Thursday, August 25, 2005

Furries Can Be Good - Canales and Guardino's 'Blacksad'

There's a sort of geek food chain. The indie comics guys look down on the tights and capes crowd. The comics guys look down on the roleplayers. The roleplayers look down on the Magic players... and everyone looks down on the furries.
Fans of anthropomorphic art, where animals are given human features, are an odd breed. Frequently fascinated with the minutiate, all too frequently the sexual minutiae, of characters with hooves, feathers, scales, whiskers and muzzles, their preferred stuff is regarded as eccentric at best, bordering on bestiality at worst, and the comics are seen as fringey hackwork... because seriously, anyone who'll by an 'all-lesbian unicorn issue' issue of anything, is probably not gonna be taken too seriously as a barometer of comics quality.

Which brings us to 'Blacksad'.
Originally published in Europe and published in the US by iBooks, 'Blacksad', and its sequel, 'Arctic Nation' are excellent noir stories, featuring hard-boiled private eye John Blacksad. (There are apparently, further Blacksad tales, but these are the ones I've read, so...) The authors nail the genre perfectly while adding their own spin on it, much as the Italians did with the Western and the French with the hard-boiled crime drama.
Of the two stories, the first, simply called 'Blacksad', is weaker for being somewhat introductory and a little more linear than the second... a Mickey Spillane-style trail of informants leading to the final culprit, as opposed to Dashiell Hammett-style web of intrigue leading inexorably but by a winding path to its conclusion.
In 'Blacksad', our detective hero is involved in a murder mystery in which the victim is the one great love of his life - 'the one who got away'. It's visually lavish, with great backgrounds, spectacularly effective use of colour and loving attention to detail. The dialogue is terse, with the stereotypical hard-boiled clipped delivery from our hero, and extremely characterful dialogue all around from the usual parade of coy witnesses, punch-drunk prizefighters, stuffed-shirt police officers, brutish thugs, lowlife informants, and one particularly sinister hitman.
Overall though, my main problem with the first story is that there just didn't seem to be enough of it. You're introduced to a rich world and there's the impression that there's so much more out there than what you've been led to.
The second story 'Arctic Nation' begins with a racially motivated murder and the disappearance of a young black girl, which our hero is called upon to investigate. Things get decidedly nasty as the storytellers introduce a 'white power' movement - the 'Arctic Nation' of the title - and Blacksad (who is himself black) has to tread a dangerous minefield as he is forced to peel away layer after layer of deception, violence and tragedy, each time uncovering more pieces of a bigger, nastier picture.

Oh. And Blacksad is an anthropomorphic cat.
Okay, we had to get to it.
Everyone in Blacksad is a humanoid animal. But it's so staggeringly effective, you'd wonder if it'd work even half as well if they weren't. Each character is matched precisely to their species... from the downbeat orangutan blues player in the seedy bar, to the sinister snake hitman, the bellowing walrus movie executive, the pompous polar bear police chief, each character is beautifully cast.
However the creators aren't content to rest on that. It's not enough for them to just use the anthropomorphics as a kind of lazy visual shorthand... Hey, he's a fox, so he's sneaky... rather they use the animal features of each character to really express the inner nature of each character... it's expressionism done to incredible effect.
And rather than the anthropomorphics as the final product, it's a process. It's not enough for them to know WHAT they're doing... they have to know WHY they're doing it. And their goal?

To create good comics.

And in that, they have succeeded admirably.

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14 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

But do the animals have sex? Because that's what makes something a furry comic. If they're just anthropomorphic, I don't think you'll find as much criticism from the readers. It's the animal porn that turns people off.

So, is it Finding Nemo or Fingering Nemo?

-Dan

8/25/2005 05:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Hespa said...

Oh fer Pete's sake!

Firstly, wherever did you come up with the idea that a furry comic has to have sex in it? All a comic (/TV series/movie/story/piece of art) needs in order to be furry is the presence of anthropomorphic animals - that's what "furry" means! There are plenty of good, clean, furry comics around: Albedo, Furrlough, Usagi Yojimbo, Katmandu, Tales of the Fennick and so on. Also online, things like www.ozyandmillie.net and www.ozfoxes.com/fauxpas.htm.

Secondly, there are a great many furry fans out there (the majority or them, in my experience) who aren't interested in or actively dislike "animal porn" (yes, I'm one of them). It's just that, like so many aspects of fandom, the seedy minority makes for the most exciting press, so they get all the publicity.

Apologies if this is not the forum for a rant, I just wanted to set the record straight.

Thanks, Pól Rua, for the article - I'll have to check out Blacksad.

8/25/2005 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger chasdom said...

I have to admit I'm pretty ignorant of the anthromorphic genre. But I do know that I once used the term "furry" in conversation with a small-press publisher of anthromorphic comics, and she was very offended, because the term "furry" implied (to her, at least) anthromorphic comics with sex acts depicted.

Anyway . . .

I've read Blacksad: Arctic Nation, and I would have to say the fact that the characters are animals does not seem to affect the impact of the work itself. I don't know if the anthromophicity ADDS to the work, but the fact that Guarnido's artwork is exceptionally expressive with his chosen characters is all you need to know.

The art is gorgeous, and yet not overwrought or showy. The linework is detailed in a fine art style, but avoids being too static. In other words, Guarnido tells the story both beautifully and fluidly, a rare talent.

However, the story he gets to work with isn't much, an unimaginative genre piece that just sort of plods from one uninteresting twist to the next. The fact that the quotes on the back of the book compliment the artwork without mentioning the story is telling. It would be interesting to see Guarnido's artwork on a more imaginative story.

8/25/2005 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger chasdom said...

Oh, yes, there is one brief sex scene in Arctic Nation, depicting the miscegenation of one of the rascist antagonists.

If you become accustomed the characters-as-archetypes (which, I think most readers will) then you will no longer see the characters as animals, so it's no big deal. Also, the scene is not intended to be erotic, so that also makes the scene less jarring.

8/25/2005 11:37:00 AM  
Blogger Pól Rua said...

For the record, there is sex, in the same way you'd expect sex in a Raymond Chandler story.
So it's not exactly 'Fingering Nemo', but it's certainly not 'all-ages' fare.

8/25/2005 09:48:00 PM  
Anonymous C. Tynne said...

The problem is there's more than one definition of "Furry".

I don't consider Blacksad, Usagi Yojimbo, Uncle $crooge, etc to be "furry" comics because of the almost exclusive sexual connotation online "furry fans" have linked to the term.

Wonderful comics featuring anthro animals, though.

8/27/2005 11:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Zaki said...

Gracias Pól Rua! I thank you for reviewing Blacksad. I've been trying to get the Good Comic Seekers to check out Blacksad for like many months and now he's here. Again, Gracias!

8/30/2005 10:20:00 AM  
Blogger Pól Rua said...

In response to Tynne, one of my furry customers at work has the whole 'sexy animal' thing with Usagi Yojimbo happening.
In response to zaki: Hey, no worries. Blacksad is good comics, and I love to share good comics with the people.

Basically, my contention is that anything can be good. Even if 90% of the rest of it is crap... there's still a possibility of quality.
And I don't think quality has anything to do with genres, or with target audience, or with how talented a particular creator is/can be, or with continuity, decompression or any other storytelling tools you want to mention.
I believe that quality is about execution, and that almost anything can be executed well.

8/30/2005 09:01:00 PM  
Anonymous C. Tynne said...

Did you think that would surprise me, Pol?

These are Furries...and fandom that openly and proudly admits to considering the underage characters in shows like "Tiny Toon Adventures" to be "good wanking material".

(Quoting a furry I met. No lie.)

They can turn anything into a thrill for their sexual jollies, no matter how innocent.

If I sound upset, I am. I know some of these people. They're way too willing to share their kinks...even with an uninterested audience.

Yeah, there are Furries who think UY is "sexy".

There are also Furries who think PBS shows like "Between the Lions" and "Dragon Tales" are sexy.

But the intent of the artists is what I care about, not the need of a tiny little sub-audience to pervert it.

9/07/2005 08:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dont have an account here, I just thought I would add my bit.

I have a very close friend who has been into anthro comics for as long as I have known him, and I have often wondered what he got out of it. He collects pretty much all of the titles, being a manic depressive collector and I have looked through quite a number of them when I was bored.

I have to say that a majority of the titles out there would be what I would consider "furry porn" to some extent. I am not sure if it was Katmandu or Furlough, but I am pretty sure that I have seen sex and nudity in Katmandu.

The thing that I have a problem with in these types of comics is what sells. For the people that are hot for this, they will buy anything no matter how bad the art or how lame the story. I have seen some furry comics that have had a really good story and have made me laugh, but for the most part I consider many anthro artists third rate amature artists and fourth rate story tellers.

I dont care what people are into as long as they do it where I dont have to see, and as long as both parties are concenting (can animals concent?) because even though it grosses me out, it is not my place to judge. I care about people calling themselves artists and getting published even though they do not posses tallent, skill or imagination.

There is my little rant.

7/11/2006 02:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a furry, i don't really mind if the comic has animal porn in or not. I just wish some christians and other haters would just get off our backs...Japanese manga has nudity in some but you don't get many ranting at them do you?

Also i should think the art isn't all rubbish. One artist i liked had great work, very detailed in the anatomy.

So this is a plea you all you "Anti-furries" out there: PLEASE just leave us alone! i don't care what bible references you recite to me, just leave us be!

Many thanks

9/14/2007 02:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Im not a furry but I do realise that most people in the fandom strongly detest bestiality, that is a fact! How is taking the human figure and putting animal parts on them make it bestiality? the answer is NO! its not bestiality, it is a delusion caused by the media.
And to the furry fan who says christians are giving them grief, Im sorry to say this but alot people in the fandom are christian, some are jewish aswell whilst others are spiritualists, so your not all atheists like you think.
Another reason why furrys hate bestiality is because its animal abuse, and they also hate it when their fandom is associated with it.
Yes, some of furry artwork is erotic but how is that animal sex? they have human-shaped bodies, and the depiction of sex is practically human like, so how can it be animal sex? just because the characters have animal faces doesn't mean its animal sex.

Im not a furry fan, Im just a person who looks at the facts before making judgement.

Ps: That Blacksad book looks cool though.

10/01/2007 03:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not against the furry fandom, as long as it steers clear of beastiality. I love animals, so anything like that irks me a bit; I have to be honest that I don't know all that much about furry culture, but I accept that everyone has their own interests.

Indie comic dudes ftw.

11/14/2008 08:55:00 AM  
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