Posts Tagged fox

Review: Sandra and Woo

A few hours before writing this review, I was cleaning out a closet (the joys of moving and resettling) and got clocked in the forehead by an unexpected large decorative glass thing-a-ma-bob. It inspired a good deal of pain, dizziness, nausea, and nostalgia for all things that involve surprise attacks by somewhat softer things. Calvin and Hobbes, for instance.

So imagine my delight when I remembered the comic Sandra and Woo, written by Oliver Knörzer, drawn by Powree, and copy edited by Sarah Dunphy. This is one of the first officially multilingual comics I’ve reviewed, being also available in German. Seeing as my own skill with German only goes up to recognizing what an eszett is, however, I’ll have to limit myself to reviewing the English portion of the comic.

The combination of a German writer, an Indonesian artist, and an American editor leads to some interesting complications for the comic. Speech bubbles that would be fine for a sentence in German wind up being rather loose around a laconic English equivalent. And sometimes the translation doesn’t account for styles of speech, leading to the oddly charming “be damned!” moment or two. And the art is unabashedly Asian in style. That last part isn’t really a complaint, other than the big sparkly eyes and Hime Cut on a girl named Sandra North feeling strangely incongruous.

Another side effect of the multinational team-up is that the comic will occasionally take a turn for the political. Sometimes it’s part of a plot arc, but rather often it just sort of pops up out of the blue.

On the one hand, Sandra and Woo acknowledges the influence of Calvin and Hobbes quite openly–and does it twice, just to make sure. On the other, Hobbes’ token solo adventure didn’t end in a spin-off set of friends or successful hunting, so Knörzer is safe from any copyright infringement problems. (Granted, Bill Watterson would have to get past all those Calvin-defiles-a-logo truck stickers first anyway.)

Sandra does, however, share Calvin’s capacity for sophisticated sarcasm, as well as his strong eco overtones. Of course, she also lives in a world where just about all animals have proven human intelligence, so saving various wildlife species may be more an exercise in keeping the neighbors happy. Of course, given that people can legally (or at least openly) keep raccoons as pets in her world, I may be way off base.

Sandra’s precociousness may seem a bit strange at first, especially to those who haven’t read Calvin and Hobbes, but it makes a good deal more sense once you realize that Sandra probably had to grow up really quickly. Her mother is deceased, and her father doesn’t always pay her terribly much attention. (In fact, as one of my friends pointed out, it seems like all of the adults are video game addicts for one reason or another. At least it seems to come in handy sometimes.) And now she has to deal with a talking raccoon that could almost seem like an imaginary friend . . . or schizophrenic hallucination. An extensive vocabulary doesn’t seem like such a big deal now, does it?

So in the end, has Calvin and Hobbes found a weekly successor? You’ll have to answer for yourself, but this pun tips the scales for me.

Comic Rating: Three stuffed animals. They couldn’t eat another bite.

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Review: Furthia High

Some people may have noticed that in the comics I’ve drawn, I tend to include anthropomorphic animal characters. Or werewolves. Or puppies. A cursory glance at my deviantART page will reveal even more cartoon critters. This would lead some to believe that my comic bookmarks are full of furry webcomics. And they would be wrong. Why, you ask? Because with few exceptions, furry webcomics are more about the furry than the webcomic. Just because your character has a muzzle is no excuse to skimp on writing a compelling story or a good joke.

Let me present Furthia High, by QuetzaDrake, as symptomatic of some of the problems with furry webcomics. The first thing you’ll notice is the title, which like many furry works, has “fur” jammed awkwardly into it. Fur some reason, everyfur who does a furry publication has this compulsive furge to furget common spelling and infurt “fur” into every word possible. As you can see, this tends to get on my furves. . . . nerves.

The title gets even more awkward when the plot is revealed: Kale Williams, The Last Human on Earth, is attending his first year of public high school in the furry world in which he lives. This means that the title of the comic is reduced to meaning something like “Humanopolis Academy.” As a veteran punner and armchair linguist, I am officially unimpressed.

The first ad I saw for the comic has (I hope) been lost to the ether, but it seemed to imply that the comic triggered homosexual make-out sessions and is read by a decent number of businessmen and fathers. Make of this what you will. In spite of this, my better judgment took a holiday, and I figured, “Hey, let’s give this a chance.”

The art, from the first page on, is rather heavily inspired by anime and manga. That is to say, The Last Human on Earth has a small, sharp nose that you could cut yourself on, and every character manages to have eyes large enough to take up most of the upper half of their skulls. Sara, the Female Gay Freshman Mouse on the first page, looks like she needs to cut her Adderall dosage at least in half.

Let me interrupt the art critique with this comment on Quetza’s random background character generator. The idea in itself is intriguing; being able to draw up a list of characters to throw into the background without having to repeat yourself is a useful tool for a cartoonist whose comic takes place in such a crowded setting. But Quetza takes this idea a bit too far, including the name, grade, biography, and sexual orientation of every character he draws in the background. When you realize that you will maybe see two or three of these characters again, and still only as window-dressing, it gets downright creepy that Quetza goes into this much detail. Especially considering the gay and bisexual population of the school that is surprising only to people who are unfamiliar with furries.

Back to the art, though: Bruce, the fox with Super-Saiyan hair, is supposed to be overweight, to the point that he affectionately refers to his stomach as “Gutty,” and yet you can’t tell until the obligatory swimsuit arc. A frog and a flying fox manage to have nearly identical faces, and this is not an isolated instance. And on top of this, the feline characters are shown with their foot claws permanently extended. I didn’t even major in biology and these things are standing out flagrantly. I’m frankly surprised there hasn’t been a blue hedgehog character whose spikes are all three feet long and coming off the back of his head, given his grasp on zoology.

As far as the writing is concerned, I will admit to being equally non-plussed. The main protagonists are Kale, The (feckless) Last Human on Earth; Bruce, the Super-Saiyan fox who spends half of his time being cheese-monkey-random and the other half giving LARPers a bad name; Ashley, a Type-A tsundere cat; and Campy, a narcoleptic, poetical, (un)ambiguously gay rabbit. (Campy the gay guy? You wound me, sir.) Kale ends up with these friends almost purely because Bruce is a spaz. After introductions are made, the minutiae are quickly breezed past so that Kale can meet his first cardboard racist antagonist.

This particularly grates at me. Considering how much thought Quetza puts into each of the background characters, why is Lupin the Wolf Guy (no, the uncreative pun did not escape my eye) made so one-dimensional? He exists solely to torment Kale and show the errors of racism and violence in one fell swoop, and the continue to just be a jerk. Also, he has a henchman with a crush on Ashley, with predictable results. Except the author insists that he’s not one-dimensional in his comments, so maybe we’ll see that proven in one of the later plotlines.

At this point, I really can’t say much else about the comic. I could go on about author inserts, self-referential breaking of the fourth wall, rapid-onset Cerebus syndrome, and–perhaps most egregious–depiction of flamboyant homosexuality as the result of post-traumatic stress disorder, but I think I’ve about reached my limit for this review. The comic obviously has fans a-plenty, but I’m not going to count myself as one of them.

Also, Quetza really needs to learn A) that LARPers will know what fencing is and B) how to not talk in Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe.

Comic Rating: Eight kicked puppies and a restraining order.

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