Thursday, May 19, 2016


I do have to say, though, this is one of the best comic book logos I've ever seen. 
Despite having once enjoyed their own burst of popularity which rivaled that of super-heroes, funny animal comics have always gotten a bit of a short shrift. Superman and Batman, in two different eras, exploded from the comic pages into the public imagination and across all sorts of media, but funny animals very often had to work the other way -- once they'd made it big on the silver screen, they trickled down into comics, for however long.

The admittedly large volume of funny animals who were launched within comics had their own hurdles to overcome, not the least of which was merely fighting for recognition on a shelf where movie stars like Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse and Tom & Jerry were already attracting the eyes of cartoon-hungry kiddiewinks. Perhaps that explains the quick-to-anger antics of Harry Hot Dog, the star of a mid-1950s production from Magazine Enterprises, starring comicdom's maddest mad dog.

You heard the man/dog.
Starring in "Hot Dog," the very first thing the reader sees Harry Hot Dog do is kick a television set to pieces, punching it so that it folds like an accordion, disassembling it with an axe and flinging knickknacks through its screen. You only get one chance to make a first impression, and Harry Hot Dog's first impression is "this is a dangerous maniac barely in control of his temper."

Which is a pretty accurate description of the obviously severe emotional deterioration evidenced by Harry Hot Dog at a rate of "three out of every five panels." The laffs in Hot Dog come from Harry's violent, over-the-top responses to the world at large -- seemingly unprompted by anything. Even Donald Duck needed an impetus to go buck wild on those poor, mischievous nephews of his. Harry Hot Dog would murder a kitten just because he had nothing better to do before breakfast.

In his first issue alone, for instance, Harry does the following: Smashes the aforementioned TV set, punches a television director pretty clearly in the balls, stuffs a plant down an opera singer's throat, kicks over a kleig light, smashes a second television set, shoves a cop, knocks a bunch of hats off of a guy wearing a bunch of hats (to be fair, I might have done that too, myself), cracks the town mayor over the head with a walking cane, beats a doctor within an inch of his life, bites through a thermometer, and just generally verbally and physically abuses every individual he meets.

This is basically the same ending as A Clockwork Orange
Chief among the targets of his ire are his dumb but devoted pal Throckmorton -- frequently kicked in the can for offenses big and small, imagined or otherwise -- and possibly the only character less appealing than Harry, his sometimes girlfriend Fifi. If absolutely nothing sets Harry off on a tirade, Fifi's persistent attempts to "fix" Harry -- lady, you can't fix a house if it's on fire -- generally set him off worse than imaginable. I mean, it's not her fault, but she's clearly the match placed next to the powderkeg, but maybe she should talk about setting up boundaries against toxic people the next time she's at the therapist.

Harry's unspoken backstory seems promising, but never investigated -- and for god's sake, why would it be, this ain't Proust. A prime physical specimen, the powerfully strong and easy to enrage figure has at his disposal all sorts of circus skills, including a little fire-eating, sleight of hand, acrobatics and -- inexplicably -- the French Horn. Who are you, Harry Hot Dog? What made you the way you are?

Probably the most off-putting thing about Hot Dog, besides its unprompted level of violence, is how few characters smile. It's one thing that Harry himself only smiles in rare periods of smug self-satisfaction or indulgence, but even the anthropomorphic citizens of his world barely crack anything much more than a leering grin. This book is like The Purge set in Duckburg.

Still, as the Golden Age of Funny Animals is so often overlooked in favor of the super-heroes, westerns and horror comics which seemed to define the age, you can't turn your back on such a stand-out example of the genre. I mean, seriously, you cannot turn your back on Harry Hot Dog, because he might brain you with a boat oar.

There is literally no reason for him to be beating the holy hell out of this cat, but he's doing it.


Tom said...

He's got a sort of funny animal Outbursts of Everett True thing going on. I'm totally using that second picture the next time somebody is Mad Online.

Calamity Jon said...

Hm, perhaps I should scan a few more just so we have a robust "You Mad?" catalog on hand ...

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