Origins of Tales of Mynarski Forrest
The earliest inspiration for Mynarski Forest was itself a comic strip of sorts, dating back nearly eighty years. I first read the translation of The Cunning Little Vixen back in 1986. The novel was written by Czech author Rudolph Tesnohlidek and was first published in 1920 as an illustrated serial in the Brno newspaper Lidove Noviny. The heroine of the story was an unruly fox named Vixen Sharp-Ears, or Liska Bystrouska in the original Czech. While Sharp-Ears frequently acted crude or even downright thuggish throughout the story, she nevertheless came across with a great deal of earthy charm. By the time I had finished the book, I found myself wanting to tell my own stories about her. Unfortunately, school didnt leave me with a lot of time to do such a project, and I really didnt have the skills or the audience necessary to make it a satisfying experience. So I contented myself with the occasional doodle and put the idea on hold.
I finally got around to getting on the Internet in September of 1996. It didnt take long to discover The OzFoxes Fox Web or Antti Remes Nimbls Den (from which I first learned of The Fur Ring). While viewing the work of these two very different but talented artists, I eventually hit on the concept (DUHHH!!!) that I too could use the Web to inflict my stuff on the world. With over 30 million people on the Internet, I could have a potential audience of nearly half a dozen people! I started to work right away.
Along the way the strip departed quite a bit from Tesnohlideks original story. Like most foxes, Liska is very much her own person and refused to be cast in anyone elses mold. She also insisted on me setting the action in modern day Alberta because she wanted access to heavy machinery and automatic weapons. But the biggest change was the addition of Skippy. A cartoon vixen needs someone she can shock, horrify, mutilate, bully, and sing country music to, and a rabbit seemed like a good choice. I soon discovered that many web comic strips have rabbits and foxes hanging out together, but by then Skippy had his heart set on the role…
As far as modern influences go, my favourite comic strip of all time has got to be Calvin & Hobbes, with The Far Side as a close second, and Herman as my third. Unfortunately theyre all out of print now, and the closest things to them are web comics like Kevin & Kell. Im also a big fan of MAD magazine and even got a letter printed in it in issue #342! Perhaps most frightening of all is that I had seen every episode of Gilligans Island at least three times by the time I was five years old, with predictably tragic results. So if you see Liska daydreaming about her horsie or if she falls out of a coconut tree on top of Skippy, at least youll know who Im stealing from…
Skippy is a basic, ordinary cottontail rabbit. Living at the bottom of the food chain for most of his life has made him nervous and jittery. Living in the middle of the food chain with Liska has left him absolutely hysterical. Skippy was at first thrilled to have her as a buddy, thinking that she would protect him from dangerous animals. Unfortunately, Liska is the most dangerous animal around, and Skippy now spends most of his time protecting her from herself.
A sensitive and good natured if somewhat squeamish critter, lifes stresses have nevertheless left Skippy a little cynical. One might find his outlook unhealthy and pessimistic until one sees just how hapless he really is; then he appears remarkably well adjusted. Skippy never seems to win. If he goes along with one of Liskas schemes, he gets clobbered. If he tries to stop her, he gets clobbered. If he comes up with a scheme of his own, he… well, you get the picture. If it werent for the amazing regenerative abilities of cartoon animals, we wouldnt be seeing much of him after the first few strips.
Skippy is a very sensible and reasonable rabbit. His brain is a virtual storehouse of interesting information. Unfortunately, most of it has no practical value in the real world, and even if it did, Skippy lacks the self-confidence to act on it. If he would only take charge from Liska , they wouldnt have so many problems. Sadly, whenever she starts plotting, Skippy deals with it by signing his organ donor card.
Liska is your typical red fox vixen. Beautiful and charismatic, she tends to be a rather self-centered and willful individual with an annoying habit of biting off more than she can chew. Her tendency to cause disasters mostly stems from an idiotic sense of optimism and a cheerful belief that nothing bad can happen to her. Since shes never been directly affected by her mistakes, Liska has never found a compelling reason to learn from them.
Like most foxes, Liska tries to be sly and crafty. Shes always coming up with clever ways to get a free lunch, but they almost always backfire due to some small, fatal flaw. The sad truth is that for all her creativity, Liska is something of an airhead. She gets these great ideas into her brain and enthusiastically pursues them with little thought towards the inevitable results. One would think that such a daffy creature would quickly be naturally selected out of existence. Fortunately, all foxes are blessed with keen survival instincts and Liska is no exception. Unfortunately, this leads her to follow her gut reactions without thinking about the possible consequences. Even she cant fully understand the logic of her actions, although they certainly feel appropriate to her at the time.
Liskas favourite hobby is collecting things. While she has little use for us humans, she finds our discarded rubbish downright fascinating. From toilet plungers to golf balls, chainsaws to My Lil Horsie dolls, Liska thinks of human artifacts as being neat toys. She cant always figure out what a piece of junk does, but she has a lot of fun trying to find out.
Skippy sometimes accuses her of being ruthless, selfish, and insensitive but thats a vicious lie. I dont think Ive ever met anyone as generous or nurturing as Liska. Did I mention sly and crafty? And… uhmm… beautiful? Ive always thought so, now more than ever. At least until she promises to take that sledge hammer away from my keyboard…
The People of Holland Valley
Holland Valley (population 5419) is a small, fictional town in central Alberta, bordering on the beautiful Mynarski Forest. The people there sometimes like to get back to nature and Liska likes to get the heck away from it. Inevitably they come into contact while encroaching on each other's territories… which tends to increase public support for deforestation.
Hunter Hank Remember the big, scary, faceless hunters from movies like Bambi and Watership Down? They had the least human personalities of any of the characters in the whole freakin' movie! In homage to the art of misanthropy I give you Hunter Hank, the stereotypical cartoon hunter. We don't know why Hank has it in for our heroes, he just does. A die-hard fan of bloodsports, Hank has both Liska's skill as a hunter and Skippy's killer instincts. In other words, Liska finds him to be about as dangerous as gerbil, and a great deal less edible…
The Minderbinders The Minderbinders are a perfectly nice, decent, harmless family who enjoy camping out in the forest. Although they can be an occasional nuisance to the forest animals, Liska finds them to be a delightful source of all kinds of neat stuff and enjoys rummaging through their things at night while they're sleeping. Milton Minderbinder drives pizza delivery for a living. Somewhat immature in nature, he met his wife Moira when he was accidently assigned to a group of four year olds to beta test some of her toy designs. Yup, Moira Mindbinder is a toy designer, but because she's a compulsive workaholic, she's not a very good toy designer, which is why their daughter frequently discards the toys in the forest for our animal friends to find. Molly Minderbinder is your typical six year old. Energetic, impulsive, inquisitive, moody, maybe a little selfish, with a tendency to pick up and eat things she finds on the ground. In other words, she occupies exactly the same ecological niche that Liska does, with the result that one of them must eventually eliminate the other…
This guy shows up whenever my ego gets the better of me. Rt is a full time stock clerk at a nationwide retail conglomerate. He's also an erstwhile internet cartoonist eagerly awaiting the fame, fortune, and adulation he's sure his talent will bring. (He should live so long!!!)
Rt's brutally honest, but nevertheless adorable, sister can always be counted on to keep him grounded with reality. A fair, impartial critic, her opinions regarding his work are always valued (and sometimes painful!) More than any other character in this strip, she has virtually no flaws whatsoever! …because if she did, my real sister would kill me.
Boofer Everybody has an arch nemesis, and Skippy's comes in the form of a vengeful squirrel with an affinity for dropping heavy objects on those who displease him. Boofer has vowed to exact terrible revenge on Skippy ever since he almost helped Liska make squirrel pie out of him. Of course, the idea of some crazed rodent declaring war on her friend doesn't sit very well with our vixen. Unfortunately, Liska's attempts to get even with Boofer prove to be a bigger threat to Skippy than the squirrel himself… which is probably Boofer's plan in the first place.
Clarence While it's pretty well known that coyotes will try to eliminate any foxes in their territory, most vulpephiles would prefer to forget that this aggressive behaviour is usually provoked by a relentless bombardment of obscene insults, nasty pratical jokes, and foxy back stabbing. Clarence is actually a very sensitive if excessively naive creature who'd really be happy to forget Liska even exists. But there's just something about him that makes it impossible for her to resist antagonizing him. Skippy secretly suspects that Liska and Clarence's mutual hostility might be their subconscious way of flirting with each other. Regardless of the real reasons, Skippy usually finds himself in the middle of their disputes, once again demonstrating that “innocent by-stander” is the lousiest job description in the forest…
Finch Sometimes even Skippy needs a straightman, and that's where Finch comes in. More than anything else, Finch serves as a crying towel for Skippy when our heroine gets to be just a little too hard to take. As Skippy's “best friend in the whole world”, Finch is the only animal in the forest who's understanding of his relationship with Liska (keep in mind that being understanding of something and actually being able to understand it are two entirely different matters…). Finch is a rather laid back and unexcitable character, but then life can be pretty good for a cartoon raccoon when the forest is filled with delicious apples and inept predators.
Heywood Translocated from Colorado to the Mynarski Forest as part of a program to reestablish swift foxes in Alberta, trauma associated with the move (and a healthy overdose of tranquilizers!) has scrambled both Heywood's brain and sense of identity. For the most part Heywood seems to think he's some sort of bush pilot, though he frequently assumes other personalities, being highly susceptible to suggestion. This would be a potential source of amusement for our vixen, if not for the fact that Heywood has taken an intense and unwelcome amourous interest in her. Due to his small size and constant state of confusion, Heywood is prone to catastrophe even more so than Liska, and just like her, he shares the uncanny vulpine gift for side-stepping the disasters he causes. The result is that when fox is pitted against fox, things can quickly get awfully frustrating for everybody.
Mitties A casual aquaintance Liska once made while raiding Farmer Fred's hen house, Mitties's presence makes these raids much more traumatizing for Skippy. Not that she's particularly interested in eating him, Mitties just gets a real charge out of frightening Skippy, insulting him, and otherwise poking fun at Liska's questionable taste in hunting partners. Mitties is a little resentful of Liska's freedom. On the other hand, as a domesticated feline she knows more about humans than any of the other forest creatures and enjoys flaunting this experience over them…
Rozinante Okay, okay… Rozinante isn't really an animal, just a purple piece of plastic. But even though Liska knows this, her “My L'il Horsie” doll nevertheless has a profound hold over her latent maternal instincts. Unfortunately, Liska isn't an especially motherly individual, and the combination of her inept efforts to dote on her “baby”, and Skippy's complete indifference tends to lead the three of them to disaster. Horrible things frequently happen to Rozzy, and when horrible things happen to Liska's horsie, horrible things happen to everybody else in the forest!