The drama in this month’s Mutts comic strip has attracted nationwide attention.
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- The Best Easter Dog Toys Are From Target
- THE SCHOOL BUS PULLS UP, AND THE DOG WAITS WITH HUGS LOCKED AND LOADED
- Stray Mama Dog Steps in to Adopt Abandoned Puppies at Texas Shelter
The Associated Press (AP) released a feature story with quotes from cartoonist Patrick McDonnell about animal cruelty in general and his Guard Dog character in particular. And in a rare moment of a comic strip getting deserved attention newspapers and news outlets across the U.S. (the world?) are carrying the AP story.
The AP story includes spoilers in the second and third paragraphs:
NEW YORK (AP) — Something is different on the comics pages this week. In the panels of “Mutts,” there’s the long-delayed sight of freedom.
Patrick McDonnell, the cartoonist who draws the popular strip, is freeing his character Guard Dog, liberating an animal who has become for decades a symbol of the cruelty of dog chaining.
“I think it just hit me that I can’t do it forever and that it has to happen,” McDonnell told The Associated Press ahead of the publication of Thursday’s panel showing Earl’s owner kneeling beside the dog and announcing: “We have to remove this chain.” On Friday’s strip, it will be gone.
Guard Dog will soon be as free from the chain as he was when first introduced in late 1995.
As Patrick tells AP reporter Mark Kennedy:
“Mutts” premiered in 1995 with two heroes — the small canine Earl and the feline Mooch, fond of saying “Yesh.”
Guard Dog was added about a year after launch as McDonnell explored the idea of having an antagonist for his heroes.
“I started in my sketchbooks drawing a tough dog,” he says. “I drew a big gruff dog and I put a studded collar on him. And then I drew a chain. And when I did that, it changed everything. I realized that it wasn’t a villain. It was a tragic character.”
When the bulldog returned in early 1996 he had a name, a home, and an occupation … and a chain.
Patrick told us of Guard Dog’s creation in The Best of Mutts collection (where these early strips come from):
We were also introduced to Guard Dog. Here he’s a big rough bulldog who I thought could be somewhat of the “bad guy” to the innocent Earl and Mooch. Later, leaning on some cartoon clichés, I drew a chain around his neck to make him appear rougher. I stared at that drawing and thought of the horrible lives these poor, innocent chained dogs endure. My “villain” became a tragic character and, hopefully, a light to shine in this dark area of the human-animal relationship.
Back to the AP article:
Fans of Guard Dog would regularly plead with McDonnell to free the mutt but the artist was also lobbied by animal welfare groups to keep the dog chained as a way to increase the spotlight on the issue.
In the lead-up to Guard Dog’s freedom, McDonnell crafted a multi-comic seven-week storyline in which the owner of Guard Dog moves away, leaving the dog utterly alone. The other animals and kids rally to save him.
In Patrick’s latest blog entry he thanks readers for their response and promises further comment soon:
… And, on November 1, the Guard Dog story began in the MUTTS comic strip running in newspapers and on MUTTS.com. I’m so appreciative and moved by your responses to Guard Dog and Doozy’s journey. Thanks for all your support. I have a lot more to say about that, so will be writing a separate letter about Guard Dog and will be sending it out soon.
all images © Patrick McDonnell