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Furry vs. Furry

''Better Days'' vs. ''Badly Drawn Kitties''

The friendship between furry artists Mat Sherer and Jay Naylor has unfortunately dissolved into something of a rivalry, and this enmity has spilled over into their consecutive web comics. Since both of these comics involve the same characters, you really can't look at one without seeing or hearing about the other. So, to summarize:

Jay Naylor is one of the most well-known "spooge" artists in furry fandom. He's very talented, and he's devoted a lot of his talent to a subject near and dear to many furry fans: pornographic furry artwork. His most famous creation is his own furry character, a cat named Fisk Black. Jay's friend Mat Sherer then created a sister for Fisk, Lucy Black (or Lucy Koneko, as she's called in Mat's comic).

Mat readily acknowledged his lack of drawing talent by calling his web comic Badly Drawn Kitties, and blatantly admitting he couldn't draw. This was actually a point in his favor! Well, even with the bad artwork, there are still two things that make the web comic worth reading: it's funny (Mat is good at gags) and Mat does do good facial expressions. Mat is also nice and perverted (or rather, "furverted," which is probably why he and Jay got along together). Badly Drawn Kitties is definitely adult-oriented for the language, and for at least one of the running plotlines in the comic: an incestuous relationship between Lucy Black and her brother Fisk.

Jay, meanwhile, started his own web comic – mostly, as he says, because he was tired of drawing spooge, spooge, nothing but spooge. His comic, Better Days, came along about a year after Badly Drawn Kitties, and Jay took it in a direction of its own. It's much better drawn, of course, and Jay chose to make it a more serious, dramatic portrayal of the life of Fisk Black (before he started the sexual relationship with his sister). Jay included the character of Lucy Black in his comic, and their relationship did indeed begin to develop about two years into the comic. However, Better Days is a well-written strip, with a definite erotic undertone that puts more of an emphasis on the characters themselves. In other words, if you go to Jay's site expecting to see raunchy, X-rated artwork, you're likely to be disappointed. (Jay used to have a collection of older pictures in his hot-and-heavy art gallery on the Velar Central Library, though he has since removed them.)

However, Jay and Mat had a falling out, and as a result they have disavowed each other's web comics. Jay has decided (in public, anyways) to just leave things be and not bring the subject up. Mat, on the other hand, killed off Fisk in Badly Drawn Kitties, and has mentioned it in his blog several times.

Over time, Mat ended Badly Drawn Kitties and turned it into a personal blog. However, in 2009 he rebooted the comic and started it over again as a daily strip, with a new artist whose style resembles his own; though the kitties aren't as badly drawn. Re-starting the comic from scratch gave Mat the opportunity to scrap some subplots that he evidently hadn't been happy with, such as the whole "Lucy as a professional music journalist" storyline. But don't worry, the comic still has lots of sex - mostly implied, but some blatant as well. (There's been no sign of Fisk in the new comic.)

Meanwhile, Jay Naylor went on to quit his job and make a full-time living drawing…furry porn. He's done several hardcore "porfolios" that he sells at his Web site (including porn subplots spun off from the main storyline of Better Days). As far as the comic storyline is concerned, Fisk isn't screwing his sister anymore. They grew up and went to college, where Lucy became involved in her own soap-opera rivalry with a rabbit who personifies the definition of the word "slut." Fisk went on to join the Army, though he left regular service and is working as a covert operations person for the Government. In other words, he's a military assassin.

2009 Update: In early 2009, Jay Naylor announced that he will be ending Better Days, and the final chapter of the comic (entitled "Better Days") was posted on May 29, 2009. Of course, since Naylor is making a decent living for himself through his artwork, it is all but certain he will either begin a new online comic, or follow up Better Days with a new work.

However, since the comic is ending, I've finally decided to offer a bit of criticism. I've found Better Days to be well-written for a furry comic, and Naylor's art is regularly quite good. What I ultimately find to be disappointing about the comic, however, is the way Fisk and Lucy have developed. They're a little too perfect to be believable. Aside from the early chapter when Fisk accidentally gave Lucy his mother's blood pressure medication and put her in the hospital, the two characters have always done the right thing at the right time, and said exactly the right words to cover the situations they've been in…and as a result, they've been blessed with the lives they wanted.

Naylor's political leanings have won him a small cadre of hardcore furry fans who seem to live to detest and tear down his creations, as seen in this review by Crush Yiff Destroy that's determined to portray the comic as hardcore, rightwing, misogynist, and racist:

(Note: due to the ongoing block against Cast Iron Chaos by Crush Yiff Destroy, any link to them from this Web site will be redirected to a different Web site. You will need to type the URL of CYD's Better Days review directly into your Web browser in order to read it for yourself.)

In addition, these folks often suggest that Fisk is a biographical portrayal of Naylor himself. I think, rather, that Fisk is wish-fulfillment. Naylor originally created Fisk as his FurryMUCK character, so he was the extension of everything Naylor wanted to be – a soldier of fortune who lived by his wits and his guns. So it's certainly natural that this is what Fisk turned out to be: he was able to effortlessly find his cousin Persia and rescue her from her evil porn-producing captors; he was a master marksman even at a young age (as seen in the scene where he won every single prize at the shooting gallery of the local kiddie-arcade) – and even when he decided to make a life together with his kitty goth girl lover, he dropped her like a hot potato when he was offered the chance to become a contract soldier and assassin. What's more, after the initial shock, she got over it and found her own lover(s) instead. Fisk went on to marry his childhood sweetheart, and Naylor's upcoming comic Original Life will focus on their kids. Lucy, meanwhile, also got her dream job and her dream boyfriend…who will most likely be asking her to marry him by the time the final chapter of the comic ends.

Naylor's new comic Original Life began on June 1, 2009. Like Better Days, it's updated on Mondays and Fridays. The URL for Original Life is here: [1]

Still, if I was really that upset or disappointed with Better Days, I would have stopped reading it. After all, Naylor's giving us the webcomic for free (as a way to entice us to buy his porn), and he can do any damn thing he wants with it. While my enjoyment of the comic is tempered somewhat by the criticisms noted above, I've still enjoyed Better Days as one of the better examples of independently produced "furry" entertainment. I can only hope that Naylor's next long-term project is as successful as this one has been.