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The Black twins, Lucy (left) and Fisk (right), and their mother Sheila (middle).
|Genre||Slice of life, Comedy, Drama|
Better Days was a furry webcomic created by Jay Naylor. The comic, which ran from 2003 until 2009, focused on the life and experiences of Fisk Black, an anthropomorphic cat growing up in Georgia. Although popular, the comic received criticism for its portrayal of controversial subjects, including incest and racism. In 2009, Naylor concluded the comic's storyline, and began work on a spin-off entitled Original Life.
Better Days was announced in 2003. Naylor wanted to write about the life of his primary creation, Fisk. Formerly known as a pornographic artist, Better Days would be Naylor's first webcomic. He wanted to create material that was "creative and entertaining without being obscene", and to establish himself as an illustrator and a cartoonist rather than a "furry artist". Better Days focused on a number of controversial issues, including racism and incest. The art style derived from anime and manga influence.
Better Days takes place in Georgia, focusing on Fisk, his twin sister Lucy, and their mother Sheila. The twins' father, Jim, died in the Vietnam War. Most of the storylines are character-driven. According to Naylor, the title "[refers] to the future: the result of a lifetime of planning, effort, and just living." Naylor states that Fisk "most personifies my outward attitude", and that the character experienced "phases of arrogance, crassness, naivety, detached bemusement, disregard, and other flaws". Lucy and Sheila were based upon characters created by Mat Sherer for Badly Drawn Kitties. Because of the strong differences between the appearance and personalities of these characters, Naylor states that the use of these characters does not constitute "character theft".
Naylor did not include nudity in Better Days because he did not want to rely on pornography in order to keep readers' interest, and felt that nudity and explicit sex would distract from the story. However, the comic has included violence and non-explicit sexual content.
Better Days portrays African-Americans as hyenas. Naylor chose to use hyenas for characters of African origin because he enjoyed drawing them, and had received compliments about his hyena characters. Naylor's exploration of racism has drawn some criticism, as some readers felt that race should not play into a comic strip featuring anthropomorphic characters. Naylor stated that East African characters would be portrayed as African wild dogs.
Naylor's influences include Phil Hendrie, whose radio program was often referenced within the comic, and Bloom County, which Naylor cites as having influenced his political views. Naylor has also expressed admiration for Calvin and Hobbes and Lackadaisy.
In 2009, Naylor announced that he was ending Better Days, and would launch a new webcomic entitled Original Life, which would focus on a now-married Fisk and Elizabeth, and their children.
Fisk Black is the main protagonist of the comic and the fraternal twin of Lucy. Fisk was originally rambunctious and sneaky, will play pranks on anyone he can. Accidentally gave blood pressure medicine to Lucy, causing her to go into a "coma". He over time becomes a more good natured person, and honestly admitted that he loved his sister and did not want her to die. After he graduated school, Fisk soon joins military, then becomes assassin for US, same job as Jim. He later meets and reconciles past issues with Nikki at medical tent in the army. Fisk rescues Persia from forced prostitution by LA mob. He dated Beth during military term, but marries Elizabeth and has three children.
Lucy Black is one of the primary characters in the webcomic. She is a black and white anthropomorphic cat who is the fraternal twin of her brother Fisk. Lucy Black is also the name of a similar character in the webcomic Badly Drawn Kitties by Mat Sherer, who is credited with created the character of Lucy. At one time, the characters were intended to be the same character, the artists being friends and sharing the character. There had since been a falling out, sometime around chapter 13 and 14 of Better Days, and Mat and Jay's Lucy character's became two different ones, one for Better Days, and one for BDK. Fisk was a Better Days character that crossed over to Badly Drawn Kitties several times. Since Jay and Mat's falling out, Fisk has been removed from the BDK cast and comic, explained off as being killed overseas.
A black cat with white hair, Lucy, alongside Fisk, is one of the main characters of the strip, with many of the chapters following her life and maturity into adulthood. Lucy is strongly attached emotionally to her twin brother and has even been involved in an incestous relationship with him, before coming to terms with it and eventually getting together with a rabbit named Tommy, who, at the time, was her roommate's boyfriend. Lucy currently works at a public radio station, where she reports the news. She is married to Tommy and lives in Florida with him and their son, Leo.
Bethany "Beth" is a major secondary character in better days and on again off again sexual interest of Fisk. She is an anthromorphic white cat with long black hair and blue eyes. She was introduced when Lucy entered college as a goth girl who preferred to be single due to the fact her first boyfriend died only three months after they started dating and she had fallen in love with him. When she met Fisk when he came to visit, she began to show emotions for him, which only escalated as the comics continued. She began seeing people again and went into polyamourous relationships. She had at least three lovers, but she showed more emotions for Fisk than any other. However, their relationship gradually cooled as Fisk's work frequently took him abroad for extended periods of time. In chapter 19 she began seeing Tommy's best friend Aron, despite still harboring strong feelings for Fisk.
While in New York to show artwork, she asked Fisk to stay with her, to which at the time he agreed to with a kiss. After Fisk got a job with the covert government agency, their sexual relationship ended. When Fisk began seeing Elizabeth again, Beth stayed with Aron and purchased a boat in Florida. They lived in that boat until Original Life. Beth has a near unlimited supply of money from her family fortune, yet still had a job in a sex toy shop during college and had two chapters of better days as well as a storyline in original life. She has also been the focus of many of Jay Naylor's adult comics. She's supposedly based heavily off the character design of Lydia from Badly Drawn Kitties by Matt Sherer, due to the two comics influencing one another before Matt and Jay's falling out. Beth's story at the end of Original Life is left unfinished with the rest of the comic being on hiatus. Beth is left feeling bitter and frustrated at her lack of fulfillment in life and confesses as much to Fisk when she meets him at a comic convention he's attending with Janie and Thomas. Her biggest worry seems to be never finding the same fulfillment she found in Jason and Fisk ever again and appears to show resentment toward his marriage, believing that something so perfect can't be beyond corruption. As yet, her story is incomplete and her future foggy.
Persia is the first cousin of Lucy and Fisk and the niece of Sheila, her sister Bobbie's daughter. Persia inherited the fluffy white fur of her mother and her father's true identity isn't known. From a young age, Persia was forced to compete in child beauty pageants, which left her with very little time for herself for anything. She states that it takes a full day to keep her strict beauty regimen in full upkeep, and that her mother forbids her to date. This is particularly ironic considering Bobbie goes through men on a seemingly monthly basis. As such, Persia's childhood was far from stable and left her feeling frustrated. Upon meeting her cousins for the first time and having fun getting dirty on their grandmother's property, Persia began to develop a more rebellious side to herself. Much later, in chapter 23, Persia takes her modeling funds and runs away from home after a final fight with her mother. She confides in Lucy that she'd gone to Los Angeles and become a successful porn actress with a nice apartment overlooking the city. However, she was quickly taken by the local mob who threatened her boss into giving her up and hooked on heroin as part of her "payment", wherein she became a prostitute in effective slavery to this powerful group. She was eventually rescued by Fisk and taken back to Virginia where she lived with him until she sobered up. It was during this time that she met his neighbor, a friendly, bi-sexual and unnamed male mouse with whom she developed a relationship and eventually settled down with. At the end of the story, the two have moved in together and become parents to a child. It is not known whether Persia has made contact at all with her mother and she and her family have yet to make any sort of appearance in Original Life.
Elizabeth Lucy's childhood friend and Fisk's first girlfriend, later wife. Elizabeth is a white mouse of Jewish heritage and comes from a fairly large family. Most of her childhood was spent hanging out with Lucy and poking fun at Fisk and his various antics. She often dealt with bouts of self-consciousness due to her skinny frame and geeky nature, leading Lucy to cajole Fisk into asking her out. However, Elizabeth and Fisk wind up genuinely falling for each other, leading to Lucy telling Fisk to call it off. Elizabeth finds out about the scheme and while initially angry, forgives Fisk and agrees to be friends again, though it's made quite clear throughout the series that she never truly moved on from him. Later in life, her mother forces her into various dates with boys she holds little interest in and eventually marries another Jewish mouse named David, whom her mother approves greatly of. However, not even a year into their marriage, she catches him cheating on her and distances herself from him, gradually drawing close to Fisk again on his return from his work. The two rekindle their old relationship and Elizabeth presents a shocked David with her desire for a divorce, despite his pleas for her to reconsider. A year following the events of the story, Elizabeth has married Fisk and plans to begin a family with him.
Tommy A white rabbit and the ex-boyfriend of Rachel, one of Lucy's college roommates. Tommy is essentially the diametric opposite of Rachel, being quite sweet and nerdy. He first meets Lucy at a frat party Rachel drags her to and, upon Lucy's inquiry, agrees to engage in oral sex with her, much to Rachel's fury. Coming from a deeply Christian family, Tommy begins to question his relationship with Rachel upon learning she hasn't been faithful to him and breaks it off with her, only to begin dating Lucy soon after. Tommy gradually shuns his beliefs and begins to enjoy life more, taking part in D&D sessions with his friends, notably Aron. He takes an engineering job out of college, the heavy hours of which damage his and Lucy's sexual and emotional relationship. The two are able to reconcile and move in together at the end of the series. They would later marry, move to Florida and give birth to their only son, Leo.
Sheila Black The mother of Lucy and Fisk and widow of James Black. She lost her husband while still pregnant with the twins and, going against pressure to abort, she continued the pregnancy, raising both kittens against tough odds. Sheila spent a few years while the twins were young dating frequently and sporadically, often leaving them alone for hours at a time. This stopped when, during a bout of illness for Lucy, Fisk accidentally gave her some of Sheila's blood pressure medication, sending her into a coma. Sheila dated more responsibly from then on, culminating in a brief relationship with Harvey, the principal of the school the twins attended. Harvey claimed to have been in the same squad as James, informing Sheila of her husband's supposed infidelity while in Vietnam. However, when James' old general and superior officer disproved this, Sheila furiously broke it off with Harvey, leading him to her door to try to apologize and ultimately raping her in his anger. This was stopped by Fisk attacking him with a baseball bat. Since then, Sheila had refused to date for another five years. Eventually, she would develop a friendship with her neighbor Sam, which turns into a romantic affair during his crumbling marriage with his wife, leading to their divorce. After a while, Sam proposes to Sheila and the two marry, continuing to live in Georgia. Sheila is depicted as a tough, but very loving and determined mother, utterly dedicated to her kids and quite the opposite of her sister in many ways. She does her best to support their decisions, even while they may worry her incessantly, such as Fisk's decision to join the military. She's never shown interacting with her grandkids, but it can be assumed she's as affectionate to them as she was her own children.
- Main article: Storyline of Better Days
- Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.
Fisk displays strong political viewpoints from an early age. These views lead to conflict between his teacher, Mrs. Bedbutter, and Sheila, when Fisk is given bad grades for a series of patriotic essays. Sheila goes on a date with Principal Longfellow, who claims to have been a Vietnam vet who served with Jim, and that he had cheated on her while serving in the war. Sheila calls Jim's former commanding officer, Robert Kelso, to inquire about Longfellow's claims, and learns that Longfellow lied about serving in her husband's unit, and was discharged for aggressive fraternization and other issues. When she confronts him about this, Longfellow rapes her, resulting in Fisk knocking him unconscious with a baseball bat. Longfellow is later assassinated by members of his former unit.
Fisk loses his virginity at age 10 to Nikki, an 11-year-old hyena. Nikki's father is wanted by the FBI for murder and rape, and her sexual induction of Fisk had been the result of sexual abuse at the hands of her father. At Lucy's insistence, Fisk asks his sister's friend Elizabeth, out on a date, after Lucy threatens to tell their mother "what really happened to her lawn gnome". Although Fisk soon falls for Elizabeth, she learns that he had only gone out with her because Lucy had pressured him to.
After Lucy learns that a boy in school had only dated her in an attempt to sleep with Sheila, Fisk attempts to comfort Lucy, and they begin an incestuous relationship. When Fisk reaches college age, he decides to join the army. While attending college, Lucy begins a relationship with Tommy, the boyfriend of one of her roommates, Rachel, who has been unsuspectingly cheated on for years. When Fisk is injured in training, he reunites with Nikki, who has since become a nurse. Fisk fights in the Gulf War, and takes over his father's former job as an undercover CIA agent. When Fisk's cousin, Persia, disappears, he tracks her down, learning that she had left her job as a model to become a pornographic film actress, and was forced into prostitution by mobsters. After a violent confrontation with the mobsters, Persia stays in Fisk's apartment until she can get back on her feet. After a series of bad relationships, Elizabeth is still in love with Fisk, and reveals her feelings to him, leading the two to resume dating. They marry, and decide to have children.
Although Naylor's artwork has been praised, Better Days has received criticism for its political views and approach to controversial subject matter. Crush! Yiff! Destroy! wrote that "the normal story-telling and humorous functions of the comic take a backseat to political diatribes and the characters are only there to serve as mouth-piece's for the author's opinions rather than as characters in their own right." The Webcomic Overlook called it "the red-headed stepchild of a genre that’s already a red-headed stepchild."
Better Days receives 15,223 unique visitors per month, and is the most-subscribed webcomic on The Belfry Webcomics Index. On October 30, 2005, Better Days appeared as a "awful link of the day" on the comedy website Something Awful. Naylor stated that he received favorable responses from visitors who discovered his website through Something Awful.
In 2020, webcomic critic, Jerry Springfield gave a positive review on Better Days calling it a "flawed magnum opus". He stated,
"If you look pass the questionable and controversial subject matter, you can see it's a deep story about the struggles of the protagonist, Fisk Black who overcomes obstacles of his own personal crisis as he grows from a boy into a man."
- Naylor, Jay. "So, I got this here LiveJournal thing..". January 5, 2003. LiveJournal. Retrieved on March 19, 2010.
- Naylor, Jay. "The Way of Things to Come". June 11, 2004. LiveJournal. Retrieved on March 23, 2010.
- The New Meat. "Better Days". 2004. Crush! Yiff! Destroy!. Retrieved on March 19, 2010.
- El Santo. "Better Days". June 22, 2008. The Webcomic Overlook. Retrieved on March 19, 2010.
- "Full Reviews of Better Days". Master Zen Dao Meow. Retrieved on March 19, 2010.
- "Theater of the Mind". March 13, 2006. LiveJournal. Retrieved on March 23, 2010.
- Naylor, Jay. "2007". January 3, 2007. LiveJournal. Retrieved on March 21, 2010.
- Naylor, Jay. "My Own Hobbes". March 22, 2003. Live Journal. Retrieved on March 23, 2010.
- Naylor, Jay. "We Hate Jay!". March 11, 2004. LiveJournal. Retrieved on March 21, 2010.
- Naylor, Jay. "Sex and Violence". September 6, 2005. Retrieved on March 23, 2010.
- Naylor, Jay. ""Better Days" is for Grown Ups". November 2, 2005. LiveJournal. Retrieved on March 19, 2010.
- Naylor, Jay. "Rage Against the Durr". June 17, 2005. LiveJournal. Retrieved on March 23, 2010.
- Naylor, Jay. "Hornblower and the Rabid Lesbian Sea Squid". June 23, 2006. LiveJournal. Retrieved on March 20, 2010.
- Naylor, Jay. "Do You Really Want to Know?". March 5, 2003. LiveJournal. Retrieved on March 23, 2010.
- Naylor, Jay. "General Site Update". July 21, 2006. LiveJournal. Retrieved on March 23, 2010.
- Naylor, Jay. "Adult Catalog". Retrieved on March 21, 2010.
- Naylor, Jay. "Settling In". October 29, 2005. LiveJournal. Retrieved on March 21, 2010.
- Naylor, Jay. "Original Life". April 29, 2009. LiveJournal. Retrieved on March 19, 2010.
- Naylor, Jay. "Chapter 4: "The Bedbutter Chronicles"". July–August 2003. Retrieved on March 20, 2010.
- Naylor, Jay. "Chapter 5: "Predators"". August–October 2003. Retrieved on March 20, 2010.
- Naylor, Jay. "The Hippy Encyclopedia". July 27, 2005. LiveJournal. Retrieved on March 23, 2010.
- Naylor, Jay. "Chapter 6: "Tough Love"". October–December 2003. Retrieved on March 20, 2010.
- Naylor, Jay. "Chapter 7: "Of Mice and Idiots"". January–April 2004. Retrieved on March 20, 2010.
- Naylor, Jay. "Chapter 9: "Lucy's Mom"". May–July 2004. Retrieved on March 20, 2010.
- Naylor, Jay. "Chapter 13 "Thicker Than Water"". October 2005 – January 2006. Retrieved on March 20, 2010.
- Naylor, Jay. "Chapter 14 "All the Wrong Places"". January–June 2006. Retrieved on March 20, 2010.
- Naylor, Jay. "Chapter 15 "Reconciliation"". June–July 2006. Retrieved on March 20, 2010.
- Naylor, Jay. "Chapter 17 "Trial by Fire"". November 2006 – March 2007. Retrieved on March 20, 2010.
- Naylor, Jay. "Chapter 21 "Father's Footsteps"". March–May 2008. Retrieved on March 20, 2010.
- Naylor, Jay. "Chapter 23 "Persia"". August–December 2008. Retrieved on March 20, 2010.
- Naylor, Jay. "Chapter 25 "Better Days"". April–May 2009. Retrieved on March 20, 2010.
- "Site profile for jaynaylor.com". Complete.com. Retrieved on March 19, 2010.
- "Most Subscribed". The Belfry Webcomics Index. Retrieved on March 19, 2010.
- Naylor, Jay. "With "Enemies" Like These...". October 31, 2005. LiveJournal. Retrieved on March 20, 2010.
- Naylor, Jay. "Poona This Way Comes". February 27, 2006. LiveJournal. Retrieved on March 20, 2010.
- "Program information for Poona the Fuckdog". 2006. Sacred Fools. Retrieved on March 20, 2010.
- Better Days home page
- Wikia project
- Enter The Dream collection of reviews about Better Days
- Better Days, in Russian
- Better Days ВКонтакте, in Russian
- Review of Better Days, Webcomic Overlook
|Some of this page is derived from Wikipedia. The original article was at Better Days (webcomic), but has since been deleted or merged. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with WikiFur, the text of Wikipedia is available under CC-BY-SA and the GFDL.|