Psychologist Carl Jung once described animals as “sublime,” representing the “divine” side of the human psyche. Perhaps this is one of the reasons artist Lisa Hanawalt is positively obsessed with drawing anthropomorphic animals that are in some ways, more human than we are. People may not immediately know the name Hanawalt, but she is responsible for the design of Netflix’s beloved, self-loathing, heavy-drinking, humanoid horse, Bojack Horseman.
Her latest upcoming venture Coyote Doggirl, an illustrated comic panel book about a fiery, fashionable, half-dog, half-coyote girl falls within the same realm of humour as Bojack Horseman, but also offers a fresh perspective on the Western genre. Each character is once again an anthropomorphic animal that almost satirizes some vaguely well-known Western characters like Butch Cassidy, Tonto, The Lone Ranger, and Davy Crockett, to an extent.
The book begins in an unknown desert with Coyote Doggirl talking to her trusty steed, Red, while they trot through the water-coloured countryside. The intro page lists some “Important Information” with quick illustrations before learning of Coyote Doggirl’s tale. Her intelligence is rated as “high,” but her attitude is “too much.” She also designs all of her own clothes including her crop halter top and pants (a detail that becomes quite substantial later on).
The plot seems simple and light-hearted enough until a few pages in. Coyote Doggirl is punctured with a deluge of arrows, leaving her to pass out and nearly bleed out. She awakes to a pack of coyotes who have strapped her to a horse and are bringing her back to camp. Red also seems to have vanished.
The story takes something of an absurdist turn—pairing quite nicely with Hanawalt’s vibrant, aqueous art style—sprinkling in a few flashbacks here and there, revealing Coyote Doggirl’s past and link to the antagonists who shot her up with arrows.
Much like the character of Bojack Horseman, Hanawalt uses Coyote Doggirl and the world she finds herself in to bring up so very serious, adult topics. Without spoiling too much, Coyote Doggirl is the kind of girl who doesn’t take shit from the dominantly male pack of vengeful dogs who have wronged her. She is happy being alone and thrives in isolation and happenstance adventure. Sound like anyone familiar? Here’s a hint. He’s a horse in Hollywoo.
Coyote Doggirl is a gem of a book that only takes 40 minutes to read front-to-back. While there are similarities to Bojack Horseman, the work stands alone on its own. Hanawalt also has another upcoming Netflix adult animated comedy show called Tuca & Bertie, about two 30-year-old bird-women who live in the same apartment. Judging by some of the art released already, it looks like it could be in the same universe as Coyote Doggirl, but this is yet to be confirmed.