Loxie and Zoot's 10th Anniversary - A Potted History
Since it hasbeen ten tears since I first started drawing naturist specific cartoons I thought a bit of history might be of interest. The following article is taken, largely verbatim, from a potted history published at the back of The Koala Bares book. However I have added additional comments, art and info throughout; possibly it will be of interest to myself only - what can I say, I'm a completist and being a total comic book history geek means I can become thoroughly fascinated by absolutely trivial and geeky facts!

From a comic which was never finished, let alone published! 'On the Free Beach' 1997In the beginning...
During 1997, a light bulb popped on in my brain and demanded: "comics+naturism... do it!!" I had been reading and creating comics for many years and, at that time, drawing educational comics using realistic characters within contemporary settings. Also, I had enjoyed social nudity from time to time with friends over the years. Previously, both aspects of my life had co-existed without overlapping. But comics and naturism? Seemed different!

Initially, I amalgamated the nudist angle with characters from a series of natural health comics I was self-publishing. This resulted in the concept for "On the Beach", in which a group of friends visit a nudist beach. The story was to be of young adults discovering naturism in the company of naturist friends, however the reluctant characters in the tale did not strike the right chord. Sure it contained most of the elements that might seem familiar to naturists - uncertainty of first timers; body image and acceptance; the self-assuredness of 'regulars'; even a nod to sun block - but it was more of a checklist than a story. At any rate I only drafted just under two pages and drew half a page.

One panel of finished art is reproduced above - to see the the drafted pages with some additional commentary - click here.

First sketch of Zoot and LoxieI decided I wanted a comic where the naturism was incidental to the story rather than the point of it. Another motivation for this approach was to produce something that might be published by a naturist magazine - to achieve that the comic would have to be snappier, shorter, less exploratory and, hopefully, amusing.

Enter Loxie and Zoot
So I developed two characters who were keen naturists and needed no convincing of nudisms merits. Zoot and Loxie were ‘born’ in the first sketch shown opposite. Their somewhat ‘exotic’ names came from the ether - I could not say what the inspiration was.

Cartoons, comics and animation are a great love of mine and I am immensely humbled, impressed and inspired by many artists, writers and creators from around the world. This first drawing of Loxie and Zoot reveals my Simpsons-esque influences of the time.

In developing the final look for the characters I was undecided as to whether to use a cartoony style or attempt a more realistic approach. My reasoning was that people might be 'less offended' by, and more accepting of, cartoony nude people. Alternatively, this might also mean that readers would take naturism less seriously. Of course, no such reader reaction could be assumed from either course of action. Art Spiegelman’s superb graphic novel Maus proved that one can explore confronting of material (in this case, the Holocaust) using mice and cats. All the same, I decided to attempt depicting Loxie and Zoot in a more realistic light.

The first ever Loxie and Zoot...
Loxie and Zoot in Nudetoons was published in the Spring 1997 (#60) issue of an Australian naturist magazine - Australian Sun & Health. It is reproduced below. BTW - the PO Box or web address shown in the top right corner are no longer current.

Loxie & Zoot in Nudetoons: first publication

Australian Sun & Health #60Astute long-time readers will realise that this half page comic forms the basis behind the scenario for the first five pages for the Koala Bares book. For those that might accuse the above comic of being a sugary nudist fantasy (and I'm sure there are many who would say just that) I plead guily as charged. Since the comic was conceived specifically for a naturist publication it was a case of "know thy audience". I doubt Sun & Health would have printed any cartoon that was a negative depiction of the lifestyle... there were enough cartoons like that in other mainstream publications anyway.

For those interested in the art process behind this particular comic, it was coloured by hand not by computer. Photoshop may have been around in 1997 but I certainly didn't have ready access to the program (and come to think of it, my computer was a geriatric Mac Classic... so very unlikely it would have been able to cope with colour image files that size anyway). All the comics I produced today are coloured using Photoshop (with Illustrator for the words). The hand colouring and lettering has a more organic look but takes a lot longer.

Did I get paid for the publication of the cartoon? To be completely honest, I can't remember but I don't think so. Despite it's glossy appearance I doubt Sun & Health was raking in millions of dollars in sales or advertising. For them to run a half page cartoon would mean they were missing out on income from half a page's worth of advertising - so I'm grateful they published it all.

The cover of issue #60 is reproduced to the right. As a footnote, I haven't linked to Sun & Health since it appears to no longer be in production. A change in ownership around 2001 was initially good for the publication, breathing new energy and design into its format - however it appears that the husband and wife team have since split with both claiming ownership of the title. I know little of the matter but it seems there is now a new Sun & Health being published by one former owner whilst the original publication, under the other former owner, hasn't published an issue since mid-2006. Beyond that, I know nothing! Anyway the end result is that it is currently not possible to discover the status of copies of back issues of #60. There may be thousands left over or, other than those that survive in the collections of those who bought it in 1997, there may be none!

Loxie and Zoot, again...
Although I had no idea if Sun & Health received any favourable feedback, I drew a follow-up for the next issue and named the strip Noodtoons. It still featured Loxie and Zoot this time with two other characters. Alas, this offering to Sun & Health was not published. I've reproduced the hand coloured version of this particular comic, to date only the B&W version has been published on the internet.

Unpublished colour print of Noodtoons

I'm not sure why they didn't publish but I think it had something to do with limited space (refer comments about advertising above!). Personally I thought this was a better comic than the first one. Rather than being (too) discouraged by this, I decided that the internet seemed like the best way to publish the toons.

Noodtoons goes online!
So there was this internet thingy around in 1997... I think a few people might have heard of it. Certainly a friend of mine kept telling me it would be a good way to 'publish' my comics. Of course, the internet was a lot less image friendly back then and even software to produce graphics was good but not great. Regardless, I learnt HTML, got myself a free interweb account and set up a website specifically for Noodtoons. (You'll notice in the two comics above that there are URLs, these were more or less for my previously mention natural health comics.) The first two comics published to the site were B&W versions of the comics above. You'll find them reproduced over on the Loxie & Zoot site... [Noodworld][Downtown]

Moving away from the limitations imposed by the magazine format (ie. short, humour focused, non-serialised scenarios) gave me the scope to attempt a story which explored issues about naturism in greater depth from a humorous angle. I feel I'm better at embedding light humour into the flow of a narrative situation rather than attempting "hilarious" jokes. To this end I devised a story featuring Loxie and Zoot and a whole heap of new characters and threw the lot of it online as Noodtoons in November 1997 in my very first attempt at a webcomic.

'On the Free Beach'
Pro-nude beach rallies held during 1997 in Byron Bay (a coastal town in New South Wales, Australia) forced the council to reconsider its attempt to ban nude bathing at a local beach. It was a nice demonstration of nude people power which became grist for my creative mill. A story in which Loxie and Zoot were trying to save their local nudist beach, Koala Beach, from closure by Mayor Tex Tyler was the result. Within this scenario I wanted to explore attitudes to social nudity and deal with the way in which the media reported on naturism.

On the Free Beach introduced the prickly television news reporter Kylie Burns and her camera guy sidekick Carl. Kylie’s discomfort about nudity is quickly apparent in On the Free Beach. Her discomfort was to have been a major thread to that story line.

Arriving on the beach Kylie started interviewing Shaz and Matt - two characters from the original On The Beach (as seen above). All of Shaz's friends from that 'decent to the beach' illustration had finally made it to a nude beach in Noodtoons! Some were getting into the nude vibe, a couple had elected not to - I had planned for all these characters to explore body image issues as well.

Some new and returning characters from Noodtoons: On The Free Beach
Mungo and Kylie
Shaz, Jenni , Nikka, Jasmine, Matt, Stodgy
Loxie, Zoot, Janet, Herb

Also introduced was an unnamed, seemingly eccentric, white whiskered fellow (intended to eventually be christened 'Mungo') keen to be interviewed by Kylie. The fifth page saw the appearance of Herb - an irate older guy keen to reach for his piano accordion.

To view these original Noodtoons, with additional commentry - On the Free Beach: [#1][#2][#3][#4][#5][#6]

Love thy Neighbour
Soon there were six pages of On the Free Beach online. At this point I felt there had been a lot of talk about Mayor Tex Tyler and he had not even put in an appearance. Love Thy Neighbour was inserted somewhat abruptly into the flow of On the Free Beach as a special extra - introducing Tex and his wife, Alice. Even at this early stage she was revealed as a closet nudist - leaping out of her clothes the minute Tex storms off to play golf! [Love they Neighbour]

A break in transmission!
By the early part of 1998, the positive email I was receiving, mainly from people familiar with naturism, made it clear that many people were discovering and enjoying Noodtoons. Unfortunately, lack of money, time, nerve and planning was also making it increasingly difficult to continue the site without a major re-think. Suddenly the story seemed to me to be unworkable and, being part way through it, meant I wasn't willing to consider a re-think - I felt I had painted myself into a corner!

Not wanting to leave the site up, forever stuck on part six of On the Free Beach, and not keen about the prospect of people emailing me about it, I chose the ostrich option of sticking my head in the sand! Noodtoons went off-line and did a vanishing act in about April 1998. As far as I was concerned, that was that - no more Noodtoons, no more Loxie or Zoot, never ever.

In 1997-98, unbeknownst to me, a number of other webcomics had started to trickle on-line. Some have gone on to enormous success. I doubt that Noodtoons, even had I persisted with it, would have emulated even a fraction of the success of webcomics like PvP and Penny Arcade. Certainly I lacked the dedication, self-belief and fortitude of those early webcartoonists, plus the ready made on-line audience (ie gamers, geeks) was probably well beyond my grasp! All the same, it's good to know that Loxie and Zoot were kicking around the internet in the early days (even if the fact is yet to be acknowledged in historical tomes!).

Back from the dead...
Of course that was not the end; Loxie and Zoot resurfaced on line in mid-2000 and have since appeared in numerous adventures, written reviewed and discussed in a number of magazines and online publications, been published in their own book, been wikied, had visitors from numerous webcomics, crossed-over into others, and had new strips appear in other nudist magazines aound the world. But that's a history to tell some other time...!

[The Bare Pit home]

Copyright 1997-2007 Toons Au Naturel