Y'know what's really great about Marmaduke? It's a strip about a dog who acts like a dog. Rather, it's a strip where there is a baseline of how dogs can, should and usually do act, and Marmaduke is distinct because of his tendency to act as un-doglike as a dog can act while still remaining a dog. Not a cartoon dog, not a "Doggie Dogg," either, but close-- a dog-dog.
The best part? He doesn't speak. This is a tough proposition for a creator to take on in the first place, let alone adhere to for decades without cheating. One of the best/ worst things about drawing comics, or really any attempt at representational art, is that one doesn't get anything for free. If it's to be present in the piece, one needs to draw into place-- the props, backgrounds, clothing, and assorted additives that a viewer might not notice when present, but would make the work confusing and unmoored if skipped. What pressure!
One can avoid a lot of hard work in a strip if he just lets the characters say everything they want in the service of a gag. Garfield's hungry? "I'm hungry," says Garfield. That smirking baby who looks like he might have some biting commentary on the busy lives of his millennial parents? "Something something something cellphones," thinks the baby, because people and their phones, am I right?? Sure, a lot of times, it's a stylistic choice and a strip is constructed to give all that stated exposition a proper context, but it's still easier than drawing a non-speaking character either reacting or being reacted to, relying on the art to bridge the gap for the reader and have it all make sense. That dog Marmaduke? He's always been just a dog, and the most you'll get out of him are some disturbingly humanistic facial expressions and a lot of barking. Maybe an occasional strip with a genie, just to stay loose? Sure.
After weeks of posts about some of the weird stuff that occasionally pops up in the strip, this week, let's enjoy some of Marmaduke's sweeter moments, when he's not going to space or threatening police officers. His point of view begins an ends with his being a guileless dog-- bearing no attitude, and mercifully, no "catitude." Without inventing too much dignity for the meaning of a comic about a big dog and how big he is, there are still oddly touching moments to be found in Marmaduke, where the sweetness of a pet's companionship and trust shine through, and it's apparent that the big guy is just so good, oh yes he is, oh yes, such a good dog [pat pat pat pat].
This is probably my favorite Marmaduke strip ever:
Next week? I can't really give any details, but there's one last piece of Marmaduke miscellany that I've been building to, and I'll need to get permission from a few folks before I know if I can post it. Once I have that, all I'll need to do is book a flight to Moscow via Hong Kong, pack a few laptops, and hope I can stay one step ahead of the law. This thing goes all the way to the top. Stay frosty!