A short while back, I discussed a great Gold Key one-shot called Duke, of the K-9 Patrol. It got me thinking about other canine-centric adventure titles and it occurred to be that this was really something of a subgenre during the 50s and 60s. I’m not taking about animated dogs such as Scooby-Doo or Pluto, I’m talking about straightforward, earnest comics with a heroic dog as the main protagonist. Here’s a quick look at some of them:
For me, Adventures of Rex the Wonder Dog is the Cadillac of dog comics. Rex is all kinds of amazing. I’ve only read a handful of these, but they are a ton of fun, with engaging stories written by Robert Kanigher and John Broome and wonderful artwork by Gil Kane and Alex Toth. Rex ran for 43 issues over 7 years, and remains a fine example of the charm that emanated from DC comics in the 50s.
Streak, the Wonder Dog was the precursor to Rex, appearing in All-American Comics just before the transition to westerns. Streak began as a sidekick to Alan Scott, but seemed to take centre stage. The cover blurb on All-American Comics #99 (Just, 1948) reminds of the great line: "I’ve told them a hundred times... ‘Spinal Tap’ first and then ‘Puppet Show’ ."
You may not be surprised to hear that Lassie had her own title, but did you know that it ran for nearly two decades. Dell began publishing MGM’s Lassie in 1950 and Gold Key kept it going right up to issue #70 in 1969. I’m more of a ‘painted cover’ guy, so I’m a bit more drawn to the earlier issues, than the later ones tied into the TV series. Matt Baker contributed the artwork to issues 20-22, so I’d love to get my hands on those. Other artists contributing to this series included Ralph Mayo and Dan Spiegle.
The character Lad, A Dog actually pre-dates Lassie in the category of ‘heroic Collie’, but the movie and comic followed years later. It only lasted two issues (one as part of the Four Color series and one as part of the eponymous title). Sam Glanzman fans should take note that he was on art duties for these stories.
If I only had enough money to buy a single dog-based comic book series, I think I would go with Blaze, the Wonder Collie, a Timely series that lasted two issues in 1949. I don’t know much about this series other than it has fun photo covers and the GCD reports the synopsis of one 18 page story: as Blaze is kidnapped, sold to the K-9 corps, meets Glenn Forest in Europe, becomes a war hero, and is re-united with Judy in the US. How could you possibly pass up that story?
Avon produced the awesome looking one-shot War Dogs of the US Army in 1952. It is nice to see that Collie dogs didn’t have a monopoly on comic worthy adventures. The fantastic Everett Raymond Kinstler drew this intense cover, but I’m not sure who did the interior work. I’ve never seen a copy of this for sale, but if I saw an affordable lower grade copy I’d pick it up in a heartbeat.
Dell’s Four Color #729 was an adaptation Alfred Ollivant’s 1898 children’s book Bob, Son of Battle. It was written by Gaylord DuBois, and drawn by Mike Sekowsky, who really could draw anything. I’m not familiar with this story, but it is apparently about two sheep dogs in the Cumbria area of northwest England. One is apparently less than pleasant, and makes life difficult for Bob.
I would imagine that dog lovers would go nuts for the 100 page A Treasury of Dogs, published in 1956 by Dell. It is a blend of fictional stories, historical information as well as one-pager on topics such as caring for a dog. It really would have been great to grow up during the the Dell Giant era.
Two years later saw the publication of Gilberton’s World Around Us #1, featuring The Illustrated Story of Dogs. This 84-pager consists mainly of true story of courageous dogs, including a numbers of stories focusing on dogs involved in WW2 (apparently Pooch wasn't the only one). There are also short bits on specific breeds such as terriers and toy dogs, and an article on taking care of your dog; including housebreaking tips.
So that's a quick look at the world of dog comics. I've only scratched the surface here, as there were also books dedicated to Rin Tin Tin, Old Yeller, Nikki Wild Dog of the North, The Shaggy Dog etc... etc... One day, I'll come back and talk about horse comics, as that is another fascinating subgenre.
For more comic book chatter - stop by my blog Seduction of the Indifferent