After our Top Ten Favorite Comics Cats, we thought it only fair to count down some of the greatest dogs in comics. Only one not-quite-dog snuck in this time, but we think he's earned his place as one of man's best friends.
So, read on and discover some of our favorite canine comics stars, and as always, let us know if we missed out on your favorite one in the comments section!
10. G'nort from Green Lantern
This one feels a bit like cheating, considering that he's a full-fledged member of the Green Lantern Corps and all, but considering that he was frequently the butt of many jokes in Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League, we figured we ought to toss him a bone.
After acquiring his role as a Green Lantern due to the influence of a famous relative that was in the Corps, he was assigned an uninhabited sector of space to guard, presumably because the Guardians knew that he wasn't really cut out for the Corps.
Although repeatedly treated as a joke by the Corps, due to his almost complete ineptitude as a Green Lantern, G'nort routinely displays many of the characteristics we associate with the best canines: bravery and loyalty. He's also a pretty honorable character when the time comes.
So while he may not be too bright, to the point that his actions frequently cause more trouble than he's worth, G'nort represents some of the best qualities of the Green Lantern Corps.
9. Gnasher from Dennis the Menace
Never have an owner and pet had more in common than Dennis The Menace and Gnasher, his faithful Abyssinian wire-haired tripe hound. Yes, in Britain that is a kind of dog we have. Arriving at the Beano in 1968, Gnasher quickly became part of the extended Menace family, and now it’s impossible to think of Dennis without him. Similar in looks but also similar in mentality, Gnasher is an independently-minded dog who shares his owner's dislike for goody-goody types and baths.
With his distinctive smirk and scratchy hair, he's proven to at least as popular as his owner, and given that he's been around for almost 45 years, he's arguably one of the most well-established dogs in comic-book history. Fond of causing mischief and mayhem, Gnasher has proven so popular that he’s been given his own strips within the Beano several times over the past few decades.
And more recently, Gnasher's family was extended itself, with his son Gnipper, who is a slightly smaller but just as softy-hating dog. Gnasher’s main joy in life is baiting the hapless postman into various traps whenever he attempts to open the door – and really, can’t we all relate to that? I know I’ve certainly chased my fair share of posties down the road. Grrrrr.
8. Streak the Wonder Dog from Green Lantern
Remember that time that Green Lantern was kicked off of his own cover by a dog? No, no, not the G'nort cover above, we mean the first time it happened. You see, in the early years of comics, creators often resulted on gimmicks to sell their books. While the gimmicks used today are pretty predictable, from killing off a Titan to line-wide or company-wide reboots, back in the day, the gimmicks they used were marketed toward kids. So, with the popularity of The Return of Rin Tin Tin in 1947 and dwindling sales on Green Lantern, writer Robert Kanighter and artist Alex Toth dreamt up Streak the Wonder Dog.
Streak was pretty popular with the kids; he was so popular, in fact, that only four issues after appearing in Green Lantern, Streak was dominating the covers of the issue. The legacy of the original Green Lantern title is a bit bittersweet, because those dwindling sales did eventually do in poor old Alan Scott, and his reward was being nowhere near the cover of the last issue of the series, instead leaving crooks to gloat about getting away from Streak.
Knowing that the beloved canine was not to blame, DC slid him over to Sensation Comics without breaking step, and eventually, Kanighter and Toth rebooted Streak in his own series as Rex the Wonder Dog.
7. Lockjaw of the Inhumans
Lockjaw is the most loyal dog in the Marvel Universe, bar none. Owned by Crystal of the Inhumans, but also dedicated to her daughter Luna, Lockjaw has proved time and time again that he is a fierce, proud, brave pet. And he’s saved the Universe multiple times.
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Lockjaw looks like a normal bulldog with an antenna (albeit quite large), but has both super-strength and the ability to teleport himself and others. This ability has been returned to frequently in the comics, as his instinctive awareness of imminent danger makes him the perfect guard-dog for the Inhumans. At the first sign that his owners might be in danger, Lockjaw can teleport them all to safety.
If that weren't enough, Lockjaw recently joined a superteam called the Pet Avengers, in which he and other creatures like Lockheed and Redwing set about collecting the Infinity Gems in order to protect the Universe from evil. And of course, with Lockheed on the team, they managed it with ease. Good dog.
6. Battle Pug from Battle Pug by Mike Norton
High adventure gets doused in buckets of slobber in Battlepug, the tale of a hero (known only as “The Last Kinmundian”), his titular giant pug, and the companions he gathers along the way. Their story is framed as a tale being told by a Scheherazade-like woman to a pair of puppies.
Battlepug is very much a knowing wink and nod to Conan the Barbarian, even down to the origin of the Last Kinmundian, albeit with a strange twist: here, magic is real. And despite what the Kinmundian would like to think, there appears to be a connection between he and the Battlepug. Like the pug, most animals are oversized, some are intelligent, like the Witch Toad, while others are simply larger than normal. In Battlepug readers get a slow but steady progression of the story, intended for the long haul, like a Prince Valiant story where readers get a small piece every time they read with the pay offs happening over an extended period of time.
As anyone who owns a dog, let a long a pug, can tell you there can often seem to be an intelligence behind the goofy looks your dog can give you. This the case with the Battlepug; anytime the Battlepug seems to do something for no discernible reason, there's a reason behind it. Part of what keeps
me coming back to Battlepug week after week is the anticipation of the moment when the Battlepug reaches its full potential as a drooling menace on the roads to adventure.
5. Dog Carcass in Alley this Morning from Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
The first observation we get in one of the greatest comics books of all time is this description of a dead dog in the very first panel of Watchmen. It sets the tone of not only the character of Rorschach, but the rest of the novel.
For Rorschach, this small bit of description, the way he talks about the dog carcass, is entirely procedural and almost completely lacking in emotion, except in the way that it relates to him. All seeing a dead dog did for him was reinforce his belief that the city is a violent, disgusting place.
Whether it's the smiley face tainted by blood, superheroes who are barely heroic, the city exposing its true face to Rorschach, or the brutal criticism of ideas present in Watchmen, ideas that people think are nice and friendly (like comics), the dead dog stands for it all, and as you would expect from someone like Moore, it's the first thing we're treated to.
4. Bandit from We3 by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely
Like any good story featuring a cat and a dog that have been given human-like personality traits, We3's Bandit and Tinker function as an odd couple, a fiercely loyal pair who have completely different views on life and their mission but nonetheless begrudgingly respect one another. Where Tinker is a cold blooded assassin who views everything as prey of one sort or another, Bandit is focused on being "gud" and leading his team home, wherever that may be.
Tinker is undoubtedly the more dangerous of the two and Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely depict Bandit as the only thing standing between Tinker and absolute, unfocused carnage, which grants Bandit even more potency as a "man's best friend" metaphor.
That's largely because Bandit's unwavering belief that loyalty to humans in general shouldn't be sacrificed because of the bad actions of a select few examples of the species. The tragedy of the story is that Bandit's minders don't take a similar approach and so the story functions as a moral question, of whether Bandit is right despite the senseless violence we've been witness to, and if there isn't a similar mindset taking place with the research scientists who armed Bandit and his comrades, who only felt they were saving human lives by creating living animal weaponry.
It's fitting that the most epic battle in the miniseries takes place between the trio and a monstrously modified bull mastiff who doesn't distinguish between human and animal when he lashes out, leaving Bandit to save a group of people who are terrified of him and his brethren. In the end, Bandit more than proves he shouldn't be "dee-comm-ished" even if the human characters on display don't do as good of a job proving they deserve to be saved as well.
3. Ace the Bat-hound from Batman
Just months after the success of Krypto the Superdog came Ace the Bat-hound, in Batman #92. Ace has been all over Batman's continuity over the last half-century, from comics to cartoons, but he's always been the prototypical loyal dog. The Superman/Batman dichotomy of powered/non-powered hero carries over to Krypto/Ace, with Ace just being an incredibly loyal, well-trained Great Dane.
Despite Krypto having his fair share of stories over the years, Ace's appearances practically disappeared when Julius Schwartz took over as editor in 1964, with few attempts to revive the character, often treated as Krypto as a shameful relic of the Silver Age “Bat Family.”
Even after getting rebooted as a puggle post-Crisis, Ace's only been in a handful of issues. Yet if you talk with many mainstream comics readers, folks who haven't read much of Ace's first appearances, we're all pretty familiar with the character. That's because he had a pretty solid role in Batman Beyond, protecting an aged Bruce when he needs it, tagging along with Terry in the Batmobile, and even helping them defeat the Joker in The Return of the Joker.
Add in appearances in the cartoons Krypto the Superdog and Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and we get a strange generation or two who will be pretty familiar with Ace and will have a hell of a time finding him in the comics.
At least we've got Bat-cow.
2. Krypto the Superdog from Superman
Remember how we mentioned Krypto just a bit ago? Krypto was created in 1955's Adventure Comics #210, and if you don't know who he is by now, there've been plenty of stories with him in the last 57 years. Truth be told, many of them are actually pretty damn fun, as he would frequently be the star or costar of recent all ages books from DC, which rarely fail to put a smile on my face.
Like any character with both pre-and-post-Crisis continuity, Krypto's got a mess of a backstory, but I personally like his first origin, which him as Krypton's Laika, with Jor El launching his son's pet dog into outer space to ensure that Kal's rocket wouldn't suffer some horrible fate. After drifting around in space for years, Krypto comes crashing to Earth at just the right time a boy needs a dog: when he's dealing with the fact that he's a superpowered teenager (as we all had to do).
A lot of comics fans dismiss Krypto the same way they do much other Silver Age silliness, but I'd argue he's just as important to the character of Superman as Lois Lane or Jimmy Olsen. Superman's supposed to represent this ideal person, not just physically and morally, but also in his relationships with others. He's got a girlfriend/wife in Lois, a best friend in Jimmy, and he's got a dog in Krypto. There are kinds of stories that, if you want to tell them, if you want your audience to be able to relate, a loyal pet borders on necessity (don't believe me? Go reread the heart-wrenching All Star Superman #6).
So what's better for Superman than a super man's best friend?
1. Barnabas from The Sandman
The pet talking dog of the nigh-omnipotent meta-god Destruction, from Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, is made of ironic
complexity, which, given the character we're talking about here, is itself pretty ironic. For one, talking animals don't usually play the most normal characters in a story. Rarer still does the normal character ends up delivering so many punch lines.
Destruction, try though he might, can't create anything to save his life, and Barnabas won't let him forget it. It's that utter relentlessness that makes their verbal sparring matches so delightful to read. Behind Barnabas' jabs is an essential, existential simplicity. He doesn't see the point in all this futzing with rocks to make “art” or whatever, because all Barnabas wants is companionship, table scraps, and the occasional chocolate. Give him those things, and you will have bought yourself enduring, selfless loyalty.
That's why Barnabas is one of the most lovable characters in The Sandman: because he is a dog.