You’re a Mutt, Charlie Brown


As I’ve mentioned before, I have Patrick McDonnell’s lovely daily cartoon strip, Mutts, e-mailed to me on a daily basis.

The strip’s primarily about Earl and Mooch, little dog and little cat respectively, who live next door to one another with their owners, but its cast includes a range of animals, each with their own shtick. In many ways, Mutts is a throwback to the early years of strip cartoon humour, in which the skill lay in constantly finding new ways to enliven, refresh and constantly renew the strip’s stock situations.

The best model is George Herriman’s legendary Krazy Kat, a thing of surreal beauty and wit, that found infinite variety in a twisted but touching scenario played out between cat, mouse and dog.

McDonnell’s a big fan of Herriman, and co-author of a superb, profusely illustrated and wonderfully informative book about the cartoonist and the Kat, and this shows in this week’s set of strips. These feature McDonnell’s pair of squirrels, Bip and Bop, whose reason for existence is to throw nuts down onto the heads of unsuspecting passers-by beneath their tree, and with some force too.

Not for the first time, the unfortunate bonkees have all been comic book and cartoon characters, drawn with a delightful fidelity to their originals. We’ve had Robin the Boy Wonder, Dennis the Menace (the American one), Richie Rich and Little Dot so far,, and today’s strip features Charlie Brown, whose creator, Charles Schultz, once praised McDonnell by calling Earl ‘a perfect cartoon dog’.

It’s a laugh, like all the others have been. But it’s also a touching thought. Which is why I wanted you to see it as well.

You can find the strip at http://muttscomics.com/#

15-07-10

Mutts – a Touching Tribute


I don’t know how many of you are aware of the US daily cartoon strip, Mutts, written and drawn by Patrick McDonnell?
On the surface, it’s a simple cat and dog strip, centred upon Earl (a dog) and Mooch (a cat) living next door to each other: Earl with Ozzie, Mooch with Millie and Frank. The strip is animal oriented, with more animal supporting characters than human, and McDonnell is a passionate believer in animal welfare and environmentalism who uses his strip to advocate these themes.
Mutts has been around for the best part of twenty years. It had the great fortune to make its debut just as Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes was withdrawing: the two strips are radically different in style and theme, but Mutts was perfect for those readers who wanted a strip possessing a unique, offbeat humour, beautifully stylised minimalist art and an almost impossible amount of charm.
The first Mutts collection, gathering the first year of the strip, had a foreword by none other than Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts, who praised McDonnell for Earl, calling him ‘an absolutely perfect little cartoon dog’. From the creator of Snoopy, those are high words.
I don’t know if Mutts is reprinted in the UK anywhere: I get my daily dose by e-mail, sent free from the Mutts website every day. This week’s strips have had a magical undertheme, in the run-up to Hallowe’en. Mooch, in his guise as the Great Proshpero, performs a magic trick, causing not just himself and Earl but the entire last panel on Tuesday to disappear!
The following day was a beautiful example of using the comic strip format: two entirely black panels, the third a balloon with the single word ‘Oops.’ On Thursday, the still invisible Earl asks Mooch to use his cat magic to bring them back: Mooch is happy to do so but asks ‘Can you see mu magic wand.’
So to today, which is Hallowe’en. For years, decades in fact, Charles Schulz would use this time of year to gentily satirise his own religion. Each Hallowe’en would find Linus van Pelt in the pumpkin patch, faithfully yet hopelessly waiting for the ‘Great Pumpkin’ to rise. And Mooch’s cat magic brings back one startled cat and dog in today’s final panel – in the pumpkin patch, with a perfectly Schulz Linus, still waiting all these years after Schulz passed on.
It was hilarious and touching: McDonnell is a daily treasure.

14-10-31