I originally set out to write a post about the superiority of the original run of the ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ comics in comparison to the version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles you can currently see in TMNT: Out of the Shadows. But when it came time to think of the reasons why I love those old black & white issues, it all came down to one thing. I love Anthropomorphic animals. The definition of anthropomorphic in a nutshell means “having human characteristics or shape”, so when applied to animals, that means my love for this medium stretches back to my childhood.
For as long as i can remember, I have always been a big Donald Duck fan. My parents have pictures of me as a wee lad (to quote Scrooge) sporting Donald Duck shirts, playing with Donald Duck toys. Donald Duck comics were some of the first hand me down comics i was given from my Grandmother. Donald and all of the denizens of Duckburg have been in my life for a very long time and my love is still going strong today. But is this where it starts? Every kid loves Mickey Mouse and his clubhouse cohorts nowadays. So, does that count as a stepping stone towards being a “Furry”?
The Urban Dictionary states that there is no one true definition of what a Furry is. But the term relates to the hobby surrounding anthropomorphic animals, no matter how minor or extreme. So the answer is probably “No” because it’s not considered a hobby (by this point) to just like Donald Duck.
One movie is responsible for setting the course in motion for me though. When I was six, my parents took me to see Disney’s Robin Hood and I became instantly obsessed. But my unhealthy obsession wasn’t with the hero of Sherwood Forest. Sure, Robin Hood is awesome, but that summer i spent my days in the woods out back pretending to be a humanoid fox who just happened to use a bow. ‘Robin Hood’ was a Disney movie through and through, but this was the first time I’d really seen an animal character deal with very human problems, have a romance, and have life or death struggles. Again, I was six and it was 1982. These themes are more common place in cartoons in the 21st century.
In 1986, I got a new obsession. In the time between 1982 and 1986, I achieved my full transformation into a dork. I was reading comics, playing D&D, and still playing with toys. One day I flipped open the most recent issue of a comics magazine and they had a write up on a new independent comic that was growing in popularity over the past 2 years.
The article had an interview with the comics creators, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird and featured a few panels from their comic book. I was instantly obsessed with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from that point and i wanted more. Sadly a comic of this magnitude wasn’t found on the racks of my local book store, so for the first time in my life I went to a comics shop.
I had limited funds but i had enough to buy the only version of a graphic novel to star these four pudgy faced terrapins. It was volume 2 and that just added to my obsession, I had so many questions that NEEDED answers. Over time I traded and scoured until my questions were answered and I had a sizable collection, but the love still remained, and still does today.
The “Ninja Turtles” opened my eyes to a whole new world of independent comics. In issue 8 the Turtles crossed over with Cerberus the Aardvark, and also crossed over with Usagi Yojimbo which was more my cup of tea compared to the very heady subject matter of Cerberus. From there I found the dozens of ‘TMNT’ spoofs like Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters, Hamster Vice and even Marvel’s own ‘Power Pachyderms’ that mashed up the X-Men with elephants. Humor or not, they still had anthropomorphic animals so i was on board. Then there were titles that were very serious and adult, but they just happen to star animals in their stories like Albedo and Omaha, the Cat Dancer or fantasy stories like Xanadu. I just couldn’t get enough.
Earlier on in my “Ninja Turtle” collecting I came across the RPG game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness. At the time, I loved the book for being a great guide for all things TMNT. I also picked up all the source books like ‘Mutants Down Under’ and ‘After the Bomb’ just because I liked the mutant animals and art. Over time I learned to play the game and a whole new world was opened up to me. Now i could play any animal I wanted and make up my own mutant characters.
Soon I was running my own games and creating my own worlds and loving every minute of it. I still treasure these books today because of the memories attached to them but also because of the awesome worlds that that hold inside. I also let anthropomorphic animals bleed into the other RPGs I played. Either it be begging to play a Gnoll in D&D or my dozens of mutants, aliens, or altered humans in the Marvel Role Playing Game.
Today, I sadly haven’t been in a comic shop in years or rolled any 20-sided dice in almost a decade so I can’t comment on the state of anthropomorphic animals in dork culture today. All I can comment on is the focus on the sexual side of furry culture in the media and how it impacts the whole fandom negatively. I feel like I can’t even say the word furry without being looked down on. Heck, I know all the ‘My Little Pony’ names and i was laughed at for being a “Brony”.
I still find “Animal People” where I can, like my “The Otters Strike Back” shirt, which reminds me of the spoof comics of the 80’s. Thankfully Anthropomorphic Animals still have a place in children’s television and I enjoy watching them with my kids like Sheriff Caille, and the new (and great) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
I have to admit one more thing, I actually teared up when i saw the movie Zootopia. It was the moment Judy Hopps entered the mega city of Zootopia for the first time and I realized it was somewhere I wished I lived. Disney created a beautiful living, breathing city that made every TMNT RPG fantasy come to life and I was in awe from beginning to end.
So am I a Furry? Do tears over a fictitious city in a popular Disney movie cement my Furry-tude? I’d say, “I guess it does.”
Oh, and don’t get me started on my love of Ewoks. Is that a Furry thing too?