“We are running from the void,straight into the void” Nihalism straight from the mouths of Aiden GD Moore’s darkly laconic lagomorphs

anthro, anthropomorphic, artist spotlight, comic, Comic spotlight, Uncategorized

bunniesEvents such as Thought Bubble are by far perfect occasion to discover new art,comics and creators in person and break out of the twitter and online gallery bubble, so once again this year I was again scouting around the numerous marquees for interesting and new books and comics, admittedly with maybe an eye extra open for something anthropomorphic! This year was another spectacular convention and it didn’t disappoint in terms of discovering talent that was new, to me at least. One that stood out and fit the bill very neatly thank you, was a book entitled Nihilistic Bunnies and it’s creator Aiden G Moore who in a flash of cross marketing/cosplay genius was dressed head to toe in a sparkly, queer rabbit getup.

As I said, it’s new to my eyes at least with Aiden actually releasing the book sometime last year and I’m surprised I’d not heard of it before. He presents a beautifully produced gallery of cutely sketched rabbits all being suitably adorable, each one oddly juxtaposed with some dark and well, Nihilistic phrases that tickled that skewered, pitch black part of my brain. They all illicit a wry, sadistic chuckle from the downbeat world view they espouse, with the most optimistic being “but carrots still taste good” in reply to another bunny declaring “life is meaningless”.

bunny2   Moore has also used anthropomorphic characters in his comics work with the completely wordless Occult Trash Raccoons, a short comic in which Raccoons turn to the dark arts and proficiency in arcane magical rituals in order to get their paws on trash that in a dozen or so pages crosses from cutesy animal shenanigans to full on occult nightmare fuel. Aiden also returns to rabbits, representing himself as a bunny again in two slice of life comics, Ode to Customer Service, which collects his account and others of working in the treacherous and often thankless world of retail, detailing the funny, saddening and rude customers that come along with the territory. Bunny Book, an autobiographical work previously published in Boston Comics Roundtable ‘Being True this year and also exhibited at the ‘Inside Job’ exhibition at the Tate Modern delves into gender presentation and recounts his experiences of expressing himself as a feminine trans male. a4-page2a4-page1 Working across a slew of other mediums as well as comics I’d recommend their work for anyone with a penchant for anything spooky, cute or occult!

You can find more of Aiden’s work over at aidengdmoore.com or support him on Patreon.

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“History never really repeats itself, but it sure does rhyme a lot” Looking back with Mark Russell on his Hannah Barbera books and the Green Lantern Huckleberry Hound Special

anthro, anthropomorphic, comic, interview, Uncategorized

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If you had to think of comics that are political Green Lantern, with it’s Intergalactic Space cops who diligently patrol a whole sector of space as their “beat” with the aid of magic rings, might not be one that instantly springs to mind as somewhere to discuss the issues of the day. Yet Denny O’Neil did exactly that with his famous run in the 1970’s which paired DC’s two green themed heroes, Lantern and Arrow. A politically charged road trip across America in which the usually confident and head strong lantern has to face harsh realities of his countries social climate.

This week however writer Mark Russel returning to a 70’s setting and the books socially conscious leanings, teams up the Green and the Blue this time around, when veteran Solider and rookie Lantern John Stewart is drawn into a partnership with down on his luck canine comedian, Huckleberry hound. “So you have the young idealistic Lantern meeting up with a world-weary cartoon dog against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and Watergate. Seems like they might have something to talk about” Russell says, explaining what at first seems like a strange and unlikely pairing “Setting the crossover in the early 1970’s just seemed to make a lot of sense, because John Stewart is still at the beginning of his career, just learning how to be a Lantern, whereas Huckleberry is at the end of his. His cartoon cancelled and making a living on the “has-been circuit”, appearing on TV shows like the Hollywood Squares and hand-selling his comedy albums at stand-up gigs”

Maybe this crossover shouldn’t have been such a surprise from the writer of the criminally overlooked Prez; itself an updated spin on the original Joe Simon creation, Prez Rickard which while silly, fun and wildly inventive for it’s short run, never really took advantage of the Presidential angle beyond the teen president’s strong stance on gun control, settling for legless vampires and other comic oddities. Russel’s recent reinvention put the politics back into a book that was already a perfect fit for it, taking a sardonic look at 2000’s politics and how that works in the world of instant celebrity culture and quick fire social media. “It’s something I sort of got into by accident. DC offered me the chance to write The Flintstones based on the work I did on Prez” he says of his Teen President Beth Ross, whose time in office beat her male counterpart by two issues and led the writer onto his subsequent work with the Hannah Barbera stable of Saturday morning cartoon icons “What I’ve come to like about the Hanna Barbera characters is that they didn’t come in with a lot of backstory or continuity to worry about. Surprisingly, the Snagglepuss cartoons never included any flashbacks to his failed career in theatre or his broken relationship with his parents or anything like that. So I got to make all that stuff up”

 

It’s the looseness and simplicity behind this Saturday morning cartoon creations that has given Russell breathing to reinterpret and recontextulaize them, has writing some of the most striking and socially hard hitting comics of the last few years,both adding complex backstories to these beloved cartoon staples whilst staying true to the core of their characters. Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles framed the pink mountain lion as a less comedic, and much more melancholic soul leading a double life as  a successful and confident,Tennesee Williams type playwright forced to skulk and sneak his way into New York’s village against the backdrop of McCarthy witch hunts and the much less known about “Lavander Scare”, which sough out homosexuals casting them as subversives and communist sympathisers. It was the first time such a strong and overtly queer characterisation and story had been given to a character who had previously only been broadly gay coded, sweeping aside the snickering comments of the past and giving him a quiet, noble dignity “Snagglepuss’ gayness is not only central to his identity, but to his struggle against the institutions that are trying to destroy him. The entire story of Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles is built on two pillars. That he had a background in theater before he went into cartoons and that he was a gay man living in 1950s America” explains Russell on Snagglepuss’ portrayal as gay in this years Exit Stage Left and if he worried about any fallout from the decision “I don’t really worry about how people will react to modernizing or changing well-established characters. I just try to make characters who have depth and meaning for me and trust that other people will feel the same way about the character that I do” 

“I think stories resonate, not because we care about the time period in which they’re set, but because they’re populated by characters that are dealing with timeless human realities” Exit Stage Left encapsulates Russell’s outlook on storytelling perfectly. Shockingly for a comic set in the 50’s, with an underused character, is that it strongly and deeply resonates with the experiences of a queer audience in 2018. In a year that felt like it had been thrown head first into full reverse it expertly focused in and captured this feeling from the viewpoint of the LGBT community with pathos and heartbreaking tenderness “Whatever genre I’m writing, I basically ask myself the same questions. I want to know what it would mean to be that character and how to survive in a world that is trying to kill them” By adding things before or after their cartoon careers, in this world Snagglepuss and Quickdraw essentially serving as “actor”s on their respective cartoon shows, it has allowed Russell to add these in depth back stories and inner lives without casting aside the animations that made them so popular in the first place. For a story that ends on a hopeful but downbeat note, it makes the cartoons almost an act of defiance with the events of Exit Stage left in mind as the effeminate gay mountain lion perseveres and carries on with his life. It might be as a comedic and inoffensive version of his true self,but it’s close to it as he can get and Heavens to Murgatroyd does he live it. “I‘m much more interested in the conflict between a character and the world in which they live” Russell comments “The way they are expected to fall in line behind institutions that don’t care about them. About the ways they deal with their limitations and the apathy of the Universe by finding meaning in their work and in each other”

 

“Sometimes I’m accused of making a cult of my own sorrow” admits Huckleberry Hound, fellow Playwright and longtime friend of Snagglepuss in a moment of self depreciation. Huckleberry Hounds journey mirrors and then veers of wildly from our pink protagonist in one of the more heart wrenching moments in a book that already pulls no punches. Unable to weather the storm Huckleberry takes his own life, leading to Snagglepuss working with his son Huckleberry Jr who becomes the beloved star of screen and attains a sense of happiness his father never knew. For a while at least. Russell’s stories might be slightly unmoored from the history of the cartoons we watched as children but we are children no longer and the gentle continuity between his multitude Hannah Barabera books has  allowed for some fascinating new aspects to characters, based on their shared history in an adult world “There are references both to the father he never knew and the cartoon career that was just beginning at the end of Snagglepuss. This fact informed the character and influenced the story” tells Russell on Huckleberry, seen protesting side by side with the Green Lantern on the cover to this weeks special “Not only in terms of Huckleberry’s willingness to speak out, but also in terms of Huckleberry having to deal with the destruction of his career in show business, much the same way Snagglepuss had to. As it is sometimes said, and as John Stewart points out in this issue, history never really repeats itself, but it sure does rhyme a lot”

 

“I felt like there were a lot of parallels between that time and our own. Most notably, about people’s capacity to lie to themselves to keep fighting a war they know is unwinnable. To keep believing in a president they know is corrupt. About the futility of trying to control people through fear and brutality” Russell explains on the setting of the Green Lantern Huckleberry Hound special, the 1970’s and more specifically the Vietnam war. Huckleberry is down and out on his luck while the freshly recruited Green Lantern John Stewart returns home not to a heroes welcome but to distrust and hatred as he himself learns the difference between having power, and using power. In scenes that could equally have been ripped out of the headlines of either the 1975 or 2018, we see fearful residents calling the police to ‘deal with’ groups of black people. Making his prediction of history rhyming even further is Stewart retelling the story of his brother surviving two tours of a warzone, only to be felled by racist troops after less then 24 hours back in Detroit in the same week that holocaust survivor Rose Mallinger was shot dead with 10 others in her own synagouge. “The hard part, the part I regularly struggle with, is not in describing these realities so much as offering hope that we can overcome them” Russell offers on his tackling of such important and sensitive issues in his comic work “In the end, the best solutions I’ve been able to come up with are to self-medicate, not necessarily with drugs, but with beliefs and relationships that allow you to take meaning from your life and to not wait for institutions to change to start building the world you want to see in microcosm”
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Thank you to Mark Russell for agreeing to and finding the time to conduct this interview. The Green Lantern Huckleberry Hound was released Wednesday 31st October and Exit Stage Left the Snagglepuss Chronicles is available in trade paperback. You can follow him on twitter here.

“At least you can hiss pretty good”- Jenny Mure tackles despression in candid Possum comics

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One thing I’ve briefly alluded too but never directly addressed is feeling ‘down’ over the course of the last three years, maybe more if I’m being brutally honest with you. It’s harder to admit even after eight months of the stabilising effects of Citalopram that it had, without me really noticing, swallowed up the largest part of these years. I struggled along from day to day and mood to mood believing I could just “shrug it off,  Stubbornly refusing to even acknowledge it for what it really was, barely even able to say the word, depression.  Admitting it to others was one of the biggest hurdles and even after finally reaching out and getting help last year I still find the hardest part is just the sheer difficulty in talking about it without truly understanding why I feel this way. Selfishly it’s  one of the reasons I’ve been attracted Jenny Mure’s possum books, the closest paper and ink, maybe any medium has come to depicting the roller coaster of emotions and the even worse bottoming out and endless emptiness that follows . I know,  I know,  “You’re using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing” but hear me out anyway, please.

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Unlike the rest of Mure’s polished, predominantly fantasy based work her two volumes of Possum comics are undeniably rough and ready with a done in one, raw immediacy that perfectly fits a diary comic about the everyday struggles that go hand in hand with mental health and art. Sketched in black ink with unequal slanted frames (if any) and following no set format they show Mure living with the ups and crushing downs of depression over a two year period. “At times like these, Opossums talk to my soul more then any other animal” declares a sketchy inked Possum on the opening page and as suggested by the title, she discusses and explores these experiences through a Possum alter ego, perfectly capturing the feeling of not quite feeling like yourself when depression tightens it’s grip on you. Even though everyone experiences it differently and the finer details may change, I was surprised by how many I could relate too and would strike a similar chord with other readers such as peoples well meaning advice to just stop being “such a gloomy motherfucker”. If you haven’t experienced it, it’s impossible to know how hollow, annoying and  useless even a well intentioned tit-bit like that can be.

One that really struck me and stuck with me more then I’d like to admit is when Mure explores setting prohibitive standards and worry onto her possum comics. In a strikingly simplistic sketch of a possum who details the lack of possum comics and attributes it to setting unusually high standards where no one else is expecting them. Essentially stripping the comics of their cathartic purpose and deftly showing how depression and works to break down any of the flimsy coping mechanisms you might have dared built up to protect yourself.

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Her second in the series, So I’m still a Possum, tackles the thorny subject of people appreciating and admiring a piece of work that might be difficult for a creator when it’s origins lie in such a dark and difficult time in their life. Mure describes her trepidation about the first volume being the most popular ‘zine in her shop and at shows whilst being “scrappy and unpolished”. It’s something that caused me to hesitate time and time again when I decided I wanted to show my appreciation for her work,not wanting to add anything negative to anyone else’s state of mind. Don’t come to Mure’s comics expecting any advice on how to cope with depression or tackle mental health, it’s not that kind of comic, not by a long shot.  Yet, they are all the better for realising this and not reaching out for a resolution or offering hollow advice. It’s a stark and painfully  honest account of her own experiences coping with depression and hopefully their popularity is derived from people like myself being able to hand it to others when our own words wither and  fail us and say “this”. In the very same strip, Mure succinctly sums up the dark, uncomfortable appeal of her Possum work, “All I can hope is it can do the same to other people in some small way. Something to nod and say me too” she explains through her Marsupial alter ego “To feel a little less alone, if nothing else”

Jenny’s artwork can be found at her website, littlemure.com and tweets here.

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“If an idea resonates with you, as a creator, there’s absolutely an audience for it” -The world of furry cartoonist Lobst

anthro, anthropomorphic, comic, interview

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Growing up on a diet of sci-fi and fantasy, transformation stories were the ones I loved and could always rely on the writers of most shows to fall back on one of it’s most loved tropes. For me they were always the most frustrating though, as characters spent their time trying either freaking or trying to change back, usually both. Frustratingly they almost never explored a person staying that way, gaining a new perspective on the world. It’s something I’d find renewed interest in when encountering the Furry Fandom and finally found quite literally in the works of Lobst, a furry comics artist who uses their anthropomorphic characters and an individual take on magical realism to express their unique experiences as a trans person.

As with the bulk of their work two of my favourites, both adult comics, prominently feature transgender characters and story lines. A Slightly Different Role follows the exploits of two huskies, Connor and Alex, the latter of which with the aid of a suitably gothic book of curses, magically endows the other with a vagina. The second, more science-fiction orientated That Curious Sensation takes the subject in an entirely different, rarely explored direction. Distracted from work by unwanted erections red panda Clover strikes upon the idea of nullification, quickly achieving his goal with an easily obtainable injection. In both instances the initial transformation is dealt with quickly and often humorously, instead shifting the focus onto how characters react and adapt to the changes, rather than the change itself as a way to explore other parts of a trans individuals experiences and struggles beyond the post surgery aspects that a lot of mainstream representations fixate upon.

Lobst tells stories and presents her trans and gender fluid characters in an interesting and entertaining manner without the fetishization often present in a lot furry comics staring trans characters. Their artwork explores them in entirely different ways ,and using the fantasy elements as a springboard to ask more intimate and rarely asked questions about individuals in the trans community through anthropomorphic characters. Despite the ears, tails and fur, her extended cast appear on the page fully rounded and human. Ultimately what sets Lobst’s work apart is the warmth and tenderness it exudes in both the ways their characters interact and the playful way they write about a complicated and multifaceted subject, tackled both playfully and honestly.

Has art always been a part of you life or something picked up later? How did your art change after coming into contact with the furry fandom?

I’ve always drawn artwork, although it took quite a while for me to start developing original ideas that spread out into stories.  I was a furry-in-denial for a very long time, since the “mainstream” of it — at the time, comics like Sabrina Online and Jack — either seemed too cloying or edgy for my tastes. It took a long time for me to realise that like any other fandom, furries comprise a wide spectrum of interests, so there was a gradual shift from anthro-animal comics like Cigarro & Cerveja/Living In Greytown to Gene Catlow/Kit & Kay Boodle to Associated Student Bodies, Circles, and the webcomics by my friend Moult, after which I spent yet another very-long-time producing furry media “ironically” in groan worthy “extreme” ways. And I think it was only around 2007 or so (yes, seriously) when I started actually looking at furry art, that I learned how to successfully draw furry snouts; until that point a besnouted face was seriously just a box in front of the standard comic-artist human face shield.

Wednesday Adventures 9th August

anthro, comic, First Impressions

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A brief weekly rundown of recommendations of new releases I’m intrigued by, excited for and will be grabbing off the shelves to curl up with every new comics day before delving into them later in the week! Have you hugged your comics store owner today?

 

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“The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.” – Marcus Aurelius.

Mister Miracle 1- DC Comics

From the unravelling of the best made plans or mice and sythanoids, deep dissections of the inherent darkness of Batman’s sprawling playground to the horrors or armed conflict, Tom King has quickly proven himself to be one of the comic industries top talents. This time he delves back into DC’s roster for a politically charged take on the master of escapism, Mister Miracle.

Part of Jack Kirby’s sprawling Fourth World saga, the future Mister Miracle, Scott Free is imprisoned on the tartarus planet of Apokolips before escaping to the sanctuary of New Genesis. This twelve issue series promises to explore Mister Miracle, still haunted by his time on Apokolips and take the cosmic grandeur of Kirby to tell a trademark personal King story. Early previews show Mitch Gerads, artist on King’s Sheriff of Babylon, using an impressive and immersive range of comic visuals from Ben-Day dots, watercolours and other visual distortions to give Miracles adventures a rougher, grounded feel.

King is a master of heady yet accessible storytelling and his new series is already garnering a lot of pre-release buzz and should be a great entry point for readers like myself who have yet to full dive into the world of one of comics true greats.

 

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“They don’t even know what it is to be a fan. Y’know? To truly love some silly little piece of music, or some band, so much that it hurts” -Sapphire (Almost Famous)

The Wicked and the Divine 30- Image Comics

Magic, music and mayhem continue to lead the cast of Gillen and McKelvie’s Wicked and Divine on a merry and mystical dance. Continuing the pairs Imperial Phase arc the focus this issue is on Dionysus. Drawing on Gillen’s obvious passion for music with knowing nods with musical archetypes and subcultures, the series has offered a real world hook before Gillen lays his deeply intricate mythos of gods, humans and the music that irrecoverably ties their fates together. 

Wicked and Divine is akin to falling in love with the music again, each and every issue and like the rest of his comics perfectly capture the energy, pain and passion of loving a band or song.

 

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 23- Marvel Comics

Although solicitations, especially Marvel ones, are usually the place for hyperbole, bombast and grandiose statements, describing North and Henderson’s Unbeatable Squirrel Girl as “the complete package, really” rings true! Come on folks, stop being so self deprecating, it really does have it all! Friendship! Fun! Computer Science! Dinosaurs?

Yeah, if you expected fourteen years of hilarious Dinosaur comics to have gotten giant reptiles out of his system, then think again as this issue continues Doreen and Nancy’s trip to the Savage Lands (that of X-men and big freakin’ dinos fame!) after taking a break from school and thankfully the off putting events of Marvel’s Secret Empire. Brilliantly presented as a pun filled Dino theme park, the pair are tasked with saving it and all it’s Triassic glory. While Henderson’s art ranges detailed to deceptively simple when letting a joke or scene breathe, last months issue really let her indulge with spreads and spreads of squirrel and giant lizard fun!

 

 

 

“A power pad is not a thermal blanket!”-Tim Weeks’ furry video game webcomic, Savestate!

anthro, anthropomorphic, artist spotlight, comic, Comic spotlight
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My relationship with games could be described as patchy, at best. As I kid I all but destroyed my much loved Megadrive from constant play, but beyond the warm nostalgic 16-bit fuzz I’ve rarely picked up a joypad since. I even had to ask my husband if ‘joypad’ was still a legitimate gaming term just now, deciding on it over ‘controller’. Having played only a handful of games since; Max Payne, Starfox Adventures, and Bit Trip Runner, a video game per generation give or take I’d defiantly not fit anyone’s idea of a gamer. Which is weird, considering that Tim Weeks’ Savestate is currently one of my favorite furry webcomics. In case the name didn’t give it away, the motley crew of Savestate really, really love their video games! Centering around siblings Nicole and Kade regularly joined by their friend Rick ,Elder god Harvey and the demonic entity, Ness on their gaming misadventures. Weeks’ artwork really shines when he draws his characters in the game worlds themselves, showing off well known favorites like Mario Kart in his own charming and polished style, even incorporating animation, such as his crossover with gaming webcomic, Gamercat.

Last year saw another major milestone for Savestate when it was nominated for the comic strip category of the Ursa Major Awards, which are voted upon yearly and intended to award and highlight “excellence in the furry arts”. Although Savestate ultimately came in second it was to Housepets, a comic that has itself been running four times as long and won the category for seven years, consecutively. Moving up from third place the previous year and vastly outstripping much more established furry webcomics, it’s a testament to how well the mix of humor, positivity and gaming culture has built up such a strong and loyal fan base in it’s first two years.

The very first strip found Kade porting over the now infamous glitch Pokemon, ‘MissingNo’ (the easiest glitch to catch, an integral part of Pokemon lore although still considered by Nintendo as simply “a programming quirk”) proving from day one how deeply passionate Weeks is about gaming culture and how central it is to his comic. This last months strips have seen Savestate returning to it’s roots somewhat with the rewed interest in the now 20 year old franchise that came the release of Pokemon GO has started, rekindling the franchise once more. As you’d expect Kade, the consummate gamer lives up to every online scare story by getting himself into places he shouldn’t in order to catch them all!

Again, the highest praise I can personally give Savestate is that even as someone who isn’t a gamer, at all, it still has me engrossed and eagerly awaiting a new strip every Wednesday. Playfully incorporating pop culture and gaming staples in new ways, the comic exudes Week’s passion for video games and why it has quickly become and furry favorite.

 
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Okay, so some basics first, what is your favorite game and console?

Game: Ocarina of Time. It was the smoothest transition from 2D to 3D ever and had a huge “wow” factor in terms of graphics and gameplay. Console: Either the Genesis or SNES, I love 16-bit games. If I had to pick one then SNES, with classics like Star Fox, Final Fantasy III (VI), Chrono Trigger it edges out the Genesis.

How did it feel to come 2nd place in the Ursa major awards, especially very close behind a comic that is now in it’s 8th year? Does it help knowing you’ve built a strong fanbase like this in such a short time, what do you think has captured furries and gamers about your comic?

That was crazy! I thought Savestate could avoid last place, but never to come in second on it’s second year. Now I’ve got to work extra hard to keep that second place. I don’t think anyone is going to dethrone Housepets until Rick chooses to decline his nomination. It’s amazing how quickly the Savestate fanbase grew. When I started the site I was getting something like 300 hits every time I posted a comic which seemed like a lot. What’s most impressive, to me, is that before Savestate I had never really posted any of my art online; so all the hype was generated purely by the comic itself.

I think gamers enjoy the comic because Kade embodies a more child-like sense of gaming. Back when it was more about showing your friends your Pokemon rather than trying to beat them in a battle.I think furries are drawn to the comic because of the art style. I tend to draw things in equal parts cute and cool. I also hope people are enjoying that the comic is PG (or maybe PG-13 when Harvey gets angry). There’s just so much adult material in the furry universe that it starts to drown everything else out. People seem to forget that the furry fandom really started with children’s characters like Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny.

Is there any direct analogue of yourself in the comic in terms of characters, if not who do you think you identify with more?

Kade and Nicole are a split of my personality. Nicole was based on our family dog, Mandy. Any personalities I shared with Mandy went to Nicole and what was left over went to Kade. If you combine the two you basically get my messed up brain

.What drew you to using anthropomorphic characters in Savestate?

I’ve loved anthro since Rescue Rangers! Games like Sonic and TV shows like Swat Kats further embedded that fandom. I actually wasn’t even aware “furry” was a thing until I randomly found Havok, Inc in my local comic shop. Even then I thought Chester was a girl for the longest time. :3

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A lot of comics like yours heavily reference video games to the point of the characters being shown in the game.Visually are there any game genres of games you wouldn’t include in Savestate or would be too difficult to accomplish?

I won’t do anything adult, so AO rated games are out.  If I ever used something violent like Gears of War 4 I’d just limit myself to blood and leave the gore out.  I suppose the only other thing I wouldn’t do is a game with extremely simple stylized graphics, like Limbo.

What are your favorite game elements or characters to draw?

Sonic.  I could never count how many times I’ve drawn Sonic.I also like drawing the Savestate characters in different game character outfits.  It’s fun to try and modify clothes to fit a furry build.

 How did including animated elements in certain strips come about? Was it something you were familiar with before or learning as you went?

Animation has always interested me.  Mostly traditional animation or the old hand drawn 2D sprites.  I love doing facial expressions and animation let’s you really play with that. I’ve dabbled with various forms of animation over the years, but the idea to put in a web comic came from GaMERCaT.  That’s why I had to make sure the guest appearance with Gamercat was animated.

What was your experience like working on the recent Starfox strips for Nintendo Force?

Nintendo Force is the spiritual successor of Nintendo Power and that comic was a lot of fun. Since the magazine is done by fans I could really do anything, like mention characters from the canceled SNES Star Fox 2 game. The original plan was to print the comic in the December issue which was going to be Star Fox themed to go along with the release of Star Fox Zero, but Nintendo pushed the game back a few months. Since the magazine is crowd funded we decided to print in the December issue anyway since there was no guarantee it would continue. Regardless, it was a lot of fun and I’m really excited that I got the chance to do it. My favorite part of EGM was reading Hsu and Chan. I really miss that comic.
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Savestate is updated every Wednesday. Tim also has a gallery of his other work over on his deviant art page and can also be found on twitter.

The Pull List 27/01/2016

anthro, anthropomorphic, artist spotlight, review, Uncategorized

Island #6 (Image Comics) – Even with the ever so slightly reduced page count, you can still count on Island to be the greatest anthology out there in terms of casting its net far and wide to bring attention to new and unheard of comics talent on a monthly basis. The highlight this month is the story “Badge of Pride” featuring a group of young anthropomorphic guys as they navigate the social minefield of their local Pride event. Having followed his work on and off for years now it’s thrilling to see Onta’s work shown to a more mainstream audience and I was fortunate enough that he had time to answer a few of my questions last week about his new, more personal and story driven outing for Island.

This month also presents work from Gael B as well as a recoloured, reprinted sci-fi classic in the form of Fil Barlow’s Zooniverse.

Saga #33 (Image Comics) – Thirty Three issues in and Vaughan and Staples sci-fi epic shows no signs of slowing down as it continues to shock, thrill and delight in equal measures. Staples beautiful cover shows that the adorable journalistic couple Upsher and Doff are back after being warned off reporting on the story of Marko and Alana way back in the books second arc. While only briefly touched upon I look forward to seeing how Vaughan develops the relationship between the pair as they become embroiled deeper in conflict and conspiracy. It’s been briefly hinted that the pairs society doesn’t look kindly on same sex couples and it will be fascinating to see what the writer has to say on the subject in a series that really pulls no punches with its social commentary.

“Chasing something hungrily”-Taking a look back On Buster Wilde with creator Scot Zellman

anthro, anthropomorphic, artist spotlight, comic, interview, Uncategorized

Whilst writing my recent post on the excellent Buster Wilde comics I found myself in the middle of a twitter conversation with writer and published Alex Vance and eventually asked him some more formal questions for the piece. Alex was responsible for the printed Buster Wilde collection a few years ago and I inquired if it might be possible for him to reach out to the man responsible for the strips Scot Zellman in the hope that he might answer a few lingering questions I had about his creation.

He graciously obliged but I honestly didn’t expect a reply, it has been over a decade after all. A few days later however Scot shot me back a message and took time out his schedule to indulge me with rather a long interview. I’d like to thank him again for taking the time to answer me and give a wonderful insight into what went into the making of a comics classic all those years ago.

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Marfedblog: The first boring, obvious question a lot of people must have asked. Why did the Buster Wilde strips stop, was it simply a desire to move onto other projects, lack of time and interest in it or something else?

Scot Zellman: I think I lost interest mostly due to frustration. I’d hoped the strip would reach a wider gay audience, especially through the gay-interest newsweeklies I was sending copies to in the hopes they would run it, but I quickly found the strip and Buster character made a much bigger impression on a gay furry community. That was an education because at the time I had no idea there was such a thing as “furries” gay or straight.

My education in furry fandom was hard and fast and while the specific trappings were never of personal interest I certainly appreciated the enthusiastic response even if I did have to turn down a large number of requests for commissioned pieces featuring a much less G-rated version of Buster.

I saw the strip as a slapsticky, funny animal, Warner Bros.-style cartoon antidote to the gay strips I was seeing at the time, most of which looked and sounded the same and featured no talking animals, something mainstream comic strips were full of. It was pretty easy, actually, to end the strip. I needed to focus on my “real” job and I wasn’t really interested in being a niche cartoonist with a small audience. After a couple years I thought “Okay, playtime’s over. Time to move on.”

 

Mb: It’s unusual you made the comic and it caught on with furs, an audience you didn’t even know was out there, did it lead you to look into what other anthro comics were popular with them or artists who considered themselves furs?

 SZ: I did look around a bit, especially when I’d get fan mail from other artists or from folks who’d recommend other artist/cartoonist sites.  The only anthro comic/character I really eventually found interesting and still follow these days is the Blacksad series. And that’s mostly because I love hard-boiled detective stories and film noir. Plus, the artwork is beautiful.
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Mb: Why do you think the gay weeklies and such were so reluctant to run the comics? The comic itself or partly the attitude towards LGBT at the time?
SZ: Most gay weeklies weren’t really reluctant to run the strip, they were reluctant to pay me to run the strip.  I think the ones that were reluctant to run it for non-financial reasons wanted something a little less slapsticky and a little more mature and thoughtful (Dykes To Watch Out For, Curbside, and The Mostly Unfabulous Life of Ethan Green were big back then.) Or whoever was in charge of picking the comics to run just didn’t think it was funny. That happens, too.

Mb: The comic debuted around 1997, was it difficult working with the limitations of the internet back then in terms of storage and bandwith?

I know nothing of computer tech and wouldn’t know where to begin in setting up my own website, especially in 1997. I had a tech-savvy friend do all that for me. I had been a cartoonist for my college daily newspaper, so I was well-versed in the process of keeping artwork looking good when it’s reproduced/reduced for the printed page.  As for the original website, I supplied my webmaster with good-sized, pristine copies and let him do his best with the internet limitations of the time. 

Mb: What attracted you to the idea of showcasing Buster Wilde online as a webcomic? What was the reaction of other artist or those around you to adopting such a new medium in terms of comics?

I never really heard from others about the novelty of being online. Mostly people sent me emails telling me how much they liked Buster and the strip. I actually forget sometimes that the strip is still online these days. I usually just think of it as a book.

Mb: What was the audience and there reaction like at the comics peak? Was it difficult to find an audience in a time when comics online were not as recognised

The reaction was uniformly positive. In fact, I can’t remember getting any negative email at all.  As for my expectations, I had none.  I assumed people were seeing it and the ones who really loved it were the folks sending me the fan mail.

JK: Buster Wilde now seems like a snapshot of, albeit a humorous exaggerated one, gay club culture at the time. Is that how you saw it and how do you think the strips might differ if they were coming out now? Would any characters differ or just settings and such?

I haven’t been out clubbing in ages, but I don’t imagine things have changed too much. Going out will always be about the same things:  fun, excitement, adventure, and the giddy hope you’ll meet someone thrilled to meet you no matter how sceptical or clumsy or overexcited or over it all you may be.

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Mb: The printed book shows a few iterations of Buster before the one you settled on. What was the original idea and how did that develop into what you eventually drew? What was the eureka moment when it all fit together?

SZ: I was trying to come up with a gay-themed “funny animal” comic strip for my local gay paper and at one point I thought that a straight man who turned into a gay werewolf would be funny and allow for a lot of opportunities to poke fun at both gay and straight people. The eureka moment came when, after some time trying to come up with a name for the character, the name “Buster Wilde” popped into my head after Oscar Wilde, of course. Once I had “Buster Wilde” the rest just poured out of me.

Mb: How do you feel about webcomics becoming a lot more established since Buster Wilde and do you ever follow any at the moment? Do you think you would have an easier time building an audience now?

It’s a logical technological progression, so I’m not surprised and it certainly makes it easier to get your work “out there.” I still worry that books will be marginalized to the point being hard to find or disappeared entirely. That said, I do have the book versions of my favourite online strips. I follow Bob the Angry Flower, Poorly Drawn Lines, Scenes from a Multiverse, and Doonesbury regularly. That’s about it.

I don’t know. Probably, but I’m still pretty disconnected from what’s going on online.

Mb: Are there comics that inspired the humour and structure in the Buster Wilde strips? Are any of the events (obviously not the lycanthropy) inspired by real events or people?

I’d say the primary inspiration were the old Warner Bros. cartoons, especially the Chuck Jones Bugs Bunny, Wile E. Coyote and Daffy Duck cartoons. Plus, I’ve always just loved slapstick and pratfalls.

The personal inspiration was just my years going out, my friends, and my love of good-natured, accepting straight people who are easily unnerved and exasperated by gay people.

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Mb: The Unfinished strips included in the print version have a more experimental panel layout than the other strips, would this have been something we would have seen more of if the strips had continued? Did you ever find the regular format limiting in any way?

SZ: That was an experiment in longer-form  storytelling told in a comic book page format that, because I’m a comic book reader, thought I’d try just for fun.  The regular format I’d already been working with didn’t feel limiting in any way since I felt like I could do whatever the gag called for.  That said, I do like the inherent restrictions of the “Sunday comics” format.
Mb: Did you have an overarching story or a direction the strips were going in?

 SZ: Sort of, but not really. The goal was to cram as much humor into each “episode” as I could without overloading it to the point of incomprehensibility. As for the overarching story, I just knew that the character’s stories would continue to unfold and more characters and adventures would be introduced as time went by.

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Mb: Are you surprised that people like myself, still talk about and hold it in such high regard after all this time and Do you have a favourite strip out of the bunch?

Not really. Once people find something they love it usually sticks with them. I’m the same way with older comic strips, TV shows, movies, comic books. The ear-piercing strip. The bare minimum amount of dialogue, the right amount of slapstick, and a funny the turnaround/topper.  The strip still makes me LOL as they say.

Mb: Overall what do you think the appeal of Buster is?

The exact same appeal of the friendliest, sweetest Golden Retriever you’ve ever met. He’s just happy all the time and you’re his best friend

 

Mb: Raspberry Flan. Are there any other suitable bathroom foods?

Baked Alaska Flambe.

Buster Wilde can be read in it’s entirety here. The printed version can also be purchased here or from amazon.

“This weirdo parade”-Furry artist makes it ‘Onta’ the cover of Island issue 6

anthro, anthropomorphic, artist spotlight, interview, Uncategorized

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New to readers of the Island anthology, but well known in the Furry subculture, is an artist usually featured in Hard Blush; a series releasing extensively gay furry comics, Onta. Whilst he’s associated more with pornographic and adult comics, his entry into Graham and Rios’ anthology series Badge of Pride will be a more slice of life offering, as the artist delves deeper into the lives of his cast of characters. Marty, Taylor, Jessie and Mu show their wildly different experiences and expressions of sexuality during a local gay pride parade. Showing that even now Pride is an important part of LGBT life, meaning different thing to each person, whether they love it or loathe it.

I found myself drawn to, and feeling sympathetic towards, the quiet and retiring lion, Jess portrayed as finding it particularly difficult to identify with the more flamboyant carnival atmosphere he finds himself caught up in. He bemoans “I can’t relate to any of this shit” and finds himself “sulking like an idiot” while others throw themselves into the party with more ease and gusto.

With Island issue 6 out next week I finally got a chance to ask Onta a few questions about his newest comic.

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Marfed: How did you first discover the furry subculture and were you already drawing by this point? What lead you to want to draw comics, especially furry ones?

Onta: I discovered it as many do, through erotica. Specifically Japanese gay kemono artist. There where many inspiration but Aoi Takayuki and Poju’s entry where a really big deal for my entry into furry.

I had slacked around for a while trying to commit to various projects but could never fully commit to something. I felt if I created a persona and boxed myself into a small limited area my mind would do better. I had been trying to make comics for years and had failed quite often. Miu asking me to do a page for the first edition of Cocktails was really my first major completed comic’s work which was pretty late in my career as an artist. I didn’t have fully formed characters and story, even if only porn prior so it gave me a big boost. I felt very weird after completing it as it was a new sensation.

M: How did working on Brandon and Emma’s Island anthology come about? Were you a fan of either of their work before hand and have you been following the issues of Island up to now?

Onta: Brandon approached me a year and some change ago. I believe he was introduce to my work through Fangdangler (Adriel Forsythe). I used to be pretty big into indie comics back in the day following Derek Kirk Kim and similar artists and I gradually fell out of that sort of thing as work in animation industry and later games industry took over. I have become a fan of both Brandon and Emma since my involvement.

M: Can you tell us a little bit behind the story you have in Island and what lead you to write it? What was the best part of working on this story for Island? How did you tackle including characters from your previous work that readers might be unfamiliar with?

The creation of this story was not simple and actually require a lot of outside help including reviews and feedback cycles. Understand that although I’ve made quite a few comics they all heavily rely on adult scenes to fill out the whole thing. Having to make a story that relies nearly 100% on interactions is new territory for me. , I’m having to introduce my characters to new readers meaning I couldn’t rely on previously established character elements. I wrote the story and somewhat over emphasized their characters as to catch everyone up with this entry hopefully it pays off and people get the archetypes. As for the story itself I wanted something that would both satisfy furry fans and attempt to mirror gay acceptance with furry acceptance. Hopefully the irony of hating furries but enjoying the message of gay tolerance isn’t lost on most readers. I also had to work on facial construction on Jessee as his face has always been a loose cannon as far as structures go.

The best part was honestly getting it done. It was very, very hard work. I think this is the most professional I’ve even been on a project because I feel these characters are on the end of their lifecycle with me so a lot of pushing was needed to get the story out.

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M: Not only are you in the issue, you drew the cover too. How did that come about and how does it feel that in January Marty and company will be rubbing shoulders with the likes Spider-man and Batman on comic shelves?

Once again that came out of the blue when I was asked. To be frank again, it was just a “do the work and make it nice” scenario. I think 21 year old me would be handling all of this a lot differently. As an older feller I feel It’s more of a “do a good job and don’t fuck up” feeling.

M: Are there any other furry artists’ work you could see fitting into Island in future issues?

Onta: I definitely think Miu (creator of duo Peaches and Cream), Seel and Rikose would do great in Island.

M: Were you at all worried about the perception of your work with a non furry audience with a lot of it being very adult in its art and themes?

I’m only worried about Brandon book doing well or not and I’ll be working hard to get furry fans to purchase and offset sales slump from those uninterested. I’m in too deep to worry if people will respect me or my art or the adult themes. I never anticipated any serious published work ever so it showing up out of the blue is a nice treat but it’s so far off from my mind I’m in it to do the work and hopefully make Brandon happy. If it does well and people like I’m excited but I have zero expectations from my work in Island beyond doing a good job for my employer.

M: Do you feel that furry is slowly becoming more mainstream and the public more accepting of works like yours that would at one time have been considered exclusively for a furry audience?

Onta: I think as time goes by and people deal with the fact that everything is up for grabs as far as sexualizing stuff, people will learn to deal with furry as two distinct things. The Disney movie coming out won’t hurt and will probably spawn a huge new group of furries.

M: I found myself identifying with Jess a lot and his feeling of not fitting in with the rest of the Pride attendees or the typical Gay identity. Is this something you that comes from direct experience yourself or from other people you have met? Which character, if any do you feel you identify with the most?

Onta: I think the majority of gay people are completely underrepresented. I also believe there is a strong “Full gay or get out” sort of mentality from both the gay scene and in general. No one wants anything but very clear sexual labels and it just doesn’t work that way. I think Jess’s position is the first baby steps for a lot of people. Someone who doesn’t aggressively hide their sexuality but also doesn’t reveal or revel in it.

Each character represents a part of me. Not equally or even in the same way. Some characters represent desire or wishful thinking others are more mirroring my personality or thoughts.

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M: The idea of Jess coming to terms with his own sexuality has been subtly hinted at in your adult work, what made you want to pick up on this thread again? What interests you about it?
Onta: I think the furry fandom has a unique appeal to people who are taking their first steps into exploring the sexuality as gay males. Furry’s and furry conventions are sort of a microcosm. A lot of niches, interest and kinks sort of converge under this one major theme and since Anthro fans are pretty much used to being social pariahs, grouping with similar folk sort of soften how much you stick out from normal everyday life.

Since my work is directed at the furry fandom to some extent I felt I should include a swathe of personality types with varying levels of sexual and emotional maturity. Jess, although my least popular character and more popular with woman was the best angle to allow new readers and furry fans in general entry into the story I wanted to present without alienating them.

M: Do you still think Pride is important even in 2016 and why?
Onta: I’m not sure. The internet is doing a lot of good (and some bad) where visibility is concerned. I think pride is more of an event for many people then a social cause at this point as it’s often presented with some level of showmanship over any real attempt to present or solve issues that non-hetero folks deal with. I wanted to present something a bit more realistic with the way I’ve noticed the crowds interact with the parade without getting too catty/snide about it.

M: Badge of Pride raises some interesting points as well as being fun, could you see yourself doing more works of this type for a mainstream audience that deal with topics like sexuality and identity as well as your adult work?
Onta: This comic took a lot out of me. I don’t know. I didn’t want to indulge in a dark, self-hatred, depressive style slice of life comic though was my first kneejerk response when asked to make a story. I felt I should focus on entertaining the people first and get my messages across somewhat subtly. I have people who have read the script and given feedback to thank for that. If the reception is good and people genuinely like it and Image doesn’t get mad and numbers are good on sales it would be a good serious consideration.

Island issue 6 featuring the ‘Badge of Pride” by Onta is released on January 27th while his adult works can be found in pages of Hard Blush available here.

“Truly, My life is a low budget horror movie”- Scott Zelman’s wilde and much missed webcomic

anthro, comic

 

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“Don’t be scared! He doesn’t bite. That’d be gauche”

Scot Zellman’s Buster Wilde first appeared on-line around the mid-nineties back in the prehistoric days of the internet. Following the exploits of our eponymous hero, lover and maybe most importantly, gay lycanthrope as we quickly discover the he twist in the familiar folk tale and pop culture staple. Sinewy, flamboyant party animal by night at sunrise Buster switches back to his beleaguered alter ego, Bernard. Stressed, uptight and again most importantly, straight. As Buster humorously and enthusiastically throws himself into his new life, navigating the gay club scene with its drama and clichés, Bernard struggles with a double life he doesn’t remember and more often than not waking up in other guys beds. It was among one of the first web comics I discovered when I finally got on-line and I quickly made my way through every strip on the now broken and mostly forgotten geocities site.

You heard that right, Geocities. It’s been around fourteen years since the final strip was posted and it’s a testament to both the quality of the strips and Zellman’s considerable skills as a writer and gifted cartoonist that those who saw it at the time still hold it in such high regard over a decade later. Apart from one of two references that date them (Buffy, who Buster declares is a bitch because of her treatment of fellow werewolf Oz) the Buster Wilde strips have a timeless quick paced humour to them that’s still as funny today as when they were first conceived.

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They continued sporadically for four years and fifty two strips until one day they just, stopped. One last strip with the energetic Buster switching the word ‘fetch’ with ‘felch’ and then, nothing. The site was never updated again and still remains, albeit a little bit more broken. If anything it reminds me how easy it was in the early days before social media and constantly online presences for people to simply disappear from the surface of the digital world. Details are still frustratingly few. Beyond a few mentions on forums here and there, the odd broken link, I feel confident in saying this post will be the most ever written about it. In the last few years web comics have really come into their own as something unique and separate from other comics, gaining a lot more attention and exposure in the process. It’s a real shame that in being an early example of the medium that it’s fallen through the cracks when it comes to wider recognition and it feels bizarre to be the first one writing about so many moons later.

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My understanding from what I could gleam from a question here and there on twitter is that Zellman simply moved onto other projects, before eventually retiring from comics completely. It was a pleasant surprise a few years ago to find that a print version of the Buster strips existed, released by Furplanet who now helpfully host copies of the originals online. Alex Vance, writer of the Heathen Cities series and also a fan had reached out to Zellman with the offer to touch up the original artwork and release them on paper and ink “There was a new generation in the furry community and when I was still in publishing I reached out to him and developed scans of his originals into a book,” says Vance on giving Buster a second chance in the spotlight  “They represented a significant work. Drawn and lettered entirely by hand, a vanishing art”. The volume collects all of the original comics, promotional artwork, a fascinating artists sketchbook giving a glimpse into the creative process of the comic. Most tantalisingly it features two partly inked, mostly  unfinished strips both in a larger format with more experimental layouts. One of these featuring Busters strange toilet habits is now among my favourites and gives a fleeting glimpse of what could have been.

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Buster Wilde can be read in it’s entirety here. The printed version can also be purchased here or from amazon.

&nb