Wild Pod: A Wild Dog Podcast Episode 03

In Wild Pod: A Wild Dog Podcast, FKAjason covers the legendary DC Comics action hero Wild Dog, from his initial 1987 four-issue mini-series and beyond. In this episode, Jay covers Wild Dog #3, by Max Allan Collins, Terry Beatty, Dick Giordano, Michele Wolfman, John Workman, and Mike Gold. Plop yourself down and listen to find out what makes Wild Dog great.

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Wild Wild Life – Talking Heads
Suburbia – Pet Shop Boys

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One comment

  1. I think both in the’80s and today, the third issue was where I started to turn on Wild Dog. The art was only ever okay to me, so the book needed stories and characters to carry it. At this point, it was becoming clear that readers were getting neither. I still think the premise of duping out which of four different suspects was the masked vigilante is solid, but 66 pages in, and we still know next to nothing about these guys. The fed came off as a bit too smarmy to be Wild Dog, plus he’s the one accusing his friends, which seems like it would be a misstep if he were trying to deflect the identity. The reporter has a young child at home, so if he’s Wild Dog, that’s grossly irresponsible. Then there’s the cop, but see, two of the suspects are in some form of law enforcement. Wouldn’t it make more sense to just go “rogue,” like Dirty Harry, instead of doing the mask thing? Also, it would be a good story engine for Wild Dog to have a well connected circle of helper associates, like The Shadow. He should be neither lawman, but maybe one helps him while the other creates a conflict by hunting Wild Dog? So yeah, of course Wild Dog is the blue collar worker with his own business allowing him flexible hours to moonlight with him military skills.

    Did I have that all worked out in the ’80s? I dunno, but probably not. I didn’t think about it much. Wild Dog didn’t engage me in a way that left it marinating in my brain after reading an issue. I’m not even that sure I read the third issue during the initial run. Both the second and third issues are about setting up the mystery surrounding the identity, but we don’t get suspects with their own identities, just names and professions and alibis. The book only wants to commit halfway to the premise before diving into long, mostly silent action sequences that Terry Beatty isn’t built for. Wild Dog doesn’t even start doing the pithy, darkly comic James Bond one-liners until the third issue, spending the first two exactly like the taciturn, humorless Vigilante. Both the lead character and those surrounding him are largely cyphers to this point, and then the Dog does a bit of a personality 180 to become more like The Punisher. Frank Castle was doing that schtick much better with flashier artwork and more exciting action beats, leaving Wild Dog as a stopgap title before enough Punisher spin-offs were released to satisfy the demand The Punisher had created for himself. I say that from experience, because The Punisher’s first mini-series was so hot that the issues were unattainable, so I didn’t start buying that book until I could actually find it halfway into the first year of the ongoing. By the time I could get actual Punisher comics, I didn’t need to read dudes riding on his trenchcoat tails.

    Another major problem is Max Allen Collins playing against his natural inclinations. Vigilantes tend to work best when done cinematically or pulpy, but Collins keeps dropping in these staid caption boxes of boring people speaking with stuff like “said Gault” thrown in that makes a comic read like clumsy prose. A book would offer deeper commentary and alternate dialogue in short paragraphs to indicate who was saying or thinking what. In a medium that would allow for that to be done more easily and clearly, Collins opts to misapply rudimentary tools from prose in a visual medium and fail to take advantage of all those empty spaces in the art to do deeper character work or color commentary. Collins loves puns and fanciful conceits in crime from out of old Dick Tracy and Batman strips. Especially in Ms. Tree and Mike Myst strips, he’s great at the parlour room process of elimination and Encylopedia Brown “did you catch the clue, readers” moments. Wild Dog initially looked to be the thinking man’s vigilante; a suburban commando slyly mocking the tropes of a subgenre while offering a more realistic look at what it would mean to fight crime out of a garage in the media age. Then he turned out to be wearing lightweight bulletproof spandex and electro-shock gloves and was able to rappel through the skylight of a gym with guns blazing and no harm coming to himself or bystanders. He’s the same ridiculous violent power fantasy as other characters of his stripe, with an added layer of Podunk “heartland” rah-rah bullshit target marketing. Wild Dog should have had his own flavor to justify his existence, but by the third issue he was just the bland supermarket brand of bang-bang with a funky aftertaste leached off the cheap folded carton. The only part of this issue I really liked was the set-up for the Wild Dog uniform to be on the boat, the only fun contrivance in a story reeking of not-fun ones.

    Collins/Beatty’s Ms. Tree was a cool and groundbreaking indie character who managed a longer run when picked up by DC than the home grown Wild Dog had. Collins also spent years on Dick Tracy, and while imperfect to say the least, his Batman work is overly hated. I’m planning to listen to at least a few episodes of Ryan & Chris’ KnightCast just to see how they reevaluate it.

    Okay, I promise not to run over Wild Dog issue four, since I aired most of my grievances with the title here, and will try to be positive for the finale.

    By the way, it was appropriate for Charlton to rarely credit letters or to do so as “A. Machine,” because they didn’t have any. I swear I’m not making this up: Instead, Charlton had an oversized typewriter that they could feed the original 11″ X 17″ art boards into, and they literally typed all the words directly onto the boards.


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