So You Want To/Write a Furry Comic
The good news is, much like Anime and Manga, you can come up with all sorts of plots and genres that stand out on their own, even if they can still technically be called furry—so you better see how to Write a Story first and foremost.
Of course, having to deal with some animal and human-like animal characters does change this up a little bit...
Your characters are somewhere in the spectrum between fully human and fully animal. You're going to have this color your work at least a little.
- Animal Stereotypes - This is WHY you're writing a Furry Comic in the first place, right? You want to take advantage of these, either in terms of playing them straight or finding fun ways to subvert them.
- Petting Zoo People - Most furries end up like this. Learn it.
- Furry Comic - Required reading.
- Furry Fandom - These'll either be your target market from the get go, or they're going to become a significant Periphery Demographic. Better learn to love 'em either way.
Furries as we know them don't exist in the real world, so if your comic has any basis in reality, you'll need to justify this somehow.
- ... or not. If your world is mostly a modern world except with furries in place of humans, and there's nothing especially different about their world that requires justification, there's no reason to complicate the world with elaborate details of alternate dimensions and ancient viruses and catastrophes (unless these things have any actual bearing on plot).
- Alien Animals - for when you want to take an ordinary terrestrial animal and justify its human-like behavior by saying it's just that good at keeping its true nature hidden from humans.
- Intelligent Gerbil - No, they're really aliens, they just look an awful lot like the animals we know and love.
- Half-Human Hybrid - We've gotten really, really good with bio-technology. Best used for Science Fiction works.
For the more mundane aspects of your furry setting:
- Carnivore Confusion - Carnivores eat meat. Meat comes from animals. Your animals can now talk, so... yeah, you need to come up with a rational solution to this. There's plenty of options.
- Cute Monster Girls vs. more realistic treatments of animals.
- If your cast includes lizards and birds, you may want to forgo Non-Mammal Mammaries for the sake of realism, too.
- Cats Are Mean / Reptiles Are Abhorrent and similar tropes vs. settings with less Fantastic Racism. Sometimes these tropes end up applied to other species just because of Author Appeal (i.e. The author likes cats and/or reptiles and thus makes one the star of the comic, therefore we're supposed to like them), so pay attention.
- Feather Fingers - Sometimes it's just easier to give your characters extra hands rather than invoke this trope.
- Lions and Tigers and Humans, Oh My! - Are there humans among the furry characters? Is it a 50/50 split, or more like a Token Minority?
- Little Bit Beastly - For when your characters are almost all the way human anyway, save for a few "cute" traits like ears and tails.
There's a solid Hatedom for furries, and while there are other issues at play here (including the Animation Age Ghetto), there's a lot of things other comics have already fallen prey to, and there's no reason to give the Hatedom any more justification.
- Anthropomorphic Shift - No, really, we don't care if you're going for Watership Down realism or just doing a Two Gamers on a Couch comic (Well... we care about that, but for other reasons). We just ask that whatever your level of realism is between humans and animals, you STICK WITH IT.
- Copy Cat Sue - Please think long and hard about taking your Fandom OC and just building a comic around it. Yes, people use their fursonas in their comics all the time, but at least their characters were original to begin with. If you must, make DAMN sure to throw a few degrees of separation in and build a brand new setting for them as opposed to just putting all of your characters on Mobius.
- Darker and Edgier - We're chalking this up to a backlash from censorship and Executive Meddling of childhood cartoons, but that doesn't make it any more unsettling.
- Furries Are Easier to Draw - But that doesn't mean you can get away with bad artwork. No, we don't care that it's just your style; we ought to be able to tell your foxes from your squirrels from your mice from your pangolins, dammit!
- Furry Confusion - Figure this one out in advance, or at least do your damnedest to prevent your humanized species from interacting with their more primal versions.
- And God help you if you show a Cow furry eating a hamburger.
- Hatedom - The sooner you accept this, the less it will affect you.
- It's getting better in recent years, though.
- Rule 34 - A ridiculous amount of furry porn is already out there, and there are a disproportionate number of furry comics with sexual themes compared to webcomics at large. It's not new (see Omaha the Cat Dancer for pre-internet examples), but you're not doing yourself any favors if you go and add any more to the heap.
- Stripperiffic - Yes, humans can be sexy, and your characters are being treated as though they were human. If a human character wouldn't wear that outfit, your furries shouldn't either.
- It is, however, excusable if an outfit's skimpiness serves to make the species more recognizable (think Donald Duck) rather than to be sexy.
As stated above, the plots available to a Furry Comic are diverse, so if you're already creating a good story for your genre outside of the furry aspects, you're above and beyond most folk already.
WITHIN the furry aspects, though...
- Lions and Tigers and Humans, Oh My! - Very few plots have humans living side-by-side with furries, and when humans have been shoehorned in later on to otherwise all-furry casts (see Chris Thorndyke), it can feel very unnerving. Putting the two together from the start can make for a satisfying contrast between characters, as well as a way to explore/parody the differences between furries and humans (How many humans do you know that have to worry about where their tails go when they sit?)
- Feather Fingers - Even if you've avoided this by giving your avians extra hands / limbs, at some point you're going to have to worry about the fact your characters may not always have the same four fingers that humans do. How they go about compensating for this can be an entertaining twist.
- Carnivore Confusion - If you can come up with a fresh twist to what's already listed here (or even a new approach entirely), go for it.
- Small Taxonomy Pools - Having cats, dogs, or foxes as the main characters is one thing. But if you have a tapir, pangolin, okapi, secretary bird, cassowary, etc, then your comic will be a LOT more interesting.
And hell, almost every webcomic approach to Furry Fandom (i.e. fans like you, who like to draw the stuff and sometimes wear mascot suits) has been negative, consisting of ubergeeks at best and sex freaks at worst. If you can do a comic about Furry Fandom without falling prey to the usual pitfalls and stereotypes, more power to you.
Maybe none of this stuff really matters to you - the story may, in fact, be all you care about, and the only reason you're here is because Furries Are Easier to Draw. Of course, this isn't really a subversion so much as it is you're just a Lazy Artist.
Animals, and therefore Furries, reek of symbolism on several levels. Use it.
- Fantastic Racism - From Maus on up, different species have been used as placeholders for various nationalities / races / religions for a long time. Works best if your setting is not all that different from the modern world.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human? - Found in works where Humans and Furries coexist, especially if that existence is an unequal one (Think Family Guy, especially in episodes where Brian is trying to be treated like a human being)
- What Measure Is a Non-Cute? - For plots where What Measure Is a Non-Human? seem to already be (mostly) hammered out. Works well for monsterous species, or even simply bizarre ones compared to the usual creatures we see, and can even be extrapolated for Aesops about body types and physical abnormalities / deformities.
A furry's species can be used as a stand-in for several themes - from various races to personality types to moral alignments. And of course, within a species you can have themes as well - Road Rovers used an all-dog squad with different breeds for different countries, for example.
In more fantastic settings with unusual creatures above and beyond the usual anthropomorphic, the lines become further blurred , to the point that there's no great difference between species except for artistic flavor.
Anything, really. Furry artwork has been used to illustrate everything from slice-of-life comics to full-blown holocaust memoirs, so there's no special plot that furry work trends towards as a result.
But dealing with animals always provides some ideas...
- Plots centered on the distinct issues that a furry society would have to deal with (special furniture, housing situations) are Kevin and Kell's stock in trade, and are just waiting to be used, especially if they can parody real life situations. Why worry about security at the airport, for example, if you already have wings and the only thing keeping you from flying yourself is an overpacked suitcase?
- Environmental issues make sense, especially if your character of choice is only slightly removed from its natural habitat—and given the Author Appeal inherent in this, especially if the primary characters of choice are endangered, it's one of the more justified uses of animal characters.
- Even if humans aren't involved in the setting, don't be surprised to see furry characters and plots being more directly connected to nature in general, ala The Lion King.
A large number of furry settings are either in nature (though naturalized settlements are also common) or the modern urban world, and sometimes both. The more realistic the story, the less likely these two will overlap.
Settings where humans are curiously missing/avoided entirely are common, though if humans DO exist in settings that are mostly natural, it's often to hammer in that Humans Are the Real Monsters.
If your furries have Feather Fingers or other anatomical differences from humans, adjust your props to compensate.
Don't forget that your characters come with their own accessories (claws for most creatures, teeth for your predators, and skunks come pre-equipped with their own mace), and for more fantastical creatures, this can include things like fire-breathing, wings, and other fun "built-in" toys.
Make sure the characters you draw have at least a passing resemblance to the animals they're supposed to be based off of, at least as far as the heads and tails are involved.
Depending on your levels of realism and proximity to human behavior, don't forget to render the more ambient details of furry characters, like their actual.... y'know, fur.
A dedicated artist can extend this even further to giving furries special hands, which may or may not have all the same fingers that humans do, as well as figuring out whether to give them human-style feet (plantigrade) or more animalistic legs (digitigrade). And if you go the digitigrade route, make sure the right animals have that style, or someone will call you out on it.
The more human the setting, the more clothes should be worn. Make sure they match whatever setting you're in, and even more importantly, they should be clothes the character can actually put on by themselves.
Most of these stunts will fall under Feats of Strength/Speed/Hearing; you've got exotic animals, so making sure they can still use their special traits even if they're mostly human now helps.
The most common of these is a dog's sense of smell, which can be hard to illustrate.
If you haven't checked out most of the furry comics listed on this site, go ahead and do so.
Actually listing which ones are good or bad would just invite an Internet Backdraft, anyway... )
As for film, the supreme example of great furry stories is the Kung Fu Panda franchise. Here we have a well written, and even better acted, furry world that plays intelligently with Animal Stereotypes and the Wuxia film genre by producers who knew Chinese culture inside and out.