Footrot Flats
Medium: comic
Year: 1976
Writer/artist: Murray Ball
Format: Newspaper strip, 40 collections
Website category: Comics
Review date: 14 November 2021
My cousin's husband told me about this. It's a New Zealand newspaper strip about farm life, starring a dog called Dog, a cat called Horse and many other characters. The farmer's name is Wallace, but everyone except his aunt Dolly calls him Wal'.
It's pretty good. I didn't laugh that often, but that's normal for newspaper strips. (They're a difficult format.) You've succeeded if the reader's happy enough with your regular fare and occasionally laughs at a good one.
It might make you go "eh" at unfamiliar farming terminology or New Zealand wildlife. I laughed at some mentions of cave wetas, but then went and googled what a "cave weta" is. (They're only found in New Zealand and some of them are among the biggest, heaviest insects in the world.) Similarly, the strip's unashamedly focused on its farm setting. Lots of farm jokes. No attempt to hide the ickier bits of farming, e.g. killing a nest of baby rats, or slaughtering animals. You'll meet tractors, animals, bee-keeping, items of clothing I've never heard of but are worn on this farm, etc.
Dog can "talk" in thought bubbles, but he can't communicate with humans and he's a surprisingly realistic dog. He does doggy things. He's scared of lightning and is extremely good at farm work. He has a doggy outlook, e.g. when trying to comfort Wal' on girl troubles (that for once he didn't cause). "Cheer up, Wal' mate, she probably wasn't on heat anyway."
The supporting cast are entertaining. Pigs are huge and terrifying, which is often funny. (Dolores, yikes.) Horse (the cat) is an evil menace and was based on a real cat Murray Ball knew. Cheeky Hobson is Wal's girlfriend, but Dog usually vandalises their dates.
It's worth a look. Charles M. Schulz (Peanuts) called it "sheer brilliance" and Jim Davis (Garfield) was a fan too. There's also a 1986 film (Footrot Flats: The Dog's Tale), which is apparently quite good and was New Zealand's first animated film. I quite enjoyed this and I must thank Chris for recommending it to me.