The Pull List 21/09/16

comic, Comic spotlight, First Impressions

The Backstagers 1 (Boom Studios)

A little bit of a cheat this one given it came out weeks ago, but this second printing is perfect for certain people who despite regularly singing the praises of Boom  for the likes of Giant Days and The Spire, Still somehow manages to miss out on delightful new titles like The Backstagers. Written and created by current Detective Comics scribe James Tynion IV and artist Ryan Sigh,  it takes the Lumberjanes template of adorable art with an everyday setting with magical elements.This time the magic of the stage that turns out to be very real for the private school theatre crew of the title.

With two openly queer creators at the helm, Backstagers boasts a strikingly diverse queer cast it’s the kind of book I champion, and it’s refreshing already to know it’ll explore the kind of identities and personalities beyond the tired and tested. If ever there was a safe bet, then The Backstagers would be it, already released to rave reviews and praise, it looks to be every bit as heartwarming and welcoming as it’s camp based cousin.

Rumble 14 (Image Comics)

At the risk of repeating myself, this months issue of Rumble is another regular returnee onto my weekly  picks, and deservedly so. Aided by the enthusiastic but idiotic Del, Rathraq must face off against his own earthly remains and an impossible decision. With a unique and engrossing mythology, Arcudi and Harren continue to develop their mystical brawl-em-up’s cast of complex and conflicted characters. The question of “what colour darkness” is increasingly “shades of grey” to Rathraq as he faces the consequences of his life long vendetta. Action and intense visuals you can only find on the printed page, Rumble is constantly at the forefront of what makes comics so exciting.

 

 

“I’m still working on taking my own ideas seriously”- Talking comics and body horror with artist Tessa Black

artist spotlight, comic, Comic spotlight, First Impressions

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One of the biggest pleasures for me reading and collecting comics this year has been the sheer volume of exciting and interesting anthologies that have been released thus far. Between the ones from the major publishers and kickstarters, it’s been really easy to find something inventive and interesting from complete newcomers to more well known names. I’ve sung it’s praises on here before, a lot I know, but for me Image comics Island is still one of most consistently inventive in terms of content and creators as well as being readily available in comic stores. One of the clear standouts for me so far has to be Tessa Black’s “Seawitch” which was featured way back in Islands third issue.A trans Designer, Illustrator and long time artist from Vancouver, Seawitch is surprisingly Black’s first foray into the world of comics and it’s instantly striking in how confident, fully formed and realised the idea and execution is.

Created over the course of a single weekend, this deliciously unnerving and thoughtful comic depicts a woman stood alone on a beach, before entering the ocean as she begins drifting down to the depths and slowly undressing in a slow build of body horror. Clothing and jewellery and even body parts discarded as she descends to the ocean floor.A long dead pilot the only silent observer on this arresting and quietly unnerving, yet intimate scene. Slowly transforming her body to match the environment around her it culminates on the final page with the Seawitch at ease in her new surroundings, undressed and comfortable in the silent watery depths. For me it’s the collection of smaller moments leading up to this. A series of panels depicts a figure gently pulling a pair of socks, each pulled down with the other foot. It’s an every day act but here it is oddly intimate, sensual but uncomfortable.Black reframes this almost crushingly mundane act and make it feel voyeuristic, a far too personal and intimate an act for us to be witness to.

With it’s clean fluid lines and coloured only in minimal blues it captures the solitude and coldness of the sea, adding in alien, oceanic textures to the figures body. Although it works on a surface level as a slow build body horror, after being lucky enough to  talk to Black over e-mail she also expertly uses her first comics creation to communicate her personal experiences of being trans, addressing the idea of clothing as performance and how environment and peoples ideas of us shapes both our identity and form to certain extents.

Before Islands and Seawitch, had you ever considered producing comics before? If so what ideas did you have and what prevented you from making them?

I’ve been around comic artists for a few years, but always felt the burden of their expectations or opinions of certain genres and approaches in the medium. I still don’t consider myself a comic book artist or even an avid reader, but it’d definitely something I’d like to explore.

Did you find yourself changing your approach to drawing a comic rather than single illustrations? How did the idea for the minimalist color palette come about?

I think you can definitely see the change in approach when you compare my regular art with the comic. I was pretty pressed for time, so I would have coloured it with flats in a limited palette if I’d had more time. I still intend to do so when I get some time, so I can re-release it anywhere else. I’d probably add in illustrations on the side, similar to to the work of William Stout, which inspired me greatly as a kid.

On your tumblr, have a run of insect girls, or people with insect parts. What about insects appeals to you? Is it there bodies mostly or also behaviours?

I really like insects for a whole host of reasons. Their anatomy is so different from ours, more similar overall to the things we make than the way we see ourselves as humans. Despite drawing sexy bug ladies, I’m more interested in conforming the layers and segments of insects to conform to a more familiar silhouette.

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Also a series brightly colored goo-girls.  What attracted you to draw them, the malleability of them or some other aspect?

I like goo girls and shape shifting in general. I’d like to play around with the idea of being able to fluidly present your own body based on subconscious thought. Having a form decided by the subconscious, without being predisposed by genetic or environmental (physical) pressures.

You also mentioned you went through a phase of drawing yourself, what broke this series of drawings, or was it just a desire to move onto something else?

I think I started drawing who I wanted to be just after starting my transition. A lot of folks recommended that to work towards feeling comfortable with my body or thinking about clothing styles. I tried being pretty realistic with how I expected to look, and that shape formed the basis for a lot of my exploration of erotic art.It all started with a fairly simple and cartoony bodies but adapted to become softer and more varied as I experienced changes in my own body. I also get bored of things pretty easy and dislike seeing repetition in themes or processes in my art. I never really had much of a signature style and I’m always much more interested in trying new things than sticking to old ways. It feels like the best way to learn is to shake things up and tackle new directions in art, but that’s just me!

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

“Why build one when you can build two for twice the price” First contact with fandom in Associated Student Bodies and Fur-Piled

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

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It was at a convention, talking about comics that a friend of mine suddenly declared to some dismay, “Wow, there’s probably furries now who didn’t start out by reading Associated Student Bodies”. It was funny at the time but since then I’ve heard a few people echoing the sentiment. It made me wonder if with the constant influx of new and younger furs if the things we held dear are even still relevant? It’s the way it should be and new ideas, books and shows are the lifeblood of any community to keep it thriving. Everyone has their own story of how they discovered and engaged with the fandom. For myself after finally stumbling upon the fandom and discovering that this strange collection of interests had a name, Associated Student Bodies was one of my first experiences of anthropomorphic fiction that wasn’t connected to a TV show or a movie. The college based coming of age story told from the point of view of Daniel, a young lion away from home for the first time and discovering himself and reconciling his faith with his sexuality. In the early days and the rush of finding this new community it felt thrilling, exciting and deliciously naughty to read. I’d be the first to admit that it seems innocently and oddly quaint by today’s standards as well as indulging in a lot of tropes. It’s a little dated and my fondness for it stems from mostly nostalgic reasons and it doesn’t help that is once again out of print.

 

Leo Magna’s Furpilled and recently the more launched Perception feel like the natural, modern successors to Associated Student Bodies and definitely present a more updated take on the slice of life style it was famous for. Furpilled itself was completed and is a few years old by now but despite winning a few awards, I feel like it didn’t get the attention it deserved at the time and that Magna isn’t as well know as he should be. His comics almost always centre around LGB relationships with Furpilled following the escapades of a group of such friends, revolving around Arthur Husky and his burgeoning relationship with the mysterious Saetto. Through five volumes Magna charts the ups and downs of LGB life in California and while other works featuring a lot of the cliches that come with the genre would have put me off, it’s his strong grasp of characters and their motivations that takes them beyond this, slowly revealing the casts deep and rich inner lives.

His latest comic Perception is once again concerned with LGB relationships, but whereas Furpilled starred a group of out and proud character’s, Perception is the opposite. Joe is a frat boy, in deep turmoil over his sexuality and constantly on edge over being discovered by his homophobic, hyper masculine fraternity brothers. Both comics have LGB lives at their core, while approaching them from two completely different perspectives. While it’s not as instantly likable as Furpiled ,perhaps because of it’s uncomfortable subject matter and so far dislikable frat boy cast, it is showing itself to be a little more broad and complex. Dealing more overtly with the homophobia still experienced by many even now, it already feels like it’s the perfect companion piece and thematic sequel to his Furpilled run.

Since writing this Leo has restarted Furpilled and did a wonderful interview with me . It’s still free to read in it’s entirety online or available in five volumes from SofaWolf Press. The print versions to lose points for not reprinting a colour element on one page of the comic, taking away lot of it’s impact. Trust me you’ll know it when you see it. Perception is being funded exclusively through Magna’s Patreon site from as a little as $1 per month.

“I’m still working on taking my own ideas seriously”- Talking comics and body horror with artist Tessa Black

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One of the biggest pleasures for me reading and collecting comics this year has been the sheer volume of exciting and interesting anthologies that have been released thus far. Between the ones from the major publishers and kickstarters, it’s been really easy to find something inventive and interesting from complete newcomers to more well known names. I’ve sung it’s praises on here before, a lot I know, but for me Image comics Island is still one of most consistently inventive in terms of content and creators as well as being readily available in comic stores. One of the clear standouts for me so far has to be Tessa Black’s “Seawitch” which was featured way back in Islands third issue.A trans Designer, Illustrator and long time artist from Vancouver, Seawitch is surprisingly Black’s first foray into the world of comics and it’s instantly striking in how confident, fully formed and realised the idea and execution is.

Created over the course of a single weekend, this deliciously unnerving and thoughtful comic depicts a woman stood alone on a beach, before entering the ocean as she begins drifting down to the depths and slowly undressing in a slow build of body horror. Clothing and jewellery and even body parts discarded as she descends to the ocean floor.A long dead pilot the only silent observer on this arresting and quietly unnerving, yet intimate scene. Slowly transforming her body to match the environment around her it culminates on the final page with the Seawitch at ease in her new surroundings, undressed and comfortable in the silent watery depths. For me it’s the collection of smaller moments leading up to this. A series of panels depicts a figure gently pulling a pair of socks, each pulled down with the other foot. It’s an every day act but here it is oddly intimate, sensual but uncomfortable.Black reframes this almost crushingly mundane act and make it feel voyeuristic, a far too personal and intimate an act for us to be witness to.

With it’s clean fluid lines and coloured only in minimal blues it captures the solitude and coldness of the sea, adding in alien, oceanic textures to the figures body. Although it works on a surface level as a slow build body horror, after being lucky enough to  talk to Black over e-mail she also expertly uses her first comics creation to communicate her personal experiences of being trans, addressing the idea of clothing as performance and how environment and peoples ideas of us shapes both our identity and form to certain extents.

Before Islands and Seawitch, had you ever considered producing comics before? If so what ideas did you have and what prevented you from making them?

I’ve been around comic artists for a few years, but always felt the burden of their expectations or opinions of certain genres and approaches in the medium. I still don’t consider myself a comic book artist or even an avid reader, but it’d definitely something I’d like to explore.

Did you find yourself changing your approach to drawing a comic rather than single illustrations? How did the idea for the minimalist color palette come about?

I think you can definitely see the change in approach when you compare my regular art with the comic. I was pretty pressed for time, so I would have coloured it with flats in a limited palette if I’d had more time. I still intend to do so when I get some time, so I can re-release it anywhere else. I’d probably add in illustrations on the side, similar to to the work of William Stout, which inspired me greatly as a kid.

On your tumblr, have a run of insect girls, or people with insect parts. What about insects appeals to you? Is it there bodies mostly or also behaviours?

I really like insects for a whole host of reasons. Their anatomy is so different from ours, more similar overall to the things we make than the way we see ourselves as humans. Despite drawing sexy bug ladies, I’m more interested in conforming the layers and segments of insects to conform to a more familiar silhouette.

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Also a series brightly colored goo-girls.  What attracted you to draw them, the malleability of them or some other aspect?

I like goo girls and shape shifting in general. I’d like to play around with the idea of being able to fluidly present your own body based on subconscious thought. Having a form decided by the subconscious, without being predisposed by genetic or environmental (physical) pressures.

You also mentioned you went through a phase of drawing yourself, what broke this series of drawings, or was it just a desire to move onto something else?

I think I started drawing who I wanted to be just after starting my transition. A lot of folks recommended that to work towards feeling comfortable with my body or thinking about clothing styles. I tried being pretty realistic with how I expected to look, and that shape formed the basis for a lot of my exploration of erotic art.It all started with a fairly simple and cartoony bodies but adapted to become softer and more varied as I experienced changes in my own body. I also get bored of things pretty easy and dislike seeing repetition in themes or processes in my art. I never really had much of a signature style and I’m always much more interested in trying new things than sticking to old ways. It feels like the best way to learn is to shake things up and tackle new directions in art, but that’s just me!

Interview: The Opportunity Zoo- Leo Magna discusses his return to the world of Furpilled

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Lately life has been full of these weird little coincidences. Last week I started on what I’ve been jokingly calling a super-secret project for another website at the encouragement from one of it’s other contributors. Part of this was writing about the web comic Furpilled. Drawn by Leo Magna it’s a delightful anthropomorphic slice of life comic featuring a colourful cast of LGBT characters in Santa Monica, California. Focusing on the everyday exploits and romantic lives of this group of friends, it ran for eight years, won an Ursa Minor Award and ended in 2011. In the upcoming article I encourage people to check it out, making the claim that it still deserves some attention after all this time, and sang the praises of his new comic Perception.

The very next day, after a four year hiatus he sends out a message that Furpilled will be back, with both comics alternating and updating once a week. Surprised and delighted by it’s return I got in contact with Leo Magna to talk about the sudden announcement and his plans for the future.

What’s been happening in your own life that has prompted you to revisit the world of Furpilled and How much of this was fans asking for more?

Well, when I decided to end the comic it was because it was at a good point to end it, and my life was about to get hectic. I was about to move across country for school, so I figured that it was time. All of the stories for the characters were converging to a point where it seemed appropriate to stop. Now that I am done with school and I have more time on hand, I figured that it could be a good time to re-start it. I get at least one message a week regarding the comic, so the fans asking for it is definitely a big factor for it.

Did you ever expect there to be such a dedicated fan base for the comic even after all this time, considering that you originally intended it to be only a handful of pages?

Honestly, no, I never thought that there would be such a dedicated fan base. To this day it surprises me. And I am really thankful for them. They are why I’m still drawing.

The series came to an end four years ago and tied up a lot of the loose ends and story-lines. Did you want this to be a definitive ending at the time, or was it always your intention to write more stories with the characters? Will it be picking up where it left of or four years later?

Because Furpilled is a slice-of-life comic, there are always stories to tell. The stories really will never end until I decide to drive all the characters off the cliff.

Time has passed, yes. So there will be a time gap for Husky and the gang. This new series will pick up four years after we last saw the gang, and we get to see where they are now. The majority of the stories will take place four years after, but some of them will be from that gap.The previous ending was appropriate for the problems that the characters were facing then. Andy and Indigo starting up as a couple, Husky and Saetto getting over their exes and start trusting each other, Chris letting go of his past and ending a bad relationship.

Out of all the cast, is there a character you would like to develop more in the new run that you didn’t get a chance to originally? Is there any character you feel more confident in writing after this time away from them?

For this new series I want to focus more on Husky, Andy, and Indigo. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I think their stories will be interesting because they will be so opposite. I’ve always liked contrast like that.

In Furpilled the characters, although they had difficulties and low points,always had a strong supportive social group. What led you to want to explore the other side of this with Perception? Which side have you experienced the most in your own life?

The strong social circle that all the characters in Furpilled have is based on my own circle of friends. After having moved away from them, and after so many years in the LGBT community, I started to realize just how lucky I was to have them all. I never felt out of place with them because they were all equally as eccentric as I am. Very few of them were “straight” in the strict sense of the term, so my sexuality was never really an issue. When I started Furpilled, they definitely were my inspiration, so while we touched on the subject of coming out, we never really had stories for that.

All the characters in the comic are openly gay (or bisexual) and older in age than the characters in Perception. Perception is meant to explore what it’s like to come out, and discover that you’re not the only one out there that’s different. There is also this added pressure that Joe feels to want to have his fraternity brothers perceive him as a regular guy, because he thinks that they are all just regular guys. But that’s the funny thing, there is no such thing as a “regular guy”. That’s where we start in the story, with Joe waking up from a drunken one night stand with another guy, and immediately regretting it.

The landscape in terms of LGBT in America has changed substantially in the last four years since Furpilled ended. Although still not fully accepted at large, there has been progress with marriage rights and such. Will any of this play into the comic and to what degree? Are there any particular changes you would like to explore?

Oh gods yeah! Can you believe it! four years ago I couldn’t get married, and how here I am thinking about dinner for my husband! It’s crazy! And it’s not just here, all over the world things are changing. It’s a great time to be alive. These new chapters will definitely touch on that. I don’t want to give too much away as far as ideas go, but count on marriage and transgender issues coming up.

The cast is made up mostly of LGB characters, with Ian being non gender binary. Have you ever considered including a trans character in the comic?

Well, I don’t think this was expanded much in the comic, but Ian’s ex (she shows up briefly) is transgender, so the thought was always there. As for these new stories, spoilers, Yes.

What else in terms of mainstream or furry comics are you enjoying right now?

Neil Gaiman picked up Sandman again, and I can’t tell you just how much I love that. As far as furry comics, Circles just ended last January, and it broke my heart. There are a couple of online comics that update on FurAffinity that I like to keep up with, Seattlefur by RainYatsu, and Deceit by Mad-Dog.

As with other story titles in Furpilled this one is derived from a song? Are there any clues we could glean from listening to the Goldfish track?

Yes, Goldfish – Choose your own Adventure. And no, there aren’t any clues, really. I love to listen to music when I draw, so I put on random songs. For every chapter, though, a song will come up that just resonates with the theme of the story. Then I proceed to listen to it on a loop until I’m done with the chapter.

Both Perception and Furpilled will be updating exclusively through Leo’s Patreon Page. The first four volumes of Furpilled can be read online or purchased from Sofawolf Press

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Review: Kate Leth and Matt Cummings’ Power Up for new Boom! Box series

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If the recent Sailor Moon Crystal series or the renewed interest in Power Rangers via comics proves anything it’s that there are no tropes, series or sub genres too old or too obscure that don’t deserve another go around with a fresh set of eyes or a talented creative team. Adding to their already diverse line-up, Boom! studios have added Power Up from writer Kate Leth and Artist Matt Cummings. Already issue one feels stylistically like the opening episode of your new favourite cartoon or anime series and has a lot in common with the likes of Adventure Time, Steven Universe and Bee and Puppycat. It’s the reinvention of the magical girl genre for the hip Cartoon Network crowd. PowerUp_001_A_Main This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the duo’s previous connections to these series, with both having written and drawn for a number of shows’ comic book counterparts. This however, is the first creator owned book for both of them and it’s feels so well realised and fully formed from the first page as if it’s come from it’s own Cartoon Network show. On the surface the premise for Power Up is simple, the usual mystic prophecy that foretells of our chosen warriors that will battle cosmic forces of evil. The twist and hook of the book is the choice of characters the powers to be have decided shall become their greatest warriors, the hedgehog owning work shirking Aime, Sandy an overworked mother of two and Kevin, washed up athlete turned construction worker. Already we are shown the characters getting through the hurdles in their everyday lives such as being late for work, juggling work and kids and the indignities of being stuffed into a cup. Oh yeah, one of the team, Silas, is a goldfish. An undeniably cute goldfish, but a goldfish none the less.Already I love the sorely needed, non conventional leads. It’s as if Kate Leth has seen the outpouring and demand for this and simply ran with it. Flawed, realistic and relatable, they’re as far from conventional superheroes as possible. PowerUp_001_PRESS-7-thumb-500x768-160781 All are presented with relatable problems, and as person who has also never, ever wanted to be forty five minutes early for work I could instantly identify with Aime’s less than commendable work ethic. The characters aren’t seen in costume in this issue, only with Kevin furtively hiding what looks to be the costume he is proudly sporting on the cover, a traditional magical girl outfit complete with pink skirt and matching high heel boots. It makes me hopeful for at least part of the story exploring a character, who at least outwardly is presented as very typically masculine, being empowered by aspects of femininity. Although not explicitly stated in any way, there is a sense in the costumes not quite matching the characters that they may not be the first team to use these powers, or perhaps not the intended recipients.

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Cummings’ artwork is both quirky and adorable with an animated style that again makes it feel like an adaptation of a cartoon. The character designs are great and feel genuinely natural yet stylised, his simplistic faces with their over exaggerated anime expressions again calls back to the comics roots in animes like Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura. His grasp of movement gives the issue some stunning action scenes as Aime and Silas grapple with their first supernatural foe in the middle of the pet shop. The softer lines used in the setting and backgrounds draw attention to the characters and the use of a limited colour palette throughout is also excellent and gives the settings a soft, dreamy feel. As a relative newcomer this is his first longer comic project, with hopefully many more to follow. Though the first issue feels a little slight, and is slow to establish anything but a few aspects of it’s story, it’s enough to make you stick with it for the second issue. The draw being to see how these people from vastly different backgrounds and with little in common, eventually come together as a team. As with the aforementioned comparison to Steven Universe, one of the most important and inventive elements was the shows slow burn, as it took it’s time to world build and establish its mythos. An approach that Power Up will hopefully employ in it’s issues to come.