If you haven’t been reading BOOM! Box’s Teen Dog, you’re missing out on one of the most fun comics on the market today. It’s filled with laughs, surreal adventure and a ton of charm. But why take my word for it? Read my interview with Teen Dog writer/artist Jake Lawrence and then check out some EXCLUSIVE advance pages from the third issue.
Jason Sacks for Comics Bulletin: For someone who hasn’t read Teen Dog, tell them about the book.
Jake Lawrence: Teen Dog is a story about a teenage dog who is trying to get the most out of life. It’s about the power of friendship and having a radical time even when you’re stuck in high school. it’s like all those coming-of-age teen movies from the ’80s and ’90s, except with the positivity, weirdness, and pizza turned up to 11.
CB: Teen Dog is a happy guy. Why is he so happy? Are you as happy as Teen Dog?
Lawrence: He’s a dog! Dogs always look like they are having the best time in the whole world even when they are just walking down the street or chasing a ball. Dogs have it all worked out I think, they love life, they’ve always got these goofy expressions on their faces like they’re just as happy as can be all the time. I wish I was as happy as a dog—that’s next-level happiness, but as far as human happiness goes, I’m a pretty happy guy I think.
CB: Is danger really his middle name? (I bet it is)
Lawrence: You’ll have to track down a copy of his birth certificate to know for sure!
CB: Why is Teen Dog always so close to enlightenment? Does it have something to do with the eyes we’d see behind those dark glasses?
Lawrence: Teen Dog’s sunglasses are definitely a source of cosmic mystery. Who really knows what’s going on behind them? I don’t know if he’s close to enlightenment, he’s just really good at making things happen. He’s like Ferris Bueller in a lot of ways. Look at how much stuff works out for Ferris in that film. Ferris isn’t just lucky (although he is pretty lucky!), he’s smart and capable as well, he’s also a huge troublemaker… which I think can be seen in Teen Dog every now and again as well. Teen Dog achieves what he sets out to achieve… in most cases. That’s his very mild superpower.
CB: You’re from New Zealand but your comics include American football. Do you like American football?
Lawrence: I’m actually Australian but New Zealand and Australia are neighbours, so close enough. I do like American Football, they don’t show a lot of it on television down here but when it’s on, I like to check it out, I love watching the Super Bowl because it’s just so huge. I usually watch Australian rules football though, which is very different from its American counterpart and very different again from European football. You should watch some videos on Youtube or something—it’s super hard trying to explain Australian football to people who have never seen it before, but you should definitely check it out. Americans get helmets and protective pads, all we get are short shorts and high socks.
CB: I love how Teen Dog’s friend Sara is a football player, and she seems to be good. What made her decide to play football?
Lawrence: Sara Sato, star quarterback, is a competitive force to be reckoned with. She loves every sport (except for golf!) and most of all, she loves to win. Football is certainly her first love for sure. Sara just wants to be the best at everything she tries to do, she works hard to get to that place and she tries to motivate other people to do the same for themselves.
CB: This third issue seems more melancholy than the first two. Is Teen Dog getting philosophical on us?
Lawrence: The thing I love about making all-ages comics is that there is room for melancholy or sadness or darkness alongside the light and the jokes and the positivity. Adventure Time is a good example of that mindset, I think, and they balance it all very well. If anything, I think the melancholy moments strengthen the positive moments and at the end of the day, even though it’s a comic about a teenage dog, I still want there to be things people find relatable and real amongst all the pizza, cosmic spacey stuff, and pop-culture references.
CB: Teen Dog is marketed to kids but kids aren’t being pandered to. How do you approach the stories?
Lawrence: Kids are super smart, they have the best imaginations second to none! Seriously, some of the stuff kids come up with is so cool and weird and great that it kind of blows my mind. I wish I had the imagination I had when I was a kid, so I think I’d be doing kids who read Teen Dog a disservice if I tried to pander to them. That being said, I know a lot of adults and teens who read Teen Dog as well so i try to put stuff in there for everyone. Mostly though, i’m just trying to write fun stories.
CB: One of my favorite running gags is the surreal jokes about Teen Dog’s locker, how it’s the gateway to another dimension or is alive. Will the locker ever start an adventure?
Lawrence: The mystery of Teen Dog’s locker will be explored more in future issues, so I don’t want to give too much away there. It started out as a cave and is currently the void so who knows whats in store for it next!
CB: Thuggy Puggy: jerk, idiot or just misunderstood?
Lawrence: Thug Pug is a jerk because he’s misunderstood and he’s misunderstood because he’s a jerk. I think he doesn’t realise Teen Dog actually likes him, he’s kind of in the mindset that the world is against him and that Teen Dog is his enemy but really he’s not as alone in the world as he thinks he is. He has a lot of growing to do and he has to find a happiness within himself. I think maybe taking up a hobby wouldn’t hurt, maybe he should draw some autobiographical comics about his feelings or make a zine.
CB: Mariella is Teen Dog’s best friend, but when she asks him why he doesn’t think he’s good boyfriend material, he brings up being a dog. She pats him, and his being a dog is not mentioned again. Would being a dog hold him back from being a boyfriend?
Lawrence: He’d be loyal if he found the right person but dogs are a long-term commitment. You need to walk them and feed them and make sure you’re giving them attention and they chase postal workers! It can be hard to find someone who would want to do all that, but I hope he finds love eventually.
CB: Teens are nothing if not balls of hormonal energy – are there relationships in either Teen Dog’s or Mariella’s future?
Lawrence: Crushes and high school kind of go hand in hand so I think it’s safe to say there’s romance on the horizon. There’s an issue coming up that is focused around the prom and finding dates and everything else that comes with that whole situation. It’ll be fun to add a little romance to the story. One of the main things I’ve found interesting is to see what characters people ship with one another. That’s super neat!
CB: Was the detention sequence just thrown in there to do a tribute to The Breakfast Club? (I love that flick!)
Lawrence: I try to take things from the high school experience and detention is kind of a big part of that. I think I only ever had one proper detention in high school and maybe a few where I had to stay back after class and finish work. That being said, I definitely wanted to do a little homage to The Breakfast Club because it’s one of my favourite films and John Hughes’ films are a big inspiration for me writing/drawing Teen Dog. There are a couple of other sneaky references in that part as well but it’s mostly The Breakfast Club.
CB: For that matter, the last page in issue 3… is that a Wonder Years reference?
Lawrence: It’s a little broader than that but yes, the nostalgic narrator trope was used in so many films and television shows from that era and I always think it’s so funny because of how sincere it is. So in the case of the last page, it’s kind of a reference to The Wonder Years while also being a reference to The Sandlot and Stand By Me and so on. I love exploring different ways to tell a story.
TEEN DOG #3 (of 8)
Cover Artists: A. Jake Lawrence B. Jess Fink
Synopsis: Sports. Everyone has their favorite. Teen Dog prefers to get his workout on the street skateboarding. But high school would not be what it is without football teams, cheerleaders, mascots, and the big game. Clear eyes, full hearts, Teen Dog.