Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Pluto's Rival"

(This being part two of a nine-part series covering the stories in Volume Three of Fantagraphics' Floyd Gottfredson Library.)

Er, yes, it's "Pluto's Rival," a week-and-a-half interstitial thing of the sort that Gottfredson occasionally did, presumably so he and his co-writers would have time to hash out the details of their next long serials.

Whether it was a good idea to try to *write* something about a continuity this trivial is open to question.  Certainly, the editors of the Fantagraphics book felt no such need.  The idea is that Mickey takes in this stray dog, Terry, and Pluto gets repeatedly blamed for Terry's high-spirited hijinx.  Ain't no justice, I guess, though Terry never comes across here as exactly villainous.  The whole thing is very loosely based around the 1932 cartoon "Just Dogs," in which Terry releases his fellow canines, including Pluto, from a pound.  In that version, Pluto's actually kind of a prick, not appreciating his rescue and spurning Terry's overtures of friendship.  Here, it's Pluto who's the beleaguered one, sort of.

Alas, this serial also features the debut of what is, to my mind, one of the less lovable aspects of these comics; ie, the boxes narrating Pluto's thoughts.  There's just something about their tone that rubs me the wrong way.  I don't really have strong feelings about Pluto as a general thing; he's okay as a minor character, but I feel like his growing popularity was related purely to cute hijinx-type stuff--ie, a considerably simpler appeal than that of the MM strip in general.  There's nothing wrong with that, I suppose, but eh…I'm still not wild about it.

Another thing, apropos the reference above to rustling up a bone: I feel like comics writers in general have a very poor understanding of the relationship between dogs and bones (you also see this in Scamp comics).  They seem to think that dogs actually eat bones, which is just weird.  Bone does not have nutritional value.  It's true, of course, that a hungry dog could chew through to the middle of the bone to eat the marrow.  But they're never depicted doing that, are they?  You just see them chewing on them, which they do because it feels good; it's very unlikely to have anything to do with actual desire for food.

Here's this movie poster; note Terry licking the bone, which is not at all something a dog would be interested in doing, unless, possibly, it had been smeared in carrion beforehand.

I suppose if nothing else, we can give the story credit for narrative compactness, as Pluto has to deal with this little ethical struggle.

I like to read Mickey's first line there in a really self-righteous, moralistic way, even though that reading is clearly belied by the second panel.

A few years later, this story would be mirrored by the brief Sunday serial "Mickey's Rival" (another loose cartoon adaptation), though in that instance, of course, the "rival" in question, Mortimer, is much more actively malevolent.



Blogger ramapith said...

"They seem to think that dogs actually eat bones, which is just weird."

Weird, but some dogs really do actually eat them—including a dog I watched as a kid. See here for an explanation that matches what I heard at the time.

JUST DOGS is an odd cartoon—totally forgotten today, but in the 1930s remembered as Pluto's first starring role (which it was). In the 1950s, it was occasionally misidentified as Pluto's debut.
It's certainly not the only cartoon to show Pluto as "kind of a prick"; numerous 1940s Pluto starring vehicles do this, always with a smaller, cuter animal (Salty the seal, Shelby the turtle) as the more sympathetic one.
Maybe it was simply seen as funny to watch a lead character be unashamedly selfish. Donald was often treated the same way, though I wouldn't call the cartoons in question among his better ones.

July 10, 2012 at 4:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...


Harry certainly gave any bone that he encountered a good working-over.


July 11, 2012 at 7:05 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Do all of the interstitials, if you’re so inclined. They’re a legitimate part of the book!

July 14, 2012 at 1:49 PM  

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