|here in the "Reactions" section.|
|Review author:||William Seagate; contributions by Lesbot|
|Author:||Jay Naylor (I strongly advise you against clicking that link) who left an Angry Reaction to the Original Life review; wikifur article|
|Start Date:||April 18, 2003|
|End Date:||May 29, 2009|
|Genre:||Furry Right-Wing Entertainment (Fetish, Furry, Political in that order).|
|Defining Flaw:||Propaganda and Political Punditry, Excessive Fan Service and Sexuality.|
|Awful stuff:||Unmitigated right-wing soapboxing, mixed with excessive fan service and sex, excessive use of Wall Of Text, weak propagandist writing, stereotypical characters, straw man arguments, and boring, self-contradictory writing.|
|Things that could use a hand:||Character designs are inventive and expressions are nicely suited for both comedy and drama, but they lose their charm when sporting giant penises or constantly engaging in TEH SEX. Actions are a little stiff too, heh heh.|
|Summary:||A very, very confusing tale about a bunch of contradictory right-wing poster boys living in Republicanland, U.S.A., who constantly express hatred for the very things they end up doing. An arrogant self-portrayal of Republicans, IN YIFF-VISION!!|
Nice and cute, but not necessarily suited to this type of comic.
Starts off as a story about twin feline siblings of a widowed mother, but the story later takes on a much darker tone.
The main characters are twin feline siblings who get more unlikable as they grow up; everyone else is a straw man.
This comic is akin to Sabrina Online in that it uses cutesy fuzzy animal characters for entertainment meant for adults.
Good potential that ends up being used for twisted purposes.
Part of building your personality is setting your values and thoughts in order. This is very important. One could certainly run afoul in a medium like the Internet if you don't get you own ideas straight. You need to own up and stand your ground, because you're surely get laughed out of many places if you're not fucking sure of what you are.
Jay Naylor, through his webcomic Better Days, shows us he's quite confused about himself. You see, he's a hard-breathing, red-blooded Objectivist Republican American... who's also a furry. A guy who likes, and I mean LIKE-LIKES, drawing animals in suggestive poses, and actually makes a living selling pornography. It all seems very contradictory, and his webcomic isn't any better. Better Days is like the "American Dad!" of webcomics: it shows the life of a would-be family of hot-blooded Republicans who, despite spouting all that redneck ideology, keep showing us how they are ambiguous jerks just like the rest of us. "My father the soldier is a bigger person than any of you; Democrats are a bunch of commies; homosexuality is a choice (the WRONG choice) and, by the way, I have sex with my sister. U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!"
Story and Plot
Better Days is the story of Lucy and Fisk, two cat twins that were raised by a widowed mom in an American town of 1980's Georgia. The comic essentially portrays different (initially isolated) moments of their lives in each chapter, starting with their childhood. The first chapters portray Fisk's first comic approaches to women and several dramatic moments, such as Fisk being responsible for Lucy getting sick, his mother fighting with his school, and him having sex at an early age. Lucy also goes through some hardships, as she gets cheated by an older guy, becomes increasingly attracted to her brother, is cheated on again, and has a pregnancy scare. The comic then pulls into the present: Fisk becomes a soldier and Lucy starts knocking boots in college. And all the time, there's lots of Republican idiocy and, of course, YIFF!!!
Starting on Chapter 4, things become increasingly political (and sexier!). The whole idea of ideology discussions with Fisk's teacher, leading to a dubious relationship with the school principal, descending into rape, ending in murder, followed by hyper-sexualism, taken to incest, and with the addition of infidelity, seems like a rough ride for the young ones. In the first half of the comic, sexual tension and drama escalate ridiculously for the setting, and the presentation starts getting bland. And as if time shifts didn't make Fisk and Lucy's ages nebulous enough, they handle these scars almost too well or matter-of-factly for young people. There's some crying, there's constant rehashed speeches about their dead father, but pretty much all is done with a straight face. Maybe even irony.
Eventually, the story jumps ahead to college, where Lucy gets meets new friends and engages in new situations that can be thoroughly criticized with quotes from the Republican Manifesto and Ayn Rand. Also, Fisk becomes a soldier, then a godless mercenary, so nothing is left out. Promiscuity, cheating, religion, journalistic integrity, war, suicide, big genitals, patriotism, art, secret agents, stripping, drugs - they're all here!
The art in this comic is a real puzzle. On one hand, it's nice and cute. Really. It's cartoonish, well-produced anthropomorphism with genuine improvement over the course of the comic. Naylor has a pretty good grasp of what he's doing. However, this fluffy squishy style isn't a good medium to get across deep plots and drama. The big round eyes are a good fit for over-the-top expressions in comedy, but for drama it may be hard to succeed if the guys look bewildered and goofy all the time. Although the action is varied, it sometimes looks forced. Some positions are quite stiff (I can't get past the doorbell poses), and for an artist that tries to reflect a variety of people many character designs seem a bit limited and repeated. I sometimes feel a little confused with his whole approach to turning races into different animal species. Americans are both cats and dogs? Russians are mice? Asians are also cats? And what are rabbits supposed to be? Still, Naylor kind of pulls it together. By webcomic standards, the art quality is quite OK.
Its drawings are pretty, but then again, they feel so dirty. The cuddly-wuddly drawings are used for all kinds of sexual intercourse, for heavy tops, abundant asses, talking genitals, cryptic sounds, and crude war depictions. It's used for both female and male strippers, for unrestricted ass-slapping, and for incest.
It feels really embarrassing to see those kind of things are done by such cute characters. It's like watching My Little Pony characters wondering about killing someone or sleeping with their sisters in a non-exclusive relationship. The whole combination of cute fluff with sex sex sex is the kind of shock material that drives away both new and casual readers, specially those who are not so tolerant of the whole furry scene. But, well, I guess no one really aims for a broad audience when they make a habit of illustrating THIS and THIS. There's even an uncensored, colored drawing of many girls in the cast admiring the guy's package, in case you thought it was just a little running gag.
I don't mean to condemn sex or sexuality in a comic. I also don't mean to condemn Naylor solely for being a porn artist or a furry. However, I think it's pretty obvious that Naylor considers Better Days as some sort of "gateway comic". An introduction to the style to his other works and thoughts. Naylor Light, if you will. Of course, since porn comics have much simpler plots than some webcomics (yes, only some), he needs something else to talk about. Can you imagine where this is going?
The writing of this comic is where Naylor flourishes as an indecisive fuck who really isn't entirely right or left, but has some twisted ideology he invented himself out of the ancient ideal that "what I say goes, motherfucker!". But let's take it slow. There are just so many things to say about Naylor that it will help both your sanity and mine if we label and organize things.
Characterization: Lucy and Fisk are the main characters throughout the whole comic. They started as poor little kittens born to a widow in a time where most people would've aborted them! It's a really negative perspective, but I was willing to take that as a valid characterization. However, said story is pretty much the only thing their loving mother can say about her kids. She just repeats it all the time in the first five or so chapters, for any reason at all. Well, if a mother thinks so, there must really be nothing else to talk about to them.
Fisk, though childish at the start, is also depicted as the man of the house. He tries to be strong and brave because he has no father to rely on, and he deals with many life challenges alone. It sounds a lot better than it actually is. Little Fisk is initially just a misbehaving character, and we're even treated to a Calvin and Hobbes-like attitude in Chapters 2 and 4. However, he grows a beard after almost killing her sister. Then he loses it all again when a girl has sex with him. Then he regains it with Elizabeth. Then he loses it again. His personality dangles back and forth until he becomes dizzy and turns into nothing. By the time he grows up he's vacant-minded and silent. Did Naylor become bored of him? I mean, he's supposedly a war-hardened super soldier and then a grenade-tossing mercenary who can do whatever he wants. Yet, most of the time, he's just silent and boring. What the fuck, Naylor?
Then there's Lucy. She's initially the "growing pains" girl. However, Naylor takes whatever cue he saw and made her obsessed with sex. Who to fuck, why to fuck, open relationships, infidelity, sex dreams, obsessions, strippers, and the occasional craving for her brother... everything adult-like starts pouring out of her once innocent lips. It doesn't help that most of their friends share her kinks and are very active about it. But I don't really know. I'm just not one of those "hip" and "cool" (makes outdated hand gestures) guys who spend all day humping women. That tends to happen because I'm part of the 98% of the world that doesn't actually think of sex every fucking second. Lucy has her head so deep in it that almost every love plot line in the comic connects to her, to the point that it's a little unsettling. Other than that, she's Fisk with breasts.
Secondary characters are universally both plain and indefinite to the point of contradiction. Most are just a foil for the main characters to use or targets for the most recent rant against all evil in the world. Sometimes even important characters crumble so that Fisk and Lucy have someone to shout at. Like when Elizabeth realized her whole life was pandering to her family, because Lucy said so. Also, an army friend of Fisk wanted to kill himself, but it was just ranting fodder for Fisk to use, throw away, and never look back to. Nothing is sacred outside the cat twins, not even their mother. She is hated by Fisk having an affair that destroyed Fisk's friendship with a guy we had never seen before in the comic. They never really reconcile. Connections established between other characters and Lucy and/or Fisk reach ridiculous levels. Here, Lucy becomes the topic of relationship conflicts for some other couple. A little self-important, aren't we?
Plot Structure and Development: The comic's format started simple: episodic chapters of isolated or thinly related moments in Fisk and Lucy's lives. Nothing wrong there, but the formulaic nature of the stories soon got boring. Every early chapter ended with some huge rant because Naylor could only express his point with huge Walls of Text. There was even some sort of The Sopranos ripoff where Fisk had to see a psychologist, but she pretty much agreed with him on everything, so it was no different than talking to his sister or a wall. Also, the webcomic is plagued with references to the twin's dead father, who seems like the only thing that would've saved the twins from their many stupid decisions.
Whatever ridiculous amount of hardships and scars are present in Lucy and Fisk's lives, they look pretty shallow, and are dealt around with a straight face. They either push a Reset button or solve everything off-panel. Later chapters are even worse, turning into the equivalent of a crude "Monster of the Week" show (except with topics instead of creatures), in which people pretty much talk about any trivial thing until one of the twins comes and gives their ultimate statement. Many of the characters introduced in those chapters disappear into oblivion, briefly existing as sounding boards for expressing a message. Some chapters are simple to the point that the upcoming rant is implicit in the title, so you can pretty much guess what will happen. You are only left wondering the name and species of the soon-to-disappear new characters.
Personal Opinions in the Comic: I've seen bias, lack of contrasted opinions, nationalism, dualism, Manichaeism, ideology, partisanship, intense patriotism, straw man arguments, exaggeration, pandering, interests, unfounded opinions, beliefs, subjectivity... but damn. All of those pale in the face of Better Days and its function as a soap box for Naylor to display his insane thoughts on... well, EVERYTHING. Tolerance be damned! Anyone who doesn't subscribe unconditionally to Naylor's gun-toting, ultraconservative-individualist-objectivist, stars-and-stripes Republican Fox News nationalism must be questioned, ridiculed, blown away, condemned, attacked, forgotten, or even killed for their wickedness. They had it coming. Naylor, through his crack team of sock puppets, fucking rocks your face.
To make a specific example, let's take the chapter about Vietnam War. Not bad. I could agree with some of his points if they were made by anybody else. Naylor can turn the simplest arguments into crazy shit through his horrible reasoning. I could understand that the USA entered Vietnam in the interest of halting the violent advance of Communism in mainland Asia. I may even praise the idea that they combat dictatorships overseas instead of breeding their own in Latin America (shout out to my peeps in Paraguay, Panama, Argentina, and Chile!). But Naylor is too stupid to make a case for this. He boils it down to saying: "We good, they bad. We must conquer the world to protect it!"
Not only does he decide that his beliefs are universal laws, but any alternatives are both wrong and EVIL. He believes in bad men (other than him) who constantly devise ways being evil and hurting their own people just for the heck of it! Remember, this is the same guy who loves guns and internal combustion engines, two pieces of technology that are currently used inappropriately and are killing people and destroying the environment. Even though there are sane counterarguments to what I just said, he's so mind-fucked that his only response would boil down to "USA rocks!" followed by ethnic slurs.
Mary-Sue and Wish Fulfillment: I've already pointed out basic Mary-Sue and Wish Fulfillment examples all-around, so let's use this space for deeper thoughts. Thanks to a post on the LOLjectivism board, people now know that Naylor's hate is also of the irrational, specific variety. These two characters, who compete with Lucy in Chapter 16 for the internship, are not just random straw men who lack professionalism and journalistic integrity. They satirize two actual people that disagreed with Naylor at FurryMUCK. Because they actually told Naylor to shut up and stop being such a dick, he set out to mock and destroy them in his own comic, where shit is put inside their mouths and they are engineered to be hated by the comic's audience for a full 32 pages. Way to hold a grudge, you immature fuck. I guess this means that if he gets offended by this review, he'll just make some mock-up character of me who gets stoned down by Fisk. Or he'll just whine about me in his LiveJournal. So next time you read the chapters about the oppressive teacher or the terrorist pedophile or the modern art incoherent asswipes, dig deeper into those plain target-characters. Some may resemble an actual person that Naylor hates with all his guts.
Jay Naylor is an artist from Atlanta, Georgia. Besides Better Days (and its sequel, Original Life), he also runs a webcomic called New Worlds. There's rumors of a non-furry comic that has been in hiatus for some years. He is self-employed drawing adult works and comics which he sells on his website. He has a members-only blog where he shows some of his latest sketches and a public LiveJournal Blog, where he communicates to us his up-to's and other things on his head. Naylor considers himself an Objectivist, an adherent to the philosophy developed by novelist Ayn Rand.
Naylor is commonly known for being (in the sweetest terms available to me) a dick. He has a track history of wreaking havoc in places with his constant negative thoughts about and rants against people who have disagreed with him. Perhaps one of the strangest cases revolves around the character of Lucy Black. Originally, Better Days came around with the help of a friend of Naylor, Mat Sherer, the creator of the webcomic Badly Drawn Kitties. Not only was he an early supporter of Naylor, but in fact, Lucy Black and Sheila Black are Mat Sherer's creations. Naylor himself acknowledged it in some of his early portfolios and drawings. Naylor only owns Fisk, the brother of Lucy, who also appeared in the comics prior to the Better Days series. Better Days started about a year after BDK. What's more, Sherer is the one who first brought up the concept of Fisk and Lucy being in an incestuous relationship. Naylor's comic thus started as a sort of prequel with more focus on Fisk than Lucy, and trying to tie in with some of Sherer's ideas.
At some point, there was a disagreement and later a parting between the two artists because of political disagreements. My guess is that it had something to do with Sherer's storyline in which BDK's Lucy moved out of USA after Bush was reelected. From Naylor's point of view, this was not only unfunny, but complete treason and an "Un-American" thing to do. It was from this point that both Naylor and Sherer broke continuities between their comics. Sherer killed off Fisk in his comic, making BDK's Lucy and Sheila rich from the insurance payoffs and even more convinced to throw away their American citizenship. Naylor started to modify and concentrate more on his Lucy to make it different from the one in BDK (here's where her sex drive fired up). Naylor's Fisk was also given a new job that drove him off the battlefield, and the sequel Original Life (oh my god...) will have him married with kids.
So, summing things up: he's crazy, a nuisance, a dick, and he also stole both characters and story from another guy. Not only that, but he now continues to use Lucy to his profitable works, and hell, he might not even credit Sherer anymore. How nice it is to break up a friendship over childish arguments, but still keep the other guy's stuff and profit from it. Naylor is such a darling...
In the end, Better Days turned out to be quite a strange webcomic. Works of art are supposed to show us not only the message they carry, but also show us the true face of the artist who made it. Now, I'm not calling this art. Not even my high school philosophy teacher would be willing to call it art. However, given that this comic is all a lot of talk and glitter with no real substance, and values and thoughts are so fucked up, I can comfortably say that Naylor is the same. Despite his best efforts, he can't manage to make his characters, stories, or thoughts likable to his audience, and almost every reader leaves Better Days pissed off.
As was the case with Dominic Deegan, this comic primarily pissed me off because it had limitless wasted potential. Had it limited itself to simpler, comic stories it would've been able to exploit its cutesy art, rather than whore it out to endless violence and sex peppered with pieces of Naylor's twisted mind. All in all, there was only stale comedy, uninteresting drama, and irrational, lackluster action. The ending is pretty infuriating, as rather than make any adequate final chapter, he just chucked out a few pages where he quickly wraps up Fisk's end and blurts out that he's gonna have a family. Naylor closed the door with much worse writing and skills than anyone would've guessed from looking at the first page of his comic.
Here's to Original Life (please...), a comic we hope will be just as disappointing, alienating, and shorthanded as its predecessor.
Thank you, and good night.
Other comics by this person reviewed on this site
- Crush Yiff Destroy's review. Outdated, but has some dead-on predictions about the way the comic unfolded.