|Green Tits and Fur
by Dr Juice
(Kevin Duane and Ray Larabie)
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Green Tits & Fur, Revisited
A Look Back, by Taral Wayne
Before 1993, furry fandom was still almost young. It had passed through its early phase, when most of the members were comics or animation fans who hung around the margins of SF cons. In those days, the defining characteristic of an anthropomorphic fan was his collection of independent comics like Omaha the Cat Dancer, Cutey Bunny, Captain Jack, Critters, or Usagi Yojimbo. Back then even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a real furry book, and not merely part of the mainstream of commercialized properties. But the indies were already dying, and the rapid growth of furry fandom had led to radical changes in its make-up. Most of the newcomers were attracted by conventions, not comics. They were into costuming, gaming, and most of all role-playing. The internet reached into millions of homes, and FurryMuck recruited thousands whose idea of fandom was adopting a funny name, and pretending to be a magic fox or bisexual pony. This didn’t sit well on many of the older heads. While some adapted, others withdrew into their own circle, or faded out of the picture entirely.
By 1993 this new face of furry fandom had become the norm, and it was possible to satirize it.
Whether or not this was a good idea was contentious. But the chief culprit behind Green Tits & Fur was never shy about making an outrageous statement. Another way of putting it, was that he made a lifestyle of speaking first, and thinking through the consequences later. Inevitably, he took a rosy view of remote possibilities. Then, when the smut hit the fan, he would wonder why he was so misunderstood.
He was Kevin Duane. Kevin had been a marginal figure in New York fandom for years, and had a few writing credits for Warren Magazines under his belt. He had also published a somewhat amateurish paperback cartoon collection called The I Hate Unicorns Book that was refused a distribution deal at the last minute, and ended up mostly pulped by the publisher when bills couldn’t be paid. A box or two of copies survived the debacle. Despite significant contributions by Kelly Freas, Shary Flenniken, Larry Todd, Dan O’Neill, and Michael T. Gilbert, I don’t foresee The I Hate Unicorns Book ever becoming a collector’s item. For one thing, it’s so obscure that not even many collectors are likely to have heard of it.
Kevin emigrated to Toronto around 1991 or ’92. I recall getting a strange phone call from a fan I had heard distant warnings about from New Yorkers I knew. He persisted in making my acquaintance, in spite of a degree of skepticism (and downright rudeness) on my part that would have put off anyone with a thinner skin. Thus began a long, sometimes fertile, often futile relationship.
I had only known Kevin for a year or two, perhaps, when he came to me with one of his brilliant, yet hare-brained schemes. Surprisingly, it was a brilliant idea. He wanted to do a spoof of Dr. Seuss that was also a send-up of furry fandom. I gave him guarded encouragement. What he came back to me with was a script, and layout, for a booklet more than 30 pages long – far more work than I had any intention of signing on for. Moreover, Kevin was someone who loved every word he wrote, almost as much as he loved to talk. I thought 36 pages was much too long. He had made his point midway, and was beating a dead horse (so to speak) for the last half of the book. Regretfully, I declined to be the illustrator.
Kevin had another ace up his sleeve, though. Where, exactly, he met the unknown graduate of Sheridan College’s animation course I don’t know. But Ray Larabie was his man!
On the whole, the book came out well. With covers and end papers, it bulked out to 40 xeroxed pages of 8 ½ by 14 paper folded over and stapled. Ray’s imitation of the Seussian art style was close enough to fool even a second look. Nor was the text anything less than clever. Its main weakness as a spoof was simply that Kevin could not edit. What might have been a gentle spoof became, in effect, a comprehensive put-down of all furry fandom.
Moreover, he misjudged his audience. Kevin no doubt expected furry fandom to love him for the poke in the eye he had given it, and was caught totally by surprise when some furries took a swing back at him. This was prophetic, as Kevin’s future career in furry fandom demonstrated.
The booklet left an impression, no doubt of it. Though hated by many, copies at a dollar or two dollars each soon sold out. There was a second midnight run on the office xerox machine, and then it was out of print. Ten years later, though, most furries had never heard of it. For that matter, with the still-rapid growth of that fandom – and its detachment from any sense of its own history – most furries by 2009 have probably never heard of Kevin Duane, either.
But in the years after Green Tits & Fur, Kevin went on to create Digital Impudendum. Under that name he produced a dozen or so collections of furry erotica on CD-Rom. Digital Impudendum, according to Kevin, loosely translated as the “rude finger.” I immediately felt this was a mistake, and said so. Had he called himself merely Flipping Bird Inc., it might have worked. But with Digital Impudendum there was a sense that he was trying to pass an insult over people’s heads – another example of Kevin showing himself clever at other’s expense, and turning out to be too clever for his own good. Whether or not my misgivings were justified, he stuck with the name.
The early DI disks went over well. But problems set in early. Kevin was not so much a businessman as a good salesman. I thought he made ruinous deals with retailers at cons. He gave away too many samples. He took money and sometimes forgot to mail the disks. There remains persistent contention with contributors who complain they were never paid, though so far as I know the worse the majority can say is that they were late and encouraged to take their money in wares. But that created it’s own problem in as much as too many people were selling the same disks at the same cons.
To understand the full impact of a host of dissatisfied, vocal artists, you have to realize that Kevin was an eternal optimist. He made lavish promises based on blue-sky reasoning. I recall many arguments in which he would produce statistics such as “millions on the internet, hundreds of thousands of potential furries, thousands of sales.” I could never explain why, but knew all the same that sales weren’t like that. Not everyone was as skeptical, though. I’ve no doubt Kevin convinced a lot of his artists that they were going to make hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. Instead, they ended up with a couple of hundred… possibly months late. In the ensuing flurry of accusations and counteraccusations, some artists refused payments in arrears.
The early DI disks were produced in batches as large as a thousand, which Kevin claims with some justice was the most economical print run. Based on selling nearly all of them, at the retail price or at wholesale to dealers, Kevin reasoned they had to return huge profits. It looked good on paper if you trusted the numbers. But of course he never sold them all at full price. Dealers wanted large discounts. Promotional gimmicks that might have worked if Kevin were selling kitchen appliances or garage accessories – such as ice-cream parties at cons, and balloons –ate up profits without selling the product. As reality set in, he was sharp enough to alter his tactics somewhat, but the new approach didn’t help matters either.
Kevin cut down on convention traveling, then sold most of his disks to other dealers. The flaw in the plan seemed obvious to me, but unfortunately he didn’t see it that way. If he meant to become a supplier, he should probably get out of retail altogether, or else he was creating competition for his own business. Nor did he see the drawback of attempting to pay artists who contributed by giving them disks to sell instead. The result could have been foreseen by anyone less optimistic. At some cons there were three, four, or more dealers, and several artists at their tables, all selling the same disks and undercutting each other.
Needless to say, the thousands of dollars Kevin was certain he would make, and the handsome payments he promised to his artists, never materialized. He did as well as he could to pay out of his own pocket, but inevitably there were many artists who lost patience after a year or two, and gave up on him. It was usually “first come, first paid,” and many found Kevin with empty pockets. Just what the balance sheet it, I don’t know. I don’t believe it to be as far in the red as common opinion has it, but don’t wish to parrot anyone’s claims. That I wasn’t short-changed myself is all I can say with confidence. Kevin was the one most likely to been out of pocket in a big way.
More self-defeating behavior followed. As if driven by Furies of his own nature, Kevin poured more and more art into the disks. From a couple of hundred files, the last productions grew to five hundred. I pointed out that the more art, the more money he owed to the contributors for each disk. There were more contributors, as well. If the point sunk in, it had no noticeable effect.
Toward the end, surprisingly, Kevin found an investor willing to sink a large amount of money into Digital Impudendum. I knew the investor well, and questioned his decision. But he felt that as a silent partner, he could exercise some restraint on Kevin and improve his business practices. In the aftermath, he would rather his name not be mentioned in connection with Digital Impudendum, Kevin, or CD ROMs.
Rather than pay off outstanding liabilities, once he had a substantial amount of money, Kevin went into hyper-drive. His plans expanded to the production not of one or two new disks at a time, but eight or ten all at once. How he would expand a saturated market by increasing expenses, I never understood. In the end, not all the proposed disks were produced. But, something like six were – and predictably they glutted the market. Where someone might have bought each of one or two new disks, now they bought one or two out of a larger choice.
It seemed increasingly clear that Kevin produced disks not as a business, but out of an obsession with the art. Digital Impudendum existed mainly to guide huge amounts of furry smut to Kevin’s notice, and could not be constrained by considerations of mere economics. The pity of it was that the whole Digital Impudendum project might have succeeded on that level, if it had been pitched to furry fandom as a hobby from the start. It was Kevin’s high expectations, communicated to artists desperate for income, that left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
Another would-be entrepreneur, Darrell Benvenuto and his American Journal of Anthropomorphics, followed almost the exact same path to the exact same end – high expectations, initial enthusiasm, disappointment and failure. Significantly, Darrell too was accused of being a cheat and fraud. Like Digital Impudendum, AJA simply had no profits to distribute.
The enterprise sputtered out sometime in the early years of the new century. There was no particular reason, just accumulated deficits. It’s likely that Kevin had simply come to the end of his rope. He was banned from a couple of cons, one of them the biggest furry con of the year. His wife had put her foot down about being away from home for weeks, putting an end to Kevin’s travels. He had used up the investment money. And, by this point, his reputation had been destroyed by relentless critics.
Unquestionably, the most lasting memory in furry fandom of Digital Impudendum, and of Kevin Duane, is that of a scam and a humbug. I would stand by “humbug” in as much as persuasion was his chief talent, but scamming fandom was the last thing in his mind. Ultimately, he came to the end of his rope as a landed immigrant in Canada as well. After twenty years of missing documents and changing rules, he had still not finished his paperwork. Then, after a number of predictably self-destructive moves, his wife disowned him. With no sponsorship, no means of support and facing charges (that were later dismissed), remaining in Canada was no longer viable. In an instance of clear sightedness, Kevin left the country voluntarily.
Kevin currently resides with a friend in Philadelphia, hoping to someday re-enter Canada to live. No doubt on the same bus with Conrad Black, but stranger things have happened.
None of this endless series of disasters was at all foreseeable in 1993, when Green Tits & Fur made its hopeful debut. It’s rather sobering to look back on that clever but somewhat misconceived spoof – a relic of not only early furry fandom, but also a man’s life – and reflect on how horribly things can go wrong when dreams and reality collide.
Last revised: 29 March, 2011
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