Softpaw Magazine was the first cub-related magazine in the fandom, mainly featuring erotic art and stories. Published by Dream Field Comics, it was distributed online and through Rabbit Valley. The first issue was published in October 2006; it ended after four issues due to a lack of time and money. A story-based spinoff, Finding Avalon, was published in July 2008.
Softpaw was partially inspired by Arcc's "Ivan & Tas" series on the Secretmoon oekaki, a haven for fans of cub artwork. The publishers drew from a mix of established artists and authors on Secretmoon and Cub Central, as well as new artists on websites like Fur Affinity. As the production of Softpaw cost a large amount of money, pre-orders and donations were encouraged, with donators' nicknames printed on the last page of each issue.
Some contributors held events to promote the comic, such as the popular pizza parties at Further Confusion and Califur. However, attempts by artists to distribute the comic at Eurofurence were thwarted when the convention banned the work, followed shortly after by a ban at Further Confusion, where publishers had planned to release Softpaw #3.
Softpaw #2 was listed in the Ursa Major Awards's 2007 Recommended Anthropmorphics List in the Best Fanzine category. The next year, both Softpaw #3 and #4 and Finding Avalon #1 made it onto the awards ballot, for Best Magazine and Best Comic Book respectively. In the end, neither work won, but the fact that they had got that far concerned those who felt such works should not be considered for the award.
For the 2009 Awards, a rule blocking "works of a predominantly sexual nature, or which include explicit sexual situations involving characters which may be underage or non-anthropomorphic animals" was added. As no issues of Softpaw or Finding Avalon were published in 2009, this rule was not tested against them.
Softpaw issues have been released on a six- to nine-month basis. However, there have been no new releases since 2008.
The first issue was printed in October 2006 and was initially shipped on November 15th, 2006. The recommended retail price was stated as US$19.95 - significantly more than most other periodical furry comics and fanzines.
This issue is comprised of 62 color pages and contains the following stories:
- "The Day Before The Exam" a gay-content comic by The End Of The World and BA
- "Teacher's Love" a straight-content comic by Jkal and Beastmaker
- "PJ Pup" a gay-content comic by Looqdrake
- "Little Entrepreneur" a gay-content comic by Edis Krad
- "The Milkshake Club" a story/comic mix by Athalon Ferret and Artdecade
Artists contributing standalone artwork included: Arcc, Asthexiancal, Coonkun, Fennec, Gilbhart, Inuki, Kichigai Kitsune, Krezz Karavan, Lune Cheetah, McDutt, Sylus Foxdragon, Wolfblade, Zen and Zippo.
Issue two was printed in June 2007 and made its debut at Anthrocon 2007 The recommended retail price was US$19.95. A pack of issues #1 and #2 was subsequently made available for US$29.95.
This issue contains the following stories in 80 full-color pages:
- "Sleep Over", a gay-content comic by Shiuk
- "Zeak's Wonderful Life of Doom", a straight-content comic by Jkal, Azures and HySeed
- "Those Good Old Games", a straight-content comic by BBMBBF
- "Brave?", a straight-content comic by Momiji Yuuga
- "Bath Time", a gay-content comic by Inuki
- "The Perfect Size", a straight-content comic by Krezz Karavan and BBMBBF
- "Flower Kitties", a straight-content comic by Papaya Kitty
- "Tyler's Trouble", a gay-content comic written by Crassus and drawn by Shiuk
The original image of the back cover by Inuki reveals more of the characters genital area. This was covered with some white steam in the published version. A limited print of the original artwork was shipped together with a pack consisting of Softpaw #1 and #2 if directly ordered from Inuki shortly after release.
The third issue was first printed on January 2008 and was expected to be released at Further Confusion 2008, until convention staff informed Softpaw that their magazine “would be against their new rule banning representations of minors engaged in sexual acts.” The recommended retail price was US$24.95. Despite the lack of a convention release and the higher price tag, the third issue still sold out at Rabbit Valley.
This issue contains the following stories in 96 full-color pages:
- "Finding Avalon", written by Jery Softpaw and Kiffin Softpaw, drawn by BA (credited as A Bee)
- "The Milkshake Club: Part 2", a gay content comic written by Athalon Ferret, drawn by Fel
- "Zeak's Wonderful Life of Doom: Part 2", a gay content comic by HySeed
- "Happy Trip", a straight content comic by Zorro Re
- "Here Comes Annie", a straight content comic by BBMBBF
- "Little Red and the Big Bad Wolf", a gay content comic by Shiuk
- "A Knight's Tail", gay content comic by Mek
The fourth issue was first printed on November 2008 and sold for a retail price of US$19.95. Buyers who pre-ordered Softpaw #4 got a free issue of another Softpaw Magazine or of Finding Avalon with their order.
This issue contains the following stories in 61 full-color pages:
- "Winter Fun", a gay content comic written and inked by Amarimasi, colors by K
- "Oh, Brother!", a gay content comic by Wolfblade
- "Oasis Tome 1&2", a straight content comic written and pencilled by Jkal, inks by Hyseed, color by Miao
- "The Insatiable Prince", a gay content comic by A Bee
Finding Avalon was a comic based on two series started in Softpaw, and was meant to take a more serious approach to cub artwork. Its format was 40 pages, full color, glossy, in the big magazine size.
The first issue of Finding Avalon was printed in June 2008 and initially released at Anthrocon 2008. Mail-order issues started shipping in July 2008. The recommended retail price was US$14.95 and it includes two stories in comic form:
A Bee and "kitty" Maverick contributed standalone artwork for the inside covers.
On 15 June 2010, Dream Field Comics announced that it would stop publishing work, including Softpaw, with a note on their website:
"It's been an amazing ride. More than 5 years of publishing, six major releases, record-breaking sales online and at conventions and 3 of our books nominated for community awards. We set new standards in quality and were one of the first furry publishers to lead the way with full color printing.
But all good things come to an end. It's time for us all to move on to other things and end on a high.
Dream Field Comics is now closed and will no longer be publishing any of its former titles.
We can never thank everyone enough for your support and encouragement through the tough times and the best times in our history. The response and acceptance we got from the community was surprising and wonderful.
The projects that were listed as "in progress" may still be published privately. Please contact the artists for more details. The Dream Field Comics email address will no longer be checked.Don't be sad this part of the journey is over. We all dared to do something that changed our little bit of the world in a good way forever. Those opportunities don't come often in a lifetime!"
- Ivan & Tas 8 (NSFW) - comment by Jery Softpaw (22 September 2008)
- 2009 Ursa Majors open, but not to all - GreenReaper, Flayrah (22 January 2010)
- FC '08 Nixes Softpaw - Mitch, Crush! Yiff! Destroy! (10 January 2008)
- Softpaw publishers close after five year run - GreenReaper (16 June 2010)
- Fear Not - Jery Softpaw (18 June 2010)
- Dream Field Comics - publisher's website