Review: ‘Dog Man’
Writer/artist: Dav Pilkey
If you’ve read Captain Underpants, Dav Pilkey’s 12-novel, almost 20-year-old series of illustrated children’s novels, then you are already well aware of George Beard and Harold Hutchins, the two fourth-graders from Piqua, Ohio whose homemade comics the Captain sprung from. If you haven’t, don’t worry; you don’t need to in order to enjoy Pilkey’s latest, a substantial, 200+-page graphic novel that he’s written and illustrated “as George Beard and Harold Hutchins.”
A six-page “Behind the scenes” sequence introduces us to George and Harold, who find a bunch of the old Dog Man comics they made when they were kids. They spend the afternoon in their tree house re-reading their comics, and decide to collaborate on a new comic: A new Dog Man comic, rather than a Captain Underpants comic.
What follows is the result of their recent collaboration: A series of Dog Man adventures.
Who is Dog Man? Well, once he was a police officer, Knight, and a dog, Greg. The pair were caught in a terrible explosion from a bomb set by Petey, a cat–and their hometown’s only recurring villain. Officer Knight’s body was fine, but his head was dying. Greg the dog’s head was fine, but his body was dying. But a nurse came up with a great idea to save them both (sorta). The doctor simply attached Greg’s healthy head onto Officer Knight’s healthy body, and so was born Dog Man, a police officer with the opposable thumbs of a human being and all of the smarts of a dog (Greg was the brains of the operation anyway).
See those five vertical lines at the base of Dog Man’s head? Those aren’t whiskers, but stitches from where the dog head was sewn onto the body.
And that pretty much sets the tone for what follows: Four chapters, each devoted to a different Dog Man adventure with such unlikely conflicts as the chief of police being replaced by an evil robot and Petey using Living Spray to bring a hot dog to life.
The great charm of the book is how thoroughly Pilkey is able to channel his two fourth-grade alter egos, writing, drawing and lettering in such an intentionally child-like fashion that were the comics not presented as they are–that is, fully and professionally colored in a bound, hardcover book–they might easily pass for the work of little kids. Unless you actually read them, of course, for as much as Pilkey’s art and lettering may look juvenile, as much as he may try to write in a simple, declarative fashion, the fact of the matter remains that these comics are just a little too professional in their practiced faux-amateurism.
Not that it matters, of course, as Pilkey isn’t trying to fool anyone here. That is his name on the cover, after all. Relentlessly silly and hilariously drawn, Dog Man is a perfect comic for kids…and immature adults.
Filed under: Reviews
About J. Caleb Mozzocco
J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.
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