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David Hines [userpic]

ADVENTURES OF REX THE WONDER DOG (various): Rex can do anything!

March 30th, 2009 (08:33 pm)

One of the things I appreciated -- actually, the main thing I appreciated -- about the late, lamented scans_daily was the boundless discovery. That's true of the larger comics blogosphere, but scans_daily was frigging huge and you never knew what weird shit somebody might post. If not for scans_daily, for instance, I wouldn't be hunting back issue bins for copies of KNIGHTS OF BROADWAY.

If I made any contribution worth remembering to scans_daily, I think the below post, originally made January 12, 2007, was it. Enough to resurrect it! Because everybody on my flist should know... Rex, the Wonder Dog.

Your eyes do not deceive you. The dog has a lasso.

Impressed? You ain't seen nothin' yet.

THE ADVENTURES OF REX THE WONDER DOG ran for 46 more or less bimonthly issues between 1952 and 1959. The issues typically consisted of two Rex stories, a single back-up story that rotated briefly before being quickly filled by the adventures of Detective Chimp, and a couple of prose pages about dogs.

The premise was simple: Rex, a decorated military K9, was given to young Danny Dennis by his father, an Army Major, and before long their lives were full of increasingly crazy adventure. In the first issue, Rex's wonder feats were limited to stuff like jumping out of windows or over walls, identifying bad guys -- the usual.

That didn't last. I blame the dinosaur.

In issue # 11, Rex faced off against a Tyrannosaurus. It was a watershed moment for the series. After that, all bets were off. By the time the book ended, Rex was traveling to alien worlds to act as an interplanetary spy and serving as a mount for a tiny human in another dimension's steeplechase. And those weren't the weirdest moments in the series.

Think I'm kidding? Read on.

Apparently, the scent of smoke is especially memorable ifyou're blind.

In this issue (#13), Major Dennis went missing, so Rex parachuted alone into the jungle, escaped its dangers, found Major Dennis, and rescued him from savages by donning a ceremonial mask and masquerading as one of the savages' pantheon of demons.

I am not making any of this up.

You're impressed, aren't you? Hah! IT GETS BETTER.

He wants her to tie the skis to his feet. I think we're a bit past 'Old Man Johnson fell down the well.'

After the incident with the dinosaur, the writers started to go a little crazy. I think their plan was to find out exactly what the limits of Rex's abilities were by having him do more and more outrageous things and waiting for the inevitable smackdown from editorial.

I also suspect editorial liked to take a lot of three-martini lunches.

This is so beautiful, I have nothing to add.

I mean, a *lot* of three-martini lunches.

Let's see some examples, shall we?

You'd think that Rex reached the apex of his powers when he demonstrated his ability to steer an out-of-control car.

You'd think that, but you'd be wrong.

See what I mean?

By Rex #32, he can drive a speedboat.

Be honest: you thought I was kidding.

I mean, he can DRIVE A SPEEDBOAT. Alone. In a high-speed chase. With somebody shooting at him.

Actually, as Rex's abilities go, this is pretty modest.

This sequence officially scares me.

At this point, you'd think the Dennis family would begin to suspect demonic possession or something. Their dog is capable of fishing with rod and reel, evaluating his catch, removing it from the hook, and throwing it back. With his paws.

But no. They're used to this stuff now.

Lasso, take two.

And his dewclaws apparently function as opposable thumbs.

Notice: he's not using his mouth to throw the lasso any more.

I like Rex's little caninisms. 'Hand-touch' and 'camera-pictures' both kind of remind us, oh, yeah, HE'S NOT HUMAN.

The comic re-used gimmicks a few times. Rex had been a photographer as early as issue #3, but in that issue he had Danny with him and took pictures when Danny told him to.

In this story, from issue 21, he demonstrates an understanding of lighting, shadow, composition, and subject.


I love the corresponding head tilts in the second panel.  They're having a conversation walking down the street, and nobody says, 'Hey, buddy, you're talking to a mutt with a camera around his neck.'

See what I'm talking about?

This is why I wish DC/Marvel crossovers weren't limited to the big characters. Can you imagine how J. Jonah Jameson would react to Rex the Wonder Dog?

"PARKER! I always suspected a dog could take better pictures than you! Now I've proved it!"

You feel like you fell down a rabbit hole, don't you?

My favorite Rex stories may be the ones about him working as a photojournalist, simply because they're so surreal. There's no winking, no nudging. Everybody plays it perfectly straight, and Rex is treated as a serious professional. It's like you're reading a comic book about newspapermen, except there's one guy who doesn't talk much and the artist inexplicably keeps drawing him as a dog.

A series catchphrase, BTW. Along with 'the scent of evil!' ...I'm not kidding.

"Rex can do ANYTHING!"

You said it, Danny. You said it.

In all honesty, I love this series. It's one of DC's most fondly-remembered books, and for good reason: it's sheerly delightful, and there's no point at which it stops being fun. How to sum up its appeal? Um, well -- Rex? Could you handle this one?

From the mouths...er, thought balloons of dogs.

Atta boy, Rex. Atta boy.


Posted by: Mara (marag)
Posted at: March 31st, 2009 12:49 am (UTC)
Khaji da!

::happy sigh:: I love Rex, the Wonder Dog, and it's all your fault. But this is the greatest crack ever.

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: March 31st, 2009 10:34 pm (UTC)
rex the wonder dog on skis

EVERYONE should love Rex the Wonder Dog.

I think some of my favorite things about the stories are the little Rexisms. Such as, when he's meeting the newspaper guy: "This man's handtouch is kind... gentle..." and "I've watched humans take camera-pictures!"

It's perfectly understandable, but stuff like "handtouch" and "camera-pictures" are just off-kilter enough to remind you that, oh, yeah, he's not human.

Posted by: madripoor_rose (madripoor_rose)
Posted at: March 31st, 2009 01:10 am (UTC)

Incredible crack. And I never would have read any comics at all if not for scans daily.

...I think Rex The Wonder Dog has a guest bit in my new comics fandom, The Flash, a Gorilla Grodd tries to make an animal army plot.

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: March 31st, 2009 10:38 pm (UTC)

Rex has teamed up with the Flash in canon! Though it's in modern times, after he and Detective Chimp drank from the Fountain of Youth and became immortal and capable of speech.

No, really.

Posted by: doctor_alice (doctor_alice)
Posted at: March 31st, 2009 02:42 am (UTC)

This is hilarious, but sort of heartwarming at the same time. Rex fishing, skiing, taking pictures? Those editors must have been taking six-martini lunches!

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: March 31st, 2009 10:43 pm (UTC)

The writer on a lot of the series was Rex's co-creator, Bob Kanigher.

Bob Kanigher, if the name isn't familiar, basically *owned* batshit crazy comic books for a long time in DC.

And yeah, Rex is totally heartwarming. There's this one story where he basically adopts a puppy, and --

-- of course, there's also a story where he kills a T-rex with an atomic bomb.

Edited at 2009-03-31 10:44 pm (UTC)

Posted by: beamjockey (beamjockey)
Posted at: March 31st, 2009 02:46 am (UTC)

I am repaid for the Moon Ballet!

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: March 31st, 2009 10:45 pm (UTC)


Posted by: riah_chan (riah_chan)
Posted at: March 31st, 2009 03:00 am (UTC)
Bart & Max Good Times

I think I remember this original post. ^_^ Such fun comics...

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: April 1st, 2009 12:49 am (UTC)

Ain't they just?

Posted by: mendori (mendori)
Posted at: March 31st, 2009 03:20 am (UTC)

<3 Rex.

... That's it. You should write a Rex the Wonder Dog movie treatment and try to sell it to a studio!

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: April 1st, 2009 12:53 am (UTC)

Nah, they'd just cast Keanu Reeves.

Posted by: Elspeth (elspethdixon)
Posted at: March 31st, 2009 01:14 pm (UTC)

This is truly magical levels of crack.

Now I kind of want to see a story where Rex and Krypto (and maybe Ace the Bathound) have to take down a gang of criminals together.

Like that issue of All Star Superman that was all about Krypto's adventures, but much more, well, wonderful.

Posted by: Persephone (persephone_kore)
Posted at: March 31st, 2009 01:46 pm (UTC)

This made so much more sense once I stopped reading it as Boathound....

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: April 1st, 2009 12:55 am (UTC)

Only if they talk in little thought bubbles!

(I want Rex to become a new staff photographer at the DAILY PLANET.)

Posted by: colin (zmook)
Posted at: March 31st, 2009 05:46 pm (UTC)

Somewhere out there, there is a sequence where Rex climbs out onto the *wing* of a *plane* because it is *crashing*, and by using his *balance*, saves the day.

I first saw Rex the Wonder Dog on MightyGodKing's blog:

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: April 1st, 2009 01:02 am (UTC)

I love MGK's rating of comics characters by the percentage of Rex the Wonder Dog they represent. Because, yes, Rex is truly a yardstick.

(Of minor historical interest: I think my original post may actually have been MGK's introduction to Rex -- he linked it in his first Rex post, and he mentioned discovering Rex via scans_daily in his s_d obituary. If so, I'm glad, because Rex needs more evangelists, dammit!)

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