Rex demonstrates inter-species cooperation on a 1957 cover.


Medium: Comic Books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1952
Creators: Robert Kanigher and Alex Toth
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He can ride a horse! He can swing through trees on a vine! He can hold wild animals at bay with a torch! DC Comics' Rex the Wonder Dog can do things even …

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Superman's dog, Krypto, can't — including headline a bimonthly comic book for almost eight years.

Rex debuted in his own regularly-published title, with a first issue cover date of Jan-Feb, 1952. The opening story was written by Robert Kanigher (editor of Wonder Woman and DC's war comics) and drawn by Alex Toth (former Green Lantern artist who went on to create Space Ghost). The same team had earlier created Johnny Thunder. The editor was Julius Schwartz, who at the time also edited DC's western and science fiction comics, but is best known for his work a few years later on The Flash, Green Lantern and other 1960s superheroes. Starting in the fourth issue, Rex had a back-up feature, Detective Chimp.

The name "Rex the Wonder Dog" is not unique to this character. Just as an example of other uses of the name, there was a long-running series of silent films about an animal character named Rex the Wonder Dog. Even today, it's amazing how many people give that exact name to their pets.

This particular Rex was a white German shepherd, who spent his youth in the U.S. Army's K-9 Corps. After his hitch was over, he went to live with the Dennis family. His first adventure was to clear young Phillip Dennis of a murder charge. But Rex was more frequently seen with Phillip's younger brother, Danny. In the title's final few issues, Rex got a third human companion — scientist John Rayburn, who anticipated The Atom in being able to shrink living beings. Rex and Rayburn had several adventures together in the sub-atomic realm.

On our own plane of existence, Rex showed an astonishing ability to survive encounters with lions, bears, wolves, panthers, octopuses and even, in the 11th issue (Oct-Nov, 1953), a Tyrannosaurus rex. But he couldn't survive declining sales. With its 46th issue (Nov-Dec, 1959), the series ended.

It was almost two decades before Rex was seen again. In the 144th issue of Justice League of America (April, 1978), writer Steve Englehart (Batman, The Falcon) gathered together practically every DC-owned contemporary adventure character that had a series during the 1950s, from Congorilla to Plastic Man, and Rex was among them. A few years later, Rex turned up in the back pages of DC Comics Presents, where many characters from defunct series made oneshot appearances.

Since then, Rex has made guest shots, and otherwise been tied in, from time to time with various DC characters. He's even been retconned into a relative of Pooch, from a series set during World War II. Another retcon cast him as a canine superhero, the beneficiary of a reprise of Captain America's origin, chemically superheroized to become more effective in World War II by a scientist who conveniently died right after treating him. Also convenient is his inability to re-find the Fountain of Youth, which is what's kept him vital for the past several hundred "dog years". Both he and Detective Chimp (who also got Fountain of Youth treatment) now work with the U.S. government's Bureau of Amplified Animals, and are a minor but persistent element of the DC Universe.


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Text ©2000-06 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.