The incredible artist and animator, Mike Kazaleh, sat down to chat with Gale and Chipper about his amazing career and influence within and beyond furry. You can listen to and/or read the interview here!

Gale: All right cool. So here we are. My name is Gale Frostbane.

Chipper: And I’m Chipper.

Gale: And we are very excited because today we have our first interview for the furry history website we’ve got going, and it is with an amazing old school furry, Mike Kazaleh. So Mike could you just give us a brief bio for everybody to get to know you, like where you’re from, any fun facts – just a brief overview of you?

Mike: I’m from Detroit. I started working in animated cartoons in Detroit making local commercials before coming to California. I was also dabbling in independent comics back then. Then I started getting more into independent comics and doing more animal characters. That’s it mostly; a lot of it was just doing a lot of drawing pictures all that time.

Gale: Absolutely. I think one of my favorite questions to ask anybody that’s involved in the furry fandom in any way is: How did you find furry, and when was it?

Mike: I mean I was always doing material that they would end up calling furry, and I didn’t discover that anybody else was interested until the 80s when I came to California and I was starting to hit some comic book shows out there, and I discovered there was a developing fandom already. Which was a complete surprise to me because nobody I knew in Detroit was into that.

Gale: For sure. I would love to start with your really honestly impressive career in comics, art, and animation. Could you tell us when the interest in art–and comics specifically, that would eventually lead to animation–started? Was it something that started as a child for you? Was it a career you always wanted to pursue?

Mike: Yeah, I literally have been drawing my entire life. I do not recall starting to draw. I can remember being a toddler, and I don’t ever remember when I started drawing. I was always drawing pictures. And some time, watching Paramount cartoons on TV for the millionth time as a very young child, I realized people drew them, and I thought, boy, it would be nice to draw these cartoons. [Laughs] I think I made up my mind young that that was what I wanted to do for a living. I was doing other things for a living, mainly repairing TV sets for a while in my teen years and just drawing on the side before I was able to make a living at drawing.

Gale: Do you know when you’d say your first professional art job was, or did you get into independent comic work first?

Mike: I got into animation first. I’d been making animation by whatever borrowed equipment I could get a hold of from a really young age, and then about the age of 20 I actually broke into producing independent commercials. They’re all cheap stuff, not nearly as glamorous as that sounded. It was about that time I was rooming downtown in Detroit with Don Simpson, who was more into comic books, and I started drawing more comic books then, too, on the side. And I was shopping a lot of those comic books around back then, but nobody was interested until finally I started drawing Captain Jack. That was my favorite thing I’d done up to that point, and I did get some interest in that, and by the time I sold that comic book I was still, you know….I mean, you can’t make a living off of independent comic books, so I was still working in cartoons at the time. During some of those early years of doing captain Jack I was working full time at Filmation. Then that led to doing some licensed comic books, too. But for a long time I was continuing to do both licensed comics and independent comics, and I was making most of my money doing animation. And that was different areas and television shows and commercials–I did a lot of commercials. Sometimes sales films. Whatever, you know.

Gale: I know, Chipper, you had a specific question about the comics side of things, I believe.

Chipper: Yeah, actually I was hoping to follow up on some of what you were just saying, Mike. I was wondering in particular if there was something–or, what it was about Captain Jack in particular that felt so different or so new? You mentioned that it was your favorite to work on up to that point. What do you think it was about that that really felt like it hit the right note for you?

Mike: Before that, I had drawn something like 300 pages of comics that I had largely failed to place, and I think really, in a way, I was just kind of trying to figure out really what I wanted to do with comic books during that time. And somehow all the things that I liked about comic books at the time gelled with Captain Jack. Especially, yeah, I was doing more animal characters then because a lot of the stuff that was selling at that time had had human beings in them. But I always like drawing animals better, so I didn’t know why I wasn’t drawing more in the comics.

Chipper: That’s fascinating. It raises another question I was wondering about, too. You mentioned that you didn’t necessarily know that there was this genre called “furry” until you found out that others were kind of doing similar things but in different styles. I was wondering what it was like encountering that for you? Did you immediately take to that terminology—like, “yeah my comics are furry!”—or was it different for you?

Mike: Well, they weren’t calling it furry yet. It was, for want of a better description—it was often referred to then as “funny animal fandom,” which was a term they used to use for some, you know, funny comic books with animals in them that were more mainstream. But it was several years later that they started to acquire the furry moniker. It was the same fandom, there just wasn’t a name for it yet.

Gale: Did you first get involved with this group of folks interested in furries, as it would soon be called, just via the internet? I know you mentioned going to some of the comic book shows, whereas were you involved with any of the really early on use of early web discussion, of like email—?

Mike: I was not because, I mean, it was a long time before I had email. It was like 15 years or more later before I had an email. So, it was largely through meeting at conventions, socializing with anybody local, and what they called fanzines, which is what they had before the internet, which were Xerox community magazines, you know? Do you do you know what a fanzine is, or should I tell people what that is?

Gale: Yes, we’ve been trying to get our hands on plenty of copies of them. We think they’re really cool. I know you had a piece in a Rowbrazzle at one point, correct?

Mike: Yes, yes, that’s right.

Chipper: I wish they would make a comeback. They seem so cool.

Mike: Yeah, I mean, the thing that was very different about fanzines is, you know, some of them like Rowrbrazzle came out every three months, which meant arguments happened in slow motion. The net is much better for bickering with people. But another advantage of the internet is you could do things in color, which was prohibitive in fanzines.

Chipper: Were you a regular contributor?

Mike: I was a semi-regular contributor, yeah.

Chipper: Great. Did you have any favorite zines you contributed to?

Mike: I don’t know; I can’t even remember everything now.

Chipper: It’s been some time.

Mike: Yeah, it’s been some time. But, yeah, at the time it seemed a lot of the fandom was centering around the fanzines and the conventions. Surely the internet was a ways away yet.

Gale: So, talking about early fandom. Once furry actually came into being, and furries decided to have their own convention with Confurence 0 in 1989, I know from the goodness that is Wikifur that you were the Guest of Honor at Conference 12. But had you ever attended one of the Confurences prior to that?

Mike: Well, yeah, I did. I can’t tell you what numbers they were, but I’d been to a few of them before that, and my wife Tracy had been to a bunch too.

Gale: Do you have any standout moments from furry conventions where you thought, “Oh, wow, these are really going to take off and in their own form,” aside from Comic or Sci-fi conventions—or any favorite little moments you remember?

Mike: No, I don’t remember because, I mean, sometimes it would be sort of a mini thing on the side, something like, say, the San Diego Comic Con. Or, in L.A., there was a science fiction convention, and so some people would meet at that convention. So, I don’t recall that there was specifically a furry convention before Confurence 0. And they were a little different from some of the other fandoms because it was a lot broader in scope, you know, as opposed—well, let’s say science fiction fandom, you know, it was mostly centered around books and some motion pictures and television shows. But furry was just, literally, anything and everything having to do with animal characters. And so there was, even within that fandom, a broad range of interests. But yeah, no, I didn’t foresee the future in any way if that was the question, no.

Chipper: It’s pretty fascinating to hear that early cons were sort of broad in scope. I think some furries these days have this impression that the furry fandom started from wolves and foxes, and it expanded outward. But I think that that’s a mistaken impression, or—or it sounds like early conventions were quite exploratory in that way, or people could be a lot of different species and there was lots of stuff going on.

Mike: Oh sure there was, there was a lot going on, and there was a lot of different interests that were part of it. I mean, it could be any animal you care to mention. It could be Farmer Alfalfa cartoons or it could be one of the latest motion pictures or it could be a book or comic books or even not nothing having to do with any of those things. It was just, you know, the interest in animal characters.

Chipper: One thing that comes up for a lot of professionals is a question of just…involvement in furry. I know I’ve felt this myself personally, but did you ever worry about people in the professional industry finding out that you’re a furry and attending conventions?

Mike: No, not really. I mean, in the first part, everybody knew was doing those comic books, so I was not worried at all about that, no. There are some people that thought that was odd, but that never really had much to do with what I was actually doing.

Gale: Yeah, I think that’s really awesome. Just having spoken to some friends who’ve been in the furry fandom for a really long time, I know that there have been a handful of furries over the years that felt like they couldn’t talk about furry in their professional careers, in art or entertainment, because they would be looked down upon—especially for the adult aspects of furry fandom. So I’m glad to hear that you didn’t really have to deal with that, and hopefully nobody has ever given you a hard time with it.

Mike: Not really. I mean, sometimes some people make fun of it, but that’s about the extent of it and they didn’t really care. Because a lot of people make fun of people for any number of reasons, so that really didn’t concern me. The whole point of doing something independent is to do something that you want to do. If you do something for a living—let’s say you’re drawing for a living—you kind of are working in a group situation where there’s various people having input into what you’re doing, and the whole point of doing something independently is you want to go off and do something just the way you want to do it. And so, I just wanted to do things that I wanted to do as opposed to what somebody was asking me and paying me to do. So I wasn’t really going to let anybody dictate what I was going to do when I was on my own clock.

Gale: Absolutely, and I feel like a lot more people could benefit by taking that worldview and running with it for sure. Looking at some of the conventions you’ve been to—so, obviously, we’ve talked about you being Guest of Honor at Conference 12, and then you got to be Guest of Honor at Megaplex 2007. Over the years, did you expect furry to get as large as it was or kind of change to see, you know, way more fursuiters around?

Mike: No, I did not see that coming. I did not expect it to be that large, and early on the suiting wasn’t a big focus of it. There’s only a few people who were doing that. So I was quite surprised when I went to Anthrocon and saw there’s about 5000 people there. That was kind of a surprise.

Gale: Did you ever consider getting any sort of fursuit or costume accessories yourself?

Mike: No, it hadn’t actually occurred to me, no. And you know, I don’t think I could construct one very easily. I hadn’t really thought too much about that, even though I knew people who did do that.

Gale: Yeah, they are certainly a lot of work, that is for sure.

Mike: Yeah, I really am bowled over at some of the effort people put into them. Some of the results can be—I mean, some of the costumes I’ve seen, people will really put some care into them. So that’s pretty dazzling.

Chipper: I was hoping to ask, just as a follow-up….You were you were mentioning that, at the conventions you did attend, suiting wasn’t really a big focus early on. I’m curious what the focus was, if you can recall. Were there panels? Presentations? Was it Guest of Honor-focused? What would it be like to be at a convention back in the early aughts?

Mike: Well, there was a certain amount of focus on the comic books back then, and cartoons. You know, animated cartoons. So sometimes you’d be in a place where people would screen cartoons because there was no Youtube then, so you couldn’t just see any cartoon you wanted anytime you want. So sometimes they’d show them at conventions, and they used to do that at other conventions, too. They would have film showings. And yeah, there’s mostly comic books and socializing, sketching….Yeah, so there was a lot of focus on the drawing end of it back then. Either you did them, or you liked them, or both.

Chipper: So actually, another question comes to mind. You were mentioning that, back when “furry” the term didn’t exist, back when it was funny animals, you kind of knew that you always wanted to draw animal characters. Throughout the years did you find that involvement in the furry fandom affected your professional identity? Did being a furry end up changing the way you thought about art?

Mike: Only in the broadest possible sense because…this is just getting at an abstract level, but just certain things that you figure out about the design in the broadest terms when you’re doing your animal comics, that you might be able to incorporate some of those graphic ideas into something else you may be drawings completely unrelated. But just, things that you may take away about shapes, design, and rhythm. And yeah, I mean, it can help your drawing if you’re not drawing animal characters, I think. And most of the time professionally I wasn’t drawing animal characters, or if I was drawing animal characters they didn’t look very much like animals, you know. Like, for a few years I was drawing some comic books based on a show called Camp Lazlo, and they didn’t really look like animals per se. You know they were animals. Or Ren and Stimpy. So, you know, I was able to adapt to whatever the style of the program was because I was doing that when I was actually working on the shows as well. But a lot of time it’s drawing human beings. You know, I did The Flintstones for the commercials for many years, and sometimes they have dinosaurs in them.

Gale: So you’ve been able to work on some incredible things over the years. In particular, I would I would love to hear about your times working on Mighty Mouse and Tiny Tunes and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Mike: Yeah, those were all very different in terms of the experience of them. Mighty Mouse was fun because that was pretty freewheeling. It was a small independent studio. Ralph Bakshi was the first producer I worked for that didn’t give a darn what the network said, and the other thing is even though we were licensing the characters from Viacom, they didn’t really seem to care what we were doing. The bigger problem was with CBS censoring gags and stories. But it was pretty freewheeling, I mean, the emphasis was trying to be funny and making our air dates. So, you know, if you could be fast and funny then it was fine. And it was fast. There wasn’t much time to belabor anything on that show. And we had a couple of funny writers who wrote a lot of the scripts of Tom Minton and Jim Reardon. So, yeah, that was a fun show to work on.

Tiny Tunes was not so much fun. The boss was pretty…yeah, your classic abusive boss. It was a very different situation because Warner Brothers was a large company, and they had just decided to set up this department, and they appointed people to run it. And I think they appointed some people who were not really funny people. And it was a pretty political environment because of the situation, I think. There was a lot of people who were trying to improve their position within the company more than they were worried about getting their work done. So it was pretty tense. That wasn’t nearly as much fun even though we were supposed to be making comedies. And I don’t think they liked me very much. They ended up taking my name off a lot of the films.

The Turtle books were pretty good to work on. That was published by Archie, but even though I was dealing with Archie on some level, I was mostly dealing with Mirage, the company that at the time owned the Turtles. And the fellow who was writing those books—he was using a pen name, Dean Clarrain, but his name was Steve Murphy, and I liked him. He was easy to deal with, and we used to talk over the phone about what I was working on with the books. And we kind of agreed that we’ll try to put some real adventure in but try to be fun at the same time. So yeah, the deadlines were short on those, but it wasn’t a bad project to work on.

Gale: Yeah, thank you so much for sharing your insight on those. You have quite the amazing repertoire, but those three, I was like, oh my goodness. But unfortunately I’ve heard similar things about working for Warner Brothers from others. So.

Mike: Yeah, that, that was a tense experience. [Laugh]

Gale: Do you have any comic books or animations, TV shows, or movies, whatnot, that really really have inspired you?

Mike: Oh, sure, tons of them. Way too many to mention. I liked a lot of the animated theatrical films from the era when the cartoons were being distributed to theaters and particularly from Warner Brothers and Walter Lantz and some of the best MGM cartoons. Yeah, but almost anything. I love the Max Fleischer cartoons, too. And there’s some of the early TV cartoons, you know. I love you know Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw.

Gale: Oh goodness, yes.

Mike: Yeah. There are so many things—you know, comic strips and comic books. There’s all sorts of stuff. It seemed like there’s a lot of things to be interested in. So I guess I liked way too many things for me to be able to point at one thing and say that that thing made me what I am. I think I took little pits and pieces here and there from any number of places.

Gale: Hey, that works. It’s good to be inspired. I’m much younger, but I am very thankful to the 90 s for all of the amazing furry goodness I got to watch, including all of the old stuff because my dad was a huge Hanna Barbara fan, so we watched lots and lots of old school stuff.

Mike: Yeah, I watched a lot of those cartoons myself. Yeah especially Huckleberry Hound, Yogi, and Quick Draw, and The Flintstones. It was like I actually had to work on some of those characters, especially The Flintstones. Yeah, I don’t think ever drew Quick Draw professionally. I drew Yogi a few times, and Huckleberry Hound.

Chipper: It’s pretty cool to be able to say that you drew Yogi and Huckleberry Hound even if only a few times. That is so cool. What are you working on these days? Do you have any projects that you’re really into?

Mike: No, I’ve just been drawing pictures lately, taking assignments as they come. They’re not doing much drawn animation anymore, so I don’t do as much now. Sometimes….I animated a sales film recently for somebody. I sometimes get some comic assignments, and there’s less of that kind of work, too. It seems like a couple of years ago there was a lot less cartooning work going on, and I didn’t really adapt to, say, doing 3 dimensional animation. I wasn’t really interested in that. I don’t know how to do it, either.

Gale: So, I have a question related to your art pieces that you’ve been doing. Something that I have loved since watching you on Fur Affinity is I really love the style of drawing over photographs, and I know you take a lot of your own photographs as well. Can you talk more about that combination of two art forms?

Mike: Yeah, it happened by accident at first. Many of those pictures are photographs I took…you know, some of them are forty years old or more. Some of them are newer digital photographs, but it just happened by accident one time. I had made a drawing of two characters. I thought it looked kind of plain, I should put something behind them, and I’d been starting to transfer some of my photographs. I said what if I put them in in this photograph, and it kind of snowballed after that. I actually spend more time touching up the photographs, getting rid of the lint and hair and any damage to the negatives. And if they’re in color, sometimes the color is really fouled up because the colors have faded. So I actually spend more times on some of those old photographs trying to, you know, color correct them and repair them than actually making the drawings. And sometimes I know what I’m going to do with a specific photograph, and sometimes I just draw something and stick it over a photograph, and I didn’t know I was going to put it in front of that photograph it. It varies.

Gale: Well, it is a delight. I love seeing it. There are so many of those pieces—especially when it’s interactive….There’s an older one of a cat character leaning over a bus and it looks so good in the black and white. It looks like that really great toon aspect of cartoon characters interacting with the real world, giving me those good Roger Rabbit vibes.

Mike: Yeah, well that was a case where I knew what I was going to do with a photo ahead of time, so I matched it up. And I had had assignments where I’d matched animation up with live action film and it’s actually way easier doing it with a still photograph than it is with moving film.

Gale: I have a question as well about your Youtube page. I know that you are a big fan of history as well, and kind of preserving history. So are there any pieces of animation or old little commercials or just little snippets that you’ve been able to save and share with others that you’re really really happy you’ve been able to do so?

Mike: Yeah, I mean….Actually, there’s a whole gang of people doing that, which saves me a lot of trouble because other people are finding and posting a lot of old commercials and films. Some of the things that I posted were from a place where I used to work called Playhouse Pictures, and I had had access to their archives for their old commercials. I’d posted some of their some of their spots that I hadn’t seen anywhere else on Youtube, and I mean suddenly I just come across some odd little films that aren’t up there already. I don’t post things that are already up there that somebody else already put, because I know other people who do the same thing, and there’s no point in more than one of us posting the same film.

Gale: Yeah, absolutely. I follow a couple of people on Youtube that are trying to save bits of animation and cartoons and commercials, and it’s always just a joy to watch it. So. I definitely appreciate those of you who are doing it.

Mike: Yeah, and also I appreciate the other people who are doing that too because of they find things that I don’t have copies of. The commercials were always considered disposable after the campaigns were over. They tended to vanish, so in some ways those are the things I look at the most because many of them are made by the same people who made the other kind of films, the entertainment films. If you’re interested in their work, you find out, oh, they did a lot of commercial work! And you see some more of their work there, but because they tended to be buried after the campaign was over, it’s like discovering some lost films when you find them.

Chipper: Yeah I can sort of empathize….My family recorded all of these old Christmas specials from the 90s, and I remember seeing a lot of commercials that you just can’t see anywhere else, except some have been uploaded on Youtube, and it’s always a special treat to see this artifact that nobody really has anymore unless it happened to be recorded on tape or something like that. It’s always a nice surprise. I wanted to ask before I forget: do you have a fursona or a main character? And if so, how did you settle on their design?

Mike: I don’t have a specific fursona. I mean, sometimes I can relate to, say, Herman from my comic books. Sometimes you can just, you know, let’s say relate to a canine character or something, but I hadn’t made a specific fursona per se. I draw a lot of wolves. So. I have a lot of friends who have done that, though.

Chipper: Yeah, it’s always interesting to see. It’s not something that one needs to have to be interested in this fandom, even though I think some younger folks see it as their way in, to create a character, and that’s pretty neat. But It’s certainly not obligatory.

Mike: I thought that that was the interesting thing, is there aren’t any actual rules. You can do whatever you like next.

Gale: Yeah, furry fandom is a pretty cool fandom in that you can kind of make of it what you’d like, and it definitely introduces us to really cool people and lifelong friends and, correct me if I’m wrong, Mike, but you found your wife through the furry fandom, right?

Mike: Yes, that’s true and she’s right here. Yeah, that’s true, we did meet at a convention. it was at San Diego, and I think it was having to do with Rowrbrazzle, I think, how we met. And we’re still together, so.

Gale: Yeah, the furry fandom is very cool for that. I met my boyfriend at Anthrocon 2012, and we’re still together. So it’s definitely cool for connections in that way.

Mike: Oh yeah, I was at that one.

Gale: Yes, I never actually got to meet you. I saw you at points during the convention, and I was just talking to Chipper beforehand, because I was doing one last look through your FA trying to think of questions, and I was like, hold on, he did the key card art and the con book?! I’ve had that key card in my wallet—it’s just like a cute piece of art to look at—for the longest time! I love the sleepy boy.

Mike: [Laughs]

Gale: Was that your most recent furry con?

Mike: I went to Anthrocon the following year as well. Yeah, I guess maybe it was because I haven’t been going to as many conventions, certainly not in the last two years I haven’t, you know, because of the pandemic. And I think some of the last few I went to were more general conventions. But I know the last one that I actually went to….It didn’t go well for me because I was trying to sell comic books, and people were more interested in having their photo taken with one of the power rangers.

Gale: Oh no! [Laughs] Do you think—obviously when things are safer and less crazy—do you think you’ll be trying to attend any cons, maybe later this year or next year?

Mike: Yeah, I think so. I mean I don’t know what yet, or when, but yeah sure, I would go back to a convention. I may not set up a table, but I would go to them. I’ve got tons of unsold comic books.

Gale: Yeah, it’s a shame. Chipper and I have been working on this project for a while now, and that’s been reigniting my love for a lot of comic books and graphic novels, and I’ve been chewing through them a lot more recently. But it definitely has made me realize that people really don’t consume that type of media as much anymore. And I mean to make sense with how digital everything is, and the accessibility of things, but even webcomics I feel like aren’t as popular as they used to be. That was something my boyfriend and I both got back into in the pandemic as well was perusing web comics.

Mike: Yeah, it is funny. I don’t see much actual comic activity now. I mean, comic books are kind of a tough sell now. I wouldn’t discourage anybody from making them because I think everybody should do what they want to do. But there was somebody asking me, “Should I do a comic book?” I said, “Sure why not?” They said, “You think I can make a profit on it?” I said, “No, but if you want to do it, do it anyways.”

Chipper: I come from a background as a writer, a fiction writer, so I can empathize with that point. You really can’t make a living trying to write fiction these days—certainly not poetry, even if you are a bestseller. It’s just funny how media kind of…changes. What is popular can go in and out pretty quickly.

Mike: Yeah, and I mean there’s a whole set of circumstances going back some thirty years about how comic book distribution got destroyed slowly. But right now, there just isn’t much of a mechanism for putting independent comic books out…and which, as I say, that’s no reason not to make them. I think you ought to make them anyways if you feel like making them. Just find other ways to make money.

Mike: But I was always that way, even in the 80s when they were selling better. I couldn’t make a living off of Captain Jack. I was making a little bit of money on them, and I was mostly doing them because I wanted to, but I was having to do other jobs, work on TV shows and commercials while I was doing that.

Gale: Yeah, it’s definitely a life lesson to be learned, that our hobbies and passions are things that we have to chase and go after and pursue but oftentimes they are not going to coincide with making money and supporting us, and so we have to do it in addition to something else. Which is something I think a lot of people are still learning and is maybe more difficult now because it’s weird how many things can be monetized nowadays. And a lot of people think that just because a select handful of people have monetized something that seems extremely fun doesn’t mean that everyone can do it nor does it mean that it’s actually super fun.

Mike: No, I mean, It’s really a fluke if you can make that happen. More power to anybody who can, but it’s not a dependable set of circumstances or business plan. It’s something that could happen but that’s not likely to happen. So I wouldn’t suggest doing anything for purely mercenary reasons because it probably won’t pan out. At this point some the things I’ve been posting online I’ve just been doing for fun. They haven’t been monetized in any form; just doing them to do them. The last few comic books I put out actually lost money. I paid more money to print them than I made back selling them, because I couldn’t sell enough of them, so they’re stacked up in the garage. So I think if I ever do anything again, I’m going to have to go a different route to putting it out in public than having them printed like that, maybe print on Demand or something like that. But the old model printing, I mean, distributing them doesn’t work well now.

Chipper: I was just going to say it’s kind of an interesting double-edged sword in the fandom that things are largely not economy based. So that’s nice in a way because that means you have the freedom to create whoever you want and it doesn’t have to be about monetization. But of course it also makes it kind of hard to sell things particularly with media interests changing so quickly like you’re saying. It’s just…print comics are just not as popular as they used to be; it must just be really hard to sell those now, which is a shame because it’s such a cool art form. I guess it’s nice that there is a fandom that welcomes contributions when there isn’t an expectation for making money, but I imagine it’s frustrating, too.

Mike: Yeah, it isn’t as frustrating—it would be more frustrating if I was going into it expecting those drawings to make money. But I have known very few people—I mean I’ve known a lot of lot of other artists over the years—and very few of them, I mean a very small number of them, were able to actually make a living doing exactly the kind of things that they would do anyways. I could think of less than 10 people I’ve known out of hundreds that actually did that. Yeah, probably not even 10, but it’s unusual if you can make that happen. When I was doing Captain Jack it was it was even difficult then, and there was more of a means of getting them distributed back then. But I had some problems with the distributors who were not used to seeing sexual content in the comic books. They would be selling much more pornographic things than anything I ever drew later, but at the time they were really adverse.

Gale: Yeah, that must have been a doozy to see because there is extremely, extremely graphic adult content in graphic novels and comic books nowadays. So that must have been quite the evolution to see unfold when you were trying to get your stuff printed and people probably going, “Oh wow!”

Mike: Yeah, because, when Captain Jack 5 came out, which was where Herman and Janet had sex for the first time, I was not prepared for the reaction to that. The distributors were just up in arms over it. They were blaming me for ruining the comic book business.

Chipper: Wow.

Gale: Oh my god. That’s crazy.

Mike: I did not expect that kind of a reaction. I wasn’t really expecting any kind of a reaction. I just thought it was just a good story.

Gale: Yeah, I mean, considering how much just…it’s a human act and how much of it has existed in novels and human media, it makes sense that obviously if we’re trying to tell these stories and that characters just happen to be animal people, that yeah the animal people too are going to have sex.

Mike: Yeah, I always wondered about that. I mean, if I showed Batman biting the head off a criminal, that probably would have been okay. But sex was another thing.

Chipper: I think that’s everything. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us, Mike.

Mike: Oh, no trouble. Thank you for calling.

Gale: Yeah, it’s really really cool to talk to you. It’s a pleasure to start really getting into the details with this project, and we are going to be trying to interview as many, as we like to put it, “old school cool” furries as we can, just to get their thoughts about furry and their experiences in the professional world, and just their voices heard. So we really, really appreciate it.

Mike: My pleasure.

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Want to find more of Mike Kazaleh’s incredible work? Check out his FA:


  • Gale Frostbane

    Gale Frostbane (she/her) is a little saber kitty with big dreams. Since finding the furry fandom in January 2011, she fell madly in love with it and made furry her life. Prior to finding the furry fandom Gale was a mascot for her college and would end up working professionally for years in the MiLB and MLS before focusing professionally on her Environmental Engineering work. As such, Gale is an avid fursuiter, performing multiple characters. Her biggest passion aside from fursuiting and mascots is learning everything she can about the furry fandom and its rich history.

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  • Chipper Wolf

    Chipper Wolf (he/they), who also suits as the stellar were-space-bat Zubeneschamali (a.k.a. Zubi, she/they), has been involved in furry fandom since 2013. In addition to being an avid suiter, they volunteered at Anthro New England from 2015-2021, serving as head of Con Store and as one of the convention’s Directors. When not TFing into a derpy wolf or an imperious bat, they pursue academic teaching and research — part of the drive to help document furry history.

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Hi, I’m Gale Frostbane

Gale Frostbane (she/her) is a little saber kitty with big dreams. Since finding the furry fandom in January 2011, she fell madly in love with it and made furry her life. Prior to finding the furry fandom Gale was a mascot for her college and would end up working professionally for years in the MiLB and MLS before focusing professionally on her Environmental Engineering work. As such, Gale is an avid fursuiter, performing multiple characters. Her biggest passion aside from fursuiting and mascots is learning everything she can about the furry fandom and its rich history.

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