Every so often, I get a few questions from readers about the comic and the Utopian Furries. Some of them are answered in my posts, but perhaps not in the comic itself. To simplify matters, I’ve made a page for the more common questions, and I’m always happy to answer any you may have.

M.

1. If the furries are wearing a mask, how can they emote the way they do? How does the mask move like a real face? What is it made of?

The short answer to this one is, “artistic license.” If you were somehow able to meet a Utopian Furry in real life, their face would be far more “fixed,” and while perhaps they could manipulate it to show expressions, it would be only slightly. But for the purposes of the story, I needed to show the furries’ expressions to convey how they feel to the reader. Now, ideally, I could do that with gesture or body language or something, but that seemed to be too complex, and/or requiring far more artistic skill than I possess. I tried to think of other ways around the problem without much success. For instance, I thought perhaps they didn’t wear a full mask; perhaps the lower part of the furry-face is done with form-fitting appliances, like they use in Hollywood special effects makeup. That would allow them to have a full range of facial expression, but it seemed like too much work for the furries to deal with on a daily basis. Same goes for animatronics. Plus, one thing I wanted to insist on was that the fursuits be as practical as possible (which is also why they don’t have big fluffy tails). Anyway, in the end I simply decided that as far as having a full range of motion in their faces, however they manage it, they just do.

So how does it work? Well, perhaps their faces only appear to be fully expressive to each other, not regular humans. In other words, the furries could translate and recognize the visual cues from fellow furries that were too subtle for non-furries to pick up on. To a non-furry, the furries’ furry-faces would show hardly any movement at all. For the most part, we’re seeing the story from the furries’ perspective, so even if they’re around humans and not other furries, their faces still move. Eventually I’ll add a story showing the other side, and you’ll see that the furries are in fact, wearing a more fixed mask.

As for what the furry-face is made out of, I’m a bit unsure about that as well (I’m not a costumer, after all). Leaving aside the question of how they manipulate the movements of it, I can tell you that (as I imagine it), the head of the fursuit is not completely rigid or solid, and that it’s built in layers. The outer part is probably felt, and the head has an inner lining as well. There are holes on the sides (hidden by the outer felt layer) for the furry to hear through. The core layer and part of the snout may consist cardboard, layers of fabric, or perhaps something more flexible or rubbery. Whatever it is, it gives the head enough solidity to hold its shape, but has some softness and give to it. You can’t crack it, crush it, or break it like you can with papier mache, but it can be damaged, weakened, or stained by moisture. Only the face part itself is generally form-fitting. They are designed to be lightweight and comfortable to wear. They also have to be relatively simple enough to make at home, as each furry-face is crafted by the furry using molds (they don’t buy their furry-faces ready-made in a store). Each furry has several furry-faces and fursuits on hand in case of damage or wear and tear, and they probably make several at a time.

2. Why don’t the furries just call the police and have the Skullz arrested? Why don’t they fight back?

Bobby, leader of The Skullz, suggests the furries have learned the hard way that if a furry calls the police on them, his gang will inflict even more violence on other furries as payback. He believes furries have figured this out, which is why they won’t call the cops over a simple assault and/or robbery. Bobby also seems to believe that it was The Skullz who taught furries what would happen if they involve the police. However, Bobby may have an inflated sense of his own importance here, since the furries have faced harassment and worse since the time their faith was founded. A more likely explanation is that the furries have learned through bitter experience the futility of trusting to the police and the courts for true justice. Both have demonstrated their lack of interest in what happens to furries, an unpopular minority with no economic or political power, and one nobody takes very seriously. Further, as part of their faith, Utopian Furries are believers in pacifism, and will avoid violent confrontation whenever possible. Caught between the indifference of the authorities and the requirements of their faith, the furries have little choice but to endure their present situation. It is a crisis the furries will have to face as the story progresses.

3. Where does the story take place? Is Furtown in New York City?

Furtown is not a real place, and The City is completely fictional. However, much of my reference photos come from New York City because it… well, it just looks like a city should look.

4. Why do some furries wear clothes over their fursuit, while others don’t?

It depends on the furry; there is no social convention requiring a furry to wear regular clothes over their fursuit. Some will as a matter of habit. Others will if their job or profession requires them to. Female furries generally do wear something over their fursuit, even if it’s just a light sweater (maybe they’re more modest..?).

5. Why is that some people in the City don’t seem to know about furries? They’re so weird! Surely everyone must have heard about them!

The City is big. There are all kinds of people, cultures and religions within the City, and not every citizen is interested in exploring the whole place. For example, many people living in New York City have never been to the Empire State Building or visited the Statue of Liberty. Many others have never been in Chinatown or Harlem. So to some residents of the City, who’ve never been to Furtown, furries are still a novelty. And in a city of millions, furries are relatively rare in number. Also, the story takes place in the early 90’s, well before the advent of smartphones, the Internet, Facebook and YouTube. Information about furries is limited unless people meet them or work with them. Outside of the City, the very existence of furries is not all that well known.

6. If the furries have been around since 1920, why aren’t their fursuits more elaborate? Why do they look like cheap Halloween costumes?

Simply put, the furries aren’t trying to fool anyone into thinking they’re somehow real animals, so they don’t need elaborate costumes, Hollywood-style prosthetics, or animatronics. The fursuits the furries wear in the story are merely an emblem, an outward sign of their beliefs. Their fursuits are all about simplicity and practicality, and have been since Furryism was founded. They need to be lightweight and offer a full range of motion, and are designed in such a way that any furry with at least basic sewing skills can make a fursuit for themselves with as little difficulty as possible. In fact, the main part of the fursuit (the bodysuit part), has more in common with a pair of lightweight coveralls than with the sort of fursuit you might see at a furry convention. They don’t use heavy materials, artificial fur, or any of that sort of thing, which would make a fursuit very hot and cumbersome to wear for long periods of time. This is also why there are no “sparkledogs” or furries with big fluffy tails.

7. Isn’t this all just an excuse to validate those furries who claim they’re victims of “fursecution?”

No. Remember, the Utopian Furries aren’t meant to be like real world, regular furries. The Utopians have little in common with regular furries, and their motivations, history, and origins are completely distinct and different. Frankly, from what I gather, the vast majority of so-called “fursecution” boils down to two things; classic high school bullying, and/or Internet trolling. Both are uncool, but neither puts real furries on a par with an actual minority group struggling against discrimination. I sympathize with anyone being bullied or kicked around just for who or what they are, but if a real furry told me they were being discriminated against or “fursecuted,” I’d probably call bullshit on that.

8. Is this a troll?

No.

9. Why didn’t you just do a story about a REAL minority? Why furries?!

If I used an actual, real world minority group, I don’t think it would work as well. No matter how much I studied or how hard I worked to get it right, I’d be bound to miss enough detail and nuance that the story wouldn’t ring true. And there’s always the danger that the story might come off as patronizing, no matter how sincere the effort. So I think a story like that is probably best if written by someone who has first-hand knowledge. Furries, on the other hand, are a group of people who know what it’s like to be belittled and kicked around, but they aren’t an actual minority; they’re a fandom. As such, I felt I had a much greater degree of latitude in telling the story using furries, even to the point of reinventing what a furry even was.

10. Don’t you realize that you’re just co-opting the actual struggle of ________?!

I’m not co-opting anything, really. Remember, the story is allegorical, not documental. Just about everything that happens to the furries in the story is relatively broad, not specific. So what does that mean, exactly? Well, if you read the story, you’ll see the furries are on the receiving end of funny looks, name-calling, insults, taunts, humiliation, ostracization, devaluation, physical assault, violence, and even murder. If you think about it, none of those things are exclusively aimed at any one specific minority group, and a member of any minority would probably recognize at least some of the things on that list. In other words, these are all very broad kinds of intolerant, discriminatory behavior used against all minorities in a given society. Incidentally, that’s why one guy will think I’m co-opting what blacks go through, while another will say it’s trangenders, for still another it’s gays, another sees Muslims, Jews, etc., etc., etc. Now compare the above list to say, putting a burning cross on a black family’s front lawn, or scrawling a swastika on the front door of a synagogue. Those are very specific forms of hate speech. Both are actions that have historical context behind them, are employed to send a very specific message, and are targeted at very specific groups. You won’t find that sort of thing in the story unless it was a thing I went and made up. Also, while it’s true that the Skullz and others use homophobic slurs against the furries, the furries aren’t actually gay (at least, I’ve not specifically written any of them that way). The story takes place around 1990, and those names had a somewhat broader use than they do today, usually to insult or question someone’s masculinity. That’s the context, and how the Skullz and others are employing the terms here.

11. But you’re just some middle-aged straight white guy! You don’t know anything about discrimination! How DARE you try to talk about such a thing!?

How dare I not want to talk about it? Isn’t that part of the problem..?

12. This is impossible! Ridiculous! None of this could POSSIBLY work in the real world!

So? Neither could Batman. What’s your point..?

13. I’m offended! This comic is so off-putting! I ranted on Tumblr about your comic for, like, four hours, but I’m still outraged! I can’t even–! GRRRRRR!

Watch some Bob Ross. Trust me, that dude will make you feel mellow in no time.

 

08-04-14

Questions? Please, let me know! Feel free to drop me a line: Mark AT dreamingofutopia dot com