We live in the age of the pop culture revival, and the arrival of the eternal film and movie franchises, all born or borrowing from the model of superhero comics storytelling. Astro City, one of the most storied and beloved superhero comics of all time, went through a revival of its own in 2013, and that it came back as strong as ever was a miracle in and of itself. Over the course of a year, Charlotte Finn will be examining this miracle – all 52 issues – as she spends A Year in the Big City. This feature was originally published on her site and now continues on Shelfdust!
Everyone, this is G-Dog, and he is perfect.
There is much, much debate over which superhero has the best origin. There is a case to be made for Superman’s elegant simplicity of “he was brought up right” and the multitude of stories you can tell about the upbringing that makes a man good. Or Batman, where a universe of characters and storytelling conventions spun out of the simple cause-and-effect of “crime hurt me, so I’ll fight it.” Or Wonder Woman, with the altruism inherent in seeing a world in need of your help and electing to leave the comforts of home to bring about needed change. Or Spider-Man, which takes a Twilight Zone-like story of one’s failures coming back to haunt them and uses it to build up one the epitome of “the Marvel approach.” Or the X-Men, if you get bored with origins easily.
Well, it’s time that someone made the case for G-Dog, and here I am.
G-Dog is a fusion character – one-half a small-time crook, one-half the corgi he lifted off another small-time crook and then wound up saddled with when said small-time crook bit the dust. He found a magic amulet when he robbed the home of a superhero’s widow, so right away, you know: this guy kind of sucks.
His life is definitely brightened by having Hank around, and then it all changes when the magic of the amulet is made manifest:
At this stage, I have to make mention of the art of guest artist Mike Norton, famous for many projects, but the one that immediately leaps to mind is Battle Pug. Norton’s skill in drawing goofy looking dogs makes him the perfect match for a story that is simultaneously silly as hell and incredibly heartfelt.
The fusion form of Andy and Hank immediately tests out his new abilities, and Andy considers the possibilities of burglary as performed by a magic dog-man. But that’s when the issue’s most perfect conceit comes to light:
Andy discovers that if he ever uses his powers for personal gain, his dog will feel bad.
And his reaction to this is, “well, I guess I’m not a burglar any more and I will be a superhero instead.”
Go home, Peter Parker. Hang it up, Bruce Wayne. Because in terms of relatable superhero origins, nothing beats “I did it because I didn’t want to make my dog upset.”
G-Dog makes a reputation as one of Astro City’s goofier heroes, with people asking if this is just someone with a fursona who likes to fight crime, and finding out that he can talk to cats and birds and that they don’t have a lot to say. He meets his new girlfriend, Esme, and finds a new job, and gets out of the mob that is breathing down his neck. He beats a villain called the Lichen-thrope who has lichen powers and is mad at women… in case you forgot that this wasn’t an entirely serious story.
And through it all, Andy has his dog, and I am seriously trying to not fill this review up with “look at this adorable dog who makes the man feel better,” but my God, he’s called G-Dog because he’s a good dog! That’s like naming your super man “Superman.”
Andy has other people in his life, but he shares a unique bond with a dog, a little corgi so pure that he becomes the Superman of dogs – just being around such a pure beam of fluffy sunshine makes Andy want to be a little better as a person. It’s said that we don’t deserve Superman, but he wouldn’t agree; if that’s true, then that goes double for dogs.
And so, knowing – fully knowing – how much his dog loves him, Andy manages to learn to love himself and become the person his dog thinks he is. Hallmark wishes it was this sweet. John Wick nods in understanding.
But the thing about dogs is that you love them, and they love you, but they won’t love you forever. Eventually, there comes a time in every pet owner’s life that they have to face outliving their pet. And for Andy and Hank?
That time’ll come, next week.
Astro City #47
Written by Kurt Busiek
Drawn by Mike Norton
Coloured by Pete Pantazis
Lettered by John G. Roshell and Jimmy Betancourt