Dr Benjamin Rat
M.B.,B.S. D.R.A.N.Z.C.O.G. F.R.A.C.G.P.
Ben is a thirty-something, Australian general practitioner, battling the odds to run a solo practice in the suburb of Templeton, in the city of Fornor, state of Flora. After setting up shop ten years ago, prepared to do what it took to succeed against the long hours, on-call work, endless red tape and local competition from the nearby medical centre, he continues to fight to stay afloat. An experiment with a very entrepreneurial practice manager, Charmaine Prideaux, didn’t solve the problem – she was a hungry lioness, and even now she’d gone, Ben’s accountant is still finding the leftover bones.
For the moment, though, Ben remains good-natured and conscientious, carrying out a professional job to the best of his ability. He tries to make people better. He also gives money to street buskers and is kind to pets.
After a fraught and adventurous romance, he married Daniella Hood, his tae kwon do instructor and dentist. There were plenty more fraught and adventurous bits after that. The two rats are now just settling down into married life and impending parenthood together. (Note to self: he has an ex-wife and daughter somewhere in America.)
Daniella – Danni (or Daz to her closest friends) – is a dentist in the Sullivan Street Dental Clinic and also a lecturer at the Bluegum College, several suburbs across town. She’s an instructor in tae kwon do, with a black belt third dan (although now in the final stages of her pregnancy, the practical side of teaching is physically impossible). The discipline she cultivated in this quest helped her through the rocky times of rebellion against a family unaccepting of her decision to be a single professional woman.
Her checkered past includes a jilted romance with a rabbit, Russell, which left her with a deep bitterness against the insular values of tight-knit rabbit society. But after treading a long and painful road of independence, against all the odds, she fell in love with the gentle, funny and far-from-dynamic Ben. Now, they are husband and wife. The adventures continue. She speaks the secret rabbit language fluently, but you have to keep that “tish-tish”.
Zell has been working as the receptionist at Doc Rat’s medical practice since its beginning, ten years ago. Through the hardest of times, she’s stuck by him loyally, with devotion and a fiercely short temper. And while she can sometimes be a touch over-protective, she always tries to shield Ben from the slings and arrows of outrageous patients. And creditors. And lawyers. While trying to keep him on-time with his appointments and up-to-date with his paperwork (did I mention the short temper?)
Gizelle is married to Gazza and has no children.
If you need a good, straightforward, uncomplicated nurse, there’s no one better than Mary. Her open and trusting nature is a great asset when folk in need are looking for comfort. She runs the treatment room with order and discipline.
Mary is particularly good with children – but as a rabbit, she’d have to be. Above all, as a nurse and a valuable part of the team, she really knows her stuff.
She is an elder in her rabbit community and gives private relationship counselling in Secret Bunny Business.
Mary and her husband Tom have six children, all of whom have left the burrow.
Phil, the local pharmacist, is the proud owner of a successful small business that has been in operation for forty years. He didn’t get where he is today without a very sharp sense of commerce. His memory can reach back to the good old days when he would turn a good living by mixing up squill of oxymel, until no-one could remember what it was used for (and then for about a year after that.) On the down side, he has stuck with his well-worn professional sales pitch for so long that he could be accused of being behind the times. But then, no one accuses a gorilla of anything.
Phil loves fishing and playing jazz saxophone, but otherwise, his private life is his own. Any argument?
Mel has been Daniella’s best friend since they met at tae kwon do, some years ago. Once this woman has made up her mind, she is unstoppable – if you get in her way, you’re history.
She has a boyfriend, Max Horne. They have a little one on the way. Little? Ha ha.
Mel’s boyfriend. He is a builder.
Daniella’s dental receptionist and unofficial liaison person between the two practices.
Jack is Ben’s brother. He’s a lawyer, and after his divorce, he decided to go into divorce law. He and Ben have had their differences in the past, but his help with Ben’s search for his estranged wife brought them back together.
Winston is Ben’s father. The extent of Winston’s dementia became apparent when his wife died of breast cancer, eight years ago. He now lives in a nursing home, and Ben visits him every Sunday and any other opportunity he can manage.
Daniella’s Family, the Hoods
Rats, every one of them.
Dear, oh dear, do we have to deal with them? A father, mother, two sisters, two brothers-in-law, a brother and a sister-in-law. All older than she is. That’s it. Now rack off.
Camel (No relation to the English actor)
Julian is a distinguished and respectable gentleman who spent much of his life in Africa. Sadly, his first partner, Jan, died there of an infectious illness in the prime of his life. Recently, Julian managed to put his lingering grief behind him and find a new partner, and so he now happily lives with Kenneth Roads. The little boy Jarrad Dryandra has taken a shine to him and loves to share comic books with him, earning a fatherly soft spot in Julian’s heart. His major injuries in a mugging were successfully treated by Ben, Mary and Daniella. Ben also treated his serious snake bite. For a camel, every day is a hump day.
Julian’s vibrant and funky lifemate.
Also known as Pat The Dog. He’s a well-manicured executive. He studied a couple of years of law before changing to a degree in business and information technology. He has done very well for himself in the IT field, particularly with the lucrative on-line portion of the Florists of the Night franchise, owned by his partner, Pat The Tiger. Pat The Dog loves the finest things in life – drives a blossom-red Lotus Elise and loves to drive it fast. Some would call him driven.
Tiger (No relation to the American actor)
Also known as Pat The Tiger. A deceptively sensitive tiger. Rides a black and yellow striped Ducati Monster 1100. Lives with Pat The Dog. Risk-takin’, stunt-jumpin’ daredevil. What a guy!
Wolf (Or Rabbit by deed poll)
Fangripp Jaegermond is a gentle, tender-hearted wolf who uncomfortably straddles two warring cultures. After a lifetime of taunts and ridicule from his own kind, began to feel an increasing affinity for – not to mention a fascination with – rabbits. One day, he nervously approached a young doe rabbit whose husband had apparently walked out the door for the final time, and they fell in love. After a short courtship, Fangripp took her into his arms and asked her to marry him, at the same time embracing his cruel nickname of Flopsy with pride as his own and burying some deep and ghastly personal secrets. He also looked after her subsequent children as his own, in accordance with traditional rabbit practices. Although not naturally bright, he has applied himself to scholarship in Lapine lore, as is expected of all bucks and does of the tribe, and it was this dedication, as well as a reflex act of conspicuous bravery, that led to the rabbit Lord Lockley’s adopting him into the noble family. He also publicly stared down Wolf Boss Alpha Blutenstein to have his rabbit wife and children accepted into the protection of the wolf clan. Then he saved Blutenstein’s life, but that’s a secret. Flopsy is a store room team supervisor, and he’s earning just enough on his own for what will be needed, because there are two little ones on the way. Little? Ha ha.
Why should an air-headed doe rabbit, Jasmine Down, fall for a hulking wolf? Because thinking isn’t her strong point. But the moment she looked into his honest eyes, she went with her heart, and Flopsy has repaid her trust with dogged loyalty. Introducing a wolf into the mysteries of Secret Bunny Business has landed her in very hot water from her own rabbit community, but following the public endorsement from Lord Lockley, perhaps she will start to get a more sympathetic ear or two from her people. The terror and frantic action of their Romeo-and-Juliet lives has bonded them ever more tightly together. She and Flopsy are expecting a happy event soon (which is not entirely unrelated to the happy events they have frequently). Her current two children are Hazel and Fluffy.
Forty is Flopsy’s brother-in-law. He is a staunch defender of traditional wolven cultural values, and refuses to feel comfortable about a family member who likes cuddling up to a rabbit (or, in his terminology, “playing with his food”).
Luella is Flopsy’s sister. She has also found it strange that a wolf should decide to live as a rabbit, but having known him all her life, she understands his sincerity and is willing to accept his commitment to his sensitive side. When push comes to shove, she will support him. Luella and Forty are expecting.
Quarrydog Schlag (originally named Simon Jaegermond)
Fortenflanck and Luella’s son, Flopsy’s nephew. Nearly thirteen. Recently, upon his uncle’s vouchsafe, his parents packed him off to a fishing weekend with Ben Rat and Phil Krubnuckle. He came back standing slightly taller and wanting to be a doctor. Wolf cubs take their mothers’ maiden names until they come of age, when they take their father’s surnames and are given an adult hunting or “running” name.
With Fidelius and some others, he was part of Flopsy’s old running pack. Full of ambition. Now packed off.
This old lady is 73 years old. She knows she is wise and experienced, and she has little patience for people who do not appreciate this fact. Although she may look frail on the outside, Lorna lives by the motto the moment you slow down you start to die. That was until she was knocked over and broke her hip. Okay, she’s slightly slower now. Her motto: “The older I get, the more often I’m right. What’s so difficult about that?”
Bear (of some kind)
Ever the prankster, Wilbur puts a cheerful face on his diabetes and heart disease, despite having already died once (in the doctor’s waiting room – now, there’s a story). Some people may tire of his endless stream of bad jokes. But many people hope he succeeds in his romantic quest to find the woman of his dreams before it’s too late. And novelty t-shirts aren’t helping his pulling power.
As an endangered species, Shirl sees it as her duty to have as many children as possible, even when she doesn’t know if her latest man will last. She lives with her mother, Lily, and raises the brood of four (or five, no-one’s sure) children. Her latest partner is Brayden – she currently has babies in the pouch. Technically, they’re already born, but that’s marsupials for you. (Technically, in the real world numbats don’t have pouches. Babies just dangle from the female’s belly like a lot of dirty, swollen parasites. In a cartoon world, this just would not do, so I pretended there’s a neat pouch to put them in. Purists please forgive me.)
Shirl’s mother, who has successfully smoked her way into lung disease. She’s just hanging on to her status of family matriarch, having succeeded in whipping Brayden out of the road of crime and back onto the straight and narrow. She encourages Jarrad in his comic book output.
Shirl’s latest boyfriend. Could there be some sensitivity in this tough guy from the other side of the tracks? He’s fallen in with the wrong gang of guys, but got out just before they all went to prison. His relationship with Shirl was rocky and troubled. But having come back from the brink of death by snake attack, he’s just a little quieter and more reflective. Less of a rebel and more of a father. More to lose and plenty worth hanging on for.
Mid-teens, video game addict. Hnnh. Go ‘way.
Seven years old, he spent his early life terrified of doctors, and given how many bad experiences he had with asthma, who could blame him? But he has a bursting, florid imagination, expressed in his self-produced comic books. Favourite characters: the super hero Captain Kerpow (whose secret identity is another super hero, Awesome Possum), ace fighter pilot, Captain Buck “Buck Buck” Buck-BcKaw, and the great detective, Shellac Homes. He’s taken a shine to the kind man, Mr Sands, who buys his comics. They saved each other’s lives from a snake attack. The kid has guts. Watch him grow.
Also seven years old, she was adopted by her uncle Col and then befriended by Jarrad Dryandra after losing her entire family in a horrendous bushfire.
Single, accountant, and then suddenly foster father to his niece, Pippie.
Seven-year-old playmate to Jarrad and Pippie.
Lord Montague Lockley
The hereditary rabbit lord of his region, Monty is a gentleman of the nobility. With an eye to a better world in the future, he plans to bring about the end of the era of people eating people. Ben reminded him: “Less predation, less procreation” – for rabbits, that’s going to be hard to sell. If world peace were easy, everyone would be doing it. But in the style of the master chess player that he is, Monty plans all his manipulations several moves in advance, and indeed the subjects don’t always know they’re being moved like pieces on a board. An end game is coming, when he’ll need the obedient cooperation of all his minions.
Lady Penelope Lockley
Penny is the perfect other half to Monty. She gives the chess pieces their emotional guidance, support and comfort. She has quietly helped Daniella come to terms with a lot of her problems. Penelope and Monty are expecting.
Boss Alpha Manfred Blutenstein
Manfred may look and act like a tasteless, hulking, conservative bag of wind and bluster, but there’s much more to him. He’s secretly working with Lord Lockley on a common goal of a less destructive, or rather to have the slightly upper hand when that common goal is reached. (Peace talks, as you know, are miniature battles.) Like Monty, he plays chess. Like Monty, he is trying to win the loyalty of the playing pieces. His wife is Matilda. Sons Alfon “Bonesnapper”, Anton “Crimsonmuzzle” and Andre “Finisher”.
Koalas may be rare, but old women of the like of Mavis are in plentiful supply. She is four square and straight down the line.
Another venerable woman. Some are wide and some are narrow, and Elsie is the latter. She and Mavis are a complementary pair, although she sometimes feels the intimidated one of the two.
Jim & Jeanette
Part of the senior population of Ben’s practice.
Mandy is into a natural lifestyle, who would just as readily take an ear candle as an antibiotic. Or to be doubly safe, both. Her son Donovan is allowed to run free and wild, without the stultifying shackles of patriarchal discipline, manners or picking up stuff he’s dropped. It’s beautiful.
She’s adorable, and she eats every item she can get her hooves on, because that’s what goats do in comic strips, and this is a comic strip. Her mother is Billie, and her baby sister is Emma.
The unnamed, overweight, little Kangaroo joey
Hey, he knows he has a health issue, and now he’s doing something about it, okay? Get off his back, sport.
Some kind of mongrel dog
When the struggle against alcohol addiction is a constant battle, his resident fleas may just tip the scales in his favour. Allan has not had a drink for three years now, and he’s a bus. (He carries fare-paying fleas.) Recently there was a minor collision with a snake, but charges were not pressed.
One of the many drug reps visiting Ben on regular basis. He works for Animpharm, whose latest great drug is Zappo and whose marketing division is an office full of totally insane meerkats.
Charlie & Fred
They fought so constantly, their unsuccessful building business turned into a lucrative demolition business.
The Unnamed Snow Leopard
You can understand his passion for environmental advocacy. He’s fighting for the survival of his endangered people.
The Unnamed Badger
A lawyer. Expect jokes without mercy.
A Solar Tea Doe
A joke that was funny the first time.
A Bull who’s obsessed with his bowels and laxatives
Joke number two.
Harry P. Otter
Not Harry Potter
Not Harry Potter
Dr “Chippy” Chang
Ben’s ethnic Chinese doctor friend from way back in medical school chose to specialise as a dermatologist, while Ben proceeded to general practice.
Charmane Prideaux, a lioness
Don’t get her wrong: Charmane stayed within the letter of the law in every practice she managed, and boosted efficiency by maximising yield and cutting waste to the bone. It’s just that some people don’t feel comfortable when she smiles with that hungry glint in her eye.
Western Brown Snake
A citizen with a cold mind and very strong poison.
A rabbit doc.
A wolf doc.
Not appearing in this comic… yet.