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Review: 'Housepets! Are Naked All The Time', by Rick Griffin

Edited by GreenReaper as of Sat 2 Feb 2013 - 20:44
Your rating: None Average: 4.4 (15 votes)
Housepets: Book 1
CreateSpace, July 2011
Trade paperback $11.99 (43 pg.)

This is artist Rick Griffin’s collection of the first year of his Monday-Wednesday-Friday Internet comic strip, Housepets!

Griffin (b. 1986; not the underground artist of 1960s-1970s comix and psychedelic posters who died in 1991) says he and his brother have been cartooning since their childhood; he got the rough idea for Housepets! in 2006, posted his first test strips on Fur Affinity during 2007, and the strip went online June 2, 2008. This collection is unretouched, so the reader can see its evolution from a simple black-&-white, two character strip to a complex full-color strip with over a dozen characters, and the maturing of Griffin’s art style during its first year.

The Housepets! website includes a Discussion section, and right from the start readers have been calling Griffin’s animals “cute” and “adorable”. He draws his animal characters full-figure, while humans are usually shown from the lower half of the face down, to emphasize the animals. In a discussion of his animals’ larger-than-natural sizes, he says, “…I decided that they should at least be tall enough to make the human in the frame recognizable as a human.”

One of the most popular aspects of Griffin’s art style has emphasized his animals’ humorous facial expressions, which fans have praised as Just Right for whatever emotions are called for in each strip. There are also lots of ingroup gags; in one strip, Peanut is shown reading a book whose tiny title can be made out as [The] Architect of Sleep (a controversial 1986 Furry novel by Steven R. Boyett). Further, Griffin swiftly grew into a master of shading and, in his color strips, subtle lighting-&-shadow shifts. Housepets! won the Ursa Major Award for Best Anthropomorphic Comic Strip in 2009 and 2010; it is easy to see why.

The first introduced, and most popular, characters are the dog Peanut Butter and the cat Grape Jelly, the pets of Mr. and Mrs. Earl Sandwich of Babylon Gardens, a modern urban residential community. Peanut’s and Grape’s friends and associates appear, one by one, until by the end of this first year a large cast has been built up: the dogs Bino, Fox, Rex, Joey, Tiger, Sasha, Tarot, Daisy, K-9 Sergeant Ralph and Officers Fido and Kevin; the cats Maxwell, Sabrina, Marvin, Fiddler and Keys, Mr. Bigglesworth (ten Siamese cats with the same name); the humans Mr. & Mrs. Sandwich, the various dads/owners of the other pets; and other pet, feral, and zoo animals such as Zach the rabbit, Spo the mouse, and the trash-raiding raccoons. That’s in this first year/book alone. There is also the first glimpse of Pete the giant griffin, the first of the magical superbeings that will become important later on. By today, 2011, the cast has grown so large that Peanut and Grape are no longer the predominant characters, but during this first year they are.

One of the most appealing and intriguing aspects of Housepets! has been Griffin’s worldview, which is still being revealed. In this world, animals are bipedal and can talk; in one strip, Grape says to her humans, “We have THUMBS, you know.” Animals are sort of second-class humans. Pets commonly call their owners “Pop” and “Mom”, and use their family names. The dogs and cats of a neighborhood have their own social groups; Peanut’s is the Good Ol’ Dogs Club. Cats and dogs publicly maintain the traditional dog-and-cat rivalry, but there are also clandestine cross-species romances. Role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons are very popular among the pets. Babylon Gardens’ police force has a K-9 Unit, whose dogs are authorized to arrest humans and read them their Miranda rights. Peanut draws his own (very) amateur comic strip, The Adventures of Spot (Superdog). Cats have their own favorite fantasy book series, the Pridelands (which many dogs read too, but they won’t admit it). A Chinese otter in the zoo speaks in untranslated Chinese (which the strip’s Discussion has translated and verified as accurate). A human sales clerk says that they aren’t allowed to sell catnip to pets. This rich story evolution (Grape is not revealed as a female until two months into the strip) has gone on past this first year, but there is plenty here to make the casual reader a confirmed fan.

Although Housepets! is a humor strip, it is not unconnected gag-a-day laughs. Griffin has presented nineteen separate story arcs during this first year, of from two to fifteen strips, not counting numerous “one-off” strips between the arcs. There is a continuity progression: characters are introduced and later reappear; situations such as the K-9 Unit are built upon. The last story arc of this first year, “A Sinister Shadow”, is the longest and only one that might be called serious: a human PETA extremist kidnaps one of the pet dogs and insists on “freeing” him into the wild. (This has dramatically humorous consequences in the second year.)

This Book 1 will leave the reader wanting more, and fortunately Griffin already has enough strips for the next two annuals; not to mention that Housepets! is piling on new ones every Monday-Wednesday-Friday. Get it; you won’t be disappointed.

Well, while this is worth the price as a collection of the beginning of the Housepets! comic strip, it is disappointing as a book. It is an oversized (8 ½” x 11”) trade paperback, awfully tall but awfully thin, with the strips four tiers per page. There is NO title page (which I insist that all “real” books must have). With the exception of a list of characters, it just starts with the first strip. Aside from three new drawings to fill out pages and a one-page preview of Book 2, there is nothing here that’s not on the website. Most “dead tree” collections of comic strips contain an introduction or an afterword, author biographical information, preliminary sketches of characters, outtakes, model sheets, or SOMETHING new.

While it’s understandable that Griffin doesn’t include any of his readers’ Discussions of the strips, that would have really helped in a few cases, notably that of the Chinese otter’s untranslated speech. The coloring on this book-paper is as good as could be asked for, but it’s not as vibrant as in the online strip, especially in the purples or night scenes which are so dark that the line drawing over them is slightly obscured. These are minor nitpickings compared to the brilliance of Griffin’s strip itself, but they do leave the reader a bit disappointed. It’s still well worth the $11.99.


Your rating: None Average: 5 (4 votes)

It may be worth pointing out that Jim Gurney, the cover artist of "The Architect of Sleep" shown in the "controversial 1986 Furry Novel" weblink above, is the same James Gurney who is the author/artist of the "Dinotopia" books.

Your rating: None Average: 4.3 (3 votes)

Thanks for teh arghtikle!

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Also, added to my wishlist :)

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I love the art style in Housepets.

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It's good stuff. I just read through the whole comic strip over the past day (six hours total), what's with all the roo puns? Roo canal, eroodite, I know this is coming from someone who made their location "Syracroose", but great mippy Skippy! Hope he keeps up the good work.

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Rick Griffin has just announced his second Housepets! collection, titled “Housepets! Hope They Don’t Get Eaten. Book 2”. So apparently Griffin is collecting his strip into books more often than annually, and “Are Naked All The Time” is the subtitle of just this volume, not the whole strip.

Fred Patten

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And now, thanks to spending a weekend with OCLC's documentation, I actually know how to correctly enter such titles into a master record . . . if only WorldCat allowed arbitrary user submissions! They don't have either volume yet.

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Lest readers think that Griffin's lampooning of PETA is too exaggerated, this is from an Oct. 25th news report:

"People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is accusing the SeaWorld parks of keeping five star-performer whales in conditions that violate the 13th Amendment ban on slavery. SeaWorld depicted the suit as baseless."

Fred Patten

Your rating: None Average: 4.8 (5 votes)

10 dollars on this quote/analogy being used by PETA's lawyer(s):

"When black people were slaves, they called them "animals" too."

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15th and 16th century slavers claimed that they were not enslaving people when they captured Black Africans and New World natives; they were not people, they were animals without souls. The Catholic Church argued against this. The Church had no objection to slavery per se, but it insisted that Africans and Amerindians were people with souls to be saved, and should be given a chance to be converted to Christianity first and then enslaved if they refused. See Pope Paul III's 1537 bull, "Sublimus deus".

Fred Patten

Your rating: None Average: 5 (5 votes)

Sounds good. Now all we need is a born-again cetacean!

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I would give this 5 stars using every IP address I can get my hooves on if I thought it would accurately show how hilarious I found that.

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>typing with hoones

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You know, registered users have the ability to edit comments and fix typos . . .

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Registered users better be writing something.

I have come up with ONE article so far, but is is enough??

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Hey it could be worse, it could be LJ where you have to pay them to fix typos...

Your rating: None Average: 3 (3 votes)

Yeah, the contributors page has hundreds of one hit wonders.

Perri Rhoades hasn't contributed any stories; since you guys get along so well, next time she comes back you can pretend that makes you superior, like I do! But seriously, if you don't feel the need to write stories, don't. We need readers as much as we need writers.

Also, you just made the most ironically awesome typo ever.

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The seals are clapping while laughing "Arp, Arp, Arp!"

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