Sabrina Online: The Tail of Two Decades, by Eric W. Schwartz – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

Sabrina Online: The Tail of Two Decades, by Eric W. Schwartz. Illustrated.
Keston, Kent, UK, United Publications, June 2017, hardcover, $22.95 (unpaged [148 pages]).

This large (8½” x 11”) collection presents the last half – the last ten years — of Eric Schwartz’s Internet Sabrina Online comic strip: four strips per page from November 2006 (annual collection 11) through the end of the annual collections with #14, and the following individual strips through the end of December (Xmas) 2016. “835 strips in 20 years? I guess it’ll have to do.” But wait! There’s more! The last 24 pages of this book are Schwartz’s history of Sabrina Online, gag strips of Sabrina’s Transformer toys, and some of the better art tributes by Sabrina’s fans like gNAW, Steve Gallacci, Shawntae Howard, Max Black Rabbit, and Brian Reynolds.

Schwartz explains in his “Brief History” that he began Sabrina Online in September 1996, after becoming a Big Name Fan in furry fandom thanks to his animation short films produced on his primitive Amiga computer (done partly just to prove that he could create animation on an Amiga). This is where his first popular character, Amy the Squirrel, appeared. He had ideas for a more detailed, continuing storyline featuring Amy and her best friend and roommate, Sabrina the Skunk, so Sabrina Online was born. It was a monthly comic strip in an unusual presentation; all four weeks online together on the first of the month. It was basically a comedic slice-of-life rambling story about Amy and Sabrina. Amy gets married to Thomas Woolfe and has a son, but Sabrina remains sharing her and Thomas’ apartment; Sabrina gets a secretarial job with Zig Zag, a producer of adult entertainment; Sabrina develops a long-term relation with her boyfriend, R.C. (a raccoon), and eventually moves in with him; and finally Sabrina and R.C. get married. Sub-themes and characters include Sabrina’s parents, R.C.’s parents, Sabrina’s collection of Transformers toys (which are often anthropomorphized), Zig Zag, an extroverted zebra-striped skunk (a tiger-skunk hybrid – Schwartz doesn’t have any trouble with interspecies romances and hybrid children), Amy’s infant son Timmy who Sabrina often babysits and Sabrina’s little sister Tabitha, Thomas’ workmates, R.C.’s workmates … lots!

“I created the Sabrina Online comic strip to tell the story ideas I had built up. These were used up after the first few years.” After that he continued the strip on a day-to-day basis for a long time. “That was when I noticed that the twentieth anniversary of the first Sabrina Online comic strip from 1996 was on its way, and looked into the prospect of finishing the strip. Suddenly I had a definite purpose and goal again.” Unfinished story ideas were finished; floating story lines were tied up; and Sabrina Online was brought to a final conclusion with Sabrina and R.C. (Richard Conrad) getting married.

For those who want to read the first ten years of the strip, Sabrina Online: A Decade in Black and White is still available from United Publications. Or it can be read free on the website’s Archive; but reading it in the book is so much more convenient.

This book begins with Chapter 11, “The Robot Movie”, in which Sabrina’s conservative mother meets Zig Zag, Sabrina’s boss – a pornographer. Her mom is broad-minded, but is she that broad-minded? Zig Zag proves to be a master of euphemism in describing what her company does. The strip had previously established that Sabrina was a collector of Transformers toys. The strip segues into Zig Zag taking her staff to a screening of Michael Bay’s 2007 Transformers movie, which is Schwartz’s critique of the movie.

This chapter is 12 pages, 45 strips. It is typical of the book’s further chapters. Chapters 12 through 20 are “Peace, Love & Understanding”, “Protecting the Children”, “The Internet is for Porn Stars”, “A Visit from Tech Support”, “Worlds Within Worlds”. “Shadows of Darkness”, “Change and Circumspection”, “Delving to the Depths”, and “Flash-Forward to Finale”, followed by Schwartz’s history of the strip, the gag strips, and the tributes to Sabrina Online by other furry artists. The strips’ stories empathize the humor of a straight person working for a professional producer of adult entertainment, Sabrina’s starting a web comic (Schwartz getting mileage out of what he does), the drama of Sabrina getting stabbed by a mugger, Zig Zag’s tracking down the mugger and taking revenge on him, Zig Zag’s arrest for assault/vigilantism, and Sabrina’s hospital recovery, and the shock of Sabrina’s assault finally leading to hers and R.C.’s wedding.

Schwartz notes that when he began Sabrina Online in 1996, he never imagined it would go on for twenty years. During that time furry fandom changed and he changed. Friends and relatives matured and died. His fictional cast also changed in ways that he never originally planned. So Sabrina Online has been brought to a conclusion. But she will still appear occasionally at Schwartz’s whim. (In her latest online appearance, not in this book, she’s pregnant.)

Sabrina Online was one of the first furry Internet comic strips. Aside from its historical importance, it’s been one of the most enjoyable, with some of the most memorable characters. If you are not familiar with it yet, now is the time to remedy that. If you are, you will want to get this memorial collection, with its original bonus material.

Fred Patten

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