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Early fandom artist Vicky Wyman passes away

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I'm sorry to report that Vicky Wyman passed away on August 3, 2018. According to a post by Defenbaugh on Fur Affinity, she'd recently found out that she had a very bad case of intestinal cancer. After an attempted surgery failed to improve her prospects, she made the choice to let go. She was in her 60s.

I'm not really qualified to write an obituary about Vicky Wyman, so if there are details and memories you'd like to share, please post a comment! I can update this article as necessary. What follows is some history with personal reflections.

Vicky Wyman is best known in furry fandom for her 1988 comic book series, Xanadu. In the second half of the 1980s, furry fandom was coming together. The first furry convention hadn't happened yet, but there were room parties at several science-fiction conventions. The fandom was largely art-based at this point, and keen to generate its own content, so there were a lot of self-published photocopied zines, APAs, and small art folios circulating around.

The late 1980s was also a period that was very good for comic book publishing. Following the success of the well-marketed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles indie comic, collectors descended on comic book stores hoping to find the next big title, whose issues might become valuable. Supply rose to meet demand, and this was known as the "black-and-white explosion" - lots of people were publishing new comics, hoping to get noticed. In retrospect, it wasn't so much an explosion as a glut. And Sturgeon's Law (90% of everything is crud) was definitely in effect.

The bright side of this glut was that it emboldened comic book writers to write about things other than superheroes. Underground comics - usually devoted to counter-cultural satire and shock with sex, drugs and violence - had been fading. Readers were now more inclined towards "alternative comics", interesting stories aimed at a higher age level. Some of these had emerged before the black-and-white explosion, like ElfQuest. The explosion also allowed writers to experiment with the superhero genre itself, as with Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns.

Furry creators took advantage of this publishing opportunity. Probably the most well-known furry comic from this period is Steve Gallacci's Albedo (1983), as well as Omaha the Cat Dancer (1984), Critters (1986), The Dreamery (1986), Fusion (1987), and Usagi Yojimbo (1987). And once these comics were sent out into the wild, more people found out about the fandom, quite often from reading the fan letters at the back of the comics, and following those leads to find more material. There was a sudden increase in furry fans - people who weren't drawing or writing stuff to add to the fandom - but they were eager consumers!

So that brings us to Vicky Wyman's 1988 comic Xanadu (five black-and-white issues, plus one color special). I had found out about furry fandom in late 1991, and in 1992 I started looking through comic book stores for older comics. The collapse of the explosion around 1987-1988 had led to lots of stores closing down, so there were back issues galore. Xanadu's story was very cliché, but what made it stand out for me were three things. First, it was fully and unabashedly in the fantasy genre, much more so than any of the other titles I've mentioned. Secondly, it had a fully realized furry universe, no human-like people or aliens. Thirdly, the artwork was great. I mean, lots of the comics had good artwork, but in comparison to what you'd find in a typical furry zine at the time, it really stood out, without being too cartoony.

Xanadu is a romance sword-and-sorcery fantasy comic that takes place in a medieval kingdom. There's a caste system in place. At the top are the Nobility, based on creatures from mythology. The middle class below them are the Freeborn, based on wild animals. At the lowest rank are the Domestique, based on domesticated animals. I don't think the whole world is like this? There's a kingdom of dragons, very Japanese in style with a strong sense of honor, but we don't find out much about them.

The main character is Tabbe Le Fauve, a feline thief and good-natured scallywag. He repeatedly breaks into the imperial castle (whose architecture keeps magically changing) to pursue a romantic relationship with Fatima, a vixen who's a close servant of Empress Alicia, a unicorn. The empress is a good sort, fairly new to the job, extremely flirtatious and prone to skinny-dipping in her royal pool - and she's also quite shrewd and not to be trifled with. When Tabbe gets on the bad side of the captain of the guard, a griffin named Reginald Plume, Alicia correctly senses that treachery might soon be coming into play.

MU Press later reprinted the five-issue series as a trade paperback in 1993, called Xanadu: Thief of Hearts. The back cover looks like this:

Finding Vicky Wyman's artwork is one of the first things I randomly discovered after I joined furry fandom. It's a very personal, happy memory from those days. A few months after finding the comic, I was browsing through the file section of a local computer bulletin board, and I found an image named "PHELIA.GIF". It's one of the oldest images on my hard drive.

Within a year, I'd tracked down where it came from. It was a separate story - a cautionary tale told by a grumpy Octavius about the dangers of love. Still, basically the same content. Romance and cliché court intrigue. But now in color!

(And a bit later)

Years later, I got to meet Vicky Wyman briefly, I think at Anthrocon 2000. I thanked her for her comics and artwork, and also got a small sketch from her. When I delved back into my hard drive today to find images for this article, I had completely forgotten what she'd scribbled for me. Empress Alicia, crying a little. It's sadly appropriate.

Thanks for the memories, Vicky. Rest in peace.

Comments

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

In shock and denial.
She will be missed.

Thank you dronon for the lovely obit.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

I recognize the art style from my lurker days where I mostly was web based. From VCL? Or her style inspired some that looked rather close on that site for sure.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

I knew her for a very long time and first met her in 1999 at AC. She was the guest of honour if I remember.

I really wish I didn't lose all those comics of her's I had when I moved to Canada. I left them with my parents who had a flood and I lost so many.

I was looking at looking for some but the anthology for the first 5 books is over 100 and people are using her death and their out of print as an excuse to fleece folks. That is a shame.

Was there a place we could pay for digital downloads? At least this way who ever is her heir can still get some money. Anyone got an idea?

RIP Vicky. You will be missed, a lot.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

There were two Xanadu graphic album collections by Vicky Wyman in the 1990s; "Xanadu: Thief of Hearts" and "Xanadu: Across Diamond Seas". I reviewed them at the time.

http://anthrozine.com/site/lbry/yarf.reviews.m.html

Fred Patten

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

Nice review sadly it doesn't really help my situation as to being able to get a hold of them, especially in digital format. :(

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

I know I've seen most if not all of these before, and it would've had to have been way back when I was first exploring furry sites back in the late 90's. No doubt I saw other examples of hers without knowing it was her. It's nice to see art like this again, even if the reason for that is bittersweet. Every time one of these progenitors of furry art passes on I feel less and less confident the kind of art and storytelling that got me into the fandom will ever make a comeback.

Admittedly, I never got to own or even see an entire book/issue/collection of hers or really any of these artists, but most of what's out there today just lacks something that's clearly abundant here; the professionalism, mainly.

I don't think you need to be a furry to like this kind of stuff. Too much furry art is by furries, for furries, but has little to offer anyone else.

Maybe it's high time some of us aspiring artists and writers got off our asses and did something to try and pick up where they left off.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

It would be nice to see her "Xanadu: Thief of Hearts" and "Xanadu: Across Diamond Seas" reprinted today, and her uncollected "Xanadu: In Golden Skies" finally published.

Fred Patten

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

Shame, that art looks really good.

Well, I'll be...

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

A real shock to hear about Vicky's passing! One of the great furry artists and storytellers. One of my great regrets in life was passing on the chance to purchase a bunch of her fanxines (I want to say the title was "Ever Changing Palace"?) at Worldcon in the early 1990's.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

Yes, it was "The Ever-Changing Palace". Her friend Lex Nakashima published it for her, but she had material in every issue. Several other prominent early fans also contributed stories & art set in the "Xanadu" universe. Craig Hilton's "Whimper's Law" from "The Ever-Changing Palace" #4, July 1991, was reprinted in my anthology "Best in Show", one of Sofawolf Press' first books, in 2003.

Fred Patten

Your rating: None Average: 5 (3 votes)

Vicky lived in our apartment complex. We became friends and would baby-sit the cats when she was away at conventions. She was a great person to just hang around with. She moved a few times and, unfortunately, we lost touch. I miss her very much and am sad that I wasn't able to re-connect. But we won't forget our friendship.

Rest in peace and know that you are missed.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

A sad surprise, loved the Xanadu comics as I discovered the fandom. I did meet her at several AC and am proud owner of two sketches.

She will be missed.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

I one of her heirs. Once her estate is out of probate, there will be an effort made to release what I can, and possibly an award charity. Probate is 8-9 months off yet though.

Your rating: None

My experience with Vicky (her art at least) goes way back to before furry fandom got going. I was at a science fiction convention (maybe Worldcon '79 in Phoenix?) and wandering the art show, I found an amazing piece: it was an anthro cat dancer in a harem costume in a circular design with runes (I was always looking for art involving animal characters, of course). The piece was already set to go to auction, so I just admired it. A year later at a different convention, I discovered that someone in the dealer's room was selling color transfers of the same piece of art! He had apparently received permission from the artist to make them. I bought one, rushed over to the t-shirt making table, and had then put the transfer on an orange T-shirt. That shirt became my favorite fan convention T-shirt for years. Eventually it got retired to my shirt drawer for it was a bit small (damn, I used to wear 'medium')and was showing wear from repeated washings. There it stayed, until after meeting Vicky (she was a Guest of Honor and a ConFurence)and buying her comics and art... I suddenly had a realization. Her art looked familiar. Where had i seen it before? Later, I decided to search around the house, and I eventually found that t-shirt. I looked closely at it, and in the circle design along the border, in very small writing, I saw: V.M. Wyman!

American Pine Marten

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