Marney the Fox, by Scott Goodall and John Stokes – review by Roz Gibson
by Dogpatch Press Staff
Welcome to Roz Gibson, furry artist and animator in Southern California. Roz was guest of honor at Confurence and created the Jack Salem comic character that first appeared in Rowrbrazzle in 1987. This is Roz’s furry graphic novel review part 3 of 6 on the way. Read in order as they post: 1) Myre 2) Angelic Book 1 3) Marney the Fox 4) Shanda the Panda 5) Cinderfrost 6) Tim’rous Beastie. See Roz’s tag for the rest. Roz is a community access guest and contents are hers.
Marney the Fox
Story by Scott Goodall
Art by John Stokes
I discovered this by accident in the local comics shop. Other than the fact it’s about a fox, it probably wouldn’t appeal to the average furry fan. All the characters are ‘regular’ animals (although the fox does have thoughts and can talk to other foxes), the traditional pen and ink art is in black and white, and I’m sure it all looks terribly dated to people used to slick digital work. It was originally done as a magazine serial in the UK during the early 1970’s, so it plays fast and loose (to put it mildly) with real animal behavior, and some story elements may grate on modern politically correct sensibilities.
Still… considering the success of the modern French “Love” graphic novels about realistic animals, there may be a place for Marney the Fox. The book reads very much like one of those endlessly ongoing manga comics—short story arcs that end with weekly cliffhangers, but with no particular goal until the writer simply decides to end it.
Poor Marney is subjected to just about every injury and indignity a fox could experience during the course of the book. His mother and siblings are killed by hunters in the first few pages, and that’s just the beginning. A partial list of things he endures includes: nearly drowning (several times), being attacked by dogs, otters, birds of prey, ferrets and weasels, bitten by a poisonous snake, being buried alive, snared, trapped, shot at, blinded by chemicals, captured by evil gypsies and nearly blown up by the military.
He also makes friends and allies, including a dog, a badger, a kitten, a couple of humans, and an orphaned litter of foxes. While most of the humans are shown to be actively malicious or at best indifferent, there are a few that help during the course of the story, so the book doesn’t have a blanket ‘all people are bad’ trope. Even the predatory animals that attack Marney aren’t really vilified, at least not to the extent you see in old Disney movies.
The dialogue is generally stilted for both man and beast, with lines like: “Valsass the viper! I disturbed his place of rest and he attacked at once!” and “Great Scott, he’s been thrown straight into a clump of blackberry bushes!” (There’s a lot of telling-not-showing going on here…) But honestly, the art is enough to carry the story and the narration is almost superfluous. While not fabulous, the artwork is serviceable and the animals are drawn well. Particular attention is paid to the portrayal of the English countryside, with scenes often livened up by the addition of foraging birds. This is something lacking in most furry comics, where backgrounds and settings are treated as an inconvenience and often left out altogether. There’s a good use of blacks and line work, although sometimes the artist gets carried away with the inking and the panels wind up on the busy side. The production values on the book itself are excellent—a sturdy hardcover printed on heavy gloss paper.
Due to the dated story and art, not to mention the inaccurate animal behavior, I doubt Marney the Fox will be wildly popular among furry fans. But for anyone who’s looking for something different, or is interested in a story starring feral animals, it’s definitely worth checking out.
– Roz Gibson