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Top 10 Super-Dogs!

Longbox Graveyard #147

Longbox Graveyard goes to the dogs with this Top 10 List of the greatest comic book super-dogs of all time!

It’s Super-Blog Team-Up time again! Super-Blog Team-Up is a loose collection of comic book blogs and podcasts that come together several times a year to opine on a common topic. In the past, we’ve tackled superheroes calling it quits, ret-cons, bad guys, team-ups, and alternative time lines. This time, we’re offering Top 10 Listsa subject near and dear to my heart!

Super-Blog Team-Up

My past Top 10 lists have been (mostly) serious … or as serious as things get in funnybooks. I’ve listed my Top 10 Captain America Villains, Top 10 DC Comics Characters, Top 10 Marvel Comics Characters, Top 10 Superhero Lairs, and many more. With the Longbox Graveyard Super-Animal Showdown recently drawn to a close, this Super-Blog Team-Up seemed the ideal opportunity to add the Top 10 Super-Dogs to my roll of honor!

Before we get to the list, a few ground rules.

First, I am interested only in characters that appeared first or primarily in comic books. Animation is a whole ‘nother business … so you won’t find characters like Underdog or Dynomutt here. While some of these characters would also appear in animation, they are first and foremost comic-book dogs. Get it? Got it? Good!

Second, this list is heavily biased by the Bronze and Silver Age superhero sensibilities of Longbox Graveyard. Most (but not all) of these mutts are traditional comic book canines that have been around for decades, and all but one of my pooches hails from the comic book “Big Two” publishers. My apologies to all the contemporary, hip, indie comics hounds that I have unfairly consigned to the dog house!

Third, there is no third rule … aside from the restriction that David Letterman used to offer when introducing his nightly Top Ten — “Please, no wagering!”

Without further ado, and in reverse order (to help preserve the suspense, natch), here’s the Longbox Graveyard Top 10 Super-Dogs!

HONORABLE MENTION

The list leads with an honorable mention for DC’s Space Canine Patrol Agents!

A product of DC’s wonderfully unhinged Silver Age, the Space Canine Patrol Agents (SCPA) were a kind of all-dog counterpart to the Legion of Super-Heroes. First appearing in Superboy #131, the group included a dog you know — Krypto — and a whole bunch of C-list canines, like Tusky Husky, Prophetic Pup, and Chameleon Collie. Close your eyes and you can imagine this lot opening their meetings with their sacred oath — “Big dog, big dog, bow wow wow! We’ll stop evil, now now now!”

SCPA!

I can’t begin to parse through the SCPA membership for this list, so they all get in with an honorable mention (and one member of the crew will shortly get much more than that). For more on the too-weird-not-to-be-true SCPA, head on over to the indispensable Dial B For Blog, which has enough vintage SCPA art to get your tail wagging!

#10  Dogpool

Wilson was an alternate-universe mutt experimented upon for cosmetics testing. With the experiment deemed a failure, poor Wilson was thrown away … only to rise as Dogpool!

Dogpool

Animal testing for the cosmetics industry? On dogs? Now, there’s some true villainy!

Dogpool appeared in an astonishing 29 issues of various Deadpool comics (if Comic Vine is to believed), which either says something about the staying power of this character, or the vacuous nature of Deadpool books! Fingers are crossed that Dogpool gets some spotlight time when Deadpool comes to the silver screen in his 2016 movie debut!

#9  Max

Did you know that the Punisher had a dog? And did you know that this dog was so tough, even the Punisher couldn’t kill him? Meet Max!

Meet Max!

Max was totally off my radar until Dean Compton — frequent Longbox Graveyard guest columnist, host of The Unspoken Decade, and the world’s biggest Punisher fan — convinced me that Max deserved a place in the Round of 32 in last month’s Super-Animal Showdown.

Max is a savage Rottweiler who guards the Punisher’s safe house. He was wounded in the line of duty — so badly wounded that the Punisher put him down with a knife. But wait! So outraged was fan reaction to Max’s death that a retcon later established that hard-hearted Punisher actually performed some kind of surgery on Max and saved his life!

And so there you have it … Max, the dog even the Punisher couldn’t kill!

(And let’s not be exploiting any more poor Rottweilers to guard our safe houses, OK?)

#8  Destructo

As near as I can tell, Destructo only appeared once — in 1961’s Superboy #92 — but if you’re Lex Luthor’s dog, and you wear a Jolly Roger cape, you’ve got to make the list …

Destructo!

Gaining super powers by a run-in with young Lex Luthor’s time machine, Destructo went on a rampage, impersonating Krypto and ruining the Dog of Steel’s good name! This adventure alone was enough to earn Destructo the title of Krypto’s arch-enemy … this is one super-dog overdue for a comeback!

#7  Vegas

The honor of being the sole non-DC or Marvel comics dog in my top ten goes to Archie’s loyal dog, Vegas!

Vegas, by Francesco Francavilla

If we were just talking about the classic, canonical, Riverdale version of Archie’s pet, he likely wouldn’t make this list … but Vegas’ stand-out appearance in the zombie-infested Afterlife With Archie was emotional and unforgettable. I reviewed that surprisingly impactful series here — and I don’t want to give too much away about Vegas, in case you haven’t yet read Archie’s excellent undead adventure — but this image should give you an idea of why Vegas rates the seventh spot on my list!

Archie's best friend

#6  Cosmo

Now, this is pure cool. A Soviet space dog that drifted off course, mutated into a super-intelligent psychic that projects his thoughts with a stereotypical Russian accent, still wears his CCCP space suit, and serves as security chief on the space station the Guardians of the Galaxy calls home? Damn, it’s all I can do not to make Cosmo #1 on my list!

Cosmo

I just about leapt out of my seat when Cosmo made a cameo appearance in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, as one of the many captors of the dread Collector. When the Collector’s headquarters went boom, I turned to my son and said, “If Cosmo bought it, I’m walking out!” Fortunately, a quick shot showed Cosmo trotting to safety, and so the dream is alive that we will see Cosmo facing down his frenemy, Rocket Raccoon, in the inevitable Guardians of the Galaxy sequel!

#5  Pizza Dog

Also known as Lucky, Pizza Dog is the lovable mutt that Hawkeye rescues from the Russian mob in his recent breakout series by Matt Fraction and David Aja.

Pizza Dog

Lucky becomes a memorable supporting character in the series, and even stars in the brilliant issue #11 of the run, a book that told the kind of story that comics do better than any other dramatic form — a story related from Lucky’s point of view, using only the senses and sensibilities of a single and extraordinary dog. A great story about a great character, from a team at the top of their form (and good enough to snag an Eisner, too!)

Hawkeye #11

#4  Rex The Wonder-Dog

We need to fire up the Wayback Machine for the #4 hound on our list …

Rex vs. T-Rex

Debuting in 1952’s The Adventures of Rex The Wonder Dog, and appearing in DC adventures right up into the 21st century, Rex would have a serious pedigree even if his early adventures hadn’t been created by comics legends Robert Kanigher and Alex Toth! Rex’s forty-six issue run through the 1950s benefitted from some terrific Gil Kane covers, too.

Rex The Wonder Dog by Gil Kane

A kind of canine Captain America, Rex was a German Shepherd in the U.S. Army’s K-9 Corps who received a super-soldier serum injection, serving in World War II and Korea before becoming a crime-fighter, battling aliens and dinosaurs, and fighting alongside the future Justice League of America. A wonder dog, indeed!

#3  Ace the Bat-Hound

Ace hasn’t the resume of Rex the Wonder-Dog, but he gets on the podium of our Super-Dog Top 10 because … Batman!

Ace the Bat-Hound

Because nothing that works in comics isn’t worth over-doing, Ace’s appearance was a foregone conclusion when Krypto took the comics world by storm in 1955. A scant four month’s later, Superboy’s dog was joined by Batman’s hound, Ace, in the DC universe of super-animal stars!

Ace never caught on like Krypto, but c’mon. He wears a Batman mask, and he hangs around the Batcave. Ace is awesome just walking into the room …

#2  Lockjaw

The surprise winner of the Longbox Graveyard Super-Animal Showdown rates the penultimate position on our list!

Hugs For Lockjaw!

Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and making his first appearance in 1965’s Fantastic Four #45, Lockjaw is the unforgettable teleporting super-dog of the weird and wonderful Inhumans. That alone would ensure that Lockjaw made this list, but the four-footed Inhuman has had a long and surprisingly successful second act to his career, first headlining his own book in Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers, and then playing a supporting role in the new fan favorite Ms. Marvel series.

Fifty years after he was born, it seems that Lockjaw is still a pup. Respect!

#1  Krypto

And respect is what it’s all about for the #1 entry on the Super-Dog Top 10.

It’s Krypto, of course!

Krypto by Alex Ross

C’mon, who else could it be? Krypto is the sine qua non of dogs in capes!

First appearing in Adventure Comics #210 in 1955, Krypto was an instant hit as Superboy’s pet. The pilot of Jor-El’s prototype rocket that would eventually bring baby Superman to Earth, Krypto was knocked off course and reached our planet later than baby Kal-El, but still in plenty of time to partner with Superboy in many of his Silver Age Adventures, and even becoming leader of the Legion of Super-Pets!

Lockjaw may have (narrowly) defeated Krypto in their recent showdown, but in the long view of history, there’s only one possible Top Dog when it comes to super-pets. All hail Krypto, the greatest Super-Dog of them all!

to be continued ...

That will do it for my Top 10 Super-Dogs. Please share your thoughts in the comments section, below! And also take a look at the many other fine Top 10 Lists on offer from my fellow Super-Blog Team-Up colleagues:

PLUS! Catch up with the Super-Blog Team-Up crew in their very own Sub-Reddit!

Thanks for reading! And if you are ready to make room for a super-dog in your own home and heart, remember that there are thousands of awesome shelter dogs looking for a good home! Please visit my friends at Adopt-A-Pet.com to find your new best friend!

Adopt-A-Pet.com

NEXT MONTH: #148 Longbox Soapbox

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Afterlife With Archie

Longbox Graveyard #138

It may only be October 1st, but that makes it Halloween here at Longbox Graveyard, and I’m celebrating with a full month of monster-themed posts. So why — with a library of Tomb of Dracula, Swamp Thing, and EC Horror books to review — am I kicking off Halloween Month with an Archie comic?

Francesco Francavilla, Afterlife With Archie

I’ll come clean — I don’t get the Archies. Before Afterlife With Archie, I’d never read an Archie comic (and judging by sales numbers, neither did many of you). That this zombie reinvention of a seventy-odd-year-old teenager inspired me to splash out for a graphic novel collection is itself a noteworthy achievement … that the comic is genuinely creepy and compelling is moldy icing on the undead cake!

Afterlife With Archie isn’t coy about its ambitions …

Afterlife With Archie

… but I suppose that makes sense. If the audience wasn’t interested in the way the Archie world was, maybe the best approach is to bring that world to an end, and that’s just what creators Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Fracavilla are doing in the ongoing Afterlife With Archie series. I don’t know how long they can keep this premise going (and my most substantial criticism of this collection under review is that it is largely a prelude to a longer story as-yet untold), but based on this volume, I will continue to purchase the collections as they are released — I find I am eager to return to this tale, unlike, say, Walking Dead which I’ve never revisited after banging through the first forty-eight issues two years ago.

I think this is due to Afterlife With Archie’s sense of fun — something absent from the dour Walking Dead. This is not to say that Afterlife With Archie is played for laughs. Far from it! This is actually one of the more sophisticated comics I’ve read in awhile, with meaningful characterization, affecting character deaths, intriguing romantic relationships, and a frank and believable look at how young people might behave when placed under the unimaginable pressures of a zombie holocaust. The series has an up-to-date art style and delivers everything you would expect from a Direct Market title. But the iconic foundations of the series can’t help but lend a sense of fun to the proceedings — after all, these are Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead that we’re talking about!

Afterlife With Archie, by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla

And therein resides the thematic judo-flip that makes this series work. The reason I never read an Archies comic before now is that I didn’t care about a bunch of 1950s kids hanging around the malt shop. As long as Archies was about the kids of Riverdale High, my opinion was never going to change. But even if I wasn’t interested in the Archies, Afterlife With Archie had the advantage of three-quarters of a century worth of brand equity on their side — compared to some entirely new series, at least I knew what the Archies were.

Here’s the judo flip. If you are publishing the Archies, are you limited to telling stories about malt shop kids? Or can you reinvent those characters as archetypes — keep the names, the relationships, the essential nature of the characters, but throw them into a whole new world? By casting the Archies at the center of a zombie story, the publisher has instantly turned their disadvantage into a gigantic asset. By deciding that Archies comics were about iconic characters having adventures together — rather than central-casting teenagers that haven’t changed in decades — they’ve suddenly opened up a whole universe to explore. By embracing archetypes rather than continuity, I can see these characters at the center of horror stories, science fiction epics, historical dramas … just about anything, really. And rather than being a hindrance, all the built-in “baggage” of the Archies becomes an asset, giving us a running start at the new story because we are already familiar with the characters. To explain in even more geek-centric terms, it’s as if the creators of Star Trek decided their series wasn’t about exploring strange new worlds, but instead transplanted the relationships and conflicts between a headstrong captain, an emotional doctor, and a soulful outsider scientist to some other place in the past, present, or future.

Star Trek: Patterns Of Force

hmm … I may have picked the wrong example!

Brilliant!

Or brilliant, at least, for this first set of stories. Inspired by a variant cover artist Francesco Francavilla drew for Life With Archie, Afterlife With Archie has flowered into a series worth reading. This first collection focuses on the outbreak of Riverdale’s zombie infestation, with the flashpoint the unwise resurrection of Jughead’s dog (by Sabrina the Teenage Witch, who is slated to star in a new Archie horror series herself) — a bit of forbidden magic that has immediate consequences for Sabrina, and lasting consequences for her friends.

Afterlife With Archie, by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla

Afterlife With Archie, by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla

From there, things rapidly go from bad-to-worse, and if there’s a sense that we’ve seen it all before, that’s part of the fun — the familiar trope of characters refusing to believe their first contact with the supernatural is heightened by the characters themselves representing such well-known tropes. We know that our heroes are going to underestimate the danger; we know that some supporting character is going to get turned or eaten; we know that the impregnable fortress where the gang wants to wait out the trouble will prove anything but … these are iconic situations, and seeing equally iconic characters wrestle with this stuff just adds to the fun. It’s kind of like Cabin In The Woods — if Cabin In The Woods played it straight, and its archetypal heroes weren’t self-aware or exploited as-such.

All of which is a middlebrow way of saying that it’s cool to watch zombie Jughead run amok at the high school costume party, and then take his place as the general of the zombie army threatening Riverdale. But this book is more than just a zombie romp. I felt genuine pathos when young men lost their childhood pets, or had to confront family members turned monstrous by the undead plague.

Afterlife With Archie, by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla

I was involved in the rocky relationship between Ginger and Nancy, concerned what will happen if their lesbian relationship is made public, and I was intrigued by the torturous teasing and implied incest between the blue-blooded Cheryl and Jason Blossom. Heck, I even enjoyed watching the Archie/Betty/Veronica love triangle play out through via disagreement about who was going with with whom — and as what — to the Halloween Dance.

Afterlife With Archie, by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla

Obviously I can’t speak for how lifelong Archies fans will enjoy this series. There’s no telling if they’d consider this a fun reinvention, or a callous exploitation of cherished comic book creations for short term gain. Judged on its own, Afterlife With Archie is a superior series, and after imaging how this formula might be employed by other property I value — like the classic Star Trek I mentioned above — my sense is that existing Archies fans will find much to like here. But for the vastly larger portion of fandom — with no particular attachment to the Archies — this series provides fun reading: stylish, scary, emotional, surprising, relatable, exciting, and fun. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has an easy way with dialogue and plotting, and I love the October palettes of Francesco Francavilla’s horror show art. Afterlife With Archie is nostalgic and fresh at the same time, a creepy good time with a sneaky emotional punch.

I did not expect to like Afterlife With Archie, but I came away a fan — how about you? Let me know what you think in the comments, below … and be sure to join me every Wednesday in October as Halloween Month continues at Longbox Graveyard!

NEXT MONTH: #139 The Song of Red Sonja

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