[Originally posted April 2, 2006]
I do watch a few web comics, but Faux Pas (which, I understand, is to be pronounced “Fox Paws”) by Margaret and Robert Carspecken is by far my favorite. A printed collection of the earlier strips existed, but is now out of print as far as I can tell. Fortunately, thanks to Tugrik‘s Purrsia web hosting, the entire archive of the story is available online and linked to the current strip.
The story is largely set at Green Mountain Studio Animals, a farm that has, at least in the past, trained animals for film and advertising appearances. Except for an occasional glimpse, we don’t see any humans, though. The animals are pretty much retired and running the farm on their own, “requisitioning” supplies by filling out forms and leaving them in the human owners’ mailbox, and largely engaged in their own activities.
The main characters include Randy, a red fox born in captivity and purchased from a pet shop so he has little or no instinct for the behaviors that help foxes to survive in the wild. Randy is far from stupid, but often naive. His cohorts are Myrtle De Hen, a white leghorn addicted to soap operas and her own attempts at romance writing; Brisbane, a greater kangaroo with, naturally, an Aussie accent; Arthur, a horse who panics when anyone tries to ride him so he is always cast as a runaway; and Stu, a rabbit formerly employed as a stage magician’s assistant. Stu’s mate Eddie (whose name resulted from a one-time confusion as to her gender) is also a regular, and is often the one who tries to apply the clue-by-four to Randy’s innocence but with little success.
Shortly after the strip’s inception, a stray cat named Kira arrived on the farm and soon brought in many of his friends who occupy corners and crannies in the barn and entertain themselves by tormenting Randy in various ways. Randy’s life is also complicated by the appearance of Cindy, a wild vixen who soon becomes both enchanted with and frustrated by his lack of instinct and his human-like behaviors. We soon realize that Cindy would very much like to have Randy for her mate, but Randy just doesn’t seem to get the picture in spite of her persistent hints and attempts to enlist the help of Myrtle or Stu in teaching Randy the facts of foxy life. She also finds herself fighting her own instincts as she learns to eat commercial fox chow and not to think of Myrtle or Stu as her likely next meal.
Later strips feature the challenges posed by Cindy’s cousin Dusk, who tries unsuccessfully to take Randy from her, and the romance of Stu and Eddie’s daughter Penny with a wild rabbit named Jon. Poor Jon must deal with many of the same problems that Cindy has already faced, but with a difference. While everyone seems to be actively trying to match Randy up with Cindy, no one except Penny is overly eager to pair her off with Jon. The reason is obvious. Stu and Eddie already have more offspring than anyone can keep track of. Another pair of breeding rabbits would produce a population explosion of gargantuan proportion.
The Carspeckens produce a strip that is filled with sharp wit and occasional wisdom, and well worthy of newspaper syndication though apparently it has never achieved that level of success. The art is very well drawn and consistent, of professional comic book quality. The plot lines are often hilarious and occasionally wistful. The schedule is rigorously followed, unusual for a web comic, so the strip appears regularly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The entire back story is also available online, so new fans can read the whole plot from its inception.
I recommend this strip without reservation to furry and comic fans of all ages. If you don’t yet know it, you should.
Margaret and Robert Carspecken
Print version: Plan Nine Publishing, 2003, ISBN 1-929462-72-7