The Beat’s Gregory Paul Silber has been accused of having a bit of an… obsessive personality. Each week in Silber Linings, he takes a humorous look at the weirdest, funniest, and most obscure bits of comics and pop culture that he can’t get out of his head.
It’s unofficial Puppy Week here at The Beat, and since comics have no shortage of good boys, I have been tasked with determining which dogs are the goodest.
Bear in mind that all dogs are good dogs, so if your favorite didn’t make the list, rest assured they still deserve treats and belly rubs.
Created by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta
If WandaVision fans read Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta‘s 2015-2016 The Vision (which they absolutely should), they might be surprised to meet Sparky as he originally appeared. On TV, there’s nothing to indicate that he’s much different from other dogs, even if he is an unwitting pawn in a witch’s dark manifestation of her own trauma.
Sparky’s a lot more interesting in the comics, which you might suspect from his green fur. When The Vision created his android family, including his wife Virginia and twin teens Vin and Viv, he also built Sparky to complete the picturesque ideal of a normal American family living in the suburbs of Arlington, Virginia. There’s a great deal of tragedy in that Vision comic, and Sparky isn’t immune to it, but he brings palpable warmth to every panel he’s in.
9. Man-Wolf/John Jonah Jameson III
John Jameson created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Man-Wolf created by Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas
I’m bending the rules with this one, because even if we count werewolves as dogs, Man-Wolf may not technically even be a werewolf. At least not in the traditional sense of being bitten by a werewolf and transforming on the full moon of each month. No, he’s an astronaut who brought a moon rock back to earth, which he wore as a pendant that transformed him into a wolf man. But I’m including Man-Wolf because nothing captures the delightful madness of Marvel comics quite like John Jonah Jameson the Third.
You know J Jonah Jameson? Peter Parker’s mean boss at The Daily Bugle? JK Simmons played him in those Spider-Man movies you like, opposite star Tobey Maguire? Yeah, well his son is an astronaut. An astronaut who is also a werewolf.
If that doesn’t fill your heart with joy, I don’t know if Marvel comics are for you. I’m cackling right now just thinking about him. An astronaut! Who’s a werewolf! And his dad is a megalomaniac newspaper publisher who hates Spider-Man so much he once tried to murder him with killer robots! It’s so many things!
Somehow, John Jameson III has appeared in two movies–first in 2004’s Spider-Man 2 as Mary Jane’s erstwhile fiancé, then in 2018 as an astronaut aboard the mission that brought the symbiote down to Earth in Venom — yet neither version gave any indication of his latent werewolfness. And that’s why comics are superior.
8. Ralph Wrinkles
Created by Malachai and Ethan Nicolle
Few comics exemplify the unadulterated fun of comics quite like Axe Cop. “Created by a 5-year-old and his 29-year-old brother,” it reads like it came from the mind of a wildly imaginative and unintentionally hilarious small child, because that’s literally how it came to be. Axe Cop’s dog, Ralph Wrinkles, is just one of countless examples of what happens when you actually pay attention to the crazy things kids say while they’re playing pretend.
Ralph Wrinkles is a talking dog with a spaceship, a robot army to do his bidding, the ability to shoot healing beams from his eyes, laser beams from his mouth, and also he wears sunglasses.
Ralph loses points for not stopping his co-creator Ethan Nicolle from starting a podcast with Earthworm Jim creator and known bigot Doug Tennapel, but kind of like how you sometimes have to separate art from artist, there are no bad dogs. Just bad owners.
7. Hot Dog
Created by Frank Doyle and Harry Lucey
I loved the dog I grew up with, Max. He was a beautiful black lab who wanted nothing more from this fallen world than to be friends with everyone he met, be they human, dog, or squirrel. He lived a good long life, but I was heartbroken when he died and still miss him, as I’m sure anyone would who’s lost a beloved pet.
But would I enlist my witch friend (Sabrina, of course) to bring Max back by harnessing the unholy power of necromancy, thereby accelerating the zombie apocalypse? Honestly, I can’t say that particular thought crossed by mind. But that’s exactly what Jughead did when his sheepdog Hot Dog died in Afterlife with Archie by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla.
Obviously, Afterlife is one of the more out-there takes on the Archie gang. But besides creating TV shows like Riverdale and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Aguirre-Sacasa is the Chief Creative Officer of Archie comics. So if he thinks Hot Dog is such a good boy that he’s worth ending the world over, perhaps he has a point.
Created by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
We3 is the story of three household pets — a dog, a cat, and a bunny rabbit — who are turned into deadly weapons at the hands of a shady government program. They escape, and embark on a perilous, heartbreaking adventure.
This is just one of several classic comics modern masters Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely created together, but one of the things that makes Bandit the dog so memorable is that for all the sci-fi action and horrific violence in We3, he’s still a quintessential dog.
Yes, Bandit is forced to wear robot armor that makes him deadly to the government operatives pursuing him, and he even has limited capacity for speech, but at heart, he’s still a regular dog, with all the lovability you’d expect from Man’s Best Friend. He’s sweet, intuitively empathetic, and as much as he’s fiercely loyal to his cat and rabbit companion, he doesn’t want to hurt anyone. He just wants to return home to his family.
5. Ace the Bat-Hound
Created by Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff
Krypto is a dog with all the powers of Superman, so what does that make Ace the Bat-Hound, a dog with all the powers of Batman? Well… pretty much just a regular dog. But here’s the thing: dogs are great!
There have been comics where Ace uses Batman-like gadgets to help Batman fight crime or sniff out clues, but in recent years, creators have mostly opted to keep him at home in Wayne Manor; it can be difficult to figure out how to write a German shepherd (nope, Ace isn’t technically a hound) into a gritty superhero adventure.
As much as I wish we got to see Ace more often, I love that he’s still a member of the Bat-Family. It’s nice to know that after a long night of battling murder clowns and various mental-health-professionals-gone-bad, Ace is always there to welcome him back home.
4. Lucky, A.K.A. Pizza Dog
Created by Matt Fraction and David Aja
Speaking of non-superpowered superhero pets, Lucky may not qualify for the Pet Avengers, but he certainly proved his loyalty, bravery, and irresistibility in Matt Fraction and David Aja‘s 2012-2015 Hawkeye run, one of the greatest comics of the last twenty years.
Pizza Dog (nicknamed because Hawkeye/Clint Barton fed him a slice when they first met) also has the distinction of starring in one of the most groundbreaking single issues in recent memory: the Eisner-winning Hawkeye #11, “Pizza is My Business.” Told entirely from Lucky’s perspective, it’s a masterclass on what comics can communicate that’s impossible for any other medium to achieve.
But mostly, we love Pizza Dog because he’s cute as heck. He’s got those big floppy ears and he salutes with his paw and he looks like he’s winking. “I dunno man, dog likes pizza. How bad can he be?”
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Lockjaw is another one of those characters who has a lot going on. He’s the dog of the Inhuman Royal Family. He has teleportation powers. He wears a little tuning fork on his head. Oh, and he’s fucking HUGE. Not Clifford the Big Red Dog huge, but big enough that Black Bolt’s PetSmart bills must be exorbitant.
In all seriousness, the best thing about Lockjaw is his look, which over a half-century later, hasn’t strayed much from Jack Kirby‘s original design. He just looks silly-looking, and we love him for it the same way we love all the other classic Kirby creatures. He just looks like something you want to hug and kiss and rub his big wet nose.
For a visual medium like comics, there’s a lot to be said for a dog who makes you smile in every panel he appears in.
2. Krypto the Superdog
Created by Otto Binder and Curt Swan
Just as Superman created the superhero archetype, Krypto is the quintessential superhero pet. And there still isn’t another superhero who feels like they should have a dog quite like Superman. The best Superman stories are full of heart, warmth, and tenderness. Krypto has a way of bringing out those qualities.
Of course, one of the great things about Krypto is that since he has all of Superman’s powers, he can accompany Clark on any manner of adventure (even if he seems to be spending more time with cousin Supergirl these days). But even beyond his in-universe utility, he’s at the center of some of the Man of Steel’s most memorable moments.
Whether he’s crying over Superman’s “death” in Alan Moore and Curt Swan‘s “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow,” or enjoying a long-awaited reunion in Grant Morrison and Travel Foreman‘s “The Ghost in the Fortress of Solitude,” Krypto reminds us of what we love about dogs.
Created by Charles Schultz
Charlie Brown may be the de facto star of Peanuts, but Snoopy is its icon.
With all the cartoons, theme parks, greeting cards, you-name-its that have licensed Snoopy, it can be easy to forget that Peanuts itself — the long-running comic strip written and drawn by the late great Charles Schultz — is wonderful. It’s funny, philosophical, and at times surprisingly dark. Not in the sense that these kids are getting murdered by killer clowns or anything like that, but because, among other things, Charlie Brown himself is a barely-disguised picture of childhood depression.
Snoopy is great not just because he’s Charlie Brown’s loyal companion — it’s easier to feel hopeful about that little bald boy when he has a great dog — but because he has a life of his own that brings a hilarious weirdness to the strip. In one strip he’s whining about dog food, and in the next he’s on top of his dog house with a scarf and a steering wheel, vividly imagining himself to be a World War I pilot facing off against the evil Red Baron.
Snoopy is not quite like any dog you or I have met, unless you know a beagle who can dance or write novels. But he’s never so anthropomorphic that we forget he’s a dog. In a strip that’s preoccupied with the petty little heartbreaks of childhood, it’s great to have a canine character who’s as much a source of comfort as comic relief.
Which dogs did we miss? Which did we include who shouldn’t be there? Maybe you just prefer cats to dogs? Let us know below!
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