Hey howdy hey, reader(s)! Welcome back to Infernal Reviews!
As a race, we are fascinated by animals and always have been. We learn from them, tell stories about them, and imbue them with magical powers. In them we see ourselves sometimes, and so we make them more human in order that we might relate to them more. Even today, we have our Peter Rabbits, our Garfields, our Bugs Bunnies, and our Mickey Mice.
On the internet they’re just called “Furries”.
At it’s root, the term can be used to denote either anthropomorphic animal characters, or fans of said characters. As with all things online, the nature of the fandom is too deeply stratified and contentious to analyze in just one post (I’d probably need a whole blog and a lifetime of research for that). However, regardless of why or how, the use of anthropomorphic characters in webcomics has become fairly prevalent and, like all media, there are some good ones and some… not so good ones. It is this kind of comic to which we turn our gaze this month. Now my friends, let us begin our furry experience with…
Written by Ellen Natalie, Furry Experience follows the lives of three college-aged roommates living in Utah Valley. Like a young, furry version of The Golden Girls, the three have variously distinct personalities that can’t help but clash a bit. As they each try to make it through their college life, work, romance, family, religion, and opinions on sex inevitably lead to both drama and hilarity.
As you can see, the artwork for the comic initially used heavy lines and inking and featured only a black and white palette with no shading for the first eleven pages. I typically don’t care for this kind of art, as it makes me think of coloring books more than comics. However, the comic very quickly begins using both shading and colors starting with the unofficial twelfth page (which even lampshades it). From that point, the comic does develop its style, going from a rough, hand-drawn look to a generally softer one with smoother lines. Despite that, the comic still only uses the most minimal shading, which leaves the pages looking flat and without depth. There’s also this thing where colors on the characters fade in a gradient, which usually doesn’t bother me, except when certain characters look like they haven’t been completely colored in. It may just be a stylistic choice, but that’s what sticks out to me, is all I’m saying.
The comic’s writing is… shall we say, confused? The comic begins by straddling the fourth wall by having the artistic Cat wondering how to write a furry comic… like the one that she’s in right now. Which begs the question; wouldn’t a furry comic in a world of furries just be a comic? Are there humans in this world we just haven’t seen? If so, what happened to them? Was it a mass, furry uprising? I, for one, welcome our new fuzzy overlords. The comic takes place in Utah and even features Mormonism, which implies that it’s set in a world just like ours, except that everyone is an anthropomorphic animal. This is sometimes used for jokes, primarily through the use of common animal tropes and behavior, but this just raises even more questions. How do things like human phrases or nursery rhymes come about in a world full of animals? Once you start thinking about it, the comic can come across as more than a little absurd, but, then again, maybe that’s the point.
As far as main characters go, the comic presents us with our typical trio of characters which, as I’ve mentioned, you often see in shows like The Golden Girls; there’s the innocent naive one, the sensible maternal one, and the passionate, livacious one. These disparate personalities are designed to play off of each other and, as is seemingly the case with Ms. Natalie, often represent separate aspects of the writer’s own personality.
Catherine, or Cat as she goes by (yes, the joke is made) is the Rose of the three main characters. Childlike and innocent to the point of naivete, she’s the one who ends up being the butt of someone’s joke most often, usually without her realizing it. Of the three, shes both the most excitable and the most vulnerable, as she suffers from an overprotective childhood and an almost debilitating fear of people. It’s only through spending time with her roommates that Cat is finally beginning to learn how to open up to others.
Ronnie (the rabbit) is the group’s Blanche, though not nearly as promiscuous. She’s the most physically active and rebellious of the three. Due to her strong personality and will, she’s the one most likely to get worked up about something or to get into an argument with someone. Though she can come off a little strong at times, there is a protectiveness to her that drives her to look out for her friends when she feels they need it. A bit of an agnostic, Ronnie has had issues with organized religion in the past, a fact which comes to the forefront now that she lives in a deeply Mormon community.
Dawn (the doe [a deer, a female deer...]), is, of course, the Dorothy of the cast. Sensible and pragmatic, she’s the most adult of the three and can sometimes come across as the most boring because of it. In reality, though, she has some of the more compelling moments due to how down to earth she is. While her patience does have limits, she cares about her friends and tries to help solve their problems by mediating any conflicts between them, lending advice, or even just listening, all the while having to deal with her own issues, such as an ailing mother struggling with cancer, a somewhat hostile work environment, and the ordeals of an awkward romance.
While not perfect and a little confusing, Furry Experience is nonetheless a fun comic with self-aware humor, excellent, well-rounded characters, and a fair amount of depth. Readers can also no doubt relate to at least one of the characters, main or secondary. It’s certainly a good way to ease into a new theme month.
Furry Experience is written by Ellen Natalie. The comic, including all images used here, belongs to her. There’s an About page featuring links to the characters first appearances. Ms. Natalie also has a Deviantart account where she posts pages from the comic as well as more of her own work.