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Review: 'Doc Rat Vols. 11-12', by Jenner

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Doc Rat Vol. 11Doc Rat Vol. 12I reviewed volumes 8-10 here in May 2013. My review was so favorable that part of it is quoted in the back-cover blurb on volume 12. Here are volumes 11 and 12, equally enjoyable and not-to-be-missed.

These two pocket-sized books contain the Doc Rat daily Internet comic strips from #1427 to #1558 (December 13, 2011 to June 13, 2012), and #1559 to #1758 (June 14, 2012 to March 20, 2013). Volume 11 is a normal one, collecting six months of the comic strip. Volume 12 is a giant-sized one, collecting more pages to take the story to the conclusion of a long story-arc.

Dr. Craig "Jenner" Hilton has been simultaneously an active furry fan and an Australian doctor since the early 1980s. His anthropomorphic cartoons were published in the progress reports and program book of the 1985 World Science Fiction Convention in Melbourne.

For about twenty years after graduating from medical college, Hilton was assigned to provide medical services for a series of small towns around western Australia, from which he sent his furry cartoons to America. During a stay as the doctor for the coal-mining town of Collie, he drew an anthropomorphic comic strip, DownUnderGround, for the local newspaper. He finally settled in permanently as a GP in a suburb of Melbourne. His character of Doc Rat began appearing in individual cartoons in medical and non-medical publications during the 1990s. On June 26, 2006 he launched Doc Rat as a Monday through Friday comic strip on the Internet. Since then Doc Rat has picked up an international following, including placing as one of the five finalists in the Best Comic Strip category for the Ursa Major Awards for 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013 voted upon this year.

Doc Rat is a combination of stand-alone comedy strips, usually emphasizing medical humour of the groaner-pun variety, and urban drama in an anthropomorphic world where carnivores are allowed to hunt and eat the herbivores, although they have to do it legally. This involves a lot of red tape and filling-out of forms. Often the carnivores are too impatient to do this, and they hunt illegally, which provides much of the drama of the strip. The herbivores are working politically to make all predation of intelligent citizens illegal, which is also a plot point.

Doc Rat. Vol. 11, "I’m Fair Off Me Tucker, Doc", by Jenner, June 2013, Platinum Rat Productions, Melbourne, Vic., Australia, trade paperback AUS $16.00 or US$12.95 ([76 pgs.])
Doc Rat. Vol. 12, "It Hurts To Swallow, Doc", by Jenner, December 2013, Platinum Rat Productions, Melbourne, Vic., Australia, trade paperback AUS$18.00 or US$14.95 ([110 pgs.])

Dr Benjamin Rat M.B., B.S. D.R.A.N.Z.C.O.G. F.R.A.C.G.P., a rat

Ben is a thirty-something, Australian general practitioner rat, battling the odds to run a solo practice in the suburb of Templeton, in the city of Fornor, state of Flora. After setting up shop eight years ago, prepared to do what it took to succeed against the long hours, on-call work, endless red tape and local competition from the nearby medical centre, he continues to fight to stay afloat. An experiment with a very entrepreneurial practice manager, Charmane Prideaux, didn’t solve the problem - she was a hungry lioness, and even now she’d gone, Ben’s accountant is still finding the leftover bones.

For the moment, though, Ben remains good-natured and conscientious, carrying out a professional job to the best of his ability.

He tries to make people better. He also gives money to street buskers and is kind to pets. After a fraught and adventurous romance, he married Daniella Hood, his tae kwon do instructor and dentist. The two rats are now just settling down into married life together.

(Although this is not forgetting he has an ex-wife and daughter somewhere in America.)

This is from the "Cast of Characters" page of an earlier volume. By now it is assumed that the reader is familiar with the regular cast, and Ben Rat’s biography is much briefer. There are over two dozen regular main and supporting characters, not to mention the one-off characters such as Neal Dunn, a Western Australian brown snake (very poisonous, and they strike readily) in volume 12.

Both volumes begin with many of the humour strips, segue into a dramatic sequence that may or may not be based on a previous episode, and end with a brief cooling-off period. In "I’m Fair Off Me Tucker, Doc" (a phrase which Jenner identifies as part of “the vanishing language of old Aussie slang”, which makes me feel old – I AM old), the drama involves Ben and Daniella’s continuing relationship and Danni’s past, and wolf Flopsy Jaegermond finally telling his rabbit wife Jasmine what happened to her missing first husband (he ate him).
Doc Rat
In "It Hurts To Swallow, Doc", several new characters are introduced including Brayden Katanning, a numbat who becomes Shirl Dryandra’s unofficial husband and the foster-father of her numbat children, doctors giraffe Lyall and hippo Vijay, Neal Dunn, the brown snake determined to eat Brayden and his foster-children – and anyone else who gets in the way – and some minor characters such as Kenneth Roads, a homosexual Thompson’s gazelle. Neal Dunn’s relentless hunt for the numbats Brayden Katanning and juvenile Jayden Dryandra is as chilling as anything in a text novel. Forget the anthropomorphics and picture a ruthless adult sexual predator determined to get a child.

Jenner has some interesting experiments with perspective in these volumes. Check out the first panel of strip #1709.

The U.S. price includes mailing from Jenner's agent in the U.S. Jenner’s books are self-published (though very professional looking), and are only available from one bookstore in Melbourne and from his own website, payable through Paypal. They are expensive, but worth it.


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