Thursday, May 27, 2021

The Fantasti-Dog


As the group of issues which sought to reboot and re-establish the Fantastic Four title after it (along with other flagship titles) shuttered itself following the Onslaught storyline, the series' third volume of stories perhaps tends to be overlooked by those in the here and now who leapfrog over it to reach the Silver and Bronze Age issues which for them might recapture the FF's glory days--particularly when Volume 3, the last continuing body of FF work which spanned the years 1998-2011, preceded the final sputtering of issues which effectively brought an end to the Fantastic Four comic book indefinitely. Nor did Marvel Comics appear to shed any tears on the subject; in fact, I imagine the company finds its production methods these days to be a relief, freed at last from the headache of continuity minutiae that weighed down the book's characters, and its momentum, like an anchor. One can almost hear the likely argument to be made for the limited, back-to-back story arcs, all occurring under the umbrella of the same masthead, which are prevalent in today's comics: "What's the big deal? When a new writer and artist team came aboard a title back in the day, they almost always pivoted from whatever came before and instead explored new directions and even made certain changes in the characters--what's the difference between what was happening then, and now?" Oh, Marvel. To paraphrase the late, great Louis Armstrong: If you have to ask, you'll never know.

That said, you can see several such spurts of new directions taking place in Volume 3--and as we move further from that run of FF comics, there are talents from that period whose work you may find deserves a second look, some of whom have been given their due in the PPC. A few that come to mind were also surprising in terms of how well they handled the characterizations and exploits of the team--scripters such as J. Michael Straczynski, Mark Waid, Chris Claremont, Mark Millar, and Jonathan Hickman, each of whom brought something interesting to the table. Claremont, of course, was the more tried-and-true of this mixed bag in terms of reliability in being mindful of what came before, though at times you couldn't help but feel that any of his Fantastic Four plots and/or characters could be interchanged with those in X-Men and vice versa. (For example, I wasn't particularly charitable in an appraisal of "Ninja Sue.") But there was one addition to the FF family that made perfect sense--so much so that it was fair to wonder why no one thought of it before.

Which is our cue to (heh) "un-leash" another

Marvel Trivia Question

Under what circumstances did the Richards family adopt a dog?
Yes, I know what you're thinking: If the Richardses have trouble keeping an eye on their son, Franklin, how are these people going to manage a dog? It just so happens that Franklin's difficulties in coping with FF life are what lead to the introduction of Puppy, the name that didn't come with our pooch but which stuck. (Another way of looking at that is that nobody in the FF could be bothered with even giving their dog a name. Come on, that's always been the first thing to come to mind for any kid who gets a new dog.)

As to what was going on with Franklin, apparently the FF being presumed dead for a time wasn't helpful to Franklin's peace of mind:

And so we then find ourselves at the abandoned Four Freedoms Plaza, where Kraven the Hunter, of all people, has been hired to track down and terminate a mysterious animal whose howls have been frightening the various inspection crews in the building. But Caledonia, one of the cast of characters added to the book, recognizes the noises for what they are--and after helping to eject Kraven from the site, she leads the Human Torch and Spider-Man to the source.

And the answer to Caledonia's question appears to work out for everyone--especially for a young boy, who latches onto and bonds with his new friend from the moment they meet (and vice versa). From there, Puppy's acclimation to his new home, and to his new family, comes easily--though it's clear from looking at him that he has connections to others who are known to the FF.

It bears mentioning that though openings present themselves, Puppy doesn't become some sort of super-powered backup for the FF in their adventures--though one other ability this dog possesses is utilized on occasion.

Puppy's stay in his new home would turn out to be a relatively short one, while his backstory is never addressed. Eventually, he's virtually written out of the book when a crisis warrants Franklin being sent to Haven, an extragalactic boarding school (where he's accompanied by Caledonia, Puppy, and Franklin's time-hopping sister, Valeria)--and when Valeria and Franklin finally return home, they arrive without Caledonia and Puppy, with no mention of either and no inquiries about them from Reed, Sue, or the others. Not such fantastic behavior from the Fantastic Four regarding their four-legged member of the family--but let's assume he's found all the love he can handle from all of those school students in Haven.

Puppy's entry in the 2009 Marvel Pets Handbook.


Colin Jones said...

I'd never heard of Puppy before but it seems such a wasted opportunity not to investigate his connection to the Inhumans. What's the point of introducing a dog with an antenna on his head like Lockjaw and then going nowhere with it?

Big Murr said...

I can usually wink and nod when comics don't follow continuity 100%, but I can't abide lack of consistency. As in, characters acting in a consistent manner.

In this case, I just cannot swallow that Reed would not follow up on Puppy's origin and obvious Inhuman connections. It's a dink move, for one thing. It's the classic trope of "He followed me home! Can I keep him?! Please??" But in this case, it is obvious the stray pooch came from friends and neighbours across the street. Any civilized friendship could make arrangements when the kid wasn't listening.

Anyway, I agree with Colin. It was a puzzling, and pointless, exercise to tease us with this dog and then not explore it.

(And just who/what did Lockjaw mate with to produce a Puppy??)

Comicsfan said...

Colin and Murray, we can only assume that Claremont was laying groundwork for dealing in the Inhumans at a later point and hashing out the circumstances of Puppy becoming a stray while also settling who gets to care for him. IMO, it doesn't seem like a major plot point that requires urgency, on Reed's part or for the reader, in light of the FF and the Inhumans being on good terms with each other--and there certainly aren't any alarm bells going off at Puppy being apparently related to Lockjaw, another "Inhuman" that the FF (and particularly the Thing, especially at a later point) have developed a trusting relationship with. Claremont appears to have thought it more important to throw the spotlight on Franklin, Puppy, and Val (as well as Alysande, Caledonia and Alyssa) and provide the mag with a feel-good vibe, a modus operandi which readers of X-Men will no doubt find familiar.

B Smith said...

Never read any of these, but can only hope that, under Claremont's aegis, Puppy didn't become as mind-curdlingly cutesie-wutsie as that blessed dragon in the X-Men book.