Cathy is a comic strip by Cathy Guisewite that first appeared in newspapers in 1976. It focuses on the trials and tribulations of Cathy, a single, thirty-something woman struggling with the issues of the aging Cosmo girl- shopping, dealing with family, relationships, dieting and career. More than 20 collections have been made, and it appears in about 1,400 newspapers daily.
Cathy was Bridget Jones' Dairy before Helen Fielding had ever drafted her first manuscript. Through Cathy's friends and frustrations, Cathy shows a pretty wide range of issues, from balancing career and family to dealing with being the only one still single before cycling back to the same old swimsuit jokes.
There couldn't be a discussion of Cathy without mentioning people's criticism of the strip. The first complaint one often hears is about the art work. It is in a simple, cartoony style- quite different from the comic book style of ultra rendered art you often see. Why this is a problem with Cathy and not with comic strips such as Peanuts remains unanswered. Another common complaint is that it is not a strong portrayal of women.
One could say this because Cathy is not a tower of strength- facing down her mother with a glare, sniping the heads off of suitors with a single blow of her mighty tongue, and never worrying about how she looks in a swimsuit! Of course, there'd be no strip if it was like that, because no one could really relate. Our tough personas gleam on the outside, but inside everyone has the same worries. John Wayne may impress a bar wench with his good looks and style, but inside he is thinking "I hope she didn't think what I said was stupid".
We end up seeing Cathy's real self, which is probably why it is still in the newspaper. Identification is the key when you want people to love your character. The final criticism is that it is too repetitive. This is because comic strips have to be out pretty much 365 days a year. If I had to write a four panel strip for 20 years and have a strip for every day almost, I'd run out of material, too.
While Cathy is mostly a gag a day strip, the characters also grow over time. Andrea, Cathy's friend, starts out as a young feminist and over the years develops a husband and two kids that get slightly older as time passes. However, Cathy always stays the same. It may be a reflection of the limbo she is in, between being young and being old. Or maybe it's just too much of a change to draw Cathy changing when the main stray of comic strips is unchangingness.