Comical Musings

Tag: cat

Guest Review: Housepets!

by on Feb.15, 2010, under Review

Hi, I’m Gab. Luprand asked me to write up a review for him while he battles technology.  Sorry it’s late – my bad!

Do any of you people permit any animal or fowl in your house for company but not for profit? I’m talking, of course, about house pet and how they run our lives. I have three cats at home whom I constantly project human characteristics on, and it really does seem like they own the place. That’s just while I’m watching, too, so it seems inevitable to think about what they might be doing while I’m at work.

Fortunately, Rick Griffin more or less does this for me in his comic Housepets!, which leaves me free to spend business hours mindlessly typing out lines of code like a good monkey. The comic follows main characters Peanut Butter and Grape Jelly on their adventures in the neighborhood, which often involves the local critters and sometimes the human people, too. It’s cute, harmless (which means it’s safe for work and all audiences – yay!), and often times very funny. It feels familiar and nostalgic, sort of in a Muppet Babies / Rugrats kind of way, only more modern and much less pedophiliac. Using anthropomorphic animals is a great vehicle for this, avoiding politically incorrect cliches and making it convenient to have characters acting in childlike ways while still retaining some level of maturity. I mean, they’re talking animals. They can’t be held responsible for the silly things they do!

The arcs are very character driven, which is something that I am immediately drawn to, with one offs scattered here and there for comedic relief. This works fairly well, though some of the running gags fall flat in comparison to the main plot … while other times convey more about the over-all plot than the storyline strips do. Particularly when  building up to the climax  ends up confusingly in the doghouse with no real resolution. What is this, anime? I don’t think putting a bandaid on the problem will make it go away, but then again…

But whatever. The thing that brought me to this comic in the first place was the art style, which has gone from good to nothing short of amazing over time.  Having said that, though, the human designs pale in comparison to  the lively-drawn animals whose expressions and creative poses really steal the show.

Just more proof about the house pets taking over! But I can’t resist them or this comic, so maybe you ought to just embrace it before you’re made an unsuspecting slave.

Comic Rating: Three grapes and a peanut butter awesome.

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Review: Familiar Ground

by on Aug.31, 2009, under Review

Over the weekend, I went with my family to see the movie Julie & Julia. It’s an entertaining film, rather humorous, and manages to skip the awkward moments that so many comedy films seem to thrive on ever since Meet the Parents. And it centers around a blogger who rose to fame and a comfortable income, so you can imagine the tiny spark of glee that got set off somewhere in the back of my mind. It’s rather similar to the spark that gets set off in people’s minds when they see comics like Schlock Mercenary, whose creator can now live off of the earnings from his comic alone. So they set up their own webcomic, with dreams of advertisements, a well-stocked Cafepress store, and a PayPal tip jar dancing in their heads. Heck, that’s part of how I wound up making online comics.

So don’t immediately want to condemn Familiar Ground, by Cedric Atizado, for seeming to do the same thing. Sure, the main page has an advertisement at the top, one at the left, one at the bottom, and two on the right. Sure, a lot of his auxiliary pages point out how he’s selling originals of his strips (at an increasing price as they get older, natch). And sure, he’s set up a Zazzle store with exactly one item in it. But money-making doesn’t seem to be Atizado’s main goal; his author page indicates that he’s more interested in telling a story and learning to draw in the process—even if the process seems to be fueled by how much attention the comic garners.

The story is still in its fledgling state. We know that the main characters are a trio of helper animals in a very Dungeons & Dragons-inspired world: two familiars and a paladin mount. The idea of telling an epic story from the sideline characters’ point of view isn’t a new one, but handled well, it can be entertaining. For how new the comic is, though, the characters have already been established in their roles: Coco, a celestial horse who serves as a paladin’s mount, is the self-centered idiot fighter; Toad, a frog and familiar to an ungrateful wizard, is the grumpy straight man; and Lady Sasha, a cat who might be the familiar to a streetwalker, is pensive, clever, and probably evil.

The plot itself is looking like a typical fantasy storyline: a lackluster first adventure gives the setting just enough of a baseline that the world can need saving with just enough of an emotional pull that the reader wants it saved. And where Sandra and Woo pays homage to Calvin and Hobbes, Familiar Ground goes it one better and outright borrows a joke wholesale. Update: Check the comments section on this one. Strange minds think alike, it would seem.

Atizado is, as he’s made clear, still learning how to draw comics, so I won’t ding him too much for the art style being unpredictable. The main characters each seem to be pulled from a different cartooning style, with Coco seeming almost Dilbert-like and Lady Sasha more like a French poster circa 1920, and the difference can be rather jarring. However, with enough practice and repetition, the art style is bound either to improve or to codify into something smoother.

Now, I may have painted Atizado as a “wanna-be” cartoonist. But let me assure you, that’s not a bad thing. Pretty much everyone who isn’t among the first wave is a wanna-be of one sort or another, and a particularly dedicated wanna-be can improve greatly (compare the first-ever Mac Hall comic with Three Panel Soul for a particularly drastic evolution over nine years). Others sort of peter out over the course of time. So which will Familiar Ground be? Time will have to tell.

Comic Rating: Three hidden easter-egg jokes in the alt-text.

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Review: Furthia High

by on Jun.29, 2009, under Review

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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