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Comic Strip / Liberty Meadows

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An award-winning newspaper comic strip – and later comic book – created by Frank Cho, Liberty Meadows was syndicated in newspapers from 1997 to 2001, and subsequently collected in comic book form by Insight Studios and Image Comics.

The strip centers around the denizens (both human and animal) of Liberty Meadows, an animal sanctuary and 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 former circus bear and mad scientist; Dean, a lecherous sexist pig (literally, a pig); Leslie, a bullfrog with hypochondria; Truman, a cute and naive duckling; and Oscar, a mischievous dachshund (and one of the few animals not to talk). Other characters include Al, an over-qualified bartender with a penchant for conspiracy theories; Jen, Brandy's rocket-scientist roommate with a fondness for toying with men; Roger, Brandy's former fiancé who constantly schemes to win her 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 (specially Jen) 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 newspapers, 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 final issue published thus far. Cho has stated that any further revival is unlikely due to his outside work and family commitments.

The strip began as University Squared, which Cho created for The Diamondback student newspaper at his alma mater, the University of Maryland. It was essentially a beta version for Liberty Meadows, featuring Frank (as an anthropomorphic duck), Brandy, Dean, Leslie, Ralph and others.

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.
  • The Baby of the Bunch: Truman.
  • Betty and Veronica: Brandy and Jen to Frank.
    • Also Frank is the Betty to Roger’s Veronica to Brandy’s Archie.
  • 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.
    • A recurring gag are appearances by characters from nearly every other comic strip from the same newspaper comic pages that had Liberty.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Dean.
  • The Catfish: Khan.
  • Character Development: Oscar at first is too little to understand Timmy in a Well. In a later arc where Frank ends up in a mineshaft, Oscar understands the trope, and apparently knows semaphore to explain a dangerous situation.
  • 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 Lucy Lawless, 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. In fact, the webcomic reveals that Brent "rescued" what he thought was Skull from Liberty Meadows. It was actually the Panda.
  • Erotic Eating: Brandy can tie a cherry stalk in a knot with her tongue (a'la Sherilyn Fenn in Twin Peaks). This revelation renders Frank incapable of coherent speech.
  • Evil Twin: One plotline involved the arrival of an evil Brandy from a parallel universe - followed, in a Shout-Out to Red Dwarf, by the arrival of "Ace," an alternate-universe Frank who is her arch-nemesis.
  • 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 ordinary 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
  • Going Cold Turkey: Brandy makes Dean go without cigarettes for his own good. He only lasts a few days, not helped by surreal hallucinations.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: When Jen is trying to seduce Frank, his shoulder angel and devil appear, with the devil telling him to jump her bones and the angel telling him to resist. But when Jen drops her robe, even the angel says: "Dude, jump her bones."
  • Homemade Inventions: Ralph
  • 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. She wants to go dancing. Frank initially doesn't. She places her boobs right in front of his face and he changes his mind.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: At one point, our heroes are trapped and among the foodstuffs they have is Soylent Green.
  • Immune to Slapstick: Rarely is Jen ever the victim of any, and then usually in only some Sunday color strips.
  • 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.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: When Frank falls down a mineshaft that is rapidly filling with rainwater, Brandy ties back her hair, grabs a safety line, and orders the animals to pull them up when she finds him. The problem is that the water floods too fast and an injured Frank slips out of Brandy's grip. She lets go of the safety line and keeps Frank's head above water. When they end up in the woods, she tends to him to the best of her ability until help can come via her signal fire. Frank is actually disappointed when they get rescued because of how awesome she is.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Despite knowing Brandy for so many years than Frank, Tony the repairman mentions that the former is like a little sister to him.
  • 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
  • Nice Character, Mean Actor: Downplayed with Mark DeRail. On-camera, he's described as a rugged manly-man that educates the public about nature. Off-camera, while he's a bit narcissistic and vain, he's pretty civil to all of the animals that he meets at Liberty Meadows. It helps that Brandy as the Team Mom is trying to get everyone to behave for the shoot, and encouraging them to try and not kill Mark by accident. 
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Al the Bartender refuses to serve Jenna Bush.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Dean the pig gets clobbered every single time he hits on a woman. On one occasion he is savagely beaten for five strips. By the end of the fourth strip, it's getting a bit intense and you're fearing for his life.
  • Nostril Shot: Leslie mimicked this close-up shot from below when he and the guys were lost in the woods.
  • Prison Rape: This 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.
  • Schmuck Bait: Don't ask Ralph the former circus bear if he can do tricks. At best, he'll show off his armpit solos.
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • Brandy’s mother, Barbara, is a smothering type for her daughter and Roger.
    • Tony the repairman, encouraged Frank to ask Brandy out on several occasions, knowing full well of Frank’s feelings for the latter.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: The animals disappeared during Brandy’s wedding.
  • 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 the strip 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.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • More than once, the heroes try to invoke Timmy in a Well by asking their dogs to run and get help, or to track down someone lost. One dog leads Leslie to a fire hydrant instead, while Oscar rolls over for belly rubs as Truman realizes they need to get adults to stop The Cow. 
    • Usually, the Zany Scheme land of Liberty Meadows is just a place where the animals have wild adventures. After the Cow kidnaps Mark DeRail, however, he ends up diagnosed with PTSD. Julius mentions that the scandal has caused bad publicity for Liberty Meadows when the shoot was supposed to promote the residents' well-being and the location itself. In fact, the evening news alleges that the residents tried to kill Mark on purpose. 
  • Take That!: Many a Newspaper Comic such as Cathy, The Family Circus, Peanuts, Mark Trail, Dick Tracy and much more
  • Team Mom: Brandy is this to all of the animal residents. It's her job as one of the vets on staff.
  • The Tease: Jen is this. She loves provoking Dean and Frank's male gazes.
  • Thermometer Gag: "That's not an oral thermometer!"
  • Wedgie: During the longest beat-down in the comic's run, Dean gets an atomic wedgie as a coup-de-grace.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Frank and Brandy. Possibly a Maybe Ever After at the end of The Wedding Album.
  • What's He Got That I Ain't Got?!: In one strip, Frank complains after seeing Brandy with her boyfriend:
    Frank: Look at the way Brandy's fawning over Roger. It's just disgusting. Take away his height, his good looks, his bulging muscles, his piercing eyes, his perfect teeth, his rock-hard abs... What does he have that I don't?!
    Ralph: Brandy.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: When a celebrity animal photographer Mark DeRail comes to visit Liberty Meadows, the Cow kidnaps him and acts out the part of Annie Wilkes from Misery and acting like Mark is Paul Sheldon. Fortunately,  Ralph and Leslie find them and accidentally save Mark before the cow can use a sledgehammer to break Mark's legs. Leslie would accept the thanks, except he still has the hammer stuck in his face.