Over The Hedge (comic)

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Over The Hedge
OTHLogo.png
Author(s) Michael Fry and T. Lewis
Website
Update schedule Daily
Launch date 1995
End Date Ongoing
Genre  ?
Rating(s)
Censor panda nyr button.png

The Over The Hedge comic strip is the work of Michael Fry and T. Lewis. Fry is the writer, Lewis is the artist. They first worked together in 1992 on Mickey Mouse comic strips.

Each has had success on their own, with Fry as a screenwriter and Lewis illustrating children's books. They live in separate parts of the United States, collaborating electronically on the strip.

The strip first appeared in 1995. Four book collections have been published. They are, in order, Over The Hedge, Over The Hedge 2, Knights Of The Picnic Table, and Stuffed Animals. A film was released in 2006.

The strips are not afraid to tackle difficult subject matter. Everything from celebrity worship to stem cell research has appeared. In 1998, a series of strips had the characters considering the origin of humanity and the likelihood of reincarnation.

The strips were awarded the Religious Communicators Council’s 1998 Wilbur Award for "excellence in the communication of religious issues, values and themes."

Premise[edit]

The strip follows the lives of RJ, a raccoon; and Verne, a turtle. RJ has a sort of Zen spontaneity and Verne is a reserved worrywart that the strip hinted talks like Garry Shandling. Verne has a secret enjoyment of the music of John Tesh--RJ once baited him with his newest CD, "More Music To Eat Mayonnaise By".

The division is sharper when the characters' motivating behaviors are revealed. RJ is a slacker -- he doesn't feel the need to chase down anything, especially knowledge. When told plenty happens in the world before he wakes up, he pulled out a paddleball and walked away saying, "Not to me." Anything that doesn't come simply and naturally to him is deemed not worth the effort. He once theorized that the stars and the night sky were actually a giant piece of construction paper with holes in it and lit up by a lightbulb the size of Texas (and a good portion of Louisiana). He is balanced by Verne and his continual quest for personal advancement and fulfillment. In fact, in one strip, the characters explored the fact that they were a bit unhappy with themselves and wished they could be more like the other. The two of them support each other, like two halves of the same brain, with RJ dealing with immediate situations (distracting guard dogs around a house) and Verne handling things that require more planning and detail.

Most of the forest they live in has been stripped down to make a housing division called El Rancho Camelot. However, they, along with the other animals in the forest, aren't interested in retaking the land. They very much enjoy human culture. From raiding garbage cans for food and rating the preservatives used to staking out hot tubs, they recognize this isn't the best or healthiest way to live, but they can't give it up. RJ, in fact, has a near pathological addiction to Twinkies, such as his 1947 Twinkie that is "still soft" and "in mint condition". Sometimes, more extreme measures are employed, such as flyfishing steaks off a grill or distracting a family while other animals use a blowtorch to cut through a wall and get to the fridge.

Part of the strip consists of Verne being RJ's metaphorical punching bag. RJ is shameless in his disrespect of Verne, setting him up for pranks and humiliations as Verne fumes futilely at the treatment. RJ regards himself as pretty much unmockable, and Verne is incapable of proving otherwise.

RJ and Verne also have an artistic bent, which the creators use to much comedic effect. Verne is deeply involved in the arts. At times, he uses his knowledge to shamelessly exploit the artistic establishment -- he created a sculpture called "Lichen On A Stump" that was, in fact, a lichen on a stump, for which he got a $15,000 grant from the Ford Foundation. Other times, he creates modern art and performances pieces that he is never happy with, such as turning a lawn sprinkler system into a water ballet -- "It doesn't transcend." While Verne's criticism decries classic forms, RJ shows a more traditional grounding that eschews stuffiness. But when RJ creates art, it's more simplified, done just for fun. He dreads Verne coming around at times like these -- "No! No critiques! Please just let us create in ignorance!"

Another running gag that surfaces in the strip is that RJ and Verne are avid golfers, often pushing the interpretations of the rules as far as they can. They have played in the middle of a snowstorm (when Verne iced up in the middle of his swing, RJ pointed out, "You're pausing at the top of your swing again"), purchased a driver with a head the size of a basketball for extra distance off the tee (the "Obese Olga" made the ball achieve escape velocity and hit a UFO with aliens watching "Star Trek: The Next Generation"), expanded the cup with a backhoe so RJ could make par, and even designed their own golf course, complete with acid pits, razor wire, quicksand, a dragon, a mamba nest, and "giant, blood-sucking werepoodles on #14".

Characters[edit]

In addition to RJ and Verne, the strip includes Hammy the squirrel. Hammy didn't appear when the strip first started. He was referenced in a series as being run over by a minivan under a different name ("That Hammy...always trying to broaden himself."), and he was buried in a pizza box. He started appearing and his name eventually became Sammy. One day, Sammy met his mirror image self named Hammy and they switched places, and the squirrel is now Hammy.

Hammy is a edgy little guy who isn't completely aware of his surroundings, expressing shock when he discovered that thing he sort of knew was behind him was a tail (he was even more impressed when he discovered he had thumbs). He's not exactly a star of the strip, but he rounds out the central duo very well, despite how much he annoys Verne ("'Let's get a squirrel,' you said, 'The readers love squirrels'"), becoming sort of the Third Stooge.

Other characters include Luby the raccoon and Velma the turtle, the sort of objects of RJ and Verne's affections, even though they don't think very much of the "Boys In The Wood." Luby, apparently, still dates RJ occasionally, even though he makes her question her whole dating life. In the strip from December 27, 2007, Luby explains she decided to give dating another try. RJ took her to watch an old couple struggle to program their Tivo ("They're so cute when they can't understand customer service reps in India," RJ opines), then took her to a dumpster where he overate Maraschino cherries, barfed, and passed out. She is now questioning the wisdom of dating ANYONE, not just RJ.

Speaking of dating, the characters' love lives have fluctuated quite a bit. Initially, Velma dated RJ and Luby dated Verne, but soon the species paired off. A strip where the central trio catches up on where the characters are now has Verne saying of Luby and Velma, "They live in San Francisco. We lost them to the other team." Hammy responds, "The Orioles?" In the strip's early days, RJ was in love with Dottie, a purebred poodle of questionable intelligence (she once tripped on her own ears and knocked herself unconscious). Despite RJ's continuous efforts to woo her, she never acknowledged him as anything other than yard pest, and once used his tail as a chew toy before trying to bury it.

For a short time in 2007, Verne had been dating Sheila the Snail. Their bond resulted in a burst of self-confidence that had RJ leading the others into trying to "deprogram" Verne in a failed effort to get their personality measuring stick and resident punching bag back. It failed, Verne and Sheila stayed together for a while. That all changed when Sheila brought Verne to meet her parents. Mom had a relative that had been eaten by a turtle and both parents put Verne through the wringer. Verne panicked, trying to reassure them that he would never eat anything as slimy and disgusting as a snail. Sheila immediately took offense and sent Verne packing on the spot. Any hope of reconciliation was gone a couple of days later when Sheila was seen with another snail. Verne, in his loneliness, latched onto and fell in love with a Marilyn Monroe blow-up doll that RJ gave to him to humiliate him more. When the bond became too strong, RJ brought in Dr. Phil to snap Verne out of it -- Dr. Phil called RJ his "Vegas buddy" for rescuing him from a crush of rabid autograph seekers. At present, Verne is very much unattached.

A recent addition to the strip is a pit bull puppy named Steve. Steve is not anthropomorphic, but can bend the rules as needed. Steve's typical behavior is to sit around, wagging his tail and smiling, waiting for someone to lick. RJ and Verne found him in the forest one day, and due to the stereotype of pit bulls as killing machines, they promptly rocketed up the nearest tree and examined themselves to see if they were still alive ("Is my head still on? I can't tell"). After observing the puppy wasn't moving a muscle other than to wag his tail, Verne looked up "pit bull" on his iPhone and they figured they could trust him. That, and the fact that Hammy came along and decided to pull the "lion tamer's head in mouth" stunt ("I'm fine, but he could use a breath mint."). RJ and Verne are Steve's keepers -- they refuse to let any humans have him for fear that the pit bull's reputation will cause them to put Steve to sleep. He shows up occasionally, recently to help RJ make a dangerous stunt video for YouTube ("But Steve wouldn't hurt a fly." "I know that. You know that. But the millions watching subway surfing videos don't."). Hammy also taught him to do the rumble dance from West Side Story.

Another character who pops up occasionally is The Tree That Knows Stuff, a sentient tree that the characters seek information and advice from. He occasionally has to deal with RJ trying to muscle in on his job.

Another incidental character is Fred The Wood Tick, who appears as only a dot and has to be identified when he first appears with an arrow explaining what he is.

One character who was fairly prominent when the series first started was Plushie, Verne's nephew.

The animals can talk with humans, but only if they are kids, elderly, or insane. An attempt by Verne to lead the other animals around the neighborhood Christmas caroling resulted in every armament (guns, missiles, and Wrist Rockets) being trained on them. The most frequent human they have contact with is Clara, a toddler who goes to Perky Jerks Daycare Center. Her parents are Nate and Noreen.

The rule about what humans they can converse with is disregarded at times when it suits the joke. Dr. Phil has been shown talking to and understanding the cast. Recently, Barak Obama was depicted in the strip. RJ called in a favor -- "'Audacity Of Hope.' Who came up with that...Oh, that's right! I did!"

Over The Hedge and furry[edit]

The characters of Over The Hedge discover furry
Furries are a significant segment of the electorate. (Strip of September 5, 2008)

See also[edit]