Circles is a Furrynote LGBT Slice of Life comic book about 6 gay men living in a large house together in Boston. The story concerns itself with the comings and goings of the 6 inhabitants: Paulie, the loving den mother of the group dealing with the effects of HIV; his for all intents and purposes husband, Doug; and their four renters: Ken, part Straight Gay, part Gym Bunny, part Anything That Moves; Arthur, an artist and one of Paulie's oldest friends; Taye, a Camp Gay Performance Artist, and Marty, the Straight Man and Audience Surrogate. The 6 core characters, plus a few secondary characters, form a family unit to work through problems and situations.
The story is told mostly from Paulie's point of view as he writes in a diary, but his is not the pure point of view, since we see many things to which he is not privy. Paulie's diary segments are a Framing Device used to introduce the subject of that season's problem.
A very much beloved comic book series among those who have read it, Circles is usually one of the books many furries would indicate to prove that they're not all sex maniacs. It also had a fairly glacial issue speed, as it had taken 7 years to come out with 8 issues in a comic that started out as "4 times a year".
The series started in the spring of 2001. According to the writers, there were supposed to be 13 issues. Issue 9 would have Ken's backstory, Issue 10 would be a collection of short stories, Issues 11 and 12 were supposed to have tragic events (fans already speculating that one is Paulie dies from AIDS), and Issue 13 will be the final issue. However, due to the comic's severe obscurity, all of this was scrapped for a final issue, Circles: The Years Keep Rolling By, which was released in 2015, thus the series has finally concluded after an extremely severe Schedule Slip.
A reboot of some sort is planned. Thus Circles: Let's Go Round One More Time was released November 2022 on Anthro New England.
The issues are all available on the Rabbit Valley website here. As well as an official site here.
Oh, and by the way, don't let all of the fuzzy animal people and bright colors fool you here. This is a very dramatic and heavy story with funny moments and emotional rollercoasters. In layman's terms, this is a very sad story.
For more Slice of Life Furry Comics that feature similar themes and star a group of cast members, compare Leo Magna's Fur-Piled and Vince Suzukawa's ISO, which happened to be inspired by Circles.
Possible spoilers are left unmarked. It is recommended to read the series first before browsing these tropes.
This comic book provides examples of:
- Arc Number: 6. There are 6 men who are a rating of 6 on the Kinsey scale and they all live under the address of 6 Kinsey Circle.
- Arc Words: "Love". Love is a major theme in this story and many characters refer to their lovers as "love".
- All Gays are Promiscuous: Subverted. Every couple ends up in an exclusive relationship with no cheating. The only characters who were previously promiscuous were Paulie, Arthur, Ken, and John.
- Author Appeal:
- The focus on the romances of the chubbier cast members, one of whom is one half of the Official Couple, might reflect a bit on one of the author's proclivities. Also, attractive women are rarely shown.
- It is interesting to note that all of the characters in this story are actually humans. They are portrayed as animals because of this trope (or Furries Are Easier to Draw), and the authors refer to this as seeing the characters through a "furry lens". That means that this is a Furry Comic in the sense that they are portrayed as animals and not because they actually are animals.
- Beta Couple: Taye and Marty. They remained together nearly the entirety of the story, however they are not the main focus of the story and Paulie and Douglas have been together much longer than them and way before the story took place.
- Bittersweet Ending: Paulie sadly dies from leukemia and Douglas finds it hard to cope. Until he realizes that he still has family who loves him and takes care of him. Paulie did what he could to keep the family together and on good terms so that they are never alone after his passing.
- Black Bead Eyes: Usually when the distance models are used but also even occasionally they will have these eyes up-close due to the artist's art style.
- Bleached Underpants: The artist draws quite a bit of porn, with characters that, in earlier times, looked almost like early incarnations of the characters. So much so that torrents of the comic often call some of these Circles #0.
- Butch Lesbian: Gus, one of Ken's gym friends. She also has a Lipstick Lesbian girlfriend named Lucy.
- Cast Full of Gay: Everyone in the household except Doug's son Jason.
- Coming-Out Story: Marty is forced to come out to his parents and finds that they are largely okay with it.
- Dramedy: The comic is half-drama and half-comedy. It is light-hearted and focuses on the relationships between lovers and the main characters living together and supporting each other like a family. However, there is also a dramatic atmosphere thrown in with sad scenes and even tragedy strikes.
- Expy: Dave, an expy of Davan from Something*Positive.
- Firemen Are Hot: A calendar called "Men of Fire" with pictures of muscular anthropomorphic dogs in slutty poses appears occasionally.
- Foregone Conclusion: The audience knows that Paulie's HIV can only end one way...
- Funny Animal: Subverted. Species is purely aesthetic.
- Funny Foreigner: Jesús is campy and likes to sprinkle some Spanish words in his sentences.
- Furry Lens: Trope Namer. The characters are actually humans, but portrayed as animals visually. The illustrated novel that concludes the series pretty explicitly describes human characters, as opposed to the Funny Animal illustrations.
- Downplayed with Marty who was the only character who was in the closet to his family and when Marty had dinner with his family and the other Kinsey boys, he came out to his parents in a moment of weakness.
- Played Straight with Ken. His backstory involved his Uncle Davis sexually abusing him and threatening to tell everyone he was gay if he ever told anyone what his uncle did to him. Ken hated himself for being gay but after opening his heart to Paulie, he reconciled with his mother and openly embraced who he was.
- Heel–Face Turn: Three characters go through this:
- Douglas starts out as the rudest and most bitter of the bunch. The reason for this is how much he resents the fact that Paulie has AIDS and struggles to come to terms with his nearly inevitable death. But over time, he gets better and becomes much nicer and kinder to everyone else.
- Ken started out bitter and unwelcoming towards Marty and Taye and rather rude to everyone in general. Over time, as more about his past was revealed and how he locked himself away from others emotionally, he came to a revelation and opened his heart to Paulie and then learned to love himself and others.
- Carter Allen was a raging homophobic neighbor of Paulie's who wanted him and all the other gay men that lived nearby out of his neighborhood. Over time, he learned that his kids loved the gang and then when he learns that Paulie paid off his medical bills, he decides to make amends with Douglas after hearing of Paulie's passing and becomes much kinder and nicer to everyone in general and accepting of gay men.
- Interspecies Romance: There are few repeated species. One exception are Doug, his ex-fiancée and their son Jason, who are all otters.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Carter Allen, a vehemently homophobic man who loves his kids, learns that one of his sons is possibly gay.
- Last Guy Wins: In the case of Marty, who meets Taye toward the end of the first issue. Some of this also comes through in John and Arthur, who while part of the One True Threesome with Paulie ended up drifting apart, having several other lovers, and eventually being alone... until at last, they get together in Issue 7.
- Lipstick Lesbian: Lucy, Gus' girlfriend.
- Love Triangle: The comic sometimes hints at one among Marty, Taye and Ken, but never acted on it. Also, Paulie, John and Arthur were an actual One True Threesome during the 1970s, and Paulie and Arthur are still best friends.
- Meaningful Name: 6 Kinsey Circle. The Kinsey scale is a scale from 0-6 with 6 being someone who is exclusively homosexual. There are 6 men living in the residence and they are all exclusively gay. (A rating of 6 on the Kinsey scale.)
- Middle-of-Nowhere Street: In this case, it's #6 Kinsey Circle.
- The Mourning After: In the final issue/book, Paulie dies of AIDS and Douglas is left alone, falling into a detached, "going through the motions" state. Thankfully, the rest of Kinsey 6 is successful in making his life meaningful again, though Douglas makes it clear that "there will never be another Paulie".
- Official Couple: Paulie and Douglas. They were together since the beginning of the story and always remained faithful and stayed together until death.
- Queer Romance: All over the place, but then again this goes without saying.
- Shout-Out: The authors have an afterword where they list the many references such as:
- As pointed out in the first issue, the title of the series is a reference to the song "Circle" by Harry Chapin.
- Paulie is a huge fan of The Beatles and even occasionally quotes them.
- Paulie quotes Pogo when he says "Don't take life so serious, son. It ain't nohow permanent."
- Shirtless Scene: Men take their shirts off quite often.
- Slice of Life: Unusual for a furry comic is that the story and setting is well-grounded and down to earth with no wacky sexual scenarios or situations and the characters are very human and relatable. (Helps that the characters actually are humans.)
- Straight Gay: Several characters fall into this simply by not addressing any particularly gay stereotype.
- There Is Only One Bed: The bed in Taye and Marty's bedroom. They initially share it platonically (and without clothes on), but it becomes their bed when they become a couple. Made even funnier when after they become a couple, it is revealed that Taye arranged to have there be only one bed.
- Tragic AIDS Story: The only character who dies is Paulie and he dies from HIV. Douglas was devastated but soon he was comforted by everyone else. While everyone else was alive and had an Earn Your Happy Ending, at least Doug had a Bittersweet Ending.
- Wham Episode:
- Chapter 5 reveals Paulie's backstory and the events that led up to him contracting HIV.
- Chapter 6 reveals Douglas has a son named Jason and how he first met Paulie after being with Linda.
- Chapter 9 reveals the backstory of Ken and how he was psychologically abused in his childhood.
- Wham Line: Several.
Doug: I have bad feelings about the guy who got you sick.
- From Issue 1, when Paulie asks who Doug has bad feelings for,
Taye: Well...I bribed Arthur to pretend he couldn't pull the beds apart.
- From Issue 2, when Marty asks why Taye said he wasn't "100% nice",
- Wham Shot: When Doug breaks up with Linda, she cries and drops her wedding book on the floor and the next shot reveals a tested positive pregnancy test next to the book.
- You Should Have Died Instead: Douglas says this cold-heartedly to Arthur after he blames himself and wishes it was him that got sick instead of Paulie.