a man named “Andre DeRoc” and is now in a wheelchair. Shelly was Charles Tabey, Sr.’s lover and confidante. In the very early comics that appeared in Vootie magazine, she and Omaha were lovers.
- Joanne Follett, a prostitute.
- Kurt Huddle, Shelly’s nurse and later lover. Huddle was the personal assistant and valet to Tabey, Sr.
- Rob Shaw, a gay photographer.
- Maria Elandos Tabey, Chuck Tabey’s mother, whom he has not seen for years. She was blackmailed into leaving by Calvin Bonner over her gay brother. She also bears a very striking resemblance to Omaha.
- Senator Calvin Bonner, a state senator and business tycoon. A vocal public morality crusader and a complete hypocrite since he is one of Joanne’s regular, and more abusive, customers. Was murdered by an unknown assassin during a session set up by Joanne to compromise him by having Rob Shaw take incriminating photos of him.
- George, owner of the “Kitty Korner Klub”, Omaha and Shelly worked at.
- Ceecee and Angie two strippers who work at Mr. Pip’s Nite Club.
Susan “Susie” Jensen is an aspiring model from the Midwest and new in the town of Mipple City, Minnesota. The story starts out as Susie uses her modeling to begin working at the strip club “Kitty Korner Klub” with her newfound friend Shelly Hine, where she now goes by the stage name of “Omaha”. Omaha starts to become well known after she is featured for the first time in Pet Magazine, an adult entertainment magazine as the centerfold “Kitten of the Month”.
After working as a locally popular dancer, she and Shelly meet Chuck Katt, an artist who begins to fall in love with Omaha and whom she considers “normal”. After a new blue law is passed, “all strip clubs are to be closed down”, Omaha and Shelly are put out of work. Shelly soon finds a hidden sub-basement at a restaurant that is owned by a man named Charles Tabey, a powerful, yet mentally ill business tycoon, whom Shelly is his lover in secret. With Omaha out of work, Chuck Katt starts working for his former boss, Andre DeRoc, a media mogul in the town and the arch-rival of Charles Tabey. He is also re-acquainted his old girlfriend, JoAnne Follett who is the personal secretary of Andre DeRoc. Charles Tabey, the wealthy and influential businessman, falls in love with Omaha as a dancer, and arranges for her to dance at the grand opening of a new secret strip club. Charles, who has control over the local police, is able to open the club which is meant exclusively for the most powerful of the city. However, DeRoc sabotages the opening night by placing a chemical in the liquor turning the crowd into a sexually violent mob aimed at Omaha. All three rush to escape through the back door. Upon exiting, a hitman hired to kill Charles Tabey mistakes Chuck Katt for him and accidentally shoots Shelly Hine. She then tells the two to find JoAnne Follett.
The couple soon go to find JoAnne and are almost killed on the way there by the man aiming for Charles. Instead they walk in on JoAnne in bed with Charles Tabey. Chuck then reluctantly reveals to Omaha that his real name is Charles Tabey, Jr. and that he is Charles’ son. After everything that has happened, the two return to their car and drive off to San Francisco. On the way to the city, their car breaks down. The two are then picked up by a man and woman, who claim to run a modeling agency in San Francisco and promise work for Omaha. She and Chuck, feeling relieved, settle in a penthouse apartment belonging to the seemingly kind pair.
While Chuck is out running errands, the real owner returns. It is revealed to be JoAnne Follett. She explains that she has quit working for Andre DeRoc and now works for Charles Tabey. She brings them money from Charles so Chuck and Omaha can hide out for as long as they need to. After Chuck comes back, the three go out shopping and drinking later that night. Afterwards, at the apartment, JoAnne and Omaha begin to sexually experiment with each other while Chuck is passed out drunk. Upon Chuck’s waking, the experimentation turns into an all out threesome between the pair and JoAnne. After Omaha and Chuck fall asleep leaving JoAnne alone, she is surprised by the man who claimed to run a modeling agency, but is in fact working for DeRoc. He nearly throws JoAnne off the balcony, but Omaha wakes up in time and knocks him out with a liquor bottle. He escapes, the two then go to bed together leaving Chuck to sleep on the living room floor.
After the threesome with Chuck and Joanne, Omaha has a nightmare about Shelley. Waking up and finding Joanne in bed with her, the shock and brandy from the night before makes her ill. So she decides to write a note and takes a walk. Chuck wakes to a closing door, looking for Omaha. But finding Joanne instead, the two make coffee and fetch aspirin. After wandering into Chinatown Omaha is enticed into a restaurant for lunch. While she is studying the menu a young Chinese man makes a call to Mipple City. Omaha finds a large chauffeur who forces her outside to a car belonging to Charles Tabey Sr, who takes her to a private estate near San Pedro, whare she meets Pamela, Charles Tabey Sr’s personal assistant. Back in San Francisco Chuck and Joanne hear a messenger, with a note saying that Charlie has taken Omaha for her own protection, Chuck is now angry at his father’s meddling, but Joanne agrees with Charlie’s good intentions. Chuck refuses to believe in his father’s good intentions, Joanne loses patience with him, Chuck apologizes to her and the two wind up in bed. At the private estate of Charles Tabey Sr all three have dinner. Later Pamela shows Omaha a special workout studio, so she can stay in shape for the re-opening of the Underground. Horrified she runs back to her room and cries herself to sleep. Later she is awakened by a storm, she undresses for bed fantasizing about Chuck and masturbating. She hears a noise and finds Charles in the room. Terrified, she refuses to listen as he grabs her and drags her showing her the real reason for the abduction “Shelley is alive”.
Kurt Huddle tells Jerry (an old friend of Shelley) that she is now in a wheelchair and how he came to work for Charles Tabey, Sr. Back in San Francisco JoAnne and Chuck go shopping and meet Rob Shaw, a gay photographer for pictures for his portfolio. Later she runs an ad in the classifieds. Back at Charles Tabey Sr’s private estate Omaha meets Jerry for a second time and all five sit down for lunchtime.
“Omaha” the Cat Dancer was the first of several comic books in the early 1980s which integrated sex into their storylines, rather than utilizing sexual explicitness for shock value. In 1988, Friendly Frank’s, a comic book store in suburban Chicago, was fined $750 for selling “obscene” material, including “Omaha” the Cat Dancer; as a result of the obscenity controversy, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund was formed. In 1990, issues of “Omaha” the Cat Dancer were seized by New Zealand authorities; the country’s Obscene Publications
In 1992, Kitchen Sink published two volumes of Images of “Omaha” as a benefit to pay for the treatment of Waller’s bowel cancer. The volumes featured contributions by major comic book artists, such as Dave Sim, Alan Moore and Frank Miller.Trina Robbins, James Vance and Neil Gaiman have provided introductions to collected editions of the series.“Omaha” the Cat Dancer was nominated for Eisner Awards for Best Continuing Series, Best Black-and-White Series, and Best Writer/Artist in 1989; and Best Black and White Series and Best Writer in 1991.