Comical Musings

Tag: furry

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: Ebin & May

by on Jan.11, 2010, under Review

January is something of a doldrum time. The holidays are over, so the lights start coming down, but the night is no less dark and only shorter by a few minutes. There aren’t any other big events to look forward to (and with no family living by Lake Chautauqua anymore, that’s the Ice Festival gone), and the snow this year has been particularly relentless, leaving me somewhat down in the dumps. And to top it off, the amazing Lint came to a close, leaving me bereft of a wonderful fantasy comic about a dispossessed prince.

So to stave off a portion of that gloom, here’s Ebin & May, a collaborative effort by Christina “Smudge” Hanson, Ed Garcia, and Baron Engel.* While, in the past, I’ve expressed strong distaste for furry webcomics, Ebin & May has so far been a pleasant surprise. (For starters, there isn’t a single reference to fur or a species name anywhere in the title.)

The title characters are a usurped prince and the clever servant girl whom he loves. Living along with them are a pair of foreign mystic knights and a stablehand who you just know is going to be more trouble than she’s worth.

Perhaps the easiest way to describe the plot (so far) of Ebin & May is to compare it to a video game. The first few chapters serve as tutorial levels, establishing the characters and some of their motivations through easy quests and training battles. Another apparently easy task leads to the revelation of the overarching plot: a nefarious emperor who takes over kingdoms through unfortunate “accidents”.

(This does raise the question of why someone whose life and family are in danger would be announced as such during a ball, but perhaps theirs was a more innocent age. The analogy between species and ethnicity is left just a little hazy, as is the relationship between religion and magic. This might be expounded upon in the future, though.)

The characters and costumes are a visual treat; so is the scenery, when it comes into play. I’m not entirely certain how much of the garb is period-accurate, especially where the decolletage is concerned, but in general the art style of Ebin & May is a lively blend of comic book and fairy tale. Which, in spite of the careless spelling and punctuation to be found here and there, is a good summary of the comic as a whole.

Comic Rating: Three, since it comes up so often in fairy tales.

* I’m not sure what it is that Garcia and Engel do, exactly. They’re listed as “Art Assistance”, which sounds like the sort of job where you sit and ink someone else’s drawings, but I don’t have the full details. If you know what they do and feel like enlightening me, then by all means feel free.

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Review: Unity

by on Dec.21, 2009, under Review

I have something of a soft spot for science fiction. Some of this might be that I grew up reading “the good stuff”—my dad has an extensive collection of Asimov, Niven, Card, Heinlein, Clarke, and others, so I had a pretty steady supply of sci-fi as long as I could get past the bats in the attic. As a result, I managed to avoid the brunt of Sturgeon’s Law, and the tales of the improbable hold a special place in the stacks of my heart, on the other end of the room from the works of Frances Hodgson Burnett and just past the shelf of O. Henry.

So I was intrigued when a cartoonist named fluffy submitted her* comic, Unity, for review. When a comic starts with a purple-skinned amnesiac thinking in a computer font, you know that what will follow is either science fiction or ergotism. Or, as the case is for fluffy, synaesthesia. (A certain amount of this information is what I’m picking up from the “easter eggs” to be found throughout the comics; a lot of webcomic artists enjoy hiding bonus commentary in the alt-text of their comic images. This can be entertaining or frustrating, depending on how much text is suddenly revealed when you hover your mouse.)

The art of Unity is somewhat variable. At times, there are highly detailed character shots and backgrounds; at others, plucked emus in footie pajamas. From a print publishing standpoint, I’m intrigued by the choice for different characters to speak in different typefaces—a good way to differentiate between characters speaking, but sometimes irritating.

There is a lot of nudity, but when the nudity involves beings descended from the common platypus, there’s not much to be seen (no mammaries, no external privates). Sexuality does crop up a lot in Unity, however. Main character Juni is the neutered virgin-birth clone daughter of a lesbian witch-doctor, while her partner, Sam, is female in anatomy but male in pronoun. This becomes something of a plot hook, as it becomes revealed later that many members of Juni’s species are treated as prostitutes outside of their native lands.

It seems that Juni’s people, being electrically sensitive like their distant forebears, have the potential to recover the information left behind by the ancient creatures who created their world, if only they weren’t so primitive a culture. But it takes a lot of confusion, plotting, counter-plotting, and murder to figure all this out from square one. I have to hand it to fluffy for managing to tie so many baffling story threads into a coherent plot, in spite of the number of interruptions and random art pieces that get thrown in.

One final note: the animated 404 error page is strangely hilarious.

Comic Rating: Three or four recipes I kinda want to try now.

* Fluffy is a bit of an enigma. To my knowledge, fluffy prefers a gender-neutral pronoun, as does the protagonist of Unity. The trouble in this is that it gets hard to differentiate between an it referring to the comic, an it referring to the main character, and an it referring to the cartoonist. In the interest of clarity, then, and because fluffy appears as a human with breasts and a skirt in some of the early journal comics, I will be using her to denote the cartoonist. I offer my apologies to the alternate-gender community, as well as to the American Usage professor who tried to teach me inclusive language.**

**Though even she balked at the use of sie, hir, or coe as pronouns.

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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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