Meta-review: Dan and Mab’s Furry Adventure

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(From Dan and Mab’s Furry Adventures!. Click on image to see it full-sized. Note: Amber upgraded her website and the URLs changed subtly. I need to sit down and fix the links at some time – until that’s done (with a computer with internet access) the links don’t work (with the exception of the one below this comment). My apologies for the inconvienance.)

Comic: Dan and Mab’s Furry Adventures! by Amber M. Panyko

I’m not quite sure what led me to start reading DMFA. (I swear, I should start keeping a notebook with me to register exactly when and why I start reading specific comics.) However, what kept me reading (yes, I’ve stopped reading comics before; sometimes they just can’t keep my interest or offend me somehow) is the fact that DMFA is hilarious.

I mean it. It’s a hoot! I just spent a couple of hours going through the almost 550 comics that Amber has drawn up, laughing out loud and generally enjoying myself. When you think of comics, you usually want to be amused, and DMFA succeeds in amusing its readers. However, it’s not a gag-a-day comic (though some jokes are one-shots), and Amber has an on-going storyline that she’s been enjoying for the most part.

While the earlier DMFA strips were at times rough, and she did take a year off early on, she found her stride (and indeed, her artwork improved impressively in that year). What’s more, she started coloring the strips regularly, and that also improved nicely when Amber got her Wacom Art Tablet. Still, these are just tools. Amber is a fantastic artist, though she doesn’t quite realize it. Or maybe she doesn’t quite believe it. Seems common practice for artists actually.

Art – Inking: 4 ribbons
Art – Backgrounds: 4 ribbons
Art – Coloring: 4.5 ribbons


Perhaps part of the problem Amber has with her artwork is that the beginning of DMFA isn’t as splendid as what she’s drawing now. Of course, back then the comic was a black-and-white strip, and there wasn’t much in the way of backgrounds, but let’s be honest about this: most comics of this era suffered from the same drawbacks. Early Dominic Deegan and College Roomies would have minimalistic backgrounds. Okay, Dominic Deegan still doesn’t do much with backgrounds, but it’s still a valid point.

The characters are distinctive, often complex creations. Their clothing has shading, wrinkles, and hangs properly. Ear designs are varied, wing designs (yes, wings) often show the illusion of feathers (and indeed with close-ups do show some individual feathering, though not too much or else Amber would be stuck doing nothing but feathering wings all day). These aren’t some simplistic design here that is repeated ad nauseam, but sometimes complex and involved art forms that this cartoonist makes seem almost easy.

And trust me, it’s not. I don’t know the dynamics of drawing wings; I was still trying to figure out people (and occasional cats) with my own comic. But something like freckles is actually fairly difficult. Stripes, patterns, and fur? That’s even tougher. Toss in there shading and light sources? And we’re adding to another level of complexity here.

While Amber doesn’t strive for the realism of Clan of the Cats, or the complexity of some of the backgrounds currently in College Roomies, the world she’s created is vibrant and alive. We’re not stuck in the same locales all the time; instead, characters go out (heck, Dan is an adventurer, going outdoors or to strange locales is kind of required for him), they do things, encounter oddities and explore their world. Maybe her early backgrounds weren’t beautiful masterpieces… but she’s shown considerable improvement. And I bet if she tried today, she could draw a decent castle.

The truth is, Amber’s a very good artist who just needs more faith in herself. Her artwork shows considerable improvement over what was a decent beginning, and even areas she feel are her weaknesses still are pretty good. No doubt we’ll continue to see improvements in her art over the next few years, especially as I doubt she’ll ever truly be satisfied with her drawings.

Character Development: 4 ribbons
Character Chemistry: 4 ribbons


I’m not quite sure if I’d call DMFA a character-driven comic. Instead, it’s a comedy, and while the characters have grown over the years, they are sometimes incidental to the joke. Whether it’s Mab being harassed by a Crocodile Hunter wannabe or Wildy chasing after Dan for some reason, Amber’s mantra almost seems to be “joke first, character second.”

And this isn’t a bad thing. DMFA is not one of the traditional dramatic storyline comics I seem so drawn to. Sometimes we need to sit back and laugh, and DMFA lets us laugh without feeling guilt or embarrassment. Still, we need to have some connection with the characters, or else the jokes would be pointless. Dan and Mab are likeable, as are their friends, and this helps draw the readers in closer.

The main character of the series is Daniel Ti’Fiona, an feline adventurer with blue wings. (Oh, Mab is also listed as a main character, but let’s be honest here. Dan’s the focus of the comic. Perhaps that’s because Mab… well, she’s an environmental character, changing to suit what she’s needed to be, whether it’s heroine or damsel in distress or comedic relief, or even peacemaker. She’s sort of a deus ex machina, able to be what the story needs… and that creates problems for having her as the crux of a story. Dan, on the other hand, is fairly straightforward and a twit. Perfect main character material.)

Dan’s had a decent career as an adventurer (following in his dad’s footsteps). This is why he’s been… disturbed by recent revelations that he’s an Incubus (or a Cubi, for short). He has always thought of them as monsters… and he’s got a bit of a hero complex going.


Dan doesn’t have any actual romantic attachments though at least one lady has shown interest in him. He’s actually a bit of a romantic at heart and wants true love and all of that. But he’s afraid that his Cubi-nature would lead him to manipulate anyone he’s with.

(And yes, recent DMFAs have become more serious, though still amusing more often than not. Of course, Dan has learned that he’s going to outlive his half-sister Alexsi, his friends Jyrras and Wildy, and almost all of his friends; Cubi live for thousands of years. Basically, Mab, Azlan, and some of the Cubi (and his mom) will live as long as him; all his other friends he’ll watch grow old and die. He’s not thrilled at that prospect. His very Cubi-nature gives him reason to be gloomy. Fortunately, the current storyline promises to teach him what good can come of his parentage… and how his future can be a positive one.)

Mab… well, what can you say about Mab? As I mentioned before, she’s whatever the comic requires her to be. She can be a peacemaker… she can be an innocent… or an adventurer. She’s Dan’s friend, though we’ve not seen much of the history behind that friendship. In fact, her cast page does a fine job of summing her up.

It’s her very nature that precludes her from being the focal character. Instead, she’s what is needed, when it’s needed. In fanfiction terms, I suppose she might be the “Mary Sue” of the story, but personally I’m not going to call her one because she’s actually a fun and integral part of the story.

Instead… I think of her more as a Gandalf. She does what is needed. She has immense power… but rarely uses it, unless it’s needed for the story. Instead, she’s… Mab. And hey, she can’t do everything.

Wildy is one of the more interesting characters of this crew. She’s a ferret, and most aggressive. Don’t go in looking for Kiki from Sluggy Freelance. Instead, look for Red Sonja. Actually, don’t. Wildy could probably hand that red-headed wench her bottom in a sling.

Interestingly, she’s one of Dan’s best friends. When he was seriously down about being a Cubi… he talked to Wildy about it. And she even became a shaman and adventured with Dan. Though that doesn’t preclude Wildy going after Dan’s head-wings because she wants her own set of wings, or killing Dan because her gift to him was… altered.


Oh, and Wildy is bloodthirsty. I mean… she gives Pip (a drake that has a fondness for attacking Dan and photographers (or anyone who hits on Mab)) a run for his money for title of “most vicious” cast member. She’s tormented Dan, gone on power trips, and generally enjoys causing mischief.

Jyrras is another interesting character. He’s a half-kangaroo rat, half kangaroo, about Wildy’s side, and if anyone could be described as a mad genius, it’s him. He’s been Dan’s friend since an early age (indeed, of all of the gang, Dan and Jyrras’s past is most mapped out).

He’s also the richest of the characters (though Dan doesn’t seem to be in want for money, probably due to his adventuring days). He makes giant mecha-griffons, was indirectly responsible for the creation of the pests known as mows (who I suppose are akin to the Kitten Collective here on Tangents… small, all-but-indestructible, and nuisances) (Ooooh, I’m going to pay for that one, I know I am! But the Kittens like mows, so…) (gah! Mow attack! Help!!!) (we’re sorry, but this review has been delayed while we repair Tangent’s computer, after the Mows ate most of it. We blame the Kittens for this. Actually, we tend to blame the Kittens for most of Tangent’s troubles – The Management)

Hmm. Where was I? Oh yeah, characters.


There’s Alexsi, Dan’s older half-sister, and the owner of the bar where everyone tends to hang out (and where Dan lives); Merlitz, a fire mage who works for Alexsi and who is trying to find a human to prove he’s not insane (as he claims to have seen a human in the past); Aaryanna, a succubus who Merlitz started dating (when he managed to keep her from seducing him through the infamous phrase “can’t we talk instead?” (of having sex, that is), and who first told Dan about his Cubi-nature, Azlan, a fox-fae who uses a magical “patch” to look less fae (something about butterfly wings and antennae just isn’t very “manly”), and other characters who appear from time to time, or sometimes even for quick cameo appearances. Some are based off of characters from Furcadia (a Massively Multi-player Online Social Game, something akin to Everquest and Ultima Online), while others are created from Amber’s imagination.

There aren’t any real relationships (dating-wise) among this band of friends (outside of Merlitz and the succubus Aaryanna). Jyrras is roommates with a half-demon cow (or rather, he allows her to live under his roof as she keeps getting evicted from other places), but they’re not dating or anything. Yet. (Hey, I suspect it’s a matter of time. Heh heh heh.) And Dan… well, Dan is sometimes rather inept when it comes to girls. And this was before he learned he was Cubi.

Merlitz and Aaryanna met and started dating after they met during one of Dan’s adventures, but not everything’s rosy between them. Aaryanna is a succubus, and… well, sometimes succubi eat people. It’s part of her nature. She’s less than happy that Dan’s friends want to rescue him after she got him accepted at the Cubi Academy. (And Dan needs training, even if he doesn’t want to admit it, or accept his Cubi nature.)

Theirs is the only real relationship we’ve seen. Azlan mentions his wife Neni from time to time, but we’ve not seen anything going on. Basically, the relationships in DMFA are of friendship, with little (if any) romance involved. Why Amber hasn’t worked in other romantic relationships (for both their humor value and the growth of character interaction) is a mystery, but perhaps she doesn’t see it necessary. Nor has it hurt the comic as a whole.

Story Continuity: 3.5 ribbons
Story Type: Comedy and Storyline
Story Type: Comedy, Fantasy, occasional Drama, Furry


DMFA has its roots in the Furcadia world, and the players in that world. Indeed, Dan was based off of one of Furcadia’s player characters, and a joke that just sort of developed a life of its own. However, I’m not saying that DMFA is based off of adventures on Furcadia. (For one thing, I have no idea. I’m just a fan, and one who hasn’t joined the forums or such (I read a half dozen forums; anymore and I’d not have any real life).) My suspicion is that Amber took these characters and made them her own, and created the stories on her own.

As Amber herself says in her FAQ: Q: So the characters are your friends?

A: Yes and no. It is true that the original starting cast were based on me and my friend’s characters in Furcadia…but it could easily be said that the characters in the comic have more or less taken a life all their own and shouldn’t really be mistaken too much for the players if one should come across them. I’ve been quite lucky in this instance as I now realize how dangerous it can be to have characters that belong to other people. However the fine fantabulous people who have given me their characters have never had any real issue with the things I’ve done…suckers.

While this doesn’t state outright whether the stories are her own or not… I’m pretty sure they are. (As an aside, Amber does have a valid point here. If you’re going to create your own stories or comic… it’s best to use your own characters, so you need not worry about legalities and the like. Better safe than sorry, you know.)


The reason I only gave DMFA 3.5 ribbons for continuity is that there are occasional issues where story continuity is vague. The DMFA world is constantly growing, and occasionally things might change from earlier strips, or be expanded upon. I mean, the comic is a comedy. Sometimes things are said or hinted at for comedic purposes that are negated further along. Also, cameos and crossovers have a tendency to twist continuity out of shape; only those comics without any crossovers at all (and who avoid cameos) tend to have no real continuity errors (and even then it depends on the comic).

This is especially true of early strips, before Amber took a year off from the comic. And it’s not like it matters. Well, okay. It matters to me but I’m anal about things like that.

Rating: PG (Aww, how cute! The Kittens are playing with Mows and tying them up with yarn! Wait… they’re not gift wrapping them for me, are they?)

DMFA gets a PG rating from me for occasionally suggestive comments and outfits, and such situations as people getting eaten by such things as Demon-Mares or Demon-Cows or Succubi and the like. And there’s violence and even blood from time to time. Oh, and Wildy whipping and branding Dan, or Pip attacking Dan at the drop of a hat.

You know… I’d give it a PG-13 rating but we’ve never seen a nipple that I’m aware of, and I don’t think we’ve had more than light flirting happening in the comic. It’s rather tame, actually. But that’s not to say parents shouldn’t check out the comic ahead of time. After all, you parents may very well enjoy DMFA on your own. And you shouldn’t rely on us reviewers to verify what’s good for your kids and what’s not… just give you a general gist of what we think is okay.

Punctuality: Currently updating MWF, occasional missed strips or filler strips shown but pretty punctual for the most part.

I’m not sure as to what DMFA’s original schedule was. However, back around the turn of the century, DMFA went on hiatus for a year. Amber’s friends helped convince her to continue the comic… and it returned with style and skill. I can’t really think of any missed update of late, unless they were school-related. Amber’s pretty good for updating regularly.

Overall: 4 ribbons

I don’t recall what lured me over to DMFA. It might have been a link from Freefall or Queen of Wands, or something on IRC over at #crfh (in Nightstar). But I quickly grew to love this comic, and reviewed it a month into starting Tangents Webcomic Reviews.


For some reason, I’m not often drawn to the comedies on the web. I’ve tried them… but I tend not to focus on them. But a few become near and dear to me, whether it’s Alice! or Ozy and Millie. I’m quite happy to include DMFA among the comedies that I enjoy the most.

While more recent stories have become somewhat serious (at least when compared to early stories), I see this as part of a cycle. After all, when Dan nearly died facing Dark Pegasus, things seemed fairly serious. Well, for an update or two at least.

Really, the thing about humor is that it needs to be leavened with darkness and seriousness from time to time, else the humor starts to mean less. Without darkness, light becomes meaningless. Without sadness, joy is insignificant. And without growth, characters become stale and uninteresting.

Now is a time of growth for DMFA. Amber has done a fine job of juggling the growth and suffering that Dan’s going through with humor and laughter. This doesn’t lessen the impact of what Dan’s going through. It doesn’t lessen the darkness. But it does help make this story more distinct, and to brighten the entire face of DMFA.

I hope that Dan actually learns a few things while at SAIA. He’s already had hints that being a Cubi does not mean he will become the monster he fears (yes, I know that was an April Fool strip, but I’m sure that’s a nightmare of his anyway…).


I also hope that maybe Mab will grow into a role of being a focal character as well. It would be interesting to see some more stories focusing on her and things that she’s interested in, or about her past.

Besides, the Kittens demand you read it. And while you’re at it, adopt a Mow today.

Robert A. Howard

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