“It’s a dog’s life” may be a cliché in the real world, but in the pages of comic books, it takes on whole new meaning. Canine sidekicks, super-powered or not, add a dimension to our favourite human characters. Then there are the dogs who take center stage. Their stories take us to unexpected places. In exploring how they experience the world we share, we gain insight into our own humanity, and into the way we shape our and their environment.
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The best dog stories tug at our heartstrings and remind us of our better selves. Like the comic book creators who birthed the canines listed below, we provide the voices for these creatures. We are their advocates because they are voiceless. As anybody who has rescued an abused or abandoned dog will tell you, it is the dog who rescued them.
Rufferto is the faithful canine companion of Sergio Aragonés’ “Groo the Wanderer.” A spoiled and pampered royal pet, Rufferto rejected his idyllic existence and ran off to seek adventure, causing his owners to offer a substantial reward for his return. Trapped in one of the buffoonish warrior’s snares, Rufferto mistook Groo’s hunger for affection, and started following him around before being caught by locals and returned to the Queen. Unaware of all of this, the illiterate Groo spotted a poster of Rufferto, and after learning of the reward, stormed the palace and stole the dog to return it to its rightful owner. In the following issue, we discover that the Queen only wanted Rufferto back for his jewel-studded collar and didn’t care about the dog.
Despite all contrary evidence, Rufferto considers the idiotic Groo to be a tactical genius. Rufferto also has the unexplained ability to allow his master to board ships. In the absence of his canine companion, Groo will spontaneously sink any vessel he climbs aboard. One of the first creator-owned comics, Groo started off at Pacific Comics in 1982, before wandering to Eclipse, Epic and Image, eventually settling at its current home at Dark Horse.
The son of a murdered cop, Jim Barr was rejected by the police force and turned to science to transform himself into a superhuman crime fighter. He chemically enhanced his brain and muscles, then invented a bullet-shaped Gravity Regulator Helmet that allowed him to fly and deflect projectiles fired by guns. He fought bad guys as Bulletman, and was joined by his wife Susan (née Kent), Bulletgirl. After Slug, their floppy eared pup, stopped the Weeper and a henchman from carrying off a fainted Susan, Jim rewarded his bravery by building him a gravity-regulating collar that allowed the puppy to fly and fight crime alongside the duo.
Bulletdog made his first appearance in 1942’s Bulletman #10 and helped his human masters prevent the Weeper from forever ruining Thanksgiving by making it the most miserable holiday of the year. His evil plan? Deliver fake tragic news to various families, thus causing them to forever associate the holiday with the worst day of their lives. The gravity-defying Bulletdog then saved his masters from sudden death by pulling them out of a cement vat the Weeper had dropped them into. Bulletman was Fawcett’s number two superhero after Captain Marvel.
Hyperdog is Sergeant Kemlo Ceasar, an intelligent talking Doberman Pincer who donned a man-shaped exoskeleton in Alan Moore’s America’s Best Comics limited series “Top 10.” Illustrated by Gene Ha and Zander Cannon, it is the story of the Precinct Ten Police Station (a.k.a. as “Top 10”) in Neopolis, a multiversal Florida city that simultaneously existed in 134 dimensions, and in which everyone, including ordinary folks and criminals, had superpowers and wore outlandish costumes.
Life in the precinct echoed the 1980s television series “Hill Street Blues,” and like Sergeant Esterhaus on that show, Sergeant Kemlo provided his colleagues with their daily briefing before they hit the beat. When he wasn’t working, Hyperdog took off his robot body and did “normal dog stuff,” like “scratching and running around.” Although he claimed to have no attraction to humans, he eventually became intimate with and married a former prostitute named Neural ‘Nette (despite the species difference).
12. MS. LION
The gender-bending Ms. Lion is a male dog who was inexplicably given a female monicker, and who belongs to Peter Parker’s Aunt May. A longhaired lapdog with no powers, Ms. Lion was obsessed with Hairball, a super-powered cat who was also altered when Robbie Baldwin accidentally opened a pocket universe of kinetic energy that transformed him into Speedball. When Lockjaw teleported into the park where both animals were playing and invited Hairball to join the Pet Avengers, Ms. Lion insinuated himself on the team and tagged along, much to the chagrin of the feline, who wasn’t very keen on the dog. When Thanos attacked Hairball with the Power Gem stolen from the collar of the Obama’s dog, Bo, Ms. Lion jumped in the way and was killed by the blast intended for the cat. Hairball was devastated by Ms. Lion’s death, and accidentally triggered the Infinity Gem in his possession, resurrecting the mutt whom he’d previously found so annoying.
In the “Spider-Friends” cartoon series (1981-1983), Ms. Lion originally belonged to a teenage Firestar (Angelica Jones), but was adopted by Aunt May when Angelica, Peter and Bobby Drake (Iceman) roomed with her as college students.
11. HOT DOG
Hot Dog is a white sheepdog who belongs to Jughead Jones in the “Archie Comics” universe. He made his first appearance in the December 1968 issue of “Pep Comics” (December, 1968) and originally belonged to Archie. His ownership switched back and forth for a while before he permanently moved in with the Joneses. Hot Dog shares a few traits with his junk-food loving owner: he is laid back, loves to eat, and hates the scheming Reggie Mantle.
Hot Dog is also the mascot of the The Archies, and was shown in the cartoon conducting the band. In a recent incarnation, Hot Dog was at the heart of the zombie invasion in Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla’s “Afterlife with Archie.” After Reggie ran over Hot Dog, Jughead asked his friend Sabrina (the Teenage Witch) to resurrect his fallen pet. Hot Dog came back to life as a zombie and bit his former master, infecting him with the zombie plague. Jughead hid his wound from his friends and eventually turned on them, infecting them in turn. Hot Dog also starred in a five-issue solo series that riffed on the high-tech doghouse created for him by Dilton Doily.
10. REX THE WONDER DOG
Rex the Wonder Dog is a white German Shepperd who is often compared to Krypto, but whose origin preceded Superdog’s by three years. Originally a member of U.S. Army’s K-9 corps, Rex was injected with a super-serum that imbued him with superior strength, intelligence, speed and stamina. (Shades of Captain America, anybody?) However, Dr. Analobus, the scientist who created the secret formula was killed by Nazis, and left no notes, making rex the only canine of his kind.
Rex originally served in World War II, earning a medal for saving his handler, Lieutenant Dennis, from the Germans. Things got a little silly after the war. Rex was adopted by Dennis and became a dog detective, while also working as a stunt dog in Hollywood. “The Adventures of Rex the Wonder Dog,” ran for 46 issues from January 1952 to October 1959. The character was co-created by long-time “Wonder Woman” writer Robert Kanigher and artist John Broome. In 1975, Steve Englehart retconned Rex into the origin of the Justice League of America (issue 144). Rex’s brother, Pooch, is the mascot of the Losers, the infamous military unit lost on Dinosaur Island in Darwyn Cooke’s “The New Frontier.”
9. ACE THE BAT-HOUND
Ace the Bat-Hound made his first appearance in the pages of “Batman” #92. A German shepherd who belonged to engraver John Wilkers, Ace was found by Robin as the canine was trying to swim after his owner’s kidnappers in Gotham River. Because Bruce Wayne placed a series of found dog ads in the city papers under his own name, Robin concocted a mask that concealed the distinctive diamond mark on the dog’s forehead after the hound followed them out on a case. The crimefighters also faked a picture of Bruce with Ace and Batman (with Alfred wearing the Batsuit) to prevent the revelation of Bruce’s secret identity and then used the dog’s sense of scent to track down its master.
Tom King’s “Rebirth” version of Ace was one of the Joker’s guard dogs. Left in a pit with no food, Ace killed and ate the other dogs before turning on Batman. Taken to the pound and scheduled to be euthanized, Ace was rescued by Alfred, who made a sizeable donation in exchange for the dog. He trained Ace as a Christmas present for the oblivious Bruce, who put a mask on the pup and christened him Bat-Hound.
Dogmatix is a diminutive terrier who belongs to Obelix, the menhir-carrying sidekick of French comic book hero, Asterix the Gaul. Created by writer René Goscinny and artist Albert Uderzo, “The Adventures of Asterix” is a series of graphic novels that tells the story of the last remaining village of Gaul (early France) resisting the Roman occupation under Julius Caesar. Upon imbibing a magic potion brewed by their druid, Getafix, the villagers temporarily acquire super strength and speed, enabling them to fight Caesar’s battalions despite being vastly outnumbered. Obelix, who fell in a cauldron of the potion while still a baby, doesn’t need it because he is permanently strong.
Dogmatix started off as an unnamed pup who followed Asterix and Obelix around in “Asterix and the Banquet’ (the fourth book in the series). In the next book, “Asterix and Cleopatra” (which was adapted into animated and live action features), Obelix became an active part of the adventure and helped the travelling Gauls find their way out of the Great Pyramid of Giza, after they get lost in it. With over 300 million copies of the 36 Asterix books in print worldwide, Goscinny and Uderzo are the most successful bestselling French authors of all time.
Snowy, the faithful companion of roving teenage reporter Tintin, is a white Wire Fox Terrier created by Belgian cartoonist Hergé (real name Georges Remi). Snowy made his debut on January 10, 1929 in the pages of the youth supplement to the Belgium newspaper, “Le Vigntième Siècle” (The 20th Century) in the serialization of “Tintin in the Land of the Soviets,” which would become the first of 24 graphics novels featuring the pair.
Snowy started off as somewhat anthropomorphic (donning a pith helmet and taking an interest in geography) before becoming Snowy (Milou in French), who served as a comic relief and also “spoke” with other animals and other human characters, punctuating the action with running dialogue and warnings to Tintin (who understood Snowy’s utterances as barks, even though readers saw them fully spelled out). But with the introduction of the cantankerous Captain Haddock in 1943’s “The Crab with the Golden Claws” (the 9th volume of “The Adventures of Tintin”), Snowy took a back seat to the seaman as comedic relief, and ended up “speaking” only to Tintin. A truly globetrotting canine, Snowy’s adventures have taken him to every continent on Earth and also to the moon.
Cosmo is the security chief at Knowhere, a space station within the floating severed head of a Celestial, located on the edge of space-time. Originally a Soviet space dog, the Golden Retriever/Labrador cross was sent into orbit in the 1960s to determine whether human spaceflight was possible. He drifted into space and ended up at Knowhere, having mutated, and having gained telekinetic and telepathic powers. Created by writers Andy Lanning and Dan Abnett, and artist Wellinton Alves, Cosmo made his first appearance in “Nova” (Vol. 4, issue #8) in 2008. As security chief of the station, he once hid its citizens in a dimensional envelope on his collar to protect them from the Abyss, an entity that can transform organic life forms into “meat puppets” (a.k.a. zombies).
Cosmo is also Knowhere’s liaison to the current Guardians of the Galaxy, providing the team access the station’s Continuum Cortex, which is built into the brain stem of the Celestial, and which can teleport wearers of a passport bracelet anywhere in time and space. In James Gunn’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie, Cosmo was part of the Collector’s menagerie and was seen in the post-credits sequence with Howard the Duck.
Thori made his first appearance in the Christmas 2011 issue of “Journey into Mystery” (#632). Part of a litter of seven that was sired by Loki’s Hel Wolf, Thori and his siblings were given to the trickster god by their mother, Garm, who could not care for them while performing her duties guarding the entrance to the underworld. Unlike his littermates, who simply barked and breathed fire, Thori emerged from the gift box that housed the pups screaming a blue streak. “Death to Asgard!” he yelled, “Murder! Murder! Murder!” Ordered by the All-Mother to find homes for the puppies, Loki found masters for six of the seven dogs, but foul-mouthed, foul-tempered Thori proved impossible to home. Loki was ordered to destroy him by throwing him into the World Tree, but seeing a lot of himself in the rambunctious pup, Loki spared him.
Described as “a cross between a Terrier, a Husky and a flamethrower,” Thori was last seen in pages of “Unworthy Thor,” where he helped Odinson escape the clutches of the collector. As for his name, Loki had been reincarnated as a child following the events of “Siege” and had no memory of his brother.
Lockjaw is a giant bulldog who is said to have been mutated into his canine form by the Terrigen Mists. A member of the Inhumans’ royal family, he was created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, and made his first appearance in “Fantastic Four” #45. Lockjaw has the ability to teleport himself and a group of people significant distances. When Maximus enveloped the Inhuman city of Attilan in a Negative Zone barrier, Lockjaw teleported outside the city and encountered Johnny Storm and Wyatt Wingfoot. The pair had initially hoped that the dog would teleport them back into the barricaded city to reunite Johnny with his Inhuman girlfriend, Crystal, but Lockjaw instead teleported the pair around the planet and into various parallel dimensions.
Most recently, Lockjaw served as a companion to the Kamala Khan, the current Ms. Marvel. After Wolverine realized that Kamala was part Inhuman, he informed Medusa of the girl’s generic heritage and the queen sent Lockjaw to protect the young superhero from harm. Lockjaw also starred in “Pet Avengers,” an outside-continuity story that shows him and a group of animal heroes collecting the six infinity gems and successfully stranding Thanos in an alternate pocket dimension.
3. LUCKY (A.K.A. PIZZA DOG)
Created by Matt Fraction and David Aja, Lucky the Pizza Dog made his debut in the first issue of Vol. 4 of the “Hawkeye” solo title. Originally named Arrow and belonging to Ivan Banionis of the “Tracksuit Mafia,” Lucky turned on his abusive masters after Avenger Clint Barton fed him a slice before trying to buy back the building he lived in from its new criminal owners. Lucky was hit by a cab after saving Clint from a bullet, but Barton paid his vet bills and nursed him back to recovery. As Clint descended into a spiral of self-pity, Lucky took off to L.A. with Kate Bishop, Barton’s protégé, and the younger Hawkeye. The pair returned to help Hawkeye fight the “Tracksuit Mafia” one last time, but Lucky got shot attacking a hitman named the Clown.
Fraction and Aja’s “Hawkeye” #11 told the story from Lucky’s point of view. Pizza Dog’s thoughts were presented in the form of pictograms created by letterer Chris Eliopoulos (who is credited with “production” on the issue). It is considered one of the greatest single comic book issues of all time.
Bandit is a cybernetically enhanced Labrador mix in Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s stellar “WE3.” He was modified by the U.S. Army after he went missing from his family home. The three-issue mini follows Bandit (or “1”), a similarly enhanced cat (Tinker, or 2) and a rabbit (Pirate, or 3) after they were “decommissioned” by the military. Rather than watch them euthanized, project co-lead Dr. Rosanne Berry set the three free, hoping that they would kill her during their escape, but the animals spared her and headed cross-country in search of their original homes.
The army sent out a group of cybernetically enhanced rats, and eventually WE4, a modified pitbull, to eliminate the escapees (who had found refuge with a homeless man), but not before Pirate was severely injured in a confrontation with a family that mistook him for an alien. Cybernetic implants gave the trio limited speech and their dialogue adds poignancy to this gut-wrenching story about animal abuse. The brutality and the poignancy of this work by the “All-Star Superman” team makes it a must read for animal lovers.
Superdog Krypto was created by Otto Binder and the legendary Curt Swan. He made his first appearance in “Adventure Comics” #210. Originally the baby Kal-El’s pet on Krypton, the puppy Krypto was sent into space by Jor-El, to test the rocket design that would eventually carry his infant son into space. However, Krypto’s rocket veered off course and the puppy grew up on the long journey that eventually brought him to Earth. Having the same powers as the teenage Clark, Krypto proved to be a challenge to train, chasing meteors and cats, and taking bites out of flying airplanes and local bridges. At the end of the issue, the inquisitive canine flew off into space to explore the universe, leaving Superboy pining for his pet.
In Grant Morrison’s New 52 “Action Comics” run, Krypto was sucked into the Phantom Zone during the destruction of the planet Krypton. Years later, he was rescued by the grown-up Clark, who’d been projected into the Zone by Xa-Du, a prisoner seeking revenge for his incarceration at the hands of Jor-El (in “Action Comics” #13). Sholly Fisch’s backup story in that issue showed Phantom Zone Krypto as a ghost protecting Clark as the Kryptonian boy grew up on Earth.
Who’s your favorite comic book dog? Tell us which one you like the most in the comments!