Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Entry 74: Starbunny, Inc.

Today we’re talking about people finding their place in the world. Well, I say ‘people,’ but I mean ‘bunnies.’ And I say ‘the world,’ but this comic is set on multiple planets, so maybe ‘the universe’ would be better. And I say ‘we’re talking,’ but obviously I am writing, and posting to a blog, and by the time you read this I will of course be finished and not actively writing these words any longer. What I’m trying to say is that this post contains a lot of analogies because those are what stand out to me the most about Starbunny, Inc.

Before we begin, I want to let you know that Starbunny, Inc. is a narrative comic that is best read in order from the beginning, and that this post will contain certain spoilers. The setting takes a little bit of establishment, so discussing the comic would be difficult without giving away certain important details. If you care about such things, feel free to start reading and then tab back on over here to see what I have to say. It’s a quick and easy read, so don’t worry about getting all bogged down and taking a lot of time and effort to see if it’s something you can get into.

Starbunny, Inc. tells the story of Blue Hoppowitz, a bunny with a big problem. He’s lactose intolerant… which means he doesn’t drink milkshakes. And bunnies are all about milkshakes. Everyone knows that all bunnies love making and drinking milkshakes above all else. The Hoppowitz family, in particular, has built a fortune, an industrial empire, even, based upon milkshakes.

Blue could take charge of his family’s legacy. He’s the eldest, the heir to the role of Hoppowitz Shakes CEO, but he’s not suitable for that job. Not just because of his lactose intolerance, but because he doesn’t fight for it. He doesn’t particularly want to run the company, doesn’t have a drive to keep himself in charge. It’s clear that, overall, his heart wouldn’t be in it. He’s not a bunny of industry, or cutthroat business practices. It’s clear that he is very strongly at odds with the basic principles of the setting in which he finds himself.

So he takes off, in search of a place where he can belong. As it happens, he’s far from the first bunny to do so… Grandma Hoppowitz herself led the Great Bunny Migration generations earlier, leading bunnies to the Milky Way where the majority now consider themselves quite at home.

In leaving his home because he doesn’t fit in among the other bunnies, Blue is in fact following in something of a bunny tradition, reenacting on an individual level the journey that his grandmother started long ago.

Starbunny, Inc. is a very child-friendly comic. It tackles issues of identity and sense of belonging in a simple and easy-to-understand style. And, of course, it’s about talking bunnies whose entire culture is centered around milkshakes and who travel through space by holding stars in nets.

Like all the best children’s stories, it combines lessons and introspection with the fantasy. As simple and unassuming as Starbunny, Inc. can seem, there’s true depth to it. Sometimes it surprises me in very clever ways, and sometimes its cleverness shines through without surprising me at all, because the whole universe of the story feels so coherent that I can’t imagine things going any other way.

Blue’s speech there encapsulates what, to me, is the entirety of Starbunny, Inc. A complete picture of the comic, its message, and its appeal, are summarized in that one panel.

On one level, Blue’s concern is silly, simple, and funny. His whole sense of self is thrown off because he can’t digest milk! What a foolish bunny, there are far more important just as silly, but different reasons in my life to doubt my sense of identity and how I fit into my community.

But of course, that kind of concern rises in many people, for many reasons. People doubt themselves because of who they’re attracted to, or physical disabilities, or religious disagreements with their families. None of those things make a personal fundamentally inhuman, or disqualify them from belonging to whatever group they came out of… but the concern is still there. One of the most fundamental and painful parts of the human condition, perfectly illustrated in the form of a bunny who can’t drink milkshakes.

What I love about Starbunny, Inc. is its ability to raise these concerns, deal with these profoundly painful personal experiences, while still being fun-for-all-ages, lighthearted entertainment. The comic never loses its distinctive tone, one in which ridiculous things are commonplace and treated as perfectly serious and matter-of-fact by the characters, while the audience gets to sit back and follow everything with a level of detachment that is elegantly aided by the sheer absurdity of this setting.

The space storm, the rivers of milk, the use of milkshakes as a culturally defining feature, even the choke berries seen below, they’re all elements that make Starbunny, Inc. seem especially fantastical and wondrous. I love the choke berries especially, because they indicate that all the wondrous elements of this universe are not necessarily benign or even neutral. Just like the real world, some things are beneficial, others harmful. Starbunny, Inc. makes it clear that the harmful things exist in the very same realm of simplistic absurdity as everything else in this setting.

Starbunny, Inc. is written and drawn by Dave Roman, and updates on Wednesdays. We’re definitely still toward the beginning of this story, and I’m as excited as you should all be to find out where it will take us. Read it to your kids, if you have kids. Read it to yourself, if you have none. The quest to find one’s place is an important one, and I don’t think it ever really ends. If you’re ever feeling a little bit like you don’t know exactly who you are or where you belong, then I’d say it’s a good time to sit down and read or reread Starbunny, Inc. and see what lessons you might find there.

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