Thursday, April 03, 2008
NCCCCC: Perplexing Pet Playoff
The Perplexing Pet category has been the hardest bracket of the National Corniest Cliché Comic Character Countdown to seed. Many strips have pets, but they rarely have major roles except for getting sick at inopportune times and ruining planned Paris vacations. Most of the time if they aren’t the star, they are just visual background.
Some of the pet-oriented strips are among the best in print. Snoopy in his day, for better or for worse, became THE breakout Peanuts character and made Charles Schultz a very wealthy if rather troubled man. And speaking of For Better Or For Worse, the death of Farley affected a generation more than Ol’ Yeller. Last year Bucky Katt mopped the floor of the National Coolest Comics Character finals with the other contestants.
On the other hand, there are strips with pets that are among the most reviled characters on the funny pages. And others that just make you scratch your head in confusion. Let’s have a look at some of those.
One of the most hated yet inexplicably popular “talking” animal characters ever. The very young and the feeble-minded find him hilarious and Jim Davis has been trying to breathe some new life into the franchise, but the damage has been done. Garfield is arguably not even a cat. I’m not aware of too many Monday-hating, lasagna-loving, “bachelor-baby”ing real life cats out there. But he is a character in all senses of the word and a merchandising juggernaut.
Perhaps the best way to describe Heathcliff is as a mute, less funny Garfield. Seemingly slightly more cat-like than Garfield, Heathcliff is more of a delinquent alley cat with airs. The pantomime style doesn’t give him much personality to work with and he makes the least of it.
Earl and Mooch (Mutts)
Mutts is a comic strip loved by those pretentious snobs that lament the lost artistic glory days of the funny pages. The strip is beautifully drawn in a gorgeous retro style with lots of in-jokes that date back to The Yellow Kid. But have this cat and dog duo (without looking, tell me which is Earl and which is Mooch) ever done anything funny? Unless you count talking with a lisp as appropriate 21st century comedy material. They are loved as a concept but the strip lacks sound execution.
Dawg (Hi and Lois)
Even the name is completely generic (and highly offensive to those of us who despise the University of Georgia athletic program). Dawg is the Flagstone family pet that mostly interacts with pre-verbal Trixie, which makes him about as important as the sunbeam.
Marmaduke is a Really Big Dog.
Pick which pet belongs in the pound for crimes against comics. This category is tough to give firm direction on, so leave your thought process in the comments.
And if you haven’t voted yet in the Alarming Alcoholic or Dopey Dad category yet, make sure to visit those.