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An Interview with Dark Blue Comics

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ABlueDeer is a gifted artist on Furaffinity, SoFurry, Inkbunny and other venues. He been a full-time anime, manga, video game, and anthro artist since 2007. Throughout his career, he has also diligently pursued a childhood dream to create his own ongoing webcomic series. With this goal in mind he created Dark Blue Comics, an illustration and writing production house a few years ago. It currently hosts The Depths, Moonlace, and Bethellium for free reading. Contributors to his Patreon page receive sneak-peeks of upcoming pages, high-quality art, pin-ups, scripts, and much more.

I have worked in the past with ABlueDeer and other professional artists as a writer and social media expert on several comic projects, including The Depths. With that I was fortunate to be able to speak to ABlueDeer recently about Dark Blue Comics, his artistic dreams, and plans for the future as an artist and a father.

Leilani: First, my thoughts and prayers to your friends and family caught in the devastating Mexico City earthquake recently. I'm relieved they're all safe and accounted for.

ABlueDeer(ABD): Thank you so much. Yes, I was able to visit mine and Shana, my wife's, families and check on them. There was another earthquake while we were there but luckily this one was minor. We also wanted to see if the houses had any cracks or anything. Apparently, most of the damage was done in the south, which is a little far from our families’ houses. Some areas had a lot of damage. Most buildings that went down were old and supposedly preserved because they were of Hispanic heritage, and they were in the very center of the city.

Fur Affinity loses developer after stalls in promised compensation

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On January 26th Silver Eagle, who was brought on as a web developer for Fur Affinity, released a video posting his resignation. In it he talks about his experiences as a developer there, and all the troubles it has caused him emotionally and financially. Thousands of views later the video set off a firestorm of criticism in the direction of leadership at the fandom's most popular website.

Similar controversies have been played out many times before for Fur Affinity, but let's take a look at why this one has perhaps stirred more ire than others and why it has many furs talking about the impact our most popular website has on the lives of others. To do this, we must take a look at the background of the developer who came forward.

Fursuiting and copyright: an important issue for fandom

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New powers to patent animals (including unrealized hybrids that populate furry fiction) burst into the news on 11/13/13, when activist organization Wikileaks revealed a draft of the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Analysts have called it "a major power grab for large patent and copyright industries," with powerful implications for the future of intellectual property.

With a lead like that, I have to apologize for faking you out. I couldn't resist. Now let's do a 180, and turn back to the furry level of life, where copyright concerns are much more personal. Consider this scenario that happened to fursuiters Sakura Fox and Mercury on their trip to New York City:

You're walking through Central Park, and see some panhandlers begging for change. They're wearing badly made, unsightly costumes of Sesame Street characters. You shouldn't hang around them in fursuit, because a pimp Elmo might come smack you off his corner!

Elmo waving a gun and knife It's an unauthorized misuse of trademark for profit. It could make the copyright owners look bad, and they wouldn't like it. It's probably too trivial for them to hear about, or hire lawyers to stop it- but you never know. In a famous 1989 action, Disney forced the removal of murals featuring their characters from three Florida day care centers. It helped earn their "reputation as an extreme copyright hawk -- there's a reason 'Disney lawyer' is a term all its own". (On the more friendly side, consider Hasbro's relationship with Bronies.)

"Pseudo-furry" videos raise questions about pop culture and Furry fandom

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What's with music videos and fursuit parties?

Have you noticed a trend of mainstream music videos that some call "pseudo-furry"? It might be a stretch to connect every video that has animal mascot costumes, but their frequency seems like no coincidence. They've been around for years but I seem to notice more and more. Newsbytes posted by GreenReaper and Sonious sparked my notice, and Flayrah's music tag has many more examples. What does this say about marketing? What does "pseudo-furry" imply?

What does the Fox Say?

Anthropomorphic art has been around for much longer than a dedicated fandom for it. Furry fandom didn't spring from an original concept in the 1980's- it's specific inspirations include golden age post-WWII animation, Disney movies and much more. Popular culture and it's gateways are an undeniably important influence. But identifying a trend for pop culture to re-absorb the Furry subculture that it helped spin off could make a good discussion about interplay. Is this happening because Furry is being accepted as a legitimate subculture, beyond a bastard child of the movies, shows, games and comics that furries enjoy?

Furries share worries about pay-dating fraud: spotlight on FurFling.com

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A Flayrah exclusive investigation for Furry public interest
Pounced
Josh is a 22-year old single wolf looking for a mate on Pounced.org. He describes himself as "friendly, honest, caring, and fun." He warns other hopeful romantics about another dating site, that he says overcharged him after he canceled service: "Save your money, and avoid frustration."

FurFling.com will turn one year old in late 2013. After nine months of activity, it boasts 21,000 users in posts to Twitter- an amount called into question by evidence later in this article. It's by no means the first dating site that targets furries. Others, like Pounced (established in 2003) offer free service by and for fans. But FurFling differs by bringing new methods to entice payments, usually seen on commercial sites like Adult Friend Finder that attract allegations of fraud.

Fans answer call for fursuit-maker reviews, but room for improvement remains

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Image from Jillcostumes

A new resource for fursuit commissioners has been shared on Reddit's r/furry subreddit: a Google spreadsheet of makers maintained by open collaboration, to the surprise of the original sharer (who created it for personal use). The r/furry moderators have been asked to add it as a key resource on their sidebar.

Several fan-maintained lists exist to help find and review fursuit makers and commissioned artists. Earlier this year, an important Fur Affinity review account, fursuitmakerreviews, closed unexpectedly to the disappointment of many. As one Redditor explained:

… [it's] a bit of a long story (so I'm told). But basically involved a fursuit maker getting less than good marks and complaining to the admins, who promptly removed the "offending" account. They're trying to rebuild themselves on Tumblr.

Their new Tumblr account and a new, separate Fur Affinity account seem to be starting over from scratch, after losing much important data. It calls attention to the challenges they face. A list is a great resource, but a list isn't a system. Let's consider organizing a better system.

Demand for Anthrocon "City Shirt" shows love for Furries… and their money

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Anthrocon city shirt logo"You must be the 17th person who asked today", said Tim at Hudson News in Pittsburgh International Airport. "There's not a shirt left in this airport."

This was a hunt for the "City Shirt", a special shirt made for the public as well as Furries, only for sale outside of Anthrocon by request from local merchants. Most wearers said they got it first thing on arrival, before it sold out. On the way out of the city, some held out hope to ask in case any were stashed away. One place had a shirt stashed under the counter, the last one from "boxes and boxes" of 30+ per size, but it was a tease, because it was reserved for an employee.

Siddy, a commenter on Anthrocon's post, reports:

When I picked up one of the shirts at the airport. The cashier never seen something sell so fast, she told me she had to restock the rack three times just that morning.

Thoughts on measuring the "furry economy”

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Fuchston the fox and Mochi in the CaliFur Dealers Den, by OmiSurveying furries for psych and demographic research is a well established interest. Canada recently gave out a $75,000 grant for it. But has anyone ever tried to measure the "furry economy"? I'm talking about spending by fans, companies and creators that serve them, and markets for their work.

I think the data could make interesting news, help creators and professionals, and it already has notable indicators calling for attention. Consider the strong growth in con attendance for over a decade, and the Furry interest that brought surprise success to adult crowdfunding site Offbeatr. I'm drawn to furry by fursuiting, and I've noticed a leap in quality over time that shows development of that specialized craft. On the other hand, some have seen a big decline in spending at con art shows that points to changing times. In the interest of informing the "Furrysphere" (is it a hairball?), here's a few thoughts on measuring the "furry economy".

How to switch art sites without losing customers

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As someone who has been in a community of artists, I hear a common conundrum arise:

I really want to leave this art site, but it’s too popular and leaving would mean losing out on a valuable resource to gain/keep customers.

This article presents ways you can use your control over your own works to influence your customers to view them where you wish them to, while also maintaining a presence so that others may find you.

This is written as a neutral piece and the methods can be used on any free art posting site. To that end, we'll call the site you wish to vacate “BadVibeArt”, and the place you want to go “NewBeginningDoodles”. Both are general-use sites for stories and art alike, comparable to sites such as deviantART, Fur Affinity, Inkbunny, SoFurry or Weasyl.

Help save Radio Comix from the IRS!

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Radio ComixRadio Comix, long-standing publisher of furry comics like Furrlough and Ebin & May, is running an Indiegogo campaign to raise cash to remain in business after discovering a massive tax shortfall:

Due to a horrible oversight on the part of our (now former) accountant, we now owe a staggering amount of back taxes. The total is truly shocking, and when I first discovered it, I was ill for days. I've been working for three months with a new accountant to get everything that wasn't filed taken care of, but filing does not equal paying and now not only do these freshly filed taxes have to be paid, but there are penalties due to the late filing. I'm a firm believer in filing and paying all my taxes, and finding out I was behind was my worst nightmare come true.

I have been working with the IRS to come up with a payment plan, but if we could get a large lump sum together to pay in at one time, it would be an enormous help!

Contributor perks available include wallpapers, comics, graphic novels, and lifetime subscriptions to future Radio Comix comic book releases.

Update: Four hours in, $1500 had been pledged; by the end of the evening it was $5364.

Update 2 (March 26): The lifetime subscriptions sold out this morning. Commissions by Stan Sakai were added; within hours, six of the five on offer were somehow claimed.

Bad Dragon loses business license over failure to file

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Bad Dragon, the erotic toy company founded by Varka, Narse, Athus, and Raith, has had their business license revoked by the Arizona Corporation Commission.

The company failed to submit their annual business report, due last August 4. After the death of Athus in a vehicle accident, the report remained unfiled, and on November 7 was flagged as delinquent. As this went uncorrected, the license was formally revoked on January 11.

Update (Jan 21): The corporation has been reinstated as of January 19.

Jason the Squirrel teaches children about entrepreneurship

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JasonSquirrelStartsACompany.jpgAnthropomorphic animals will teach young children some basic entrepreneurial skills in a new book written by Eric F. Steimle and illustrated by Jason Burns. [tip: Harvard Heinous]

In Jason Squirrel Starts a Company (Amazon), the bushy-tailed protagonist grows tired of fetching heavy bags of nuts each day, and having no leisure time, and thus devises a plan to create a nut-collecting company.

After being denied a startup loan from Stan the Banking Turtle, Jason educates himself on the various aspects of running a business (from finance to marketing to staffing), and finds an investor in the form of Grandpa Crow. Overcoming various obstacles, Jason's dream is eventually realised and he expands his woodland business empire by hiring a group of raccoons.

Steiml, based the book on his own experiences in starting a business, saying "I thought there should be more books for younger children that talk about building your own company."

Owners of Fur Affinity, FurBuy clash over auctions

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The furry marketplace heated up today as FurBuy owner Jurann was "permanently banned" from Fur Affinity for "false threats against users holding auctions on FA instead of furbuy" and "disruption of the community, drama starting and interference with user transactions."

FA's Dragoneer gave his opinion of Jurann's attempts to pressure artists into using FurBuy:

Frankly, I'm sick of Jurann constantly threatening users, encouraging them to "Go to Furbuy...or else!"

In response, Jurann said Dragoneer "[took his] legal advice as a threat," while maintaining that FTC auction guidelines apply to Fur Affinity:

It's a simple fact that there ARE rules and guidelines, and they are quite clearly not being followed on FA at present.

Outfoxed.net opens to connect artists with commissioners

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Outfoxed.net, a furry commission facilitation website, launched in open beta this Friday.

The site currently hosts single-price commissions with a variable number of slots. Adult commissions are not allowed. Payment is made through the artist's PayPal account.

100 dogs slaughtered by failing sled tour business

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Most people love dogs; many would say they're one's best friend. However some exploit animals for profit – and when said animals don't create profit, they perform extremely disturbing actions, often causing harm to the animals.

In a recent story, an owner of a Canadian dog sled tour business did just that, slaughtering 100 magnificent animals over the course of two days.

More details, photos, and a video can be found in the Vancouver Sun's coverage.