Comics Ate My Brain

March 1, 2005

Brought To You By The Letter "M": Mad-Dog

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom Bondurant @ 8:01 pm
Mad-Dog was a comic-book tie-in to the 1992-93 CBS series “Bob,” which starred Bob Newhart. He played Bob McCay, a former comic-book artist who created the venerable character Mad-Dog and his sidekick Buddy; and when Mad-Dog was revived as a grim ‘n’ gritty character, hilarity ensued between Bob and the new editor. I thought the show was pretty funny, but I was alone — it only ran for one season. Still, it seemed faithful enough to the world of comic bookery, with Mark Evanier writing an episode, and appearances (in another episode) by the likes of Jack Kirby, Sergio Aragones, Jim Lee, and Bob Kane.

The Mad-Dog series (or miniseries, as it turned out) ran for 6 issues in a flip-book format. Half the book was Silver Age-style adventures, written and pencilled by Ty Templeton; and the other half was the “modern” origin of Mad-Dog, written by Evan Dorkin and pencilled by Gordon Purcell. I got the feeling that the modern origin was supposed to be a vicious parody of ’90s antiheroes, especially Wolverine, but somewhere along the line Marvel took it seriously. Evan Dorkin has since disavowed his work on the series, and I don’t blame him, because it’s not very funny at all.

However, the Ty Templeton stuff is pure silliness. The cover of issue #1 sets the tone perfectly — aside from the unsubtle “Buy it!” and “Worth something!” being emphasized, just what are those old-timey covers really saying…?

  • “Featuring Four Almost New Stories!”
  • “So Mad Dog … Since you love America so much, I guess you won’t mind being buried by … TEN THOUSAND APPLE PIES!!”
  • “Hey you crummy zombies! Get your evil undead mitts off me! Come on! I’m not kidding!”
  • “Hey! Mad Dog’s been turned into a gorilla again.” [Naturally the gorilla is wearing purple, thus obeying two of Julie Schwartz’s Silver Age cover rules.]
  • “Look Buddy! One of the aliens is removing his helmet! We finally get to see what they look like!” “Wow, Mad Dog! I hope they’re hideous repulsive mutants like in the movies! That would be so cool!”
Inside was more of the same:

Alien: And besides … I’m holding a powerful, space-powered gun on you, puny human … pay attention! It’s not like you have the chance to do anything!

Mad-Dog: Oh yeah? That’s what you think! Buddy! Battle tactic #3 now!!

Buddy: Right you are, Mad-Dog! Battle tactic #3 … I kick him wildly in the shins whilst you take savage swing at his head!

Alien: Hey! What are you … nuts? I’ve got a gun here … Ungh!

And from the beginning of #3:

Mad-Dog: Buddy! Are you all right?! I can’t see you in all this swirling unearthly mist!

Buddy: This robot monkey is really pinching my leg, Mad Dog. And I’m experiencing constant and tremendous fear.

Mad-Dog: But otherwise you’re all right…? Good!

Pretty broad stuff, obviously, but the deadpan delivery (not unlike Bob Newhart himself, come to think of it) really sold it. Excellent use of periods.

Templeton’s parody owed a lot to Silver Age DC books and the ’60s “Batman” show, and it was flavored with a healthy amount of breathless narration, Silver Age Marvel-style. The last two issues took aim at the then-new Image Comics, with heroes named Darkhawkwulfstrykeknight (who stretched), Femininja, Bloodstream, and Deathprawn, and a villain named Karnivorrr (created by “Dr. Waid,” no less). For some reason Templeton also included a very thinly veiled parody of Devil Dinosaur and Moon-Boy.

While Mad-Dog doesn’t contain any deep insights into the human condition — the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League is probably more subtle — I thought it was hilarious in 1993, and it hasn’t lost much since then. Ty Templeton closed the series by saying “this has been the most fun I ever had with my pants on.” If you see Mad-Dog in your local quarter bin, give yourself a treat.

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