Fox Bunny Funny
Andy Hartzell, writer/artist
Top Shelf, June 2007
This very good funny-animal comic stands out from the anthropomorphized pack because its visual metaphor strengthens the impact of its more outrageous moments rather than diluting it. Anyone can get some mawkish sentimentality out of casting a cuddly critter in their tale of modern urban ennui, or flip the script and go for some guffaws by doing the umpteenth Fritz the Cat mammals-with-mammaries sex farce. Hartzell aims elsewhere in Fox Bunny Funny.
The first highlight is the violence. We meet our fox protagonist as an awkward adolescent in a broadly drawn conformist suburbia of sitcom vintage, where his fellow foxes kill and consume bunnies with gusto. When our hero is discovered hopping around behind closed doors wearing a bunny costume (I’ve gotten caught doing worse), he’s shipped off to a fox-scout camp where he’s trained to use an impressively horrible beartrap-shooting weapon on bunny-shaped bullseyes. When he proves an excellent marksman, his scoutmaster drags him along on a bona-fide hunt…to the town where the bunnies live with all the same civilizational niceities as the foxes. Hartzell depicts their rampage with disturbing imaginativeness–the foxes run bunnies in cars off bridges, plow through restaurants in their SUV, then smash their way into a bunny family’s home, burst in on their Anne Frank attic hideout, and slaughter them. Eventually the hero flees to a bunny church (the suffering of the bunnies analogized to the suffering of Christ), but when he’s discovered frolicking with the congregation by his fellow scouts, he can’t take the pressure and leads the slaughter himself. Obviously, making both predators and prey into human-style civilizations heightens the savagery of the foxes’ attacks on the bunnies. It may be a metaphor for war or racism or meat-eating or all three at once; mostly it comes across as a refreshingly harsh indictment of human brutality and stupidity in all its forms.
The second strong point is the depiction of a shared fox-bunny counterculture. After the murder in the church, we join our hero years later, where he’s a perfectly normal member of the bunny-eating masses. When a bunny prankster attacks his house, he’s led on a chase through the proverbial and literal rabbit hole into a West-Village-meets-Haight/Ashbury urban freak mecca, where bunnies and rabbits of all genders mix and mingle enthusiastically. Hartzell saves some of his most exciting cartooning for this sequence, including a Where’s Waldo/Hard Boiled-style two-page spread of the scene. What’s special here is that comics, particularly alternative comics, takes the existence of a counterculture for granted. Hartzell sets up the structure of Fox Bunny Funny in such a way that the discovery of this counterculture feels like a legitimate revelation. Do you remember when you were younger, and you first started pursuing countercultural interests and hanging out with the freaks or ‘bangers or emo kids or skaters or whatever they were where you grew up, or first journeyed to a big city and saw that people could be weird or gay and not be looked at like zoo animals for it, and this simple fact felt like both an explosion of self-liberation and a massive “fuck you” rebuke to society at large? Hartzell nails that. And then he goes one step weirder and more asseritve with the conclusion. All with impeccable, wordless kids’-book cartooning. I think I love this comic.