Review: Fox Bunny Funny

Artist(s): Andy Hartzell.

As much as I’d enjoyed Andy Hartzell’s work in the Boy Trouble anthology, I must say this: he is a big liar. Fox Bunny Funny is anything but funny. Also, it is very good.
This wordless 102-page tale published by Top Shelf has all the qualities of a good morality play, with enough depth to allow for multiple interpretations, including a gay one. In a world shared by foxes and rabbits, the foxes hunt, kill and eat the rabbits. So far, so more-or-less usual. But both species are intelligent and live in surroundings very much like ours, which immediately complicates things.
In that world, a young fox feels different: he doesn’t enjoy the killing and is even shown dressing in a rabbit suit. His parents discover him, and send him to a hunting camp to teach him to behave properly. Of course, by that point, any gay reader is relating to the character.
The last part of the book will show the same protagonist, now grown-up, and the consequences of his younger self’s brainwashing, leading to a very weird and dreamlike ending which should bring about some interesting discussions among readers.

The adult protagonist

Hartzell’s art is also a pleasure: as all good cartoon-styled art, it seems pretty simple, using few lines and large black areas, but is in fact very expressive and is yet another example of why Scott McCloud was right when, in his book Understanding Comics, he stated that highly stylized art enhanced the identification process of the reader. We do identify with the nameless character and his difficulty in fitting in his culture.
Another telling choice is the almost exclusive use of a six-panel grid: it seems Hartzell did everything to make this book accessible to non-comics (or young) readers, who are often lost in the modern disintegration of the page layouts. The few times the grid isn’t used are of course all the more striking.

Race, identity, sexual or otherwise, consumerist society, all those and other themes can be used to interpret this story. In fact, I must say I’m impressed by the way Andy Hartzell has managed to blend various facets of the questioning of normativity in one seamless narrative. As much as I enjoy seeing gay characters and themes in comics (and his short stories in Boy Trouble certainly had their share of that), the larger canvas upon which Hartzell has painted his parable is intellectually and emotionally very satisfying.
Andy Hartzell can be found at his website, and the book can be bought from any bookshop, or for example from Amazon.

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