Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Whatever Happened to the Dog of Tomorrow?

By the time I started reading Superman comics in 1958 or 1959, Krypto was already a well-established and well-behaved member of Superman’s expanding “family.”
But he didn’t begin that way.
 Introduced in Adventure Comics 210 (March 1955), Krypto was revealed to be baby Kal-El’s pet puppy, sent into space in a test ship by Jor-El shortly before the planet Krypton’s explosion.
I don’t think anyone here has ever considered naming a puppy “Eartho” or “Terra,” but I won’t quibble about Kryptonian customs in this area.
Superboy is joyful when his pet arrives on Earth, but quickly understands the headaches involved when Krypto playfully rips the wing off a passenger airliner. Finding his dog has fled into space at the end of that first story, Superboy pretends to be glad.
But isn’t.
Krypto would, of course, return soon and for good, playing a role in many Superboy and Superman adventures. In fact, the Dog of Steel would become a member of two distinguished organizations of super-animals — the 30th century Legion of Super-Pets and the Space Canine Patrol Agents.
Krypto would also be the ancestor of a surprisingly large number of superhero dogs that would include Ace the Bathound, Underdog, Dynomutt, Hong Kong Phooey, Marvel’s Lockjaw and (arguably) Disney’s Super-Goof. Radar, Alan Moore’s version of Krypto, could talk thanks to a super-translator installed by Supreme in his dog collar, and is a particular favorite.
Krypto was created by artist Curt Swan and writer Otto Binder, and that seems appropriate. Swan was one of the most iconic artists ever associated with Superman, and Binder, a long-time writer for Captain Marvel, used Krypto to bring a little of that famous Fawcett feature’s heartwarming whimsy to Superman’s “serious” universe. The Big Red Cheese had vanished with Marvel Family 89 (Jan. 1954), just a year before the Dog of Steel arrived on Earth.
Look, I know Krypto’s presence makes Superman even sillier than he already is, but I really don’t care. Given the volumes of anecdotal evidence that attest to canine loyalty and bravery, the idea of a superhero dog has a kind of deep psychological resonance for us.
And Krypto brings a quality of heart to the Superman feature than underlines and counterpoints the recurring theme of the superhero’s loneliness — something Moore understood implicitly.
I defy anyone to read Krypto’s part in Moore’s 1986 story Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? without finding that the room has suddenly become unaccountably dusty.

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