Earl and Mooch. Artist: Patrick McDonnell.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: King Features Syndicate
First Appeared: 1994
Creator: Patrick McDonnell
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Fred Basset, Marmaduke and Scamp are all pet dogs who star in newspaper comics ("pet" as opposed to funny animal dogs, such as Judge Rummy or Huckleberry Hound). Mutts has a star who is a pet dog, but there's a palpable difference between Earl (the dog in question) and those other …

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… pooches. In Mutts, the world is seen from the pets' point of view. Instead of being about a man dealing with his dog, like, say, Napoleon & Uncle Elby, Mutts is about a dog who, among other things going on in his life, deals with his man.

Earl's man is Ozzie, whom Earl loves and adores because he's who provides food, belly rubs, car rides and the other necessities of life. But when out and about, Earl mostly hangs around with Mooch (no relation), a cat who lives nearby. Mooch's people are Frank and Millie, who are also caretakers for a fish named Sid. Other denizens of the neighborhood include Guard Dog, who is kept on a rope by persons unknown; Woofie, big and ebullient; Noodles, an alley cat; Shtinky Puddin', also a cat and a pal of Noodles; and Beezy, a human tyke who is friends with all the neighborhood animals.

The cartoonist who created and continues to write and draw Mutts is Patrick McDonnell, who hadn't done a daily and Sunday comic strip before King Features Syndicate (Beetle Bailey, Hagar the Horrible) launched this one on September 4, 1994. Since then, its circulation has grown steadily until it now appears in more than 700 papers worldwide. But his earlier credits do include a monthly comic for Parents magazine, titled Bad Baby. He also did cartoons and illustrations for Forbes, Time, Reader's Digest and many other publications, starting in 1978.

He is also co-author of The Comic Art of George Herriman, a critical and historical study of the creator of Gooseberry Sprigg, Krazy Kat and more. Other classic cartoonists he lists among his influences include E.C. Segar, creator of Popeye.

Another acknowledged influence is Charles M. Shulz of Peanuts. The esteem seems to have been mutual, as Shulz once called Mutts "one of the best comic strips of all time." McDonnell's other critical acclaim includes Germany's Max und Moritz Award (named after precursors of The Katzenjammer Kids), several Harvey Awards (named after Harvey Kurtzman, founding editor of Mad magazine), and the ultra-prestigious Reuben Award itself, by which The National Cartoonists' Society named him 1999's Cartoonist of the Year.

McDonnell takes a pet's point of view in more than just the perspective of his protagonists. He's active in the support of animal rights, and other causes that benefit our non-human neighbors. He often combines his book signings with pet adoption events, so participants can go home with not just an autograph, but also a new friend and family member. And his books now include more than just the dozen-plus Mutts reprint collections. Since 2005, he's been writing and illustrating children's books, some of which The New York Times listed as best-sellers.

Mutts has had its share of licensed exposure, including state license plates on which the characters advocate environmental issues. But there haven't been any animated TV specials, feature-length films or that sort of thing. Mostly, it just sits on the newspaper page and provides laughs for its millions of readers.


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Text ©2008-09 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Patrick McDonnell.