Our look at newspaper comic strips continues with one of the best strips that's currently running. It's probably massively underrated, but it's great fun, and it'll charm the pants off of you. And then shed on them. (Archive.)
As Graeme McMillan was saying the other day, "charming" has become a dirty word, and a backhanded compliment. Well, forget that-- I'm using it like Webster intended. Mutts is the most charming comic strip in the funnies. It's relentlessly charming, in fact, and has completely won me over. Family Circus wishes it had a tenth of the charm that Mutts does.
Created and cartooned by Patrick McDonnell, Mutts is the story of Earl and Mooch, who are a dog and a cat, respectively, and their world, including a variety of other animals as well as their owners. It shows the world and society from the animal's point of view. While the strip isn't roll-around-on-the-floor funny, it's cute and humorous and elicits chuckles. "Whimsical," you might call it.
McDonnell's cartooning style appears scratchy and simplistic, but it's endlessly emotive and fanciful. It reminds me of the seemingly effortless and wonderful cartooning of classic strips from the early part of the 20th century. McDonnell also plays with the format of the comic strip quite often, rearranging the layout to an aesthetic advantage that isn't found in most other strips. He also produces a lot of neat little homages to other art styles in the Sunday title panel. Some of these include references to Action Comics #1, Flash Comics #1, the Hulk, Hellboy, and Dick Tracy. You can find more of these tributes at this section of the Mutts website.
The Mutts world also includes a rich supporting cast, from owners like Ozzie, Frank, and Millie, to neighborhood kids, to Butchie the Butcher, to all sorts of members of the animal kingdom. There's the unfortunately ever-chained Guard Dog, the surly Sourpuss, Sid the fish, Shtinky, the cat who's also an animal rights activist, Woofie the wuv doggie, Noodles the alley cat, and more. My favorite supporting character has gotta be Crabby the cussin' crustacean, or maybe Bip and Bop, the squirrels who continuously bonk other characters on the heads with acorns.
McDonnell himself is a great proponent of animal rights, and uses the strip to promote pet adoption (though his "Shelter Stories" series of strips), and speaks through his characters to help endangered species, protect the environment, and warn against animal cruelty. The moral of the strip, basically, is to love your pets and your world. The animals are sweet, innocent, adorable, and lovable.
From the sweet cast to the silly running gags and the lovely, enthusiastic spirit of the strip, Mutts has got-- here's that word again-- a heartwarming charm. I love it.
Here, have more examples of its greatness (click on any images in today's post to enlarge them):
Mutts can be witty, silly, sad, and uplifting, sometimes all at once. It's maybe the best strip my home paper publishes. I love it.
Check out the Official Mutts website for all sorts of good content. It's packed with great stuff. More strips, some archives, a look into the artistic process, a biography on the cartoonist, forums, stuff for kids, and stuff to help our furry friends in need. Terrific website. Quite a few of the images in this post were borrowed from said website. All strips here are copyright Patrick McDonnell. (Don't sue me; I do this out of love. Cheers.) And for even more internet Mutts goodness, try this neat fansite.
Now go out, buy yourself a Mutts collection or twelve, and cuddle with your favorite pet or twelve. It's the right thing to do.