Mikefox here! This is my first blog post and I’m both excited and a little nervous to start using this space to communicate with you all. I’ve been getting just… so many lovely DMs, emails, and tweets as you all read Lt. Freya. And it’s so much more than I expected. This was a childhood dream yanno, to be a comic artist? And now that it’s real… thank you. So as we head into the end finale of Book 1- I wanted to talk to you all about the history of Lt. Freya. Freya has always been a trauma story. And by always- I mean since I first came up with the story in 1995. Of course I didn’t know it at the time. Anyone who has spent any time with my twitter knows I had a brief and violent childhood. The kind that still haunts me and my relationships.
In my favorite book on the subject, The Body Keeps the Score, the author discusses an experiment they were party to. Traumatized kids and a control group of normal kids were shown a series of pictures and asked to tell a story based on it. There was nothing rigged about it. It was just normal photos showing family situations. The control group always made up.. the stories you’d expect from kids. A photo of a dad working on his car with his kid handing him tools? The control group said the family fixed the car and then went out for iced cream. The traumatized kids? The children beat the father with the tools and ran him over with the car.
The book says that traumatized kids struggle to imagine benevolent resolutions to every day situations. All the world is dangerous, and sinister. And so … as a kid in the hayday of anthro media (the late 80’s and early 90’s) I gravitated towards those funny little animal people. They were easier for me to relate to than humans. And due to my past, when I drew or saw photos of them- I imagined horrific ends for them. My classmates struggled with me. I was the “best artist” in the class and they loved to look at my pictures. But they always lamented how violent they were. Sorry Leonardo, you didn’t mean to fall on your sword like that!
And it was with all this context that I drew my first ever comic. A fox kid who was me. And I drew the events of my childhood, in all their gruesome violence. We draw what we know. And no one ever told me this was abnormal. I hid the comics tho. On some level aware and ashamed. One day a friend found them, laughed and called me a homophobic slur, then ran to show the comics to my family. To my relief he found one of the tamer, existential ones. And my parents just though it was me being “That weirdo obsessed with funny little animal people.”As I got older I discovered Starfox. Specifically the Nintendo Power comic Star Fox by Benimaru Ito. I wrote letters to Nintendo Power and begged for scans of his original art, his notes, his autograph- anything! I was obsessed. I played starfox daily and gosh… it made me feel better. Between Disney’s Robinhood and Starfox- I was set on fox anthros being my cup of tea.
So after loving the hint of tragedy in the Starfox comic, and the romantic subplot… I started my own story. It was a simple sci-fi story at first about a hero fox against an evil empire. It was always a story of a hero fox turning against his own. I saw home as a rotten thing- and wish I’d had the strength to turn against it during my turbulent childhood. So my story was always a story about a good guy, discovering the rotten truth, and fighting against it. At the time- Fox Morrison was the main character. Yes, I was a huge doors fan. All the major players and places are Doors references. Freya Storm? Originally a male character “Rider Storm”. Tangi? “She went down to Tangi Town.” from Maggie McGill. Roth? Short for their producer Paul A. Rothschild. And so on. Anyway- remember that weird study where the traumatized kids put horrific stories onto images they were shown? That was me. I wrote a story of heroic space foxes. But it was the most gruesome, grimdark thing I could muster at the age of 13. The dark world they lived in? Consent was outlawed. Drugs and abuse were used as mind control tactics to make Fox Morrison obedient to the evil UTF. Fox was bloodied, beaten, and constantly in the hospital. The only other good person in the world was “Jennifer” – the nurse who cared for him. They fell in love. And rebelled against the evil empire. I threw my everything into this comic while I went to comic book conventions to pitch my art (at 15) to publishers, and hoped maybe they’d let me do my furry comic someday. I got a bite. Sirius entertainment offered me a deal. And… that’s when my mental health failed. All the violence caught up with me. and I went into a depression so deep that I didn’t draw for 20 years. Eventually I picked the habit back up again- but had to start from square one. This was maybe 6 years ago, as of this writing. During my return to art I stopped drinking (I was a bit of an alcoholic), got into therapy, and tried to do my space opera again. I got through 7 pages and quit.My therapist, keen to understand that the story of these space foxes was *my own* story… gave me an idea. “Give them a better world. You deserve it.”
So I did. I killed all the darkest elements of the story. I made consent explicit and wrote stories with a “Yes means yes!” mentality. I had them fall in love. I had them love each other like I wanted to be. I included my own self insert (Kiira) and she gets loved, too. Yes, there’s still a dark evil empire. And yes they are still rebelling against it. But… it’s a story about my future now. Not a rehash of my past. So for all of you who have been telling me the story resonates with you. For everyone who sent me messages about a “yiff comic” that makes them feel things? Thank you. This whole comic comes from a place of deep love, and a deep need to be loved. I want to share this very special thing with all of you and, as an artist, that people *get* what I’m saying about trauma, love and recovery? I couldn’t ask for more.