The Furry History Project, Part-7: The 1980's

The 1980's

In 1980, Art Spiegelman began serialization of his comic Maus. Like Orwell's Animal Farm, Spiegelman used animal characters of different species to represent historical social classes in this interpretation of Jews living under the oppression of the Nazis—the Jews represented as mice and the Nazis represented as cats.

The comic was widely acclaimed and awarded. It also became another widely referenced example among those attempting to explain The Furry Interest.

In 1980, Piers Anthony began the Apprentice Adept series, which dealt with such controversial subject matter as a human marrying a morphing unicorn.

In 1980, at the NorEasCon II World Science Fiction Convention in Boston, Steve Gallacci first outlined his idea for a funny animal sci-fi comic-art serial about bioengineered animal soldiers in a space war with a realistic high-tech military setting. This led to a gathering of fans at Worldcons and Westercons to discuss anthropomorphics in science fiction, comic art, and animation.

This is the third Funny Animal fan club type group shown to have developed independently around this point in history, (after Reed Waller and Mark Merlino's groups) demonstrating that interest in the subject among adult aged fans was quite high and begging for outlets.

How long fans had gone begging because the attitudes of society made adult proclamation of the interest impractical is not known. But since some of the people involved in organizing these groups were in their 40's at the time, it can be conjectured that the interest had continued to exist among adults in secret since the peak of Funny Animal popularity in the 1940's. And it was probably because of the surrounding areas of comics, science fiction and animation that were now suddenly acceptable for adults to express interest in that Furry fans felt encouraged to seek acceptance for their interest as well.

In 1981, Disney released The Fox And The Hound. Possibly the most seriously portrayed of all the Disney animal films, reflecting an era that was coming to expect more from animation than the traditional song and comedy formula.

In 1981, Osamu Tezuka produced the first Unico movie. Here he repeated the formula of Kimba, creating a character for children, but surrounding him with heart rending concepts and spectacular animation. The two Unico movies were picked up by The Disney Channel and ran in rotation with their collection of animated classics throughout the 80's.

In 1981, Greg Wadsworth created Ismet, a sci-fi comic book about an oppressed funny-animal lower class rebelling against their cruel human masters.

In 1981, underground comix refugee Steve Willis introduced Morty The Dog. Description: "...While on the other hand, Morty the Dog is nothing but a narrow minded degenerate mutt with a big mouth and lots of wise-crack ideas, he always seems to hit the nail right on the head. What more can I say about this cynical but loveable cur."

In 1981, Andrew Lloyd Webber produced Cats, based on T. S Eliot's 1939 Funny Animal book, "Old Possum's Book Of Practical Cats."

The musical was an unexpected hit, mainly with adults, though it naturally had much appeal for children as well. The London production ran for twenty one years and the Broadway production ran for eighteen years, making it the longest running show in the history of Broadway until it was surpassed by Lloyd Webber's Phantom Of The Opera.

By 1981, interest in a Funny Animal Fandom had grown significantly at Science Fiction conventions, as demonstrated by the following art created by Ken Fletcher at the 1981 Denvention (World Science Fiction Convention.)

In 1982, Don Bluth released The Secret Of NIMH, his first venture after his split from Disney. This was to be an idealistic venture, designed to show what was possible with animation when not hamstrung by the then current policies at Disney.

To say this venture was impressive would be an understatement. But it was not a box office success. The crowd it seemed to click with best were Furries—fans of Anthropomorphic Animals of adult age waiting for something in their interest to be geared for their age group. And soon to be Furries—people who were so impressed by The Secret Of NIMH that it awakened the interest in them.

In 1982, the producers of the Watership Down movie followed up with The Plague Dogs, another Richard Adams novel. The less action oriented movie sank without creating much of a blip on the radar. It has strong Green leanings and is rather inaccessible to children. Its premise is actually similar to The Secret Of NIMH, without all the cuteness and comic relief. Actually, it's possibly the second most disturbing Furry movie I've yet seen.

In 1982, Rankin-Bass brought out The Flight Of Dragons and The Last Unicorn. These were well received by Furry and general fantasy fans alike. And they remain today the best examples of what adult fantasy fans of that era wanted. But, sadly, they failed to start a trend in that direction.

In 1982, Cat People was remade as an erotic horror film, allowing for direct exploration of the sexual concept in a more sexually liberated age.

In 1982, Eclipse Comics put out Destroyer Duck as a benefit comic for Steve Gerber's lawsuit fund to liberate his character, Howard The Duck, from Marvel.

In 1982, DC Comics introduced Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew.

In 1982, Josh Quagmire created Cutey Bunny, a Furry parody of the anime character Cutey Honey. In another cue taken from anime, Cutey Bunny is a furless Furry, endowed with a sexiness never before seen in a Funny Animal outside of erotic comix. And, in another twist that defied all previous reasoning, the first non-X-rated furless Furry was African American.

In 1982, The Shirt Tails moved from greeting cards to television.

In 1983, PBS broadcast an English translation of The Cunning Little Vixen.

In 1983, Hanna-Barbera introduced the Monchichis TV series, based on the popular Japanese toy line.

In 1983, The Care Bears arrived.

In 1983, Alan Dean Foster began his Spellsinger series, which features a supporting cast of Anthropomorphic Animal characters who walk upright and wear clothes.

In 1983, the third Star Wars movie, Return Of The Jedi, introduced The Ewoks. This gave the Star Wars saga more than a passing connection to the Furry interest, especially as The Ewoks went on to become popular in their own right, spinning off their own movies, TV show, comics, records, and a plethora of toys.

In 1983, The Chipmunks returned to television with another updated character design. This time bringing with them a female counter group, The Chipettes.

In 1983, Hasbro brought out its My Little Pony toy line, one of the most successful toy runs of the era. It spun offa TV series, several TV specials and a feature length movie. And, though put on hiatus for several years, the toy line was successfully revived and continues to be a best seller to this day.

In 1983, the first issue of Steve Gallacci's Albedo was published. It would be the first time Funny Animals were seen in totally serious Science Fiction comics.

In 1983, The Tiger's Den BBS became the first Furry bulletin board system on the net. It was housed at Mark Merlino's home, known as The Prancing Skiltaire, which also served as one of the first hang outs specifically for Furry fans.

In 1983, Rapid T Rabbit And Friends appeared on the new medium of public access television.

In 1983, Other Suns, a Furry table top RPG, was published.

In 1984, Dr. Seuss penned The Butter Battle Book, a Furry story that attempted to explain the philosophy of nuclear war to children.

In 1984, Paul McCartney, eager to sell his idea for a Rupert movie, created an animated music video as a demonstration. The song and video were both a hit, but it did not generate immediate results towards the realization of his dream.

In 1984, DIC produced The Get Along Gang.  This show represented a serious advance towards the "Slice Of Life" anthropomorphic comics that would become popular in the next decade. Unlike the slapstick worlds created for characters like Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny, the world The Get Along Gang live in is basically a real world human setting, with the single incongruity of all the characters being Anthropomorphic Animals. But this incongruity makes the characters interesting enough to sell a story that would otherwise be considered too ordinary to even require cartooning. It is the object of Furry Fandom laid bare to function on it's own merit. And the demonstration that this could work was a major inspiration to the Furry comics creators of the next two decades.

In 1984, Rowrbrazzle became the new Funny Animal APA that replaced Vootie. According to Wikifur, "The transition between Vootie and Rowrbrazzle is traditionally considered to be when Funny Animal Fandom became Furry Fandom." Which can be interpreted as meaning Furry Fandom is Funny Animal Fandom with a new name. And, the name of the APA is a reference to Pogo, which would make no sense if this was not something for fans of the older material as well as the new—much of the new being fan art of Disney, WB and Hanna-Barbera characters, if the samples are anything to go by. Samples of Rowrbrazzle pages and covers.

It's also important to remember that, regardless of the legendary status Rowrbrazzle holds with Furry historians, it was only ever seen by its contributors. Which means it not only never had a chance to influence the general fandom, but it was produced in such small quantities that collecting it these days is almost impossible.

At that time, I was up to my ears in Furry Fandom, collecting just about all of the titles you see in this era, as well as being 5 years into writing my own Furry saga. If there had been any way for me to know about it, Rowrbrazzle would have been something I'd have wanted to collect religiously. It might literally have changed my life. But, at that time I would not have been able to contribute to it. And therefore I'd still have had no access to it, even if I'd known about it.

Now imagine thousands of other Furry fans all over the world in the same situation. Spending themselves silly on the gobs of Furry collectibles available at the time, still believing themselves totally alone in the interest, never daring to hope there would ever be anything like Rowrbrazzle. And probably still not knowing to this day there was ever such a thing.

Therefore, Rowrbrazzle has never represented or led the fandom. It has represented only the minority of artists who participated in it. And even those artists would not drop the term "Funny Animals" for "Furries" until several years later. Indeed, there are still some that have never fully accepted the change.

Therefore, my research leaves me in question over the legend of some significant change occurring at the transition of Vootie to Rowrbrazzle. There is no doubt in my mind that Funny Animal Fandom did eventually change its name to Furry Fandom. But that would have been a movement of the general fandom, not the directive of an isolated artist's clique.

It has been said to me by another researcher that there seems to have been a developing animosity between the general fandom and artist's groups that were deemed elitist and disrespectful of the general fandom. Another quote from Wikifur bears this out. "The attitude at that time was that, if you weren't sufficiently dedicated to Funny Animals to create them yourself, you weren't a real fan." But, of course, in any fandom, there will be scads of dedicated fans who can't draw or produce anything in the way of art for an APA. Such a measure of a fan's worth is entirely unfair, and is not at all conducive to a happy fandom.

Therefore it is no surprise at all that, once the general fandom became aware that Funny Animal fans were attempting to unite, they quickly wrested control from the artist groups. The various collecting centers of the fandom then merged into one giant rolling snowball that would eventually be called The Furry Community. That rolling snowball then found so many existing fans to draw in as it rolled along that it quickly grew to a size beyond anyone's control or claim of ownership. And it continues rolling to this day, there still being thousands of fans out there who haven't yet heard of The Furry Community or realized it has anything to do with their interests.

In 1984, DIC introduced Heathcliff and The Catillac Cats.

Cleo of the Catillac Cats was one of the first TV Furries to have visible sexuality, coupled with a sometimes streetwise attitude to her relationship with main character Riff Raff, who was himself a bit of a Fritz. In certain episodes this could result in an eye opening new freedom of thinly veiled sexual banter and sight gags, which generally went over the heads of the kids, but caught the attention of the adult aged Furries watching. This resulted in Cleo becoming one of the first favorite drawing subjects of the emerging Furry fan art movement.

Cleo wore no clothing other than her leg warmers. Today there is a sphere of thought that this constitutes nudity. But that notion did not exist in 1984. It has not been until very recently that any animal character covered in fur could be thought of as nude. But then, anthropomorphic animals had rarely had such human looking bodies before.

In contrast, The Get Along Gang, produced by the same company in the same year, never allows the characters to be shown unclothed, indicating a possible difference of concept or targeted age group. Since Heathcliff was an established comic strip character, it's possible Heathcliff and The Catillac Cats was not entirely targeted at children, but was rather an all ages show, representing a middle stage between Rocky & Bullwinkle and the Cartoon Network all ages shows of recent years.

In 1984, Eastman and Laird produced the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book. The popularity of this title and its appeal to older age groups caused independent comic makers to take Funny Animals more seriously. Suddenly Funny Animals were regularly being pitched to young adults in a new wave of Funny Animal super hero titles that gave the coalescing Furry Fandom something to rally around.

In 1984, Continuity Comics introduced Bucky O'Hare.

In 1984, Warp Graphics offered Thunder Bunny.

In 1984, Ozamu Tezuka released Bagi, The Monster Of Mighty Nature. This was possibly the first appearance of a seriously portrayed half human anthropomorphic character in a film with a firm science fiction concept.  The character design for Bagi follows Steve Gallacci's concept that more serious Furry stories require more human shaped, less cartoonish looking characters. View here.

In 1984, the first issue of Usagi Yojimbo was released. Another Furry series geared towards higher age groups which garnered considerable respect and won awards.

In 1985, Blackthorn Comics offered Nervous Rex.

In 1985, Randy Zimmerman and Susan Van Camp introduced Tales From The Aniverse.

In 1985, The Ewoks got their own animated TV series.

In 1985, Jim Groat published Equine The Uncivilized, carrying on the long tradition of Furry parodies with a send up of Conan The Barbarian and the entire Sword And Sorcery genre.

In 1985, Critters, the first major Furry anthology series began. It would be an important influence on the uniting of the fandom into a recognized market. Something that fans without internet access could see and gain awareness through that they were not alone in the interest. Though it seems important to note that a quick scan of an old Critters issue turns up repeated use of the term Funny Animals. No use of the term Furry. Nothing to suggest any kind of break with the long tradition and evolution of the Funny Animal genre.

In 1985, Tad Williams penned Tailchaser's Song, the first offering to challenge Richard Adams' place as the undisputed master of Furry Fiction.

Williams, while repeating Richard Adams' formula of creating a culture and language for his cats, demonstrated a background in types of fantasy that are more popular with the sci-fi fantasy novel crowd. But most significantly, he proved that Richard Adams and Richard Bach were not a fluke, and that serious Furry Fiction for adults was bate for the best seller list.

In 1985, Ladyhawke, a live action Furry classic.

In 1985, Dream Hunter REM was animated in Japan, featuring REM's cute dog and kitty companions who transform into her mighty Furry spirit guardians.

In 1985, Disney entered the then booming Furry TV cartoon market with The Adventures Of The Gummi Bears.

In 1986, Disney released The Great Mouse Detective.

In 1986, DIC introduced the Popples TV series, based on yet another line of popular toys.

In 1986, Hanna-Barbera introduced Foofur.

In 1986, legend has it that Mark Merlino started writing "Furry Party" on fliers to advertise Funny Animal fan gatherings at sci-fi and comics conventions. This is said to be when the term started to catch on.

In 1986, Reed Waller began the professional run of Omaha The Cat Dancer. Having been inspired by Robert Crumb, Waller wanted to create a more serious, soap opera like, adult Funny Animal comic. And in doing so, he firmly established the slice of life format that would dominate Furry comics in the near future. Yet he professes to this day to see the work as part of the traditional Funny Animal genre, going so far as to sub-title the series "A Funny Animal Novel."

In 1986, Blackthorn Publishing began Alien Ducklings.

In 1986, Blackthorn Comics offered Hamster Vice.

In 1986, Ten-Buck Comics offered Space Beaver.

In 1986, Fantagraphics offered The Adventures Of Captain Jack.

In 1986, Slave Labor Graphics offered Barabbas.

In 1986, Dark Horse Comics offered Boris The Bear.

In 1986, Crowquill Comics offered Eb'nn as a rare Furry Western themed series.

In 1986, Fishwrap Comics offered The Fish Police.

In 1986, Mark Bode offered Miami Mice.

In 1986, Slave Labor Graphics offered Samurai Penguin.

In 1986, Spotlight Comics offered Samurai Squirrel.

Note that the above section of comics titles reflect the impact of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Usagi Yojimbo on the comics market—an abrupt surge in Funny Animal titles for older readers. It can be conjectured that the comics makers of that age saw serious Funny Animals as the wave of the future. But the comics creators did not properly comprehend the market and how to exploit it, resulting in a flood of lack-luster titles that failed to repeat the success of TMNT. But, in the next couple of years we see the artists who would become known as the big names of the 90's Furry comics movement riding the wave of this explosion to greater success and recognition.

In 1986, as a result of a ban in Rowrbrazzle of explicit sexual material, Jim Price started "Q, The Mature Funny-Animal APA."

In 1986 Brian Jacques began his Redwall series, one of the longest running Furry novel series, which continues to this day. It's a series that greatly resembles the formula of "The Lord Of The Rings," every story dealing with wars, battles and quests in a medieval Furry setting.

In 1986, Ben Dunn published the first Mighty Tiny story in Mangazine.

In 1986, T.H.E. Fox, the first online comic strip appeared on the net.

In 1987, Eclipse Comics offered Guerrilla Groundhog.

In 1987, Emerald Comics offered Stanley, The Snake With The Overactive Imagination.

In 1987, Slave Labor Comics offered Max The Magnificent.

In 1987, Abacus Press offered Panda Khan.

In 1987, Ninja High School began. Princess Asrial first appears in the story as an alien anthropomorphic skunk who is transformed into a human when she visits Earth.  While on Earth life is one long succession of Anime clichés, but when the storyline moves to Asrial's planet the entire cast becomes Furry.

In 1987, Ranma ½, an animated sit-com about martial artists who turn into animals when they get wet, began on Japanese television.

In 1987, Disney brought Duck Tales to TV.

In 1987, Eclipse comics began publishing Fusion, another serious sci-fi series with Steve Gallacci participation.

In 1987, Jim Groat began Morphs as the first anthology comic for 'morphic beginning writers and artists, demonstrating that Furry wasn't the only term suggested to replace Funny Animals in that era.

In 1987, Renegade Press offered Roscoe, The Dawg Ace Detective.

In 1987, Fragments west Comics offered Penguin & Pencilguin.

In 1987, the FurVersion fanzine started, the first known showcase for fan created art and stories available to all.

In 1987, The Electric Holt was started by Richard Chandler, Mitch Marmel, John DeWeese, and Seth Grenald at Drexel University in Philadelphia. It was the first east coast BBS with an extensive furry users' group. The name is an Elfquest reference.

In 1987, Ralph Bakshi's The New Adventures Of Mighty Mouse ironically presented the idea of Funny Animal characters from the 1940's awakening, after having been frozen, into the late 1980's. Which, in retrospect, is something of an allegory of what was happening with The Furry Interest in general. Funny Animals were about to enjoy their highest peak of popularity since the 40's, which would see many studios dusting off characters that had long languished in mothballs. Their return being heralded with resoundingly enthusiastic cheers.

In 1987, Amazing Heroes issue 129 (Fantagraphics) was a special Funny Animal issue highlighting independent Furry comics, Rowrbrazzle, and the Bakshi/ Kricfalusi TV cartoon series, Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures. Numerous Furry fans are said to have claimed they learned about Furry Fandom from this issue.

In 1987, Osamu Tezuka embarked on his last Furry project, Legend Of The Forest, which he would not live to complete. Set to the 4 movements of Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony, with no dialogue at all, only the first and fourth movements were completed before the creator's death.

What the two movements show, aside from the fact that Anthropomorphic Animals don't need human speech to convey ideas humans can relate to, are the influences of Disney and the other earlier animators who instilled the Furry interest in him.

The film, like many other of Tezuka's Furry works is unapologetic in its demonizing of the selfishness of man, off set by the innocence conveyed by the animals. The animals in this case being an allegory of the victims of war. This point being driven home by drawing the humans in the image of Hitler.

If taken as the last message from possibly the second most honored Furry creator of the 20th century, one could take that message to be, "For God's sake, have a heart." View here.

In 1988, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" tied the idea of "Toon Town" together in the minds of the modern audience, bringing them up to speed on what the Animal fans of the 40's had been very familiar with—this idea of toons living in another land or dimension with its own unique laws of physics and behavior that make's perfect sense when you're in it and feel a part of it, but which you leave behind in the theater when you return to the real world.

This did much to reawaken the interest in Furry and animation in general as something more significant than a kids thing. The result was the Disney renaissance. And though the 80's styled cartoons which had been solely aimed at kids were on their way out, Furry was still evolving and ready to take on the 90's with new, more sophisticated styles specifically geared to attract older audiences.

In 1988, Disney released Oliver & Company.

In 1988, Dominion Tank Police was first animated in Japan, featuring The Puma Sisters.

In 1988, Blackthorn Comics offered Tracker.

In 1988, Vicky Wyman's Xanadu introduced Furry swashbuckling romantic fantasy.

In 1989, ConFurence Zero, the first exclusively Furry convention, was held at the Holiday Inn Bristol Plaza in Costa Mesa, California, organized by Mark Merlino, Rod O'Riley, and others. It was considered a test to see if a "real" Furry convention should be attempted the following year. Membership was about 90, attendance was 65, including most prominent Furry fans from across North America.

In 1989 Disney introduced Chip N Dale's Rescue Rangers. But it was the character Gadget that stole the show. Another furless Furry, Gadget proved to have unexpected appeal to adult aged Furry fans, inspiring tons of fan fiction and an erotic art site called "Playmouse."

In 1989, Red Shetland spun off her own comic title from Equine The Uncivilized.

In 1989, Fantagraphic offered Grootlore.

In 1989, Disney released The Little Mermaid.

In 1989, Don Bluth produced All Dogs Go To Heaven.

In 1989, Martin Wagner self-published Hepcats, turning his earlier college-newspaper humorous comic-strip into a critically acclaimed Furry human-interest serial involving mature themes such as child abuse and suicide.

In 1989, MU Press' first anthropomorphic comic book was Steve Willis' Morty the Dog issue one, a collection of Willis' strips from small-press and mini-comics of the early eighties. MU Press would become one of the major publishers of anthropomorphic comics in the early 1990s.

In 1989, Eric W. Schwartz created Amy The Squirrel as the Amiga Computers mascot. Amy and many other characters he would create would star in his pioneering animations which foreshadowed the coming of flash animation.

Says Eric, "I've been drawing for as long as I can remember, and my greatest influences have been cartoons, such as animated films and comic strips. My early attempts at drawing were usually copying or emulating comic characters, such as Garfield the cat, and later animated cartoon characters from Disney or Warner Brothers. Animal characters are common in cartoons, and I just carried on with the traditions when I started creating my own characters. I didn't think of them as anthropomorphic or 'furry' characters at the time. To me they were "cartoon animals". It wasn't until I was contacted by a few fans that I became aware of the fandoms for anthropomorphic animal characters and the like."

In 1989, Akif Pirinçci began the Felidae novel series. Crime novels featuring talking cats.

In 1989, FURtherance was one of several new local fanzines, mostly short-lived, usually devoted to Furry literature and art created by fans. While FURtherance was primarily comprised of reviews of both independent and mainstream titles of interest to Furry fans.

In 1989, FurNet was started by Nicolai Shapero as a network of BBS's with furry discussion areas. By 1996 it included over twenty Furry BBS's throughout North America.

In 1989, Richard Chandler started Gallery as a cross between an artists' and writers' APA and a commercial magazine for general Furry fans, calling it an APA'zine.

In 1989, Robert and Brenda Daverin in the San Francisco Bay area started FurNography, one of the first public fanzine-art folios for furry eroticism.

Note: Erotic fanzines are something that happen in just about every art or fantasy based fandom. There were, by this point, a number of such fan publications in Anime fandom. Given the acclaim Furry had already received for Fritz The Cat and Omaha The Cat Dancer, as well as the relaxed moral temperament of American pop culture at that time, it should not be considered surprising that the potential of Furry erotica was being explored as well.

Though, as was also true of anime, people who were attracted to this sort of material tended to ignore the rest, creating a large contingent in both fandoms who only cared about porn, and didn't mind promoting porn as the main object of these fandoms—creating a misunderstanding, both among newer fans and the general public, which persists to this day.

Also note that, as fan publications and internet ventures became more common, the use of "Fur" in titles shows a noticeable embracing of the term Furry around this era, at least among fans. It would still be a while before the comics, animation and literature industries would start taking note of developing fan lingo.

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