These three pocket-sized books contain the Doc Rat daily (Monday-Friday) comic strips from #951 to #1088 (February 15 to August 25, 2010), #1089 to #1218 (August 26, 2010 to February 23, 2011), and #1219 to #1426 (February 24 to December 12, 2011).
Each volume collects approximately six months of the strip, except that Jenner does not break them off in the midst of a story sequence. That is why volume 10 runs to 110 pages, the longest in the series to date.
“Doc Rat. Vol. 8, Yeah Not Too Great, Doc”, December 2011, trade paperback AUS$16 ([76 pgs.])
“Doc Rat. Vol. 9, There When I Needed You, Doc”, June 2012, trade paperback AUS$16 ([76 pgs.])
“Doc Rat. Vol. 10, Listen, Doc”, December 2012, trade paperback AUS$18 ([110 pgs.])
By Jenner, Platinum Rat Productions, Melbourne, Vic., Australia
Farmost Star I See Tonight is a mystical, dreamy, touching romantic fantasy for shy teenagers. Whether humans or wolves, ‘omega’ adolescents may feel that they are alone. This novel will help them to see that their troubles are not unique or their fault, and that, even if they have not met them yet, there is someone out there for them.
Rian is a black-furred adolescent wolf and Lissa is white-furred. Otherwise, they are almost identical. Both are shy and lonely members of their packs, blamed by their parents for refusing to socialize, but finding nobody among their peers with whom they can truly be friends. Rian’s father Gull despises him for having no interest in pack dominance battles, and Lissa is left to take care of her younger siblings while her parents bicker and ignore them.
Then, Lissa was left alone in the dark with only her feelings of sorrow, self-hate, and loneliness to sooth her into sleep. (p. 7)
Freak's Amour, by Tom De Haven, is simply a masterpiece. This is some of the best weird literature that few seem to have heard of or remember. It's been out of print for 27 years. I started it once, long ago when I was just getting into science fiction and weird genre stuff. It was a bit arty and demanding for a teenage reader, and my interest wasn't up to the challenge at the time. Now, I have to give it very high recommendation after finding it again.
I suggest that anyone into classy lit as well as furries and pulp/pop culture go get it now, even if it takes your last two bucks. It's one of those obscurities that could be worth quite a lot if it was less available – and I say that as a professional book dealer – but it earned enough acclaim to get several printings, so it's cheap and easy to get secondhand. (In fact, I've just noticed a comic/graphic novel forthcoming: info below.)
Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.
Wikipedia says that this nursery rhyme dates back to at least the 1570s, and that, before it was printed and ‘fixed’ in the 19th century, there were many variations.
Andres Cyanni Halden uses this standardized version. He has gotten seven authors – six plus himself – to each write a Furry story around one of these ‘days’. Most are erotic gay stories. Each story has a small frontispiece illustration by Amaze.
The Fortune Teller's Poem is a work of anthropomorphic fiction for adult readers only. (publisher’s advisory)
Each in turn may call this a fairy story, a dog story, an allegory or a satire, but all will be moved by the beauty and the meaning--a beauty and a meaning that seems to live within the realm of those books that go on and on making friends and spreading enchantment. Gissing, its hero, is a dog who searches the world for an ideal, and then finds in the smoke of his own furnace fire a hint of the heavenly blue that he had been seeking. (blurb, slightly edited)
It is difficult to tell after ninety years just what an author was thinking, but I believe that Christopher Morley, a popular literary essayist and novelist, just wanted to have fun writing about a world of talking dogs. His last message to the public, written when he knew that he was dying in 1957, was, “Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity.”
Mr. Gissing, a gentledog of leisure contentedly residing in Canine Estates with Fuji, his butler (a Japanese pug), on an income of 1,000 bones a year, becomes dissatisfied and leaves home to search for where the blue begins (a purpose to life).
Garden City, NY, Doubleday, Page & Co., October 1922,  + 215 [+ 1] pages, $1.75.
Taking place during the Parisian flood of 1910, the two main characters are Emile, a shy film projectionist and amateur cinematographer, and his friend Raoul, a tinkerer who likes to invent gadgets and operates a delivery service out of the back of his truck. During a late-night delivery to an absent scientist's laboratory, Raoul plays with chemicals, unaware that his tampering accidentally creates a giant flea with a beautiful singing voice.
The "monster" is quickly targeted by Maynot, the Commissioner of police, who becomes obsessed with capturing and killing it as part of his campaign to become mayor. He's also taken an interest in a cabaret singer named Lucille, who disguises and hides the flea after recognizing its musical talents.
Raoul is an old friend/enemy of Lucille's, and soon he and Emile are in on her secret, trying to find a way to protect the flea from the Commissioner.
Lex Nakashima & I have started a project to inform YOU of the best untranslated French-language funny-animal adventure cartoon albums. The Blacksad series by Juan Díaz Canales & Juanjo Guarnido has found a good American home at Dark Horse, but there are others that Americans are not being informed of.
Lex & I recently brought you a review of the first two The Saga of Atlas & Axis albums by Jean-Marc Pau. Next up is The Sword of Ardenois by Étienne Willem, to be completed in four albums, the first two of which are now available.
Author/artist Willem has said in interviews that The Sword of Ardenois is his homage to all of the Medieval-setting talking-animal fantasies that have influenced him; notably the medieval Roman de Renard, the Disney 1973 anthropomorphic-animal Robin Hood animated film, and Brian Jacques’ Redwall novels.
Willem’s first volume, Garen, won a BD Gest’ Art 2010 award (in 2011, for the best bande dessinée of the previous year) for the Best Youth Album of 2010.
For this set of reviews, I didn’t deviate much from last month; I just swapped out one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Secret History of the Foot Clan issues for a plain old issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #4
If you were to chart the highs and lows of this first arc of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, the trajectory would look like a single beat of a normal heart on one of those heart monitors. Issue #1 would be right down the middle, nothing too special, nothing too bad, then issue #2 spiking to grand heights of funny animal comics, before an equal spike in the opposite direction following issue #3’s needlessly dark depths. Finally, this issue comes and, well, it’s nothing too special, nor too bad.
Boston & NYC, Little, Brown & Co., March 2013 Hardcover $17.99 ([6 +] 285 [+ 7] pages)
Kindle $8.89. Illustrated by Charles Vess.
The age rating on this is “8 and up”. This is one of those “all ages” books like The Wind in the Willows that you will not want to miss just because it may be in the children’s section of your bookshop or public library. Seek it out! It is worth it.
Lillian Kindred is a little girl whose parents are dead and who lives with her Aunt on a farm at the edge of Tanglewood Forest. The book doesn’t say how old she is, so that’s probably not important. What is important is that she’s established as old enough to be allowed by other people to play in the forest alone, and young enough to look for fairies. One of the things that she sees is lots of cats wandering freely – feral cats and farm cats. She does not bother them, but she does put out dishes of fresh milk for them.
One day she falls asleep in the forest, and is bitten by a venomous snake. Vess’ illustration shows a coral snake; the worst kind. Wikipedia says that, “Coral snakes have a powerful neurotoxin that paralyzes the breathing muscles; mechanical or artificial respiration, along with large doses of antivenom, are often required to save a victim's life.” Lillian does not have any of that. She is alone at the foot of a tree, dying.
As the Franco-Belgian animated film Ernest & Celestine should soon be released on DVD, I thought this would be a good time to review A Town Called Panic (trailer), a movie produced by some of the same animators in 2009.
Actually, let's go further back to 2002, when Belgian animators Vincent Patar and Stéphane Aubier created a series of twenty shorts for TV called Panique au village (Panic in the village). Each was about five minutes long, and like Robot Chicken (2005), employed stop-motion animation with plastic figurines, clay and other objects.
Otherwise the two shows are pretty different. Robot Chicken enjoys mangling pop culture and doing random sketches; while Panique au village focuses on the bizarre daily adventures of a small, constant cast of characters. Something they both have in common is a joy of the absurd, and Panique is often more manic in this respect.
What do university professors do after they retire? If they are like Dr. Roger C. Schlobin, Ph.D., they write a fantasy novel based upon Chinese mythology, self-publish it (in an unusual size; 9” x 6”), and try to get it sold to be made into an animated feature film.
Good luck. It seems too far outside the mainstream of animated fantasy cinema to obtain the backing necessary to become an animated movie. Those have production budgets averaging $50 million dollars and up today. As a fantasy novel, however …
'Why, what's the matter?' said his wife, 'and why do you want to know who Tommy Tildrum is?'
'Oh, I've had such an adventure. I was digging away at old Mr Fordyce's grave when I suppose I must have dropped asleep, and only woke up by hearing a cat's Miaou.'
'Miaou!' said Old Tom in answer.
'Yes, just like that! So I looked over the edge of the grave, and what do you think I saw?'
'Now, how can I tell?' said the sexton's wife.
'Why, nine black cats all like our friend Tom here, all with a white spot on their chestesses. And what do you think they were carrying? Why, a small coffin covered with a black velvet pall, and on the pall was a small coronet all of gold, and at every third step they took they cried all together, Miaou -- '
'Miaou!' said Old Tom again.
'Yes, just like that!' said the sexton; 'and as they came nearer and nearer to me I could see them more distinctly; because their eyes shone out with a sort of green light. Well, they all came towards me, eight of them carrying the coffin, and the biggest cat of all walking in front for all the world like -- but look at our Tom, how he's looking at me. You'd think he knew all I was saying.'
There aren't too many anthropomorphic computer adventure games out there, so I thought I'd review Jolly Rover, a swashbuckling scenario by an Australian company called Brawsome (aka Andrew Goulding). This game is aimed at the casual market, so it's pretty easy-going, taking about 5-8 hours. It's available for less than $9 for PC, Mac, and on Steam. (Watch the trailer.)
The story is populated by anthropomorphic dogs, and the protagonist is Gaius James Rover, a dachshund who dreams of eventually starting his own circus. Hoping to earn money towards this project, he invests his life savings in a cargo delivery of rum - which goes horribly wrong, thanks to a corrupt governor and a band of mercenary pirates. His only hope of financial salvation lies in joining the pirates and locating a long-lost treasure before they do.
Hank the Cowdog and the Case of the Dinosaur Birds is number 54 in John R. Erickson’s long running series of short novels for children featuring the misadventures of Hank the Cowdog, Head of Ranch Security.
The books are published by Erickson’s own Maverick Books, based out of his hometown of Perryton, Texas. The books are not unknown outside the area; but in the surrounding region, very few children grow up without encountering Hank and his humorous stories. The realistic depiction of life on a Texas cattle ranch as seen through the eyes of a vainglorious but not particularly bright ranch dog has also garnered many adult fans in the region.
The books feature illustrations by Gerald R. Holmes. However, this review is based on the audiobook version of the story, featuring Erickson’s reading. Erickson is a talented voice actor; the story is presented more like a radio play than a straight recitation, with Erickson playing all parts: human and animal, male and female, each distinctive and memorable. Quite a few fans, and this reviewer, feel that you haven’t experienced Hank the Cowdog until you have heard one of the audiobooks.
“Hank the Cowdog and the Case of the Dinosaur Birds”, by John R. Erickson. Illustrated by Gerald R. Holmes. Maverick Books Inc., 2009, paperback $4.99, CD audio book $17.99, paperback/CD combo pack $19.99, online audio $9.95.