At the end of April, I posted a Newsbyte regarding a charity art drive to benefit “lifelong furry” and renowned fantasy author Peter S. Beagle, in order to fund his legal costs and living expenses as he litigates a suit against his former agent.
That was the first I had heard of the troubles of The Last Unicorn’s author. Upon seeing that Uncle Kage had tweeted about this situation in 2016, however, I learned this suit had been going on for longer than I realized, and I took the time to look deeply into the situation.
What I found was horrifying, and the rabbit hole seemed to go deeper the more I looked. Today I'm going to go into more detail about this shameful situation, bringing it to light in the hopes that the more people who know, the more help Beagle will receive.
Get ready, this is gonna be a long ride. If you don't want to read every single detail, I implore you to scroll down to the "How you can help" section, or at least spread this message as far as you can. Beagle needs as many friends as he can get right now.
Peter S. Beagle is suing his former agent for elder abuse, fraud, defamation, and breach of fiduciary duty, among other related allegations, which you can read in full here [PDF].
Unico, the talking baby unicorn, was the last major character created by Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989). He was inspired to design an adorably cute character by Sanrio Ltd, the merchandiser of girl’s products, in 1976. Sanrio had just created “Hello Kitty” in 1974 as an idol to sell handbags, earrings, etc. to young girls. Unico was to be a companion to appear in serialized adventures in Lyrica, Sanrio’s monthly girl’s manga magazine, as well as a series of animated theatrical features that Sanrio was planning at the time. Even minor Tezuka is worth reading, and Unico is full of the magic and color of the world of the imagination, with enough talking animals to please any Furry fan.
Unico was conceived in the U.S.; Tezuka was visiting Sanrio’s Los Angeles animation studio in 1976, where the animated feature Metamorphoses (Hoshi no Orufeusu) was in production. Metamorphoses was designed to look “cute” (if you never heard of it, it’s because the feature bombed so badly that it was pulled from theaters one day after its release), and Tezuka was inspired to draw a cute baby unicorn. Sanrio was planning to publish Lyrica, and the company quickly commissioned him to write and draw Unico’s adventures for serialization. This became a typical example of Tezuka’s prolific output; Unico appeared in chapters of over 30 pages per monthly issue for most issues of Lyrica, from its first issue in November 1976 to its final issue in March 1979.
Unicornatopia is a collection of artists, craft-makers, and enthusiasts dedicated to the lore of the unicorn — from Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn to My Little Pony and beyond. To that end they maintain a unicorn-themed web site, and also travel in groups to various fannish conventions to sell not only artwork but custom-made wearable unicorn horns and other crafts. Their web site is unicornatopia.com, and it includes numerous links to other unicorn-themed sites as well as various artists associated with the group.
Wired has an article and interview with Pixar artist Everett Downing, who made a New Year’s resolution to create a new superhero for each day of the new year. That was three years ago, but Downing currently has 285 new heroes and plans to have 365 by the end of 2013.
Many of the superheroes are not anthropomorphic, but the Wired article shows several that are, including the Hulking Mulch, Lance-a-Lot, Dober-Man, and unnamed others.
What are Downing’s plans after he finishes? “A comic book ‘one-shot’ featuring the best of his creation seems like the logical next step.”
It is no secret that the most well-known concept of unicorns is from Europe, in the Middle Ages. In stories from that time period, the creature will be a walking snorting virgin detector with a... ehem... phallic symbol on its head. The horse with one horn will be for girls, and is always male.
Enter 1968: a peculiar book comes out, the likes of which the world had never seen before. The main character is a unicorn. And it is a mare. Female. And instead of having been created by God to detect "proper maidens", she is a semi-immortal creature with a different role in the world. The story centers on her search for her kind, while exploring the concepts of emotions, immortality, and the source of the latter.
In other words, this unicorn was completely different from the existing folklore.
So how did Peter Beagle's book, and the subsequent animated adaptation, change our view of unicorns? Give us your thoughts in the comments!
Unico is a well-known and well-loved anime and manga character created by the late great Osamu Tezuka in 1976. A baby unicorn with the magical ability to make people happy, he draws the wrath of jealous gods who think only they should have such powers. Tezuka was unsuccessful in turning his popular manga into a TV series, but Unico did find his way into a pair of feature films in the early 1980′s. In The Fantastic Adventures of Unico (from 1981, directed by Toshio Hirata), the West Wind is charged with carrying Unico away to a far-off land when the gods banish him — but she takes pity on him and sets him free. Now Unico and his friends are on the run, with the angry gods in hot pursuit! Then in 1883 came Unico in the Island of Magic (directed by Moribi Murano) where Unico and his friends join the fight against an evil wizard who plans to turn all living things into his zombie slaves. Both feature films (dubbed into English) were popular VHS tapes in the late 80′s but have long since gone out of print. Now comes the word that Discotek Media are releasing both Unico films on DVD this month, each with both the English and original Japanese soundtracks. You can find out more about all of this (including several Unico fan sites) by checking out Unico on Wikipedia.
Here is a “fairy tale” fantasy novel with a young anthropomorphic unicorn prince who must fight to regain his kingdom from the evil elk lord who has usurped the throne. Old-fashioned? Yes, but “once upon a time” never goes out of style.
Prince Tiran of Silverglen may be heir to the throne of all Asteria, but he's always felt more at home among the villagers, no matter how many lectures he gets from his father. But when the elk-lord Roden slaughters the royal family and claims the throne for himself, only Tiran is left to avenge their deaths and take his place as the rightful king. (publisher’s blurb)
Hamlet, anyone? Prince Tiran has always preferred to rub shoulders with the peasants and commoners of his kingdom than to take an interest in the affairs of state, as King Sevrin, his father, wishes. That is why Tiran is in a tavern, playing dice, when Duke Roden, a visiting elk-lord with his retinue, kills the king and the rest of his family at the castle banquet and takes over the kingdom.
Speaking of Immedium, they’re also the home of Billie the Unicorn, written and illustrated by Brianne Drouhard. “The young unicorn Billie seeks adventure, so her forest cousins show her how to grow delightful flowers. But the legend of a castle which holds the most beautiful garden lures her away! Will Billie discover that friendship matters the most?” The publisher also continues: “Colorful marker illustrations of expressive characters, upbeat storytelling, and a positive message of seeking your bliss will charm kids who enjoy animation and adults who appreciate great character design.” You can visit Billie’s very own web site to find out more, buy your own copy of the book, and even check out the Billie the Unicorn interactive story app for the iPad and iPhone.