Tucker Grizzwell’s Worst Week Ever, by Bill Schorr and Ralph Smith – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Tucker Grizzwell’s Worst Week Ever, by Bill Schorr and Ralph Smith
Kansas City, MO, Andrews McMeel Publishing, January 2017, trade paperback $9.99 (242 pages), Kindle $8.49.

Laser Moose and Rabbit Boy, by Doug Savage
Kansas City, MO, Andrews McMeel Publishing, September 2016, hardcover $31.99, trade paperback $9.97 (144 pages), Kindle $9.47.

Phoebe and Her Unicorn, by Dana Simpson. Introduction by Peter S. Beagle.
Kansas City, MO, Andrews McMeel Publishing, September 2014, hardcover $13.99, trade paperback $9.99 (222 [+2] pages, Kindle $7.71.

These three books are samples of Andrews McMeel Publishing’s “AMP! comics for kids” series for children 8 to 12 years old (grades 3 to 7). The AMP! books are a combination of original book-length cartoon-art works and collections of newspaper or Internet daily comic strips. Most of them are not animal oriented, but here are two that are, plus Dana Simpson’s Phoebe and Her Unicorn, mostly for her previously-acclaimed hit in furry fandom, Ozy and Millie (although Phoebe does contain Marigold the Unicorn, and sometimes goblins). Furry fans may want to take a look at some of these. Many are in public libraries.

Tucker Grizzwell’s Worst Week Ever, by Bill Schorr and Ralph Smith, is a standalone original 242-page spinoff from Schorr’s The Grizzwells newspaper comic strip (1987 to present), featuring a funny-animal family of grizzly bears and their community. The newspaper strip is gag-a-day without any continuity. Schorr and his assistant Smith have tried to create a coherent novel, but what they have here is really a collection of lame one-liners with a thin connecting plot line. Astronomy class: “Do you know anything about asteroid belts?” “Only that they’re what asteroids wear when they can’t find their suspenders.” The characters compound the groaners by often breaking the fourth wall and looking knowingly at the reader. You can almost hear a drum-roll’s bada-boom.

Tucker is the young teenage cub in sixth-grade of middle school, with his slightly older sister Fauna. Other family members are Pop Gunther and Mom Flora. Friends include Pop’s buddy Pierpoint Porcupine, and the cubs’ schoolmates Mandy Fox, Hector Lobo (wolf), Lisa DeLovely (bear; Tucker’s crush), Norville Paddlebutt (beaver), Max Turtle, Walter Blimpnik (bear; school bully); and their school teachers and staff Miss Furball, Ms. Belch, Ms. Swinetrough, Ms. Fishbreath, Mr. Wheelbase. The overly-civilized Tucker’s worst week ever is the week anticipating “the ancient father-son rite of passage known as ‘Jaws and Claws’ weekend”, when his Pop and Pierpont Porcupine will teach him how to terrorize hikers, scare off picnickers (leaving their food behind), raid garbage pails, and eat roadkill.

Looking at this funny-animal comic strip forces the reader to consider the ancient conundrum: Why are female funny-animals always fully clothed, while the pre-puberty boys wear shirts and are nude below the waist? Funny-animal adult males can be either fully dressed, shirted only, or completely nude, depending on the needs of the comic; usually whether the setting is in a town or in the forest.

Anyway, Tucker Grizzwell’s Worst Week Ever is 242 pages of furry nudge-nudge-wink-wink and bada-boom. Buy according to your tastes.

Laser Moose and Rabbit Boy is an original 144-page graphic novel in three chapters by Doug Savage, the Canadian cartoonist who draws the webcomic Savage Chickens. Its sequel, Laser Moose and Rabbit Boy: Disco Fever, will be published in October.

The moose and squirrel rabbit are a couple of animals in the unspoiled Canadian North Woods, right by the factory of Toxicorp, “makers of fine toxic waste since 1892”. I expected that Laser Moose would get his light-saber vision from the flying saucers in the first story, but no, he already has it when the book starts. As you may imagine, it is hard to swing a laser beam around wildly in a thick forest without lopping down trees right and left. The wildlife like Frank the deer isn’t crazy about it, either. Rabbit Boy is a wide-eyed innocent who marvels at the stars and the beauties of nature. Laser Moose is a paranoid who suspects that every tree has a monster hiding behind it.

Rabbit Boy: “Isn’t it amazing? I love the night sky!”

Laser Moose: “Well, I don’t. The night sky is fraught with danger… Night is when evil can hide, under cover of darkness, waiting to strike! At night, evil can creep out from the seedy underbelly of the forest, where it –“

Rabbit Boy: “What’s a ‘seedy underbelly’?”

Laser Moose: “Um…a seedy underbelly is…well, it’s not good.”

Since Laser Moose has laser-beam vision, watch out! He definitely believes in shooting to kill first; asking questions afterward.

The stories are mild parodies of super-hero comic books. Some of the villains, who are real and not just in Laser Moose’s imagination, are Cyborgupine, Aquabear, and Mechasquirrel.

Phoebe and Her Unicorn is the first of five (so far) books; the others are Unicorn on a Roll (May 2015), Unicorn vs. Goblins (February 2016), Razzle Dazzle Unicorn (September 2016), and Unicorn Crossing (March 2017). The next will be The Magic Storm in October 2017. This first book collects her daily strips (six weekly days and a Sunday page) from April 22, 2012 to November 18, 2012 – approximately seven months per volume. The strips are rearranged from newspaper-strip format to book format, typically four panels per page (the Sunday pages are reduced), and colored when the newspaper strips were black-&-white.

Phoebe Howell is a 9-year-old fourth grader at Tipton Elementary who meets a unicorn. The unicorn grants her one wish. She wishes for the unicorn to become her best friend. The unicorn, whose name is Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, moves in with her. Her parents and classmates can see and hear Marigold, but thanks to her magic Shield of Boringness, nobody considers her worth calling to anyone’s attention.

Much of the Phoebe and Her Unicorn comic strip consists of Phoebe riding Marigold as the two converse. Marigold drops words of unicorn wisdom, but since she is also incredibly vain and self-centered (“Bask in my wonderfulness.” “The stars themselves are jealous of my loveliness.”), it’s hard to tell how seriously to take her. Continuing supporting characters include Phoebe’s parents, and her two classmates Dakota, her fabulously rich and beautiful “frenemy” who claims to be vastly superior and constantly calls her insulting names like “Princess Stupidbutt”, and the brainy but nerdy Max. The book concludes with seven pages of children’s activities: how to draw Marigold and Phoebe, “Make a Marigold Heavenly Nostrils Stick Puppet”, and similar others.

Phoebe and Her Unicorn, the book, does not present many anthropomorphic animals besides Marigold, but she is on practically every page doing unicorn things, often involving magic such as making the annoying Dakota’s flowing wavy hair disappear, leaving her as bald as Lex Luthor. (In Unicorn vs. Goblins, Dakota is given sentient hair.) One other magical animal does very briefly appear; Todd the Candy Dragon, who spews trick-or-treat candy on Halloween. Rar. Future volumes may feature other anthropomorphic fantasy animals, such as the small green goblins who say only “BLART!” The Phoebe and Her Unicorn books work as well as collections of gag-a-day comic strip collections usually do.

So: the Andrews McMeel Publishing’s “AMP! comics for kids” series that feature anthro animals are a mixed bag; mostly silly and juvenile, but worth checking out. You may find something to your taste.

Fred Patten

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