Webcomic: Better Days

Lucy, Sheila and Fisk Black.
Better Days is a Furry Comic by artist Jay Naylor. It follows the lives of a cast of characters, originally primarily focused on siblings Fisk and Lucy Black, and their mother Sheila, though as the comic went on much of the story also involved Lucy's former college roommate Beth.

While Better Days has a fairly well-established fanbase of its own, it likely has an equally large or larger number of people aware of it due to its politics, its sexual themes, and other material and philosophies many find objectionable. Surprisingly, most of these don't involve it being a furry comic.

In the beginning, the comic focused on Fisk and Lucy's childhood, and their mother's love life. While even this early, there were vague themes of misogyny (one comic that stands out is essentially an Author Filibuster stating that most girls only want stupid guys for boyfriends so that they can feel intellectually superior), the comic earned the most ire for having a conservative bent. At this point, this was not overly strong, and manifested generally in a defense of gun rights, the idea that war is sometimes an acceptable option, and the notion that violence is sometimes necessary to solve certain problems (such as when Fisk attacked his mother's rapist with a baseball bat). The comic attracted both insults and praise for a storyline involving the siblings having sex with each other, as it treated the subject fairly realistically.

The drama really began to set in about the time Jay Naylor's relationship with fellow artist Mat Sherer (creator of Badly Drawn Kitties) hit the rocks. All credit for Lucy Black as being Mat's creation was removed, and the character of Beth who was introduced soon after was a rather obvious uncredited Expy of Mat's character Lydia. Jay also ceased following Christianity and became an Objectivist, and the comic's characters gradually moved away from being people who liked, were fine with, or tolerated a conservative bent in the comic to being people who liked, were fine with, or tolerated roughly the same amount of Objectivism as displayed in the Sword of Truth novel series.

Fisk, a fairly emotive child, grew up into a character so stoic that his expression rarely changes at all; the discovery that his father did not die fighting as a member of the armed forces in Vietnam, but was instead a covert operative for a non-government group of independent killers (many of which were former government agents), didn't get so much as a raised eyebrow from him. When offered a spot in this group, Fisk quickly and without hesitation joined this unofficial, unrecognized, unchecked organization.

The comic ended at the end of May 2009, having lasted a little over six years and 639 strips. Its successor, Original Life, began on June 1, 2009.

Better Days includes examples of:

  • Anachronism Stew: Fisk suggesting to Elizabeth to go to the movies seeing Happy Tree Friends. This scene is set in 1982; however, Happy Tree Friends was a series of Internet cartoons, not a theatrical release, so this was likely intentional.
  • Asian and Nerdy: Aron.
  • Aside Glance: One instance in Chapter 22, "Roll Play." When it is up to Lucy to defeat the boss of the DnD campaign, she is told to attack the Sorceress's weak point, the Pink Pearl. One of the guys tell her where it is, which, given the rather... particular choice of words used to describe its location on the Sorceress's body and how it apparently can not be found by "no man," makes it sound suspiciously like a woman's G-spot. Lucy gives a glance at the reader acknowledging this.
  • Author Appeal: There are lots of shots of women's derrieres. Lots and lots of 'em.
  • Author Filibuster: Many. One whole chapter is devoted to the characters suddenly taking a trip to New York so that they can gripe about modern art and that "real" art "looks like what it's of" and inspires businessmen to buy it.
  • Author Tract: The comic started out as an author tract largely for conservatism and mild misogyny, but has gradually grown into an author tract for Objectivism as Jay Naylor discovered that particular philosophy and became a huge Ayn Rand fan. One chapter of the comic is basically a long rant against abstract art or any art that 'doesn't look like something', culminating with the 'good' artist whose paintings "look like what they're of" being given validation first in the form of a big check from a businessman, and then discarding her own search for fulfillment to move in with the male main character, whom she expects nothing of (not even fidelity). And guns are good.
  • Badass: Fisk, on several counts; cracking his principal upside the head with a baseball bat when he attempts to rape his mother, and then later on during his service in the Army during Desert Storm and the Battle of Mogadishu, and finally when he singlehandedly rescues his cousin Persia from a mob-run prostitution ring.
  • Between My Legs: Subverted with one Not Safe for Work strip.
  • Bi the Way: Or as close to the comic gets to portraying this trope. Flounce the mouse winds up hooking up with Persia after fighting with his boyfriend. Word of God says he's bi, and an old boyfriend of his shows up in a pornfolio and ends up having a threesome with Flounce and Persia.
  • Black and Nerdy: The comic portrays Africans as hyenas. In one strip, there's a nerd club and one of the members is a hyena.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Fisk and Lucy.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Happens mainly to several minor characters, but also happens to notable characters like Sheila Black, Rachel, and the couple of Robert and Jessica.
  • Corrupt Church: With the exception of Amy, the comic never depicted a holy person present for more than a single panel as anything but degenerate perverts, in line with Ayn Rand's anti-theist views.
    • Although it's untwisted when Amy gets her own adult comic, as the comic is mostly about her being encouraged to ignore her religious views so as to enjoy premarital sex with someone she finds attractive (as opposed to being in a relationship with).
  • Creator Thumbprint: Objectivism and guns.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Fisk.
  • Fanservice: Not limited to Naylor's pornfolios; there's plenty of shots of female butts, panty-clad or otherwise, within the actual strip.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Some furries represent specific groups. Hyenas represent African-Americans. The few rabbits we see are (raised) Catholic. Likewise, the mice are Jewish.
  • Fille Fatale: Nikki, played tragically due to being abused by her father. She eventually gets better with a lot of counseling.
  • Furry Confusion: The feral dogs from Chapter 2.
    • The one and only time this happens. Naylor seemed to actually notice this trope, and tended to avoid showing or even mentioning any animals for the rest of the comic (excluding some camel spiders in one strip).
  • Gag Penis: Marvin Lipschitz, who is apparently very well hung. His censored penis sort-of delivers an Author Filibuster as the climax of one storyline.
    "The penis spoke. And it was wise."
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: This occurs when Lucy first experiences feelings for Fisk.
  • Ill Girl: Happens to Lucy Black in chapter 3 when she's bedridden with a cold.
    • From Bad to Worse: When Fisk accidentally mistook their mother's blood pressure medication for decongestant, resulting in Lucy having to be rushed to the hospital. Thankfully she got better.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: Elizabeth's family. Fisk comments on this.
  • Panty Shot
  • Parents in Distress: Sheila is nearly raped by Principal Longfellow, but Fisk manages to save her by whacking the guy with a baseball bat.
  • Perky Goth: Beth. Lampshaded in one comic.
  • Phony Veteran: Longfellow.
  • Playing with Syringes: Principal Longfellow's murder. He's injected with a meningitis-causing pathogen (there are several, which one we're never told) by Sheila's husband's army buddies to make it look like he died of surgical complications.
  • Polyamory: Beth, who lost her first boyfriend to an illness and is "afraid to put all her eggs in one basket". At one point, she has three different boyfriends, but is warned that she will have to pick one eventually. She does, and it ends up being Tommy's roommate, Aron...but not until after she's been in a relationship with Fisk.
  • Punny Name: Principal Longfellow. Tell me there wasn't a Double Entendre in there.
  • Rape as Drama: Played dead straight. Sheila was attacked by Harvey Longfellow after she discovers that he lied about knowing her husband in Vietnam, and he attempts to rape her. Fisk, who was by then only about 9 years old, intervenes and hits him with a baseball bat. She realistically suffers a measure of post traumatic stress after this.
    • As for the fate of Longfellow, he ends up in the hospital...where some of Sheila's husband's old Army friends pay him a visit and ensure that he'll never rape anyone again. By killing him and making it look like an accident during surgery.
    • And they send Fisk to a psychiatrist, where he openly admits to having enjoyed cracking a guy over the head with a bat and being happy he died. When we cut back to the psychiatrist, she's happily drawing a dollar sign on her notebook. Yeah...
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: If a character is revealed as a rapist, they're offed within a chapter. Principal Longfellow gets his face beaten in and is subsequently infected with meningitis in his hospital bed, and Nikki's father is promptly Double Taped during a SWAT raid on his house.
  • Retcon: Various minor ones over the years, though the most obvious one is Robert and Jessica's relationship. It had previously been stated that they started dating in the 10th grade, but Puppy Love changes this to them meeting while Robert's already an adult and in a relationship (so that he can cheat on his fianceť with her).
  • Shipper on Deck: Lucy for Fisk and Elizabeth.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The title of Chapter 9, about one of Lucy's peers dating her to get a stab at her mom, was appropriately titled "Lucy's Mom"
    • The hospital shown late in the comic is named after singer Grace Jones as an In-Joke between Naylor and a friend. Another Jones appearance appears in Original Life.
  • Slumber Party: Lucy holds one early on in the comic.
  • Southern-Fried Private: Fisk
  • Space Jews: Cats are white, mice are Jewish, hyenas are black.
    • Though there's been no answers from the Word of God, there's a number of hints that rabbits are analogues for Irish descent.
  • Spin-Offspring: Original Life is a rare webcomics example.
  • Stacy's Mom: The subject of Chapter 9 (complete with Shout-Out title "Lucy's Mom") wherein Ted Stephens dates Lucy to get a stab at her "porcelain white goddess" mother.
  • The Stoic: Fisk, after a while.
  • Suck E. Cheese's: Fun Charlie's
  • Testosterone Poisoning: Fisk insists on spearing a fish for no reason other than he can. This trope was referenced directly in the very next comic.
  • Thanks for the Mammary: Beth dreams about Fisk and realizes that it's only a dream when she accidentally grabs Lucy's left boob.
    Beth: ...You're not Fisk
    Lucy: DO YOU THINK SO?!
  • There Are No Therapists: Played with. After Fisk cracks his mom's would-be rapist over the head with a baseball bat, he's sent to a therapist for help. He emotionlessly tells her about how he enjoyed what he did and was happy that the man was dead and how he expects that he'll be getting in trouble for this. The therapist's response is to smile and draw a dollar sign on her notepad. Yeah...
    • She does actually help him with some of his later childhood traumas, most notably the loss of his virginity at the age of ten (to a sexually abused eleven-year-old).
  • Title Drop: On the very last page.
  • The Unfair Sex: Elizabeth's husband cheating on her is portrayed as a betrayal; Elizabeth cheating on her husband with Fisk out of revenge is portrayed as an acceptable response. She even ends up marrying Fisk after divorcing her husband.
    • It's not really the cheating, but the fact that after all the years she was goaded by her parents into marrying him for gain, she simply doesn't love him. Still, Lucy having more weight in words than her own husband may account for her reaction to this.
  • Victorious Childhood Friend: Elizabeth for Fisk, eventually.
  • Wall of Text: Fisk loves to rant.
  • White Void Room: Frequently.
  • Wondrous Ladies Room: "I knew it!"