The 13 Greatest Animals in Comics

Y’know what debuted this week? Calvin and Hobbes. 31 years ago.

Animals have an illustrious history in comics, whether as anthropomorphic “funny animals” or as more anatomically precise (if highly intelligent) creatures. Some are the stars of their stories, others are loyal sidekicks. Calvin and Hobbes — co-starring the stuffed animal/imaginary(?) tiger — is one of the most beloved comic strips of all time, debuting Nov. 18, 1985. I know I miss it. (Oh, and some little guy named Mickey Mouse debuted on this date 88 years ago, too!)

Samuel Sattin knows from comic-book animals. His acclaimed Legend, starring a coterie of dogs trying to survive a post-apocalyptic world, is out 11/23 in trade paperback from Z2 Comics. It’s illustrated by Chris Koehler.

So it would only make sense that he join us to pick THE 13 GREATEST ANIMALS IN COMICS. Personally, I would have included Bugs Bunny and Ace, the Bat-Hound, but what do I know? — Dan

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By SAMUEL SATTIN

Dymphna. The only cat among a cast of dogs in the Beasts of Burden series by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson, Dymphna is often a voice of both reason and arcane lore. A spell caster, a familiar, and a voice of reason, she’s both the odd one out and the indispensable element.

dymphna

Saxon. Who is Saxon? Why, only the greatest swordmouse ever known in the popular Mouse Guard series. His flowing red cloak is a plume of glory, and a testament to his bravery. It’s hard to choose a favorite among David Petersen’s characters, but to me Saxon always seems to stand out.

saxon-mouse-guard

Hobbes. I’m going to call it: Hobbes is one of the most amazing characters ever created by anyone, human or animal. Taking his name from 17th century philosopher, and having his true form be that of a stuffed toy, Bill Watterson’s Hobbes is not just Calvin’s best friend, but also his caretaker, his enabler and his critic. Both wondrous and restrained, he’s a conduit through which moral, philosophical and life lessons flow.

hobbes

Krypto. Krypto, created by Otto Binder and Curt Swan, is the ultimate symbol of loyalty, and the ultimate symbol of dog. The original story behind Krypto involves him being knocked off course in a rocket heading toward earth to be reunited with his original owner, Superman. Though the origin tale has shifted over the years, Krypto never leaves his dear friend’s side. Oh, and sometimes he and Superman play Frisbee in space.

Alex Ross

Alex Ross

Legend. Nominated leader, or Sunheart, of the dog tribe, Legend is the title character of a comic series. An English pointer leading his friends (and sometimes foes) on a quest to destroy a creature plaguing their territory, Legend is reluctant to assume his post, yet he forges ahead on a journey into a frightening unknown. (Full disclosure: This is my creation with Chris Koehler.)

legend

Battlepug. Kind, loyal, and yes, a little stupid, Mike Norton’s Battlepug is, well, a gigantic battle pug. Enough said.

battlepug

Lying Cat. The Lying Cat from Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ hit comic Saga has transformed from a popular character into an icon of truth-telling and popular subject of memes. Don’t you just wish you had your own Lying Cat to keep your friends (and enemies) honest, particularly in times of political and personal peril? I know I do.

lying-cat

John Blacksad. John Blacksad is a hardboiled detective with a checkered past. Oh, he’s also a humanoid cat creature, with a range of expressions that situate him nicely in a beautifully bizarre, noir animal universe. Realized by Juan Diaz Canales and drawn to perfection by Juanjo Guarnido, Blacksad is certainly one of the greatest animal characters to hit the page.

blacksad

Pogo. “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Walt Kelly’s Pogo is one of the most influential animal characters in all of comicsdom. An affable opossum with the personality of a pleasant cipher, Pogo has influenced some of the greatest comics creators in history, including Jeff Smith, Alan Moore and Bill Watterson.

pogo

Krazy Kat. Another incredibly influential animal character, Krazy Kat had an impact on myriad cartoonists from Bill Watterson to Will Eisner. Being regarded as gender neutral, and talking in a wild pastiche of dialects, George Herriman’s Krazy Kat is one of the oldest and most memorable animal characters to date.

krazy-kat-copy

Ampersand. I used to think I was the only one with a soft spot for intelligent, quick-witted capuchin monkeys…until I read Y: The Last Man. Ampersand is a monkey with scientifically significant poop (that’s right). Along with Yorrick, he’s one of the last males on earth, and is a source of friendship, kindness and bravery throughout Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra and Jose Marzan Jr.’s classic series.

ampersand

Bandit. Bandit is a “Gud dog.” Bandit wants to go home. Bandit has been bioengineered into a weapon of war. It’s amazing to find a character like this, equal parts simple and complex, that capture your attention, your sympathy, and your wonder from page one. But he does. And that’s why Grant Morrison’s We3 character (illustrated by Frank Quitely) he belongs on this list.

bandit-we3

The Lions. Though, yes, each of the lions in Pride of Baghdad have names, I like to think of them as one. Mostly because they travel as one, they fight as one, and try to survive as one. What’s so wonderful about this particular pride of lions is the way that Brian K. Vaughan writes them. These animals feel like animals, and yet have emotions any human would be pressed not to relate to.

lions

Niko Henrichon

Samuel Sattin is the writer of the acclaimed comic series Legend. Also a novelist, essayist and teacher, he is the author of novels such as The Silent End and League of Somebodies, and his work has appeared in The Atlantic, Nerdist, Paste Magazine, Salon, io9, Kotaku, Bleeding Cool, The Fiction Advocate, Publishing Perspectives, The Weeklings, The Rumpus, The Good Men Project, Litreactor, Buffalo Almanack, SF Signal, 13th Dimension and elsewhere. He holds an MFA in comics from California College of the Arts (where he currently teaches) and has a creative writing MFA from Mills College. He lives in Oakland, Calif., with his cats Inigo Montoya and Leeloo.

You can pre-order Legend here or pick it up at your comics shop 11/23.

 

Author: Dan Greenfield

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2 Comments

  1. Surely Sparkplug for historical significance.

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  2. No Snoopy? You gotta be kidding.

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