REX THE WONDER DOG is the star of today's ALPHA/OMEGA opening because my good friend Paul Fearn loves the character. Of course, the more I learn about Rex, the more I wish I had read more of his adventures besides the few DC Comics has reprinted over the years. They sound like great fun.
ADVENTURES OF REX THE WONDER DOG #1 [January-February, 1952] introduced the title character with a cover by Alex Toth (pencils) and Sy Barry (inks). The legendary Julius Schwartz was the editor, but it was writer Robert Kanigher who created Rex and wrote many of his adventures during the title's 46-issue run.
Rex was a white German Shepherd, a World War II veteran of the Army's K-9 Corps. Stories written decades later would make him a sort of canine Captain America, the sole recipient of a super-dog serum created by a scientist who dies immediately after giving it to Rex...and also establish that Rex was the brother of Pooch from the "Gunner, Sarge, and Pooch" strip that ran in DC's OUR FIGHTING FORCES title. But we're not here to talk about later revisions to Rex, no matter how amusing or intriguing those might be.
According to Wikipedia, when Rex's hitch in the military ends, the uncannily intelligent dog is adopted by Phillip Dennis. When Dennis is subsequently framed for murder, Rex clears the man of the charges by tracking the killers. Kanigher's "Trail of the Flower of Evil" (8 pages) is drawn by cover artists Toth and Barry. It should be noted Rex's actual owner is Danny Dennis, younger brother of Phillip, and it is with Danny that the clever canine will share most of his adventures.
Rounding out this first issue:
"The Killer Bear," a 3-page filler tale by Dave Wood (writer), Carmine Infantino (penciler), and Barry; and,
"Rex--Forest Ranger," an 8-page story by Kanigher, Toth, and inker Frank Giacoia.
Outside of Lassie, no other dog had a comic-book series that lasted as long as Rex's title lasted. It ran almost eight years, ending with issue #46 [September-October, 1959]. By then, Rex was hanging around with scientist John Rayburn.
Gil Kane (pencils) and Joe Giella (inks) did the cover of that final issue, which was edited by Schwartz and featured three tales by Schwartz's favorite writer, John Broome:
"Mystery of the Magnetic Monsters," a 10-page Rex story drawn by Kane and inker Bernard Sachs;
"The Chimp-Chimp of Baseball," a 7-page Detective Chimp tale drawn by Carmine Infantino; and,
"Canine Buckaroo," an 8-page Rex adventure drawn by Kane and Sachs. After this story, Rex would not be seen again until writer Steve Englehart featured him in a 1970s issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA that was set in the 1950s.
REX THE WONDER DOG had something for every genre. There were crime stories, war stories, western stories, even science-fiction stories. His devotees are among the most avid in comicdom, which explains why his back issues are hard to come by and expensive when one does find them.
Maybe someday, hopefully soon, DC will star Rex in a SHOWCASE PRESENTS REX THE WONDER DOG volume. Until that joyous day, let us salute a canine champion without compare.
Sorry, Krypto. Sorry, Ace the Bat-Hound. You're both pretty cool dogs, but Rex is a bonafide World War II veteran. That gives him the edge in my book.
After complaining about the treatment of Booster Gold when I reviewed the first fourteen issues of DC's weekly 52 title, I knew I had to review 52 WEEK FIFTEEN [$2.50] as soon as I got a copy of the issue. So here we are.
Can we talk about the handful of pages featuring the Question and Renee Montoya instead? My favorite DC "couple" are in a prison in Black Adam's Kahndaq. Normally, against the two of them, I'd be thinking going up against one country is decent odds. But, geez, we've seen Black Adam rip people in half. Well, they don't meet up with Kahndaq's ruler in this issue, but I remain very interested in whatever secrets the country holds for them and how they'll get out of there in one piece.
Booster Gold? The cover gives away his fate - I think - but he manages to act like a super-jerk throughout this issue, even as he's saving Metropolis from nuclear death. They can't even let him have a decent heroic death. Sigh.
I'm told DC readers are speculating as to who Supernova really is. Let me throw out this notion:
Supernova is a younger Booster Gold who, discovering evidence of his older self's mucking up the timeline, traveled back in time in a new identity in an attempt to prevent any more serious damage to the DC Universe's tenuous grasp of stability.
Just a thought.
52 WEEK FIFTEEN gets a single Tony for the four pages of the Question and Montoya. Better luck next week.
COMICS IN THE COMICS
Editorial cartoonists love to use classic comics characters to drive home their messages. MIKE LUCKOVICH of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution "channeled" Hank Ketcham's DENNIS THE MENACE for this September 1 cartoon:
Thanks to Dave Potts for alerting me to this one.
DIGITAL WEBBING PRESENTS #30 [$3.99] again stars "The Fist of Justice" by writer Mike Imboden, artist Chad Hardin, and letterer and co-plotter Ed Dukeshire. The 16-page story is less of a homage to 1970s Marvels that the previous chapter, which is a good thing, and offers some interesting reveals to boot. It's an entertaining, though not spectacular super-hero story.
"Edgar Advance" was far more original. In this 6-page back-up by writer S.A. Bennett and artist Kevin Wiggins, we meet the newest adventurer in a family of adventurers on the occasion of his first adventure. It's an amusing tale that ends too abruptly. If I were an editor or publisher, I'd ditch the Fist and allow Edgar more of a chance to shine.
This issue earns three out of five Tonys.
DISNEY PRESENTS CARL BARKS' GREATEST DUCKTALES STORIES VOLUME 2 [Gemstone; $10.95] collects seven Uncle Scrooge adventures which were adapted for the DUCKTALES animated series. All of the tales are fun, but three of them are among the best Barks stories of all time. In "The Golden Fleecing," a rare moment of vanity has Uncle Scrooge and his nephews pursuing a rare mythological artifact and running afowl of its owners.
"The Horseradish Story" is a delightful example of the McDuck clan teaming to protect Scrooge's fortune from a shady character, complete with clever moments for Donald and the nephews. "Tralla La" is a wry satire on supply-and-demand economics and the folly of perceived wealth.
DONALD DUCK ADVENTURES #17 [Gemstone; $7.95] came out a while ago - it's dated March of this year - but it's worth tracking down. Each of the three long stories in this digest-sized comic book are exceptional.
Donald Duck and the nephews star in "The Search for Bigfoot." Written by Terry Laban and with lively art by Flemming Andersen, the 35-page thriller has the boys seeking conclusive proof that Bigfoot exists, proof that could win them a million-dollar prize. The tale lets us see several sides of Donald, from mischievous prankster to big-hearted hero.
Mickey Mouse holds the middle slot with "Hoopla," 35 pages of Hollywood hijinks in which he befriends an action star and goes up a clan of Ninja warriors. Pat and Carol McGreal wrote the story and Jose Antonio Gonzalez drew it.
Writer Michael T. Gilbert provides the digest's big finish with "The Bathtub on the Edge of Forever," a 53-page time travel thriller with art by Flemming Andersen. Uncle Scrooge is the titular star, but a Gyro Gearloose invention drives the story while Donald and the boys do the heavy lifting.
Every Tuesday, I post new TONY POLLS questions for your voting entertainment. Here are the results of some questions I asked in early August...
2006 has been an active year for comic books and comic-book themes making the transition to movies, TV, and direct-to-DVD. Do you see this as a positive trend?
I voted YES, but with a certain reluctance. I hold comics in higher regard than I do movies and TV because they are a far more personal art. That special distinction diminishes when the comics themselves become secondary to their spin-offs.
It was corny, off the wall, and maybe even a little disturbing at times, but, again, it was entertaining. I voted VERY GOOD, but I hope the FEEDBACK movie turns out to be heck of a lot better than STAN LEE'S LIGHTSPEED, which aired on the Sci-Fi Channel a few days before the debut of this series.
This week's TONY POLLS questions are on the new FANTASTIC FOUR cartoon and on DC's MANHUNTER title.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
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