Sniffin' and Scratchin' with the Space Canine Patrol Agents!
by Kent "Unca Cheeks" Orlando
Fair warning time, folks: if any of you reading these words have any sort of "problem" with grade-A silliness... then give this here page a "pass," sourpuss.
The immortal "Space Canine Patrol Agency" -- an anthropomorphic "take off" on DC Comics' popular LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES series -- made their epochal debut within the pages of SUPERBOY #131 (July, 1966), in a tail... ummmm, I mean, tale -- entitled "The Dog From S.C.P.A.," to much the same sort of universal applause and approbation as is generally reserved for the sudden and unexpectedarrival of a dead rat carcass in one's morning bowl of corn flakes. Proving -- yet once again -- that the average comics reader has absolutely no sensahumor what. so. ever.
While so productively engaged, The Doggie of Derring-Do happens to stumble the wholly appropriately named "Mammoth Mutt" [see page reproduction, accompanying], while the later is in his final death throes.
"Gosh!" Krypto exclaims. "You're talking to me by telepathy!
Are you a real, living dog?" Mammoth Mutt, in turn -- resisting
the perfectly understandable urge to snarl: "... yeah... for about
another two, three minutes, maybe, you stupid freakin' @#$%!!"
by way of reply -- responds in pained affirmative, and informs Krypto
of the heretofore unexpected existence of (you knew it was coming)...
the Space Canine Patrol Agents!!!
Vowing to bring the mastiff's murderers to, ummmmm, "heel"... the Crime-Bustin' Canine promptly journeys to a world where he discovers (oh, there's no deceiving the trained eye of a super-hero) "a world of dog-people, walking upright and wearing clothes!" (Interesting Side Note: the recently-exhumed original of the writer's typed manuscript for this story also featured scrawled, all-but-illegible notations in the margins to the effect that "the voices... they just... won't... leave... me... be," and "Wild Turkey: It's Not Just For Breakfast, Any More. MWAH-ha-ha-haaaa -- !!" A fascinating, if all-too-infrequent, sojourn into the mind of a professional comics scripter.)
Moving on, however... Krypto dons a pair of fake glasses (don't ask) and -- assuming the super-powered secret identity of (waaaaaiiiit for it) "Air Dale" -- get it? Huh? Air Dale...? Huh? Get it...?!? -- cunningly allows himself to get the Alpo kicked out of him by a gang of canine cutpurses, in the not-altogether vain hope that the bow-wow brigands might toss him into whatever kennel they're using to imprison the other members of the S.C.P.A.
Faster than you can whimper "mirable dictu," the nastybad doggies do precisely that... and, thus, a historic moment in comics history: Krypto Meets the Space Canine Patrol Agents! "Hot Dog"... "Tusky Husky"... "Bull Dog"... "Tail Terrier"... "Paw Pooch"... "Chameleon Collie." The only immediately obvious possibility "missed," really, was "Dyslexic Dachshund." Just an oversight, I suppose.
Pooling their poochie resources, Krypto and the Arf-Arf Armada stage a daring, GREAT ESCAPE-style breakout from their durance vile in doggie Dachau (all right... all right, already! That was the last one! Swear to God -- !), and foil their four-legged foemen. The Dog of Steel, in turn, is rewarded with full membership within the ranks of the S.C.P.A., which sure beats a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. It says here.
DC's answer to The Doberman Gang staged their triumphal return a mere month later, in issue #132's "Krypto's Cat-Crook Caper." After a brief opening sequence -- during which time, various and assorted silly doggie applicants are denied entry to the team's august ranks [see pictures, accompanying] -- the breathtaking saga begins to flop and writhe along its hideously malformed storytelling path.
Assigned the comparatively simple task of safeguarding the proceeds from an all-canine charity fund raiser, Krypto is singled out as the putative "mark" in a complex scam being manufactured and run by members of "the Cat Crime Club": a tally of tabbies entirely given over to accumulating liquid capital enough to corner the inter-galactic market on those cute li'l squeaky rubber mousie toys.
Luring the Powerhouse Pooch into sampling a hot dog slathered with (I kid you not) "liquid Red Kryptonite"-enhanced catsup -- a bizarre and unpredictable substance, capable of effecting truly startling physical and/or mental changes upon the average Kryptonian. (I am, of course, referring to the Red Kryptonite, in this particular. Catsup simply gives Krypto a bad case of the runs.) -- they manage to transform him into an insubstantial (and, thus, ineffectual) "phantom pooch." Hilarity -- you may have my oath on it -- ensues. Kinda.
It was not until the Agency's third and final appearance, however -- the cover featured "Decoy of the Doom Statues!"in SUPERBOY #136 -- that the short-lived "back-up" series managed to ascend to near-Olympian peaks of sheerest imbecility such as have never again graced the pages of the comics medium. Excluding certain issues of X-FACTOR, I mean.
After brusquely disposing of yet another roundelay of horrid hound heroes seeking mutt membership (... dear God... I can't STOP -- !!!), the courageous canines are confronted by the cosmos-shattering menace of (be brave, now; we can make it through this together, you and I)... the Phantom Zone CATS!!!
As the accompanying narrative so helpfully explains, these felines of faerie are: "pet cats of Kryptonian criminals! We were exiled with them in the Phantom Zone!" Which certainly sheds a new (if not entirely pleasant) light on the notion of "justice," Krypton-style, when you stop to think about it. I mean... there you are: innocently sunning yourself on the windowsill, and ruminating lazily as to whether or not it might be worth the effort to amble on over towards your food bowl for a quick little mouthful of something-or-other... and then: ker-WHAMM -- !!! The door is shattered inward by the jackboot-shod feet of a phalanx of Phantom Zone police; your master is being hauled off for having sent a school bus full of Kryptonian kiddies careening into the nearest active volcano; and the last thing you remember hearing is: "... oh, yeah... and grab the @#$%ing cat, too, while you're at it!" I'm just sayin', here, is all.
If not for the added aid and assistance of newest SCPA member "Prophetic Pup" -- whose hideously enlarged cranium served as a sort of nickelodeon of Nostradamus-ish precognitions -- both the Agents assembled and "special guest star, Superboy" might well have perished at the paws of these purring perpetrators, and... and...
... huh? Whuzzat...?
"Silly"...? What the hell do you mean, "silly"...?
Oh, yeah. Right. Like people being bitten by radioactive spiders and whatnot is hard-nosed, Asimov-style scientific extrapolation. I'm soooooooo sure.
Kent G. Orlando a/k/a "Uncle Cheeks", had one of the most acclaimed comics-analysis sites on the web until he lost his free webspace. Several mirror sites are still online, and Fanzing is proud to help preserve some of his essays.
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This piece is © 2002 by Kent Orlando
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