This week's Feature Article is on Dave Sim's Cerebus the Aardvark. Not only is Cerebus a landmark in independent, creator-owned (and Canadian) comics, the title also helped put anthropomorphic comics characters on the map.
Yes, cartoon animals that do human stuff go back at least as far as Krazy Kat, and are a long tradition in comic strips right up to Calvin and Hobbes.
But in the 1970s, there seemed to be a bit of a vogue in badass animal characters, like Howard the Duck and Bucky O'Hare. These guys didn't quite survive their TV or movie adaptations, though the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (which started out as a parody of such comics) keep getting screen time after twenty-five years.
Closer to the Cerebus mold is Usagi Yojimbo. Interestingly, Dark Horse is putting out an Usagi Yojimbo plush toy in May 2010, which creator Stan Sakai even had a hand in designing – see pic below.