It has become more or less a given that when delving into the myriad meanings of ‘independence’ one is usually bombarded with images of the heroic, the sublime, or the groundbreaking. How does one become a groundbreaker though? More and more, it seems that we take it as a given that to do groundbreaking work one must appeal to angst-ridden, apocalyptic visions. However, there are some who take quite the opposite approach; in the recent influx of ‘altered realities’ scenarios, they are going against what has become mainstream, and taking a stand for Cute.
A prime example of this is Faux Pas, a webcomic updated three times a week by R&M Creative Endeavors. Perhaps the first thing that strikes the reader is the art style, masterfully inspired in that of Disney’s Robin Hood. R&M make the style entirely their own, however, and any thoughts of mimicry do not out last the first few panels. The mastery of their craft seems evident not only in the fluidity of their artwork, but also in their skillful use of body language appropriate to each animal species. There is an entire motion to the flow of the panels and within each individual panel that would hint at clear knowledge of the principles of animation not commonly present in the average webcomic. Then again, Faux Pas is anything but average, and R&M Creative Endeavors have certainly done their homework for their creation.
The story follows the life of Randy, a fox who has been raised among humans to be an animal actor. Although the earlier interaction with his fellow farm animals is intriguing, the story really begins to take shape once the cats arrive onto the scene. In later chapters the contrasts of Randy’s tame life become sharper, as he meets a wild vixen who has to be taught all about the human world– while teaching Randy how little he actually knows about what it means to be a wild animal. Some of the greatest tension as well as the sweetest moments come from their inability to comprehend each other’s respective worlds, and their determination to keep trying to find a middle ground that will work for both of them.
The comic itself is part of a larger site they assembled to house their work – it also includes information on the creatures that hold the spotlight in Faux Pas: foxes. The background information that they have gone through the trouble of acquiring and sharing with their readership comes across clearly in the strip. It is not hard to see when something is well grounded and researched, as opposed to haphazardly put together.
As strong as the art is for Faux Pas, its true strength lies in the writing. It may be tempting for some to lump it with the plethora of furry comics out there, but it is not a furry comic – this is a comic about animals and their unique observations on each other and the human world. While maintaining a lighthearted atmosphere and (by their own definition) keeping the comic at G to PG levels, the subjects addressed within it are anything but shallow. Within the story, the creators have managed to include and discuss topics ranging between alienation, bullying, the challenges of courtship, and tenuous friendships.
If there is a flaw in this web comic, it is with the portrayal of humans within that carefully framed world. Perhaps because the creators have spent so much time and careful attention on the creation of their well-rounded, believable animal protagonists that when we do get to meet some human characters they seem rather flat. The art for the human characters seems to suffer a drastic shift, and even the font sets them apart as basically unremarkable. The effect is rather jarring and makes them appear rather as caricatures as opposed to full-fleshed creations.
Overall, however, Faux Pas provides a well balanced mix of beautiful art and skillful writing – definitely a worthwhile read. With its departure from what has become typical webcomic fare, it has definitely achieved groundbreaking status.