Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Go West: And the rest!

With the Classical Western trinity (Vigilante, Blackhawk, and The Trigger Twins) and the Revisionist Western trinity (Jonah Hex, El Diablo, Brian "Scalphunter" Savage) in the first two slots or our proposed Western anthology comic, what goes in the third slot??!?

The answer: everything else.

After over 80 years of producing characters (and gobbling up the characters of other companies), DC's two great strengths are the recognizability of its iconic characters and the bench strength of all the others. I daresay DC could (if they could afford to ignore sales), simply write one story for all their existing characters with no repeats and still have enough of them to produce comics for the next 80 years ("Tubby Watts, the Terror of 2062!")

CLEARLY, there are some stories there to be told.

I telegraphed this answer in my previous post when I pointed out that DC often tries to make characters bear too much weight too quickly.  That's not the fault of the characters; it's a basic addictive behavior on the publisher's part.  If Squirrelman is popular, why, then they will publish Squirrelman Family, the Fanged and the Furry, Treetop Nights, World's Nuttiest, and his cousin will have a television show as will his butler and his police contact. Essentially, they will pile on ANY working wagon until it breaks.

The very concept of an anthology title accepts the fact that none of the characters within can sustain their own monthly adventures, but that readers do have a taste for the kind of stories they appear in. As I never tired of reminding modern readers (because they never remember it), the Justice Society was an anthology title. That's why all those heroes were in the same book, not because they worked together. They NEVER worked together. They worked on separate aspects of the same problem, in sub-stories drawn and written by completely different creative teams.  As a result, they are still around as viable IP today. 

VERY viable.

Most of the following characters could have an organic connection to one of the six main Western characters listed above, simply by appearing as guests in one of their stories.

Johnny Thunder


I honestly can't even remember whether the Western Johnny Thunder is supposed to be connected to the Justice Society Johnny Thunder, but it's required by the Laws of Character Names.  Johnny Thunder seems like a "Tales of" kind of feature, still set in the old west, perhaps something that a contemporary character is reading. Maybe there's still an in-universe "Johnny Thunder" comic book and he's THEIR classic Western hero!

Comics love their redheads.

As for his partner, Jeanne Walker, photographer and Old West Robin Hood Madame .44, she seems like she'd be better off as modern character. I mean, can you imagine trying to keep that outfit white in the Old West?

Tomahawk

It's just statistics: everyone gets to become Superman at some point, if their title runs long enough.

He's a difficult one, because he's out of date even in the Old West: Tomahawk is a character from the American Revolution. He was a U.S. soldier and frontiersman familiar with native culture and methods. Tom "Tomahawk" Haukins had his own comic for 140 issues, so it seems a shame to waste that history.  Plenty of ways to update him.  "Tomahawk" is actually a real surname, which solves the name issue, or he could still be Tom Haukins.  He could be a soldier, still; or he could be an anthropology, an expert on native cultures.  Maybe he never gets a story of his own; maybe he's just a consultant who reliable shows up in anyone else's story who needs it. 

To me the clues on what to do are built into his bio. The early setting of Tomahawk stories; the fact that he has several names (Tom Hawks, Tom Haukins, Tom Hawkins); his long-running series; the "Son of Tomahawk" series. Tomahawk isn't a person: it's a role; It's a dynasty.  Some member of the Haukins Family is ALWAYS there in the background of somebody else's story. They are helpers, the sidekicks, the redshirts, the consultants; not everyone is a headliner, you know.

Cinnamon 


The original one was a past life of Hawkgirl, if you believe in that sort of thing. Whatever you wind up doing with an updated Blackhawk, Cinnamon would be a natural offshoot.

Saganowana, a.k.a. Super-Chief.  

You know you love him.

He uses a magic rock to become a part-time superman-cosplaying-as-a-minotaur; what's not to like? An obvious guest-star in a Brian Savage or El Diablo story.  

Ohiyesa "Pow-Wow" Smith 

He's no Speed Saunders, and I can think of no greater compliment.

The Sherlock Holmes of the Old West (which could be updated to now, as an ace sleuth with Western/native expertise).  Easily introduced as a guest-star in a Trigger Twins or Matt Savage story.

Firehair

Well, he's a red-head so... savage.

Comics have always been inordinately fascinated by people with "red" hair, simply due to the power of the limited inking process.  Firehair was yet another White Boy Raised By Indians (not to be confused with the FEMALE one, which is a different company). Luckily, he was born too early to be rescued by Ollie Queen.   He has a historical connection to El Diablo. Maybe... he's El Diablo's kid sidekick?

Bat Lash

Yeah, I said it.  Having Bat Lash show up as Guest Star in a back-up story once in a while wouldn't cause the end of DC-Western Civilization.

Although ideally he should just shut up and look pretty in the background with the horses while the iconic adults are talking.


There are others. Slow-Go Smith (either the live one OR the zombie one).  Tobias Manning (because what is the point of having a Western anthology title if you don't use the terrible Terra-Man!?).  Any of Clark Kent's adopted frontier ancestors. Jaime "Blue Beetle" Reyes, who, frankly, has a pretty clear calendar (until his movie comes out) and who lives in the Southwest. Frankly, I can't think of any DC Western character who wouldn't be a welcome guest in the back-up spot of its Western anthology title.

Except one.

The real point is not the details, but the synergy.  I'm applying this theory to the Westernverse,  but you could do the same to DC's space properties, its mystical ones, etc.  I mean, what was "Vertigo" if not a very fancy presentation of DC's horrorverse in synergy?  People don't read things like 52 and Countdown and the Crises and crossovers for whatever elaborate mystery the writer thinks they've crafted or world-destroying story we know isn't going to stick.  They aren't interested in world-destroying, they're interested in world-building.  Almost no one who read it when it came out can recount the plot of Crisis on Infinite Earths because it was gibberish. Almost EVERYONE remembers seeing some unfamiliar or forgotten character and thinking "well, who is THAT now, I want to know what THAT's about!" Anthology titles should take advantage every month of the excitement that sort of energy such synergy can generate: "THIS is your gateway to this part of our multiverse."

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Go West: The Revisionists/Weird Westerns

In cinema, there was a last gasp for Westerns--perhaps better described as a second wind, I supposed.  The golden age of Westerns had both high-brow and low-brow movies; there were plenty of singing cowboys and ladies tied to railroad tracks, but there were grand epics and insightful films. Stagecoach and The Searchers still rank high on my list of most impressive films.  

This one doesn't. It's also known as The Wyoming Kid.

But after all that had seemed to wind down, after the genre had seemed a bit played out, it roared to life in hands of furreigners (eye-talians!) who brought a fresh, if sometimes deconstructed, perspective to this American genre. So strong with the effect of this reimagining on the genre that for many people, this BECAME 'the Western' and they have little sense of what a subversion it was at the time.

So in the comics, where revisionist spins on Westerns began to appear about the same time.  One of the first was Sergio Aragones' Bat Lash, which promoted him as an 'anti-hero' but was basically just a comedic parody of Western, similar to the television show Maverick; Aragones was a famous Mad Magazine humorist, after all. It ran only seven issues, during which it went from this:

First issue (Bat Lash #1)

to this:

Final Issue (Bat Lash #7)

presumably because after about 4 or 5 issues, it was already painfully clear how poorly received the comedic approach was.  Pretty sure the next time Bat Lash was seen was when Mrs Gofooey threw him on his ass is in the street in Final Crisis.  Bat Lash was a short-lived misstep even at the start, so I can't imagine there's much place nowadays in comics for a '"loveable rogue" parody of the very genre we're trying to update.  What place there IS, however, I will suggest in a later post.

The real headliner of comics's revisionist Western period is, of course, the man, the myth: Jonah Hex.  Odds are if you are reading this post at all, you already know who Jonah Hex is and, well... that's kind of the point. If you ask someone to name a DC comics Western character and they can, the odds are a million in favor of them saying "Jonah Hex." Land's sakes, the man's friends with Superman.

Here they are discussing moral and civic philosophy, like pals do.

And Batman.

Who's quite friendly, after all.

I mean, how many Western characters are famous enough can you say THAT about them?

TARNATION, I hate that guy.

So, although I feel little need to explain who Jonah Hex is, or even his central role the Weird Western era, he remains problematic.  He BELONGS in the Old West.  That is, except when he's in the present, or the future, of course.  

We...just don't have time to go into it.

But that only works because it's a fish-out-of-water situation.  If you "updated" Jonah Hex as a modern person, I'm afraid he's simply not Jonah Hex any more.  So my solution for how to reinvent Jonah Hex for a contemporary Western anthology is simple, elegant, and unique:

Don't.

Leave Jonah Hex exactly as he has always been. He can be the one feature still set in the Old West. And of course, being Jonah, if you happen to want to tell a story set in the present--or the future--just go ahead, plop Jonah in it, as is, with next to no explanation. Or maybe a throwaway line. After all... it's Jonah Hex. He's just visiting.  Weird though it is--or perhaps precisely because it IS weird--Jonah Hex is  the connective tissue of the DCU's Westernverse and from the Westernverse to everything else.  

Like here, where he's dead and fighting a dragon with milk. Because Jonah Hex.

Next up is a personal favorite: El Diablo.  

Fortunately Zorro is in public domain, because lightning demons cannot protect you from lawsuits.

He was a mild-mannered bank teller who kinda-died but got brought back to life when merged by a shaman with a lightning demon. Hey, it was called Weird Western for a reason, you know.  The original El Diablo was sort of a Deadman/Phantom Stranger/Ghost Rider type, but then there was a '90s version who was a more standard politician/vigilante in the southwest, and of course there is the Suicide Squad version. I say, lump 'em all together in one big mythology, the way James Robison balled a bunch of stuff together for his Starman series and, boom, there's El Diablo, ready to bring some supernatural, political, or Hispanic flair to a Western anthology.

I might go more full Zorro, the Gay Blade myself, but, as the recipes say, 
"season to taste."

Speaking of James Robinson's Starman, one of the "stuffs" he balled into his Opal City mythos was our final revisionist Western character: Scalphunter.  

The link explains all that, so I won't. But Robinson's done a lot of our advance work for us. Let's just agree that using his real name, "Brian Savage", will have to do.  

It might be fun to retain some of his unique fashion sense, though.

Like Bat Lash, Scalphunter was created by Sergio Aragones, but with no comedic tone or intent (although, honestly, he still looked a little funny; there's just a cartoonishness to Aragones' style).  Originally, his essential schtick was "orphaned white boy who was raised by Indians".  Just like Jonah Hex.  

And Roy "Speedy/Arsenal/Red Arrow" Harper, a fact all of DC has conspired to whitewash, rather than using HIM as a Western character instead of a drug addict/douchebro/human-anti-Montevideo-bomb-and-NO-I-have-not-forgotten-that.

I'm not sure I'd make Brian Savage a 'white boy raised by Natives'--that trope's a bit creaky and inutile at this point--but a lawman stationed on or around a reservation is certainly ripe with storytelling possibilities, particularly if he still retains his traditional connections to other parts of the DCU.  There are so many resources, native cultures wait to be shared with new generations in new media, that a Western anthology comic would be poised to handle.

So, as we promised as the beginning, we've set up a Western anthology comic with three principal story elements: 

1.   The Classical Westerns

  • Vigilante (the public hero)
  • Nighthawk (the shadowy vigilante)
  • the Trigger Twins (the gumshoes)

2.   The Weird Westerns: 

  • Jonah Hex (the Old Westerner)
  • El Diablo (the supernatural avenger/Hispanic American)
  • Brian Savage (the Native American); 

and... 

3.   a mystery element we'll discuss in our next post!

Friday, May 27, 2022

Go West: the Classicals

In this thought-experiment on reinventing DC's Western IPs, I have no illusions that DC could maintain a large stable of horse-opera comics.  What I imagine is one anthology title where all such characters live (and, one hopes, thrive synergistically). 

This isn't DC's usual M.O. They usually will go ALL IN on some new IP trying to convince the reader that it's the Sensational Character Find of 20XX. DC gives them their own title, the entire JLA parades through the book, John Constantine and Harley Quin show up, and Lex Luthor nods that this is someone he needs to keep an eye on.  Who popped into your head when you read that sentence? Aztek? Naomi? Stargirl? Starman? Captain Atom?

The Wyoming Kid, perhaps...?


No wonder so many such characters fail: too much burden of expectation is loaded on them too fast. Foals do not win the Preakness.  It's easy to say that the Justice League, Young Justice, and Brave & Bold cartoons were simply 'well-written' and that's why their characters were well-liked, but it's an oversimplification.  It overlooks the contribution of the form of those shows, which allowed their characters to develop as ensembles or in smaller doses over time, without ever having to serve as the sole load-bearing element of the story.  

There's something modern reader forget about the Golden and even Silver Age stories that gave us the basic roster of classic DC heroes: they were short and there were a LOT of them.  That's how they built up the 'strength' of those characters; not through gigantic sweeping arcs where those new characters were the key to saving the multiverse, but through a steady drumbeat of stories consistently tell you who they uniquely were, what they could do, and how and why they did it.  

That's what new--or re-newed--characters need to develop staying power: a steady drumbeat not a brash fanfare. That's what I imagine an anthology title could do for DC's Western characters.  DC did this a bit ten years ago with All-Star Western. But it almost immediately became "The Jonah Hex Show" because Palmiotti and Gray were writing it and who can blame them? A proper anthology title, however, would contain three stories: one with a Classical Western character, one with a Revisionist/Weird Western character, and one with an ancillary western character.

First, let's review DC's Classical Western characters.

Vigilante (or, the One You've Probably Heard Of)

The original Golden Age Vigilante isn't a "Western" character; he's was a modern Western-style character. Not a cowboy, but a country western star/singer (of which there were a great many in the 1940s).  DC simply took that currently popular archetype, put him on a motorcycle (the modern day 'horse') and made him a vigilante, imaginatively called "Vigilante".  He had an action sidekick, a Chinese kid with the weird name of "Stuff", who was mercifully stereotype-free. 

Although he did speak with a strong "sidekick" accent.

Vigilante's main drawbacks are that he's a very generic type and it's hard to imagine anyone NOT figuring out his secret identity.  But the first almost makes it easier to reintroduce him because he's such an easy concept to grasp and cowboy-heroes are no longer common. As for the second, well, that's one issue that after 80 plus years, DC's got a handle on.

Maybe his secret identity could be a gay South African punk bank drummer.
That'd throw Lois Lane off the trail.

Any reintroduction of Vigilante should take advantage of his historical association with Green Arrow by connecting the two.  Reviving Oliver Queen's ORIGINAL origin as an expert on Native American culture and Roy Harper's upbringing by a Native tribe could provide the ideal "cowboy/Indian" link to help explore the complex history of Americas incursive and indigenous peoples.  

Nighthawk (i.e., Cowboy Batman).

He's Cowboy Batman. What more is there to say?

I mean, he's actually Hawkman, but we just aren't going to talk about that.

Unlike Vigilante, Blackhawk actually was set in the old west, so a modern reinvention would probably need a spooky black car as well as a spooky black horse.  But a vigilante who's not Vigilante doing the Batman routine without being Batman with a Western flair without being in the Old West could work.  The Zorro references practically write themselves. Owlhoots are a superstitious, cowardly lot. Give him some superficial nods from Batman and Hawkman to keep fans happy and he's all set.  

El Gaucho will be SO jealous.

We can ignore the generic characters who overshadowed Nighthawk back in the day. That absurd clown the Wyoming Kid was ALWAYS on the cover of Western Comics, but neither you nor anyone else remembers him because there was nothing unique about him (other than the fact that he's one of the 70 people born in Wyoming).   

The Wyoming Kid was very much one of those characters DC tried to convince you was key to saving the multiverse by having all the Justice Leaguers show up to his high school graduation. Yet people barely remember WYOMING, let alone the Wyoming Kid.

The Trigger Twins (a.k.a., "Starring Hayley Mills")

The Trigger Twins is about two twins, one a sheriff, one a civilian, who use their twinship to their advantage in crimefighting. Their last name is actually Trigger. 

Just like it says on the tin.

That's it.  It's simple. It's stupid.  (And therefore) it's foolproof and highly adaptable.  I guess that's why the Trigger Twins have already been modernized repeatedly, usually as (semi-comedic) villains.

I hope that some artist just got confused and didn't intentionally draw them as The Rawhide Kid, which is Another Company's character.

Just as we don't pick our relatives, we can't dodge the fact that we have inherited the Trigger Twins and must make do with them.

Case in point. In the 10 million hours of the CW-verse, there are Trigger Twins jokes and NO "Wyoming Kid" jokes.

The 'brothers as detective partners' bit is pretty reliable.  The trick in this case would be making it Western-relevant. Either both would very steeped in Western culture and the twin-bit would merely be incidental or one would have been educated 'back East', giving him a complementary worldview and skill set.  It's not the most original idea in the world, but it's a concept that's seen more time on television than on the comics page. I think an endearing and non-cartoony version of the Trigger Twins could be become, if not runaway favorites, at least enduring comfort food reading for those who don't need to see the multiverse saved every week.

Those people can always read The Wyoming Kid instead.

Main stories that alternate between a colorful public hero (Vigilante), a dark shadowy avenger (Nighthawk), and a pair of adventurous gumshoes (the Trigger Twins), would form a solid backbone for a modern Western anthology comic.  

Does DC have other Classical Western characters? Yes. Do they matter? No.  As Siskoid pointed out in his discussion of Why The Wyoming Kid Sucks, basic western characters with no unique hook to distinguish them all got forgotten. There's no point in reviving them if they bring no name recognition, history, or unique angle to the table.

Next time, our next tier: the revisionist weird Western characters.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Go West, Young Superhero

Part of the American mythos is the opportunity for self-reinvention, not just for Madonna, but for all of us.   

Just more frequently for Madonna.

Coming to America was, by definition, an opportunity for a new start. For those already in America, the opportunity for a new start is often represented by setting off for new territories, by "going West, young man.

America, where a gay South African punk bank drummer can reinvent himself as the New Authentic Voice of American Country Music without anyone batting an eyelash.

Western-set shows have seen a new renaissance on television, including attention-grabbers like Westworld, Yellowstone and its spin-off 1883, Outer Range, Wynonna Earp, Billy The Kid.  Although some are more traditional throwbacks to Gunsmoke-era cowboy shows, others are much wilder blends of science fiction, mystery, or magical realism with Western settings. That is, they are shows that are taking the opportunity to reinvent Western style and lore itself in a modern context.

Apparently there's money, I mean, artistic opportunity, in that.

This renaissance by way of reinvention for the Country/Western genre has happened in pop music and television and there seems to be an audience; why not comic books?

There's a LOT of people who live in the West/Southwest. 

None of whom I actually KNOW, of course. But someone has to make things like cows and oil and agave happen.

Those people might enjoy seeing their local culture, setting, and history represented in a comic book. So, too, readers of Hispanic heritage, or ones with simply less urban backgrounds.  In my research on the original Wild Dog, I learned that one of the main motivations behind it was to produce a comic book set in the heartland (the Quad Cities) rather than the East Coast.   

There certainly have been comics set in either "Western" areas or with Western(ish) characters in the DCU.  The modern Blue Beetle was a Hispanic character who lived in the Southwest, for example.  But it's been too sporadic, too uncoordinated to make an impact.  You know me: I like structured dynasties!  So together let's start examining over the next few posts just exactly how you could reinvent existing DCU Western(ish) properties to breathe some life back into them.

Fortunately, masks and silly costumes are not a problem.

Our first stop is a brief list of the Usual Suspects: the characters most strongly associated with DC's history of publishing Western comics. We will discuss these in further detail in our next posts.

The Classical: Vigilante, Nighthawk, and the Trigger Twins

The Weird Westerns: Jonah Hex, El Diablo, and Scalphunter

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Wild Dog: My Thesis

So if told you I was going to talk about a comic book character who was:

  • a millionaire

The fruits of evil are FUNGIBLE.


  • man of mystery

That's a brave camera-person who took that.


  • who's a dramatic gun-toting vigilante

R.I.P.-lining!


  • inspired by the death of a loved one

That bear saved his life.


  • who wears a garish outfit
Imagine laying that out on your bed and saying,
"Yes! THIS is the look I'm going for today!"


  • drives a signature thematic vehicle

"Red Rover, Red Rover, let Wild Dog run over."


  • has cozy relationships with authority figures

That's just the police guy; there's also a reporter guy and a spy guy.


  • and fights colorful and semi-deranged foes

THOUGHT-ROBOTS!


  • in a city of his own

Or cities.


  • who kills without compunction

Eleazar P. Wilddog's portrait approves:
"No decent man would wear that shirt."


  • and quips for the reader's amusement while doing so,

Wild Dog turns vigilanteism into performance art.


you would, I should think, assume that I was going to discuss a Golden Age hero. If so, then, congratulations; you've come to the same conclusion I have:

Wild Dog is a Golden Age hero who just happens to have been created in 1987.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Ten Things About the original Wild Dog

I bet you've never read Wild Dog.  Well, I waited long enough now that I can convince myself that I actually READ Wild Dog when it came out in 1987. Mental self-retcons are quite useful! Given enough time, I could convince myself I WROTE it, and simply forgot.

But of course I didn't read it at the time.  At the time, Wild Dog was billed as 'grim and gritty' realism, before that phrase had even been coined.  In a world of superpowered do-gooders, Wild Dog was a Reg'lar Joe (who'd inherited a fortune, of course) who simply armed himself with all the last personal combat tech to make himself a one-man SWAT Team.  

I like Wild Dog, but "rivaling Superman's" is ... quite a stretch.

This was the immediate post-Crisis world for the DCU.  On the one hand, they had just cleared the decks of (what they considered) 50 years of continuity baggage, liberating them to reorganize a bright and shiny new DCU.

Jacob Marley asks: "Is a CROSSOVER really the right beginning to discarding old continuity and starting over fresh?"

On the other, 1987 was NOT in the mood for 'bright and shiny', given that Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns were tearing up the sales charts at the time and .  Those were difficult competing impulses to balance and I think Wild Dog was, knowingly or not, an attempt at doing so.

1. Wild Dog was a mini-series.

Yeah, I can't even pretend I knew that.  I had assumed it was just one of those many series they slap up on the wall until it slides off. But it was just a four(!)-issue mini-series. After that, Wild Dog appeared as one of the back-up series in Action Comics (which during that period was an anthological title), in which he got three story arcs. Then there was a one-shot special and.... that was it.  No more Wild Dog, except as one of those odd objects in the attic that DC will let writers trot as decor or a prop in some broader story.  

Forget Brittany,
leave Odd-Man alone.


2. Wild Dog was a mystery.

At first glance, this is EXTREMELY ODD. One doesn't expect a series about a shoot-'em-up vigilante character still remembered 35 years later as uncompromisingly violence-happy to be a mystery.  That's a different genre.  But DC's roots are in pulp stories, after all, where detectives and masked death-dealing vigilantes not only rubbed padded shoulders but were often one and the same.

Hard to do nowadays but in those days, it was...
a snap.

It also helps to know that Wild Dog author Max Allan Collins was primarily a well-known and prolific mystery novelist, like Kaye Daye.  

And if you don't know who THAT is, I just feel sorry for you.

So it should never come as a surprise that something MAC is writing should turn out to be a mystery.  What is surprising is that Wild Dog didn't solve the mystery; Wild Dog was the mystery. No one, including the reader, knows who Wild Dog actually IS until the fourth-and-final issue.

Hence this "reveal" cover.

There are four college friends who are the 'suspects': 

A reporter, an auto-shop owner, a spy, and a police detective.

This is actually the explanation for one aspect Wild Dog's costume design: unlike almost every other comic book hero, Wild Dog's costume covers ALL his skin (with his eye slits showing only The Whites of His Eyes) That's because one of the suspects (the reporter) was African-American and any visible skin would either eliminate or confirm him as Wild Dog.

3. Wild Dog was freakin' hilarious.

On the one hand, I intend that the highest compliment, because I'm not usually amused by most comic books' attempts at humor.

It's not easy to make your willingness to riddle unarmed people with bullets funny, as anyone who's ever vacationed with me would attest.


On the other hand, it's a pretty severe defect in characterization when OUT of costume, the character was consistently called painfully, quiet, shy, and serious.  




This might have been passed off as a "Peter Parker's Spider-patter" situation, but there plenty of evidence that the only audience for Wild Dog's deadpan sense of black humor was anyone but US. The above is perfect example; that's not Wild Dog smack-talking foes to keep them off-balance à la Spider-Man, it's just dry wit that the character can't repress.

This is an aspect of character that CW nailed, not only with their writing but the casting of naturally funny Rick Gonzalez as Wild Dog.



4. Wild Dog was ... severe.

Max Allan Collins is a huge fan of hard-boiled gumshoe lit and was a long-time writer of the Dick Tracy comic strip. I read his run devotedly; I still remember his Haf-and-Haf and Angeltop storylines very fondly.

That system IS Dick Tracy.

Dick Tracy is (still) known for his shoot-first and don't-ask-any-questions at all style, where villains die horrible Tracy-adjacent deaths.  Making MAC the perfect person to have created Wild Dog.

Here he is throwing gasoline on a man in a burning building.

Wild Dog may have been funny, but he wasn't nice or gentle.  This is not "your friendly neighborhood Wild Dog."

Wild Dog in 6.07 | Supergirl and flash, Supergirl, Superhero
That would be THIS guy.

Wild Code didn't have a Code Against Killing; he had an Imperative Toward It.  Wild Dog had zero compunctions about killing The Bad Guys as a last resort.

Okay; a FIRST resort, actually.

Wild Dog does not shoot to wound.  Wild Dog does not aim for your legs. Wild Dog does not practice ammo retention. Wild Dog DOES make a joke about killing you that you never get a chance to hear, however.


5. Wild Dog looks bad. No offense intended to Terry Beatty, who I'm sure is a perfectly nice person. But his art (at least herein) falls squarely in the uncanny valley.  

Or a '50s ad for suits.

It's certainly not realistic or detailed enough to be technically good (like a modern comic) nor abstract or auteurish enough to be stylistically good (like a Golden Age comic). 

Except for that. That's some Golden Age goodness right there.

For some reason I don't know there was a LOT of that phenomenon in that era, even as late as the beginning of the Sandman series in 1993 (which looks way worse than you remember). Beatty's art looks like a newspaper comic strip more than a comic book--which since he is a newpaper comic strip artist shouldn't be surprising.

In fact, Terry Beatty's current Rex Morgan storyline is about kinda-sorta Wild Dog.

Rex Morgan, M.D., 05/15/22.
Sure, a broom isn't as deadly as a Jatimatic GG-95 PDW,
but try cleaning up a mess with a Jat.

There are genres that would be more forgiving of Beatty's style. But an action-packed vigilante story isn't one of them.

6. Wild Dog lived basically in same town The Music Man is set it.

I have always have a vague memory that Wild Dog lived in an area called "Quad Cities".  But as an inveterate and resolute East Coast snob, I never had any idea that the "Quad Cities" was REAL.  It never even occurred to me.  I mean, "The Quad Cities" is obviously a made-up name for a comic book fictionopolis.  But... it isn't. It's a real place.


The ignorance is all on me.  Collins strongly based the series on local fixtures like the RiverCenter where Wild Dog makes his debut.


The plot culminates at Rock Island Arsenal, another OBVIOUSLY MADE-UP PLACE that actually exists.

"If the plot requires it to be vulnerable... yes."

In fact, I don't think ANY DC comic has ever been more strongly rooted in a real-world city as Wild Dog was in these "Quad Cities".  It's where Max Allan Collins grew up and he was obviously determined to put it on the DCU map

"River City", the setting for The Music Man, is fictional, but many references internal to the show make it clear that it's meant to be in this exact area. So Wild Dog shows you what happens when you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated by the presence of pool table in your community.  Weirdly, "River City" (which we're just going to assume is part of the Quad Cities in the DCU) is home to one OTHER hero in the DCU.

Odd-Man.  Weird.

When DC asks me to write the next Wild Dog miniseries (with MAC's blessing, of course!), I guarantee Odd-Man will be part of it, either as WD's wacky sidekick or as his clean-cut (but crazy) rival. Possibly both.

7. The kids, they love Wild Dog.

And who can blame them?


8.  He inherited many millions of dollars when his wife, the secret scion of a Mafia family, was murdered by family rivals.


YOU're the one who wanted to honeymoon in Apex City, Wild Dog.

All of Wild Dog's money comes from crime, giving him extra impetus to use it to fight crime.  It's actually fairly unique; it's like he's the Huntress's widower.

9. Wild Dog drove a red pick-up truck named "Rover", which is hilariously on point.

The red dog laugh as it bites.


10.  Art-style notwithstanding, Wild Dog's improvised costume is CRAZY-ICONIC.  

The Laughing Dog icon?  Instant winner.

The story is that Wild Dog sprung into action when he saw a terrorist attack live on TV, and had to grab whatever he had handy as a disguise, including the mascot shirt from his college football team. The logo and look perfectly capture his essence. Violent but laughing, cartoony but vicious.  The mismatch between the various part of his costume aren't a flaw, they're a feature, and it's what makes it work.

11. Wild Dog was freakin' hilarious.

I know I said it before, but it bears repeating.


All of this lead me to a personal literary theory about Wild Dog, which I'll go into in my next post...