An award-winning newspaper comic strip
, and later Comic Book
, created by Frank Cho. It was syndicated in newspapers from 1997-2001, and since then has been collected in comic book form by Insight Studios and Image Comics
The strip concerns both the human and animal denizens of Liberty Meadows, an animal sanctuary/rehabilitation clinic. Said denizens include Brandy Carter, a beautiful animal psychiatrist; Frank Mellish, a nerdy veterinarian with a huge crush on Brandy; Al, the often-injured handyman; Julius, the beleaguered owner; Ralph, a mad-scientist/former circus bear; Dean, a lecherous sexist pig (literally, a pig); Leslie, a hypochondriac frog; Truman, a cute and naive duckling; and Oscar, a mischievous dachshund (and one of the few animals not to talk). Other characters include Jen, Brandy's rocket-scientist roommate with a fondness for toying with men; Roger, Brandy's ex-fiance who constantly schemes to win Brandy back in that Romantic False Lead
kind of way; and Frank Cho, the author who appears as a monkey
The strip is notable for how Cho freely mixes visual styles in the strip, drawing the majority of the cast like Walt Kelly's anthropomorphic animals
, borrowing Dave Stevens
's pin-up look for Brandy, Franklin Booth
's lush landscapes and routinely throws in the styles of whatever artists and cartoonists Cho feels like homaging at the time.
Though it started its life on the comics page, after four years, Cho pulled it from newspapers claiming to be tired of dealing with newspaper censors. Most of the censorship concerned the large amounts of Looney Tunes
-esque violence, as well as Brandy and Jen, who were drawn in a style notably sexier than just about anything else on the comics page (with tons of Male Gaze
to boot) and who were written as clearly aware of their sexuality in ways few other newspaper comics character have been. Another constant concern was Dean who, well, acted realistically lecherous and not just "newspaper comic" lecherous, if that makes any sense. Truthfully, the censored strips
aren't that bad... they just toe the PG-13 line in ways newspaper editors were not comfortable with. Let's just say they didn't have these problems with The Born Loser
After leaving the syndicated, Cho self-published the comic book until issue #27, with Image Comics
taking over printing and distribution. The comic book went on a hiatus in early 2004 after issue #36 until June 2006 when issue #37 came out, the last issue published so far. Cho has said that he hopes to start the book up again soon.
The strip began as "University-Squared" in The Diamondback
newspaper at Cho's alma mater, the University of Maryland. It was essentially a beta version for Liberty Meadows, and featuring Brandy, Dean, Leslie, Ralph and others (and Frank was an anthropomorphic duck).
This comic provides examples of:
- The Aesthetics of Technology: Leslie activates Ralph's time machine because it looks just like the coffee maker
- Author Appeal: A predilection for busty, intelligent chicks who look like Bettie Page has to be a more common thing than most other Author Appeal examples.
- Author Avatar: Frank the Monkeyboy. Though the fact that the main character is a short man named "Frank" (and his previous "Frank" in "University-Squared" WAS an Author Avatar also in love with Brandy) seems to imply there's more than one, Cho denies it (and says Frank is partially based off of a friend of his).
- Ax-Crazy: The Cow starts out as a Cloud Cuckoo Lander, but ends up as one of these - literally. She also combines it with Stalking Is Love.
- Betty and Veronica: Brandy and Jen
- Big Word Shout: "KHAAAAN!"
- Bound and Gagged: Happens to Leslie and Ralph at the hands of the Cow, complete with ball gags in a Shout-Out to Pulp Fiction. Evil Brandy also does this, to Brandy and then to Frank.
- The Cameo: Brent and Francis from PvP appear at a sci-fi convention. And Skull a few strips later.
- Casanova Wannabe: Dean.
- The Catfish: Khan.
- Cheek Copy: Dean tries this, and cracks the glass.
- Classically Trained Extra: Al holds a PhD, but still just tends the tavern
- Comically Small Bribe: Dean tries to bribe Frank to perform liposuction with a five dollar bill.
- Comic Book Fantasy Casting: Brandy is very clearly based on Lynda Carter of Wonder Woman fame. In the same vein, her father John Carter was originally supposed to be a dead ringer for Superman, which can be seen in a panel from Brandy's wedding that must be gold to all Superman/Wonder Woman shippers (he eventually ends up looking an awful lot like Tom Selleck).
- Brandy's resemblance to Wonder Woman is parodied in the strip itself several times. One instance is when Liberty Meadows catches on fire and the cartoonist fantasizes about Brandy saving the day by turning into Wonder Woman (this is scrapped when he decides it's too ludicrous). Another time is at the comic convention, when geeky fanboys continue to insist that Brandy is Lynda Carter and ask how many times she spun around to turn into Wonder Woman. When she finally convinces them that she is not Carter, they immediately start insisting that she is the actress who played Xena.
- Conspiracy Theorist: Al the bartender, though his theories tend to be a bit further back than normal. Like his rant about Francis Bacon writing Shakespeare's plays every time someone mentions "bacon".
- Contest Winner Cameo: Dave Colombo, "a huge fan from the Midwest" who pays Monkeyboy Cho a shoebox full of twenties for a 30 second appearance.
Dave (facing the fourth wall): "Ladies, I'm a lonely, lonely man..."
- Crossover with Player Versus Player while many other characters sneak in now and then
- A Duckling And His X: Truman and Oscar.
- Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Come with everything from claims that Truman is related to dinosaurs, to Ralph's inventions malfunctioning.
- Everythings Better With Dinosaurs Fighting Giant Monkeys
- Everything's Better with Monkeys
- Evil Twin: Evil Brandy
- Executive Meddling: Frank Cho has since spoken of how often his editors wanted to make the strip "Five-Year-Old Accessible" which lead him to switch from syndication to Image Comics. He did however note they made the positive suggestion of turning Leslie into a bullfrog rather than as a living lima bean as he'd originally envisioned.
- Happens in-universe a number of times. Notably, Evil Brandy's Evil Pikachu monster is conveniently deleted from existence at the urging of his editor.
- Fanservice: Brandy and Jen were walking fanservice while wearing clothing, much less the skimpy outfits and underwear Cho sometimes drew them in. Censorship got to most of it, but let's just say that this is Frank Cho's most notable artistic quality to comic fans for a reason.
- Form-Fitting Wardrobe
- Funny Animal
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Deserves a Lifetime Achievement Award in the field. Of course, 90% of the time his editors or censors caught the "I tore my sac", "Nice Beaver, Brandy!" or Jen's ridiculously-skimpy bikinis, and made Frank re-do the strips. He pretty much intentionally created things to get rejected.
- Homemade Inventions: Ralph
- Hot Scientist: Jen is a rocket scientist
- Hypochondria: Leslie the frog is a hypochondriac who diagnoses himself with anything from lead poisoning (from a pencil) to "ovarian cysts", much to Frank's frustration.
- I Have Boobs, You Must Obey!: Jen demonstrates the technique.◊
- I'm a Humanitarian: At one point, our heroes are trapped and among the foodstuffs they have is Soylent Green.
- "Jeopardy!" Thinking Music: The Words "Jeopardy Music" literally appear over Leslie's head when Frank tells him "That's not an oral thermometer."
- Landing in Someone's Bathtub:
- In one strip Ralph is shot into Dagwood's bath in the strip below. Frank changes the gag so that Ralph lands in Blondie's bath.
- There's another, where Ralph is testing a device he invented that makes teleporting possible. He ends up teleporting himself into the shower, while Dean is in there. He does this, incidentally, just as Dean drops the bar of soap he was cleaning himself with.
- Mad Scientist: Ralph tends to make stuff like self-warming toilet seats and instant bacon fryers, which then explode. In one arc though he made a teleportation device for shortening his trip to the bathroom, during one of the tests it opened a portal to an Alternate Universe and allowed Brandy's evil twin in.
- Male Gaze: Remember, This is Frank Cho.
- Marshmallow Hell: Jen's (obviously successful) tactic for persuading Frank to accompany her to Tom's art show, among other occasions. Notably of the "soft and gentle" variety, as opposed to the "forceful, suffocating" type.
- Meat Grinder Surgery: Once Frank is forced to use "Moby Dick" as anaesthesia due to budget cuts. And then there's Ralph and Leslie's attempt at liposuction.
- Meat-O-Vision: At one point Dean succumbs to this, after 30 minutes without food.
- Ms. Fanservice: Brandy and Jen.
- Innocent Fanservice Girl, in Brandy's case. She's certainly bright enough to understand why males react so enthusiastically to her; however, she's idealistic and professional enough to not intentionally flaunt it (unlike Jen). Indeed, one of the classic gags is Jen asking for Brandy's opinion on an outfit, being told it's trashy or too revealing, and then liking the outfit even more because of the disapproval.
- My Beloved Smother: Brandy's Mom. Frank's mother on the phone
- Naked People Trapped Outside: Jen seduces and strips Frank, only to toss him outside and lock the door leading to a number of awkward and embarrassing situations.
- Newspaper Comics
- No Animals Were Harmed
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Al the Bartender refuses to serve Jenna Bush.
- Nostril Shot: Leslie mimicked this close-up shot from below when he and the guys were lost in the woods.
- Prison Rape: Almost happens to Frank when he gets arrested after a bar fight, but his friends bail him out just in time.
- Relax-o-Vision: the "graphic and nonpolitical correct" panels have been replaced by a picture of a bunny, who says, "Gosh, I'm so cute and nonthreatening."
- Romantic False Lead: Brandy's ex-fiance, Roger.
- Shout-Out: A massive amount of pop culture references
- There are also several references to landmarks in and around College Park, Maryland, home of Frank Cho's alma mater, the University of Maryland. These were even more frequent in University Squared, when Jen was rarely seen without her "Beltsville USDA" t-shirt (such as when she just wasn't wearing a shirt).
- Characters in Liberty Meadows would occasionally be seen reading University Squared
- On a recurring basis, Khan the biggest, meanest catfish in the tri-county area. And Julius and his arch-nemesis Augustus.
- Slow-Loading Internet Image: Dean has a problem with it.
- Take That: Many a Newspaper Comic such as Cathy, The Family Circus, Peanuts, Mark Trail, Dick Tracy and much more
- Thermometer Gag: "That's not an oral thermometer!"
- Will They or Won't They?