The Dog Days of Comics: The Dog Show Two Centuries of Canine Cartoons

Man’s best friend has always had a presence since the beginning of newspaper comic strips. Celebrate your favorite canine comic strip character as The Ohio State University Libraries presents The Dog Show: Two Centuries of Canine Cartoons.

The Dog Show: Two Centuries of Canine Cartoons, an exhibition curated by comics historian Brian Walker, features over one hundred different characters documenting the fascination that cartoonists have had with our furry friends. The Dog Show is on view till October 31, 2021. Admission is free.

“Otto goes back to the mid-1950s, but in the beginning he was just a bulldog walking around on all fours, wearing one of those coats with the sergeant stripes on it,” said Walker, the curator of a new pooch-themed exhibit dubbed “The Dog Show: Two Centuries of Canine Comics,” which opens at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum on Saturday, June 19. “Then, starting in the 1970s, and probably inspired by Snoopy donning all of these personalities, like Joe Cool, all of a sudden Otto has a full military uniform, and he has a little desk where he works next to Sarge, and he starts acting very human-like.”

“I don’t want to get cat lovers mad at me, but dogs have more accessible personalities. They aim to please … where cats are more aloof,” Walker said. “In the comic strips, I think the dogs are characters on their own, really. They have personalities, or some kind of quirk, or something they do that makes them distinctive.”

Humans and dogs have a special relationship that goes back to our earliest encounters. The enduring graphic legacy of dogs in art can be seen in 8,000-year-old petroglyph murals depicting dogs with leashes helping a hunter who is holding a bow. Dogs continue to take on roles as loyal companions, dedicated workers and talented performers. Today, canines are also celebrated icons of popular literature, art and culture.

This exhibition features cartoon canines beginning with political cartoons from the 19th century and moving through to 21st-century stars like Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man and Patrick McDonnell’s Earl. The exhibition includes representation from all major cartoon genres, including comic strips, editorial cartoons, magazine cartoons, comic books, illustration and animation. Over one hundred different characters are featured, including vintage comic strip canines such as Buster Brown’s Tige, Little Orphan Annie’s Sandy, Dagwood and Blondie’s Daisy and Charlie Brown’s Snoopy, as well as modern mutts like everyone’s favorite Great Dane Marmaduke, Odie from Garfield, Otto from Beetle Bailey, Ruff from Dennis the Menace, Farley from For Better or For Worse and Biscuit from Stone Soup. Other cartoon dogs represented include George Booth’s iconic New Yorker dogs, drawings by underground cartoonists Lynda Barry and Shary Flenniken, as well as animated canines from Goofy to Underdog to Scooby-Doo. The Dog Show: Two Centuries of Canine Cartoons promises to be an entertaining and enlightening exhibit for visitors of all ages.