My first reaction to Patrick McDonnell’s daily strip, “Mutts” was that his artwork was sketchy and not very appealing. I wasn’t far into the first collection that his publisher sent me before I realized that I was wrong. it didn’t even take the extra special panels that he creates for his Sunday pages to clue me in that McDonnell was a talented artist who had made some very specific choices in selecting a style for his tales of cats, dogs and the people who care for them.
The panels are timeless in the sense that they are certainly not from the hear and now. I’m reminded of Krazy Kat and the early Disney and Warner Brothers material, but also of old strip and panel cartoons like “Our Boarding House.”
There’s Earl, the faithful pooch who can empty his bowl before his master can say “DIN ----NER”; Mooch, the lisping cat whose infatuation with a certain little pink sock has yet to find its limit; the squirrels, who have made dropping nuts on others’ heads into a real sport; the foul mouthed crab at the beach, who can even find a reason to swear (&*%#!) when there’s nothing at all wrong. These are just some of the recurring characters in this strip.
The writing is pretty good too. While it is mostly about domestic matters, McDonnell manages to work in the odd comment about the state of the world, pleas for people to adopt homeless animals and all sorts of knee-high observations about life.