When I created Critters back in the 1980s, it was largely so that I'd have a publication in which I could publish the work of cartoonists within the funny-animal genre that I liked (Stan Sakai, Freddy Milton, J. Quagmire, and Steven Gallacci), as well as on occasion chiseling some work out of other cartoonists in the same ballpark (Jim Engel, Mike Kazaleh, Ty Templeton, and Mark Armstrong). A side benefit was that as the comic became better known, I started to receive submissions from other cartoonists, several of whom became regulars in the magazine.
One of my very favorites was "Fission Chicken," a hilariously deadpan super-hero parody written and drawn in a sort of Scott-Shaw!-meets-Paul-Coker-Jr. doodly style by John P. Morgan. "Fission Chicken" ran in a number of Critters (including as a solo feature in one of the late, one-feature-per-issue issues), and when I pulled the plug on Critters I was especially sad to leave ol' Fish homeless.
John continued to produce the occasional "Fission Chicken" story, released a book collection of some of the Critters material, and eventually started serializing new Fission Chicken stories on his website, while also "reprinting" classic older material. I'd lost track of him for years until Edd Vick passed along the unfortunate news that John had died last December 30th.
Another good guy, gone far too soon. Although none of his work is in print, several "Fission Chicken" stories can be downloaded and read from his still-extant website, fissionchicken.com -- have a look. Enjoying John's work one more time (or for the first time) would be the best way of honoring him.
One of the funnest parts of editing the CRITTERS anthology lo these many years ago (1985 to 1990 if you're counting -- gah, two, two and a half decades ago!) was working on the great "Gnuff" stories by my old buddy Freddy Milton. I was always sorry that there was not enough demand for these charming, neo-Barksian adventures to graduate to their own books, and of course by now those original CRITTERS comics are nigh impossible for find.
Well, thank God for the internet! Freddy, who is now a respectable retired gentleman of leisure (although he still cartoons up a storm), has been amusing himself by combining the original CRITTERS translations with color art files done for the Danish edition, and if you go here you can read the entire 46-page epic "introductory" "Gnuff" story -- as Freddy points out not the first one he did, but the earliest in the Gnuff chronology and the first to be printed in CRITTERS.
Freddy has also put up the only "Gnuff" story to be printed in full color in English, "Double Star" from the out of print USAGI YOJIMBO COLOR SPECIAL #1. Lettered by Bill Spicer, incidentally.
As if that weren't enough, Freddy has commissioned another old buddy of mine, Dwight Decker (who actually translated most of the CRITTERS "Gnuff" stories back when) to translate a classic Woody Woodpecker story of his, "Happy Water," and that can be found here -- and here's yet another Woody story, "The Coming of the Blot."
In fact, if you go to the main page and cruise down the menu bar you'll see a huge amount of great stuff, including (down toward the bottom) video interviews with Freddy and Daan Jippes in English.
For those of you unfamiliar with Freddy's work, he hit upon a pretty great racket: He'd do stories for European Disney and/or Woody Woodpecker, keep the copyrights for the work itself but not the characters, so he was able to later convert, say, a Woody Woodpecker story to a Gnuff story. If I remember correctly one particular story he did was re-purposed something like three additional times, changing characters from ducks to woodpeckers to dinosaurs (and as needed removing or adding one of the three kids, as Donald had three dependents and Woody and Gnuff only two).
I always thought Freddy's work was absolutely charming and felt bad that none of it has been available to English-speaking fans for many years. Well, now there's three full graphic novel length stories available for your reading pleasure, and for free. Enjoy!
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