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Review: “Furbabies”: A different kind of blended family

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Many comic strips have taken the idea of the human relationship with animals and expressed them in humorous, charming, introspective ways. There’s Garfield, Red and Rover, and even Phoebe and Her Unicorn to name a few.

Furbabies is a newer comic strip by Nancy Beiman that began being published on GoComics in June of 2023. Beiman brings her skills as a professor of animation and her long-time career as an animator who worked on Disney movies, Warner Bros., and even Peanuts specials to the comic strip world.  

GoComics is a website that’s owned by major newspaper syndicator Andrews McMeel, which syndicates hundreds of comics to newspapers such as Peanuts, Garfield, Red and Rover , to name a few. GoComics site has been around for since 2005 as a place for readers to read those hundreds of strips, some like Furbabies, being online exclusives. It’s a site that’s free (with ads) or can be subscribed to for ad free and other perks.

The stories are about a 9-year-old girl named Kate Buffet who has her own style and approach to things. She lives in an apartment with her parents, who are working long hours meaning, she doesn’t see them much. That does give the comic strip a focus on her without much parental involvement much like Peanuts did. She also can communicate with animals. This is a help to her being an only child because she has pets who are the “Furbabies” of the title. The pets are a blended family of their own. 

Stella is the mom dog, she’s a poodle with a sense of high fashion and upper-class tastes. Shawm is the dad dog, he’s an Afghan hound who is more laidback with a dry sense of humor. They have a puppy named Sirius, who is energetic and wants to know about the world around him. Their kitten, whom Shawm and Stella have taken and accepted as their own daughter, is named Floof. They create their own blended family. Stella and Shawm act as second parents to Kate, Kate fills the role of older sister and extra parent to her Floof and Sirius, and Floof and Sirius give the role of little sister and brother.   

The strips focus on the slice-of-life stories of these characters. Kate experiences typical things pet families live. Being woke up, having her socks stolen, wanting what she’s eating, and any hangups they can get into are her daily experiences. The only real difference is she can understand them and they understand her.  

Other stories and strips are about Shawm and Stella and their couple relationship. They have their contrast but also a deep understanding of each other and their charm pours through. Floof and Sirius are the sister and brother stories. Floof likes to mess with him, but he also gets back in his own ways. Never too mean to each other, but also not always conflict-free. 

Of course, there are comedic moments as much as the heart. The format of a Monday-Saturday comic strip, plus Sundays, means either a new story each day or a continuous story for a few days. 

The art style is nice. Comic strips are the part of cartooning that still heavily goes with hand drawing. Beiman provides a nice sketchy art style, with color pencil-like shading, and simple backgrounds. The rough style pops out. Beiman previously worked on movies like An American Tail: Fievel Goes West where she animated Miss Kitty. She also worked on Disney films such as A Goofy Movie, Hercules, Treasure Planet ,  and Tarzan II she knows the process well, and has translated the movement of animating to cartooning very well. Here, she gets to have fun with a more loose style. 

Beiman makes sure her comic fits a reality. She doesn’t show the pets having any food a real cat or dog can’t have. She makes sure they don’t have yarn. Kate can speak to animals, even beyond her pets, but her parents don’t. Her parents are also heard but not seen, so when they are there, we might see what they say, but don’t see them. There are minor characters who also can speak to animals. In speaking of humans, there are not that many human characters. Mrs. Oldman is a neighbor with her own dog; she also can speak to animals. We don’t see Kate’s school life that much, but have met a character, the mean girl named Optima. We really don’t see her much, the comic isn’t as focused on that. And there’s a newer set of characters, the Furr twins, who also like animals.  

I find this comic strip entertaining and enduring. The characters are fun and relatable, you’ll find a charm in them. A great aspect of it is the family of a girl and her pets who care about each other and with their differences still show their love for each other.  The idea of what if we could talk to our pets and hear what they say and we can talk to them is something I think a lot of us would love to do.  It’s fun and free to read on Gocomics, 7 days a week. 

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