Dog Man: book one
Medium: comic
Year: 2016
Writer/artist: Dav Pilkey
Format: 231 pages
Website category: Comics
Review date: 29 March 2022
I'm not reviewing the whole Dog Man series, although we have several volumes in the house. My children read them, as does my nephew. They think he's great. They also read Pilkey's other main series, Captain Underpants, although those are illustrated children's novels with occasional comics pages, whereas Dog Man is a comic.
"Let's give that a go," I thought. I read this first book and... I don't really get it.
It's incredibly easy to read, mind you. The art looks as if nine-year-olds drew it. (This is deliberate. Dog Man is an in-universe spin-off from Captain Underpants, supposedly being written by that series's child protagonists.) The frame compositions couldn't be simpler, the dialogue is similarly unchallenging and you're almost inhaling the pages, not reading them. The book zooms past. If nothing else, Dav Pilkey will teach your children that reading isn't hard work.
The plot's silly and fond of toilet humour. Sometimes, it's funny. Dog Man's genesis, for instance, is so daft that it's brilliant. Impossible Frankenstein ideas are proposed by kiddie characters with big idiot smiles and absolutely no hesitation. A cop with fatal head injuries is in hospital alongside a dog with fatal body injuries. "Hey!" says nurse lady. "Why don't we sew Greg's head onto cop's body?"
"Good idea, nurse Lady! You're a genius!!!"
There are other comedy moments too. A cop learns that there's been a jail break. "Where?" "At the jail." "Oh."
I also laughed at the scene where Dog Man's ordered to find who pooped in the chief's office. (It was Dog Man.) "Dog Man will solve this crime!" "Awesome! High five!!!" says a cop with dog poo in his hand. Whap, splat, brown goes everywhere.
"Hey, what stinks in here?"
"I have no idea."
It's not Oscar Wilde, but it's funny. Other Pilkey books have funny bits too... but the problem is that they're moments. This book contains four stories, of which half struck me as mediocre.
Petey the cat's evil schemes cause the creation of Dog Man. This is a laugh.
The evil mayor has the stupid police chief fired, which is presented as a villainous act but is actually reasonable. She replaces him with Robo-Chief, but hasn't reckoned with Invisible Petey pulling down people's trousers. I quite liked this story too.
Petey destroys all books and turns the whole world into idiots. This is fine, up to a point, but the Stupid People jokes were usually too dumb to be funny. Occasionally, though, their crudity is inspired. "Duh, welcome to the thirteen o'clock news!!! Our top story: me go boom boom in my panties."
Surprisingly, given the general tone, that's not about penises.
Despite being in cat jail, Petey's bought some Living Spray by mail order from Mad Scientists R Us. (The guards hand it over with the rest of his mail, because it's mandatory for everyone to be an idiot in these books.) He tests this by spraying this on his dinner and makes a walking, talking hot dog.
This is stronger than you'd think when Petey's being a bastard to his innocent, likeable creation. "Let's be friends!" says the hot dog repeatedly. Petey laughs in his face. It's harsh, despite the silly art. The hot dog then brings alive lots of other hot dogs, making an army of them. People (rightly) think they're cute, which annoys the hot dogs who insist that they're gangsta and that they'll start a revolution with a raging inferno of death. A giant monster makes silly havoc. The ultimate punchline, though, is that Dog Man eats Hot Dog. CHOMP. The hot dog even stands there bisected for two panels, with only its lower half intact. Dog Man then eats the rest. The other sentient sausages later get chased by a pack of dogs and are all bitten in two on-panel.
This is in-character for dogs, but ewww.
There's just not that much here, really. It's proud to be puerile. I like Chief's relationship with Dog Man, who sleeps on his couch, pees and poos on his floor, etc. The toilet humour is a laugh. The plots, though, are silly, shallow nonsense that depend heavily on your reception of their sense of humour. Sometimes I laughed, but I wasn't tempted to try another book in the series. That said, though, they're massively popular with children, so does my opinion matter?
Also, I believe he inspires children to draw their own comics. I can't imitate Ridgway or Gibbons, but my son draws Pilkey-a-likes. That's a good thing.