|Review author(s):||William Seagate; contributions by Lesbot|
|Webcomic name:||Better Days|
|Author:||Jay Naylor (I strongly advise you against clicking that link)|
|Start Date||April 18, 2003|
|End Date||May 29, 2009 (Sequel: Original Life)|
|Genre||Furry Right Wing Entertainment (Furry, Political, Porn)|
|Defining flaw||Propaganda and Political Punditry, Excessive Fanservice and Sexuality|
|Things that are fucking terrible about this webcomic:||Unmoderated right-wing soapboxing mixed with excessive fanservice and sex, excessive use of Wall Of Text, weak propagandist writing, stereotypic characters and strawman arguments, contradictory, boring.|
|Things that aren't terrible but could use improvement:||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!!|
REVIEWER'S NOTE: In the interest of showing you as much Naylor politically-crazy material as possible in this short review, you will be treated to a banner about how much Naylor loves everything he talks about every so often. In doing so, this review is officially NSFW.
This review is currently under reconstruction. It may vary much throughout the next days. Any help is appreciated.
Thanks for your patience.
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 fight your grounds, 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-breathhing, 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 pouting 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 essencially 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 of their youth as her sister gets sick by his fault, her mother fights with his school and he has sex at an early age. Lucy also goes through some hardships as she get cheated by an older guy, gets increasingly attracted to his brother, gets chaeated 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 ideocracy and, of course, YIFF!!!
Starting on Chapter 4, things start to become more and more political (and sexier!). The whole idea of ideology discussions with Fisk's teacher, leading to a dubious relationship with the school principal, deriving into rape, ending in murder, followed by hypersexualism, 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 method starts getting bland. And as if time shifts didn't make Fisk and Lucy's ages nebulous enough, they find themselves handling these scarrs almost too well or matter-of-factly. There's some crying, there's constant rehashed speeches about the dead father, but pretty much all is done with a straight face. Maybe even irony.
Eventually, the story takes a big leap onto college, where Lucy gets the chance of meeting new friends and engaging into new situations that can be throughly critisized 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, News Integrity, War, Suicide, Big Genitals, Patriotism, Art, Secret Agents, Stripping, Drugs, it's 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 drama may be hard 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 the variety of people, many character designs seem a bit limited and repeated. I sometimes feel a little confused with his whole idea of turning races into different animal species. Americans are both cats and dogs? Russians are also mouses? 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.
It's drawings are pretty, and 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, criptic sounds, and crude war depictions. It's used for both female and male strippers, for unrestricted ass-slapping, and for incest.
It feels really embarrasing 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 on a non-exclusive relationship. The whole combination of cute fluff with sex sex sex is the kind of shock material that drives away 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 judge sex or sexuality in a comic. I also don't mean to judge Naylor 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 would. 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 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 mine and your sanity 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 mother in a time where most people would've aborted them! Really negative perspective, but I was willing to take that as valid charcterization. However, said story is pretty much the only thing their loving mother can say about their 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 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 deals with many life challenges alone. It sounds a lot better than it actually is. Little Fisk is intially misbehaved, 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 a war-hardened super soldier who's now a grenade-tossing mercenary ans 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 relations, cheating, sex dreams, obsessions, strippers, occasional craving for his brother, everything adult like starts pouring out of her once innocent lips. It doesn't help that most of their mates 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 plotline in the comic connects to her, to the point 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 get by 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, as said by Lucy. 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 reconciliate. Links drawn of other characters with Lucy and Fisk reach ridiculous levels. Here, Lucy becomes the topic of relationship conflicts of 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 method soon got boring. Every early chapter ended with some huge rant that Fisk could only get across with huge Walls of Text. There was even some sort of The Sopranos ripoff where Fisk had to discuss with a Psycologist, but she pretty much agreed with him in everything, so it was no different than talking to his sister or a wall. Also, we are plagued with mentions of the dead father, which seems like the only thing that would've saved the comic from such stupid motivations. 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 a crude "Monster of the Week" in which people pretty much talk about any trivial topic until one of the twins comes and gives his ultimate statement. Many of the characters introduced in those chapters disappear into oblivion, mere tools in expressing a message. Some chapters are simple to the point the very 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, strawman arguments, exageration, pandering, interests, unfounded opinions, beliefs, subjectivism, 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 suscribe inconditionally to Naylor's gun-totting, ultra-conservative-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 to 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 USA entered Vietnam in the interest of halting the violent and un-willingful advance of communism in mainland Asia. I may even praise the idea that they combat inauthentic 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 get the point across. He boils it down to saying: "We good, they bad. We must conquer the world to protect it!"
Not only he decides that his beliefs are universal laws, but that any alternatives are both wrong and EVIL. He believes in bad men (other than him) that constanly device ways being evil and hurting their own people, just for the heck of it! Remeber, this is the same guy who loves guns and combustion engines, two pieces of technology that are currently used inapropiately and are killing people and destroying the environment. He's so mind-fucked that his only answer to all I've said here must be "USA rocks!" or racial slurs.
Mary-Sue and Wish Fulfillment: I've already pointed out basic Mary-Sue and Wish Fulfillment 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 kind. These two characters who compete with Lucy in Chapter 16 for the internship are not just random strawmen for unprofesionalism and wrong news ethics. 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 mounths 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 it means that if he gets offended by this review, he'll just make some mock-up character called like me that gets stoned down by Fisk. Or just whine about me in his LiveJournal. So next time you read the chapters about the opressive 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, which he's currently working on to relauch soon. 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 am Objectivist, a philosophy developed by novelist Ayn Rand.
Naylor is commonly known for being, in my sweetest terms avaliable, a dick. He has a track history of wreaking havoc in places with his constant negative thoughts and rants against people who have disagreed with him. Perhaps one of the starngest 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 support of Naylor, but in fact, Lucy Black and Sheila Black are Mat Sherer's creations. Naylor himself recognized it in some of his early portfolios and drawings. Naylor only owns Fisk, the brother of Lucy, who also appeared in the pre-Better Days comics. Better Days started about a year after BDK. What's more, Sherer is the one who brought up first the concept of Fisk and Lucy being in an incestuous relationship. Naylor's comic thus started as a sort of prequel with more focus over Fisk than Lucy, and trying to tie in with some of Sherer's ideas.
At some point, there was a disagreement and later 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 in 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 nuissance, 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 his 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 confortably say that Naylor is like this too. Despite his best efforts, he can't manage to make his characters, stories or thoughts likeable to his audience, and almost everyone walked out of 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 his 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 adecuate 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 worst 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 it's predecessor.
Thank you, and good night.
Place links pertaining to the webcomic here.
- Crush Yiff Destroy's review. Outdated, but has some dead on predictions about the way the comic unfolded.