It’s More Fun When You’re Not Allowed, by Isabel Marks – book review by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Fred writes: three or four reviews of furry books that I wrote in 2003 or 2004 have vanished from the Internet. I wrote them for the first version of Watts Martin’s Claw & Quill site, which he has apparently taken down. Here they are back online.
It’s More Fun When You’re Not Allowed: Namir Deiter, Year One, by Isabel Marks. Fredericksburg, VA, Fuzzy Kitten Comics/Studio Ironcat, September 2004, trade paperback $11.95 (128 pages,.
This tidy little package presents the first year’s worth of Isabel Marks’ online Namir Deiter comic strip (November 28, 1999 through January 5, 2001), plus a lot of bonus goodies: biographies of 21 main and minor characters, an original ten-page story, a Fantasy Gallery showing the main gang in s-f and fantasy settings, a foreword by Bill Holbrook, and more. Almost as good as the strips themselves are Marks’ notes on practically each one describing the conditions under which it was written and/or drawn.
Basic advice for writers is “Write what you know about.” Marks appears to have done this to excellent effect. As she explains in her notes, she was a high school senior with some spare time in computer class. She had recently discovered on-line comics and wanted to try one of her own. What about? High school dating! The first strip introduces four high school gals and a guy. The guy, Devlin, is just present to start the action (he asks Tipper out on her first date). The main cast is the girls: sisters Snickers and Tipper Namir, Blue Deiter, and Joy Satu. Snickers and Joy are relatively demure; Tipper, the youngest, is tomboyish; and Blue, who was neglected as a child and raised herself by watching TV, is self-centered and apparently attention-seeking. As Namir Deiter advances during its first year, Marks points out in her marginal asides the ways in which it begins to evolve. The art style shows her experiments with different computer drawing tools and techniques. The story starts with individual gag strips, and gains depth as her characters develop individual personalities and become involved in more serious human-interest situations.
It is this latter that has made Namir Deiter so popular. Marks has a very attractive art style, but it is the ongoing life situations of Snickers, Tipper, Joy, Blue, and their expanding circle of acquaintances that make readers want to follow the strip regularly. This first-year collection is frankly very rough and erratic compared to the current strip, now in its fifth year. The girls, who were high-schoolers during this first year, are now in college; Snickers is married. Hopefully Marks will not wait a year between collections to bring the strip in book form up to the present.
Since Namir Deiter is a high school/college human interest strip, the anthropomorphic nature of the cast is largely window dressing. Marks enjoys drawing cute furry characters, and the girls are mostly cats except for Joy who is a rabbit. Devlin is a raccoon, and other characters introduced after this volume will include dogs and pandas. The really jarring exception is Bob the slug, who was drawn as a slug because he was supposed to be just a one-shot exaggerated comedy-relief foil. Marks had no idea Bob would keep appearing until he was a popular member of the main cast. There are occasional story-acknowledgements of the characters’ animal natures; Tipper does a cat-food commercial, and Joy’s pink fur turns white in the Winter.
Fans of Namir Deiter have probably already read these strips on-line, but Marks’ “behind the scenes” notes add an extra dimension to them. And a paperback collection is always handier than having to turn on your computer and click on the strips one by one. The major drawback is that all of the strip reprints are in black-&-white; only the new material is in full color. But considering how much a full-color book would have cost, this is understandable.