Wild Dog Special #1 (1989)

Wild Dog Special #1 (1989)“Dog Catcher”
Writer/Co-Creator – Max Collins
Artist/Co-Creator – Terry Beatty
Letterer – Tim Harkins
Colorist – Carl Gafford
Editors – Mike Gold & Brian Augustyn
Cover Price: $2.50

It’s been awhile since we checked in with our old friend Wild Dog here at the humble blog.  The issue we’re going to discuss today was, to me, akin to bigfoot.  People swore they’d seen it, even purported to own it… but I’d never laid my eyes on it.  This book occupied my short-list of “White Whale” books, which now is looking a lot more “Lady Cop” than “Wild Dog”.

I wanted to keep writing about the Dog… and even considered trying to work his Action Comics Weekly run in here somehow.  That feels like it might be one heckuva undertaking… but not totally out of the question.  Maybe one’a these days I’ll woik out the logistics on that.

For now, though… we’re going to check in with our man on the heels of Action Comics Weekly.  Let’s see how he’s been.

We open with Wild Dog… being Wild Dog.  That is to say, blowing a bunch of fools away with automatic fire.  This is a flashback to our man taking on (and perhaps, taking down) a mob faction.  We shift to Don Lupo’s newspaper-cluttered desk, as he wonders aloud… well, to some underlings, anyway… about how to beat our hockey-masked pal.

On pock-marked yes man suggests they try employing the services of a “finder”, because they’re just kill-bots.  You point, they shoot… but if they don’t know where to shoot, they’re more or less useless.  These geeks leave as yet another enters.  This one comes with not only aspirin for the Don, but also a potential solution.  For the low low price of one-million USD, they can hire a man known as “The Catcher”.  Lupo takes the suggestion under advisement.

We shift to Wheeler Garage where Jack is doing some mechanic-ing.  He is joined by Lt. Andy Flint, who it would seem is trying to reconnect with our man.  Presumably they had a bit of a falling-out during their time in Action Comics Weekly.  Flint is apparently the reason Jack hung up the mask and jersey for good.  They argue for a bit… with Andy maintaining that there’s no place (or need) for a Wild Dog.  Jack throws a recent string of terroristic bank robberies in his face as evidence to the contrary.

We next shift to a park bench in Chicago.  One of Lupo’s underlings sits down next to a conspicuously non-conspicuous man with a ballcap and trenchcoat.  Yeah, that doesn’t look sinister.  The mob-dude hands over a briefcase, with a cool half-mill, and gives him his “target”… Wild Dog, duh.  He’s down with the gig… but makes it clear that it’s only up to him to catch Wild Dog… anything more is up to Lupo and his men.

We rejoin Jack who is having some target practice at a government shooting range with his old pal Graham Gault.  Jack’s a smart cookie and realizes that Gault likely has a motive for inviting him out.  Graham claims he just wants to reminisce about ye olden college football days.  This is a pretty neat way of tossing a page of expositional origin into the story without looking too forced.  They part company, but not before making plans to meet up for a drink later that night.

Remember those bank robbers we mentioned earlier?  Well, let’s check in on them.  They’re… as luck would have it… robbing a bank.  These fellas are pretty damn ruthless, and don’t have a single problem “shooting first”.  In just one page we watch them blow away a security guard and a panicking woman.  Just gonna check something real quick… nope, no Comics Code badge on the cover.  Didn’t think so.

It isn’t long before the police (and media) arrive on the scene… including our old favorite, Ms. Susan King!  Of particular note, Lt. Flint shows up with a partner… who mumbles something about wishing Wild Dog was still around… uh-oh, gotta tow that precinct line there, pal.  Anyhoo… Flint allows one reporter access, and it’s his (and our) old friend Lou Godder.  Anyone but that “Geraldo with lipstick”.

It’s okay though, Ms. King’s about to get the offer of the century… in the form of a “national hookup” with CBS News in New York.

That night, we check back in with Jack as he meets up with Graham for a drink.  Gault arrives and looks like the cat who ate the canary… because now, he knows.  This sneaky jerk ran a ballistics check on the pistol Jack was firing with earlier in the day and matched it up with that of Wild Dog.  That’s some sloppy vigilantism, Jack-o.  Gault offers Jack a bargain… he plays ball, taking down the bank robbers… and he’ll ensure he receives a full Presidential Pardon for his masked-transgressions.

Back with Susan, she’s dining with the “CBS News guy”, who is really keen to get her hot take on Wild Dog.  She’s all too happy to share what she knows, including how at one point she had it narrowed down to four men.  Since then, she’s pared her list down to only two… she is convinced that Wild Dog is either Graham Gault or Jack Wheeler.  This chat blossoms into full-on sexy-time between the two… after which, the Catch— er “CBS News guy” wants to go back to chatting about the ‘Dog.

The next morning, there is yet another violent bank robbery.  Four masked assailants gun down a trio of armored car folks.  The security is able to take one baddie down… who the remaining masks decide to leave behind.  Guess all’s fair in… well, whatever they’re up to.  They flee the scene, and news of the event goes out over the radio.  One person tuned in just happens to be Jack Wheeler.  It’s time to let the dog out.

Wild Dog just so happens to find the baddies right away.  Like seriously, they park their van, and exit… and Wild Dog is right there pointing a gun at them.

The best part of all this… Wild Dog isn’t even sure these are the bank robbers!  He’s just busting their chops until they decide to pull a gun on him!  It’s immediately clear that such a decision was not in their best interests, as Wild Dog, without skipping a beat, perforates them but good.  He stands over their dead bodies and thinks aloud that these must be the bank robbers.

Our next scene features the Four Horsemen of State U having some drinks.  Andy is furious that Jack would don his Wild Dog persona again.  Gault tells Andy to back off, because it was his idea… and Jack was just doing as he asked.  Andy’s all “screw this, I’m going home”, however upon leaving he finds himself at the business end of a gun.

And so, Andy is taken captive by a masked individual.  This fella is more than happy to inform Wheeler that he’s got his pal strapped to a chair… and suggests he, or Wild Dog, show up to try and rescue him.  It doesn’t take much convincing… Wild Dog will be happy to attend.

Inside the warehouse, Wild Dog takes aim at the captor… who we’ll just call “The Catcher” from this point on, because that’s who it is.  The Catcher informs him that firing even a single shot would be to his detriment, as Lt. Andy’s chair is coated in highly flammable plastic explosive.  Flint tells Dog to fire anyway.  Thankfully for him, he doesn’t.  Now the Catcher gets all James Bond villainy, and tells him how he “cracked the code”.  This is pretty great, Andy makes such a disgusted face when he realizes Susan King is involved.

After story time, the Catcher tosses a gas grenade to kayo half the Horsemen.  Next we know, Wild Dog is a caged animal, waiting for Don Lupo to arrive and put him out of his misery.

Lupo’s geeks get cocky and begin to taunt the Dog.  One places his hand on the cage bars to mock the “Wild Wussy”.  Well, this Wussy packs a punch… in the form of a stun glove!

The other geek unloads his gun into Wild Dog’s chest.  You really think a homebrew vigilante ain’t rocking body armor?  Idiot.

Dog kicks his way out of the cage and kills his captors.  Not the Catcher though… remember, his only part of the deal was the catching… he’s long gone by now.  Andy calls out to Jack… who is quick to correct him, he is Wild Dog.  It would appear that Wild Dog is officially back.

We wrap up with a furious Don Lupo shouting at the Catcher over the phone.  Catcher’s cool though… he simply reminds him of their deal.  He was hired to catch Wild Dog… and that’s exactly what he did.

Well… I’m of two minds on this one.  First, I always enjoy a Wild Dog story.  They’re too fun not to dig.  This though feels almost too open-ended.  It’s as though this was a pilot of sorts, but then in the (not the) letters page, the editor flat out says that Wild Dog will be going away for awhile.  Weird, right?

There’s something about the pacing that makes me think that this was meant to be parsed out during Action Comics Weekly, though I could be completely off-base.  It’s weird, every so many (8-9) pages we get a strange and abrupt break.  The captions are purposely written to tie two panels together.  It reads pretty clunkily (if that’s a word), and makes it feel like we’re getting a rejoinder that we didn’t really need.  Overall though, I thought this over-sized issue told a great story.

I gotta say, I know I gave Terry Beatty some grief during my earlier Wild Dog discussions… I think I said his people looked like posed action figures… but I really enjoyed the art here.  Beatty provides some great faces.  I laughed for perhaps an inappropriately long time at Flint’s scowl upon realizing Susan King was involved in his kidnapping.  It was just too perfect!  Especially in that it immediately followed a panel with Susan and the Catcher in bed!  Speaking of Susan… more great facials.  She looks so phony and disingenuous all throughout, and it’s awesome!

It wasn’t only some of the faces that made me laugh though.  The very thought of Wild Dog cruising the streets, pulling up to some suspicious types and giving them grief is hilarious.  Unless I read it wrong, it isn’t entirely clear to him that the trio he tracks down were in fact the bank robbers… and yet, he still pulls up and points his gun at them.  Gotta figure this is just something he does… and damn, I find that just wild-ly (ha!) funny.

I suppose the only bad thing I can say about this (outside of a few awkwardly placed captions) is that it didn’t lead anywhere.  Not something I can hold against the book itself… it’s just that the creators had other priorities in mind at this point, including their creator-owned Ms. Tree.  No harm, no foul… and when the worst thing one can say about a book is “I want more”, you’re doing something right.  At least we still get our monthly fix of the Dog in the pages of Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye from DC’s Young Animal, which as luck would have it, Reggie and I discuss monthly on the Weird Science DC Comics Podcast.  I also hear he’s on TV somewhere… if you’re into that kinda thing.

*By the way, if you wanna hear people talk about Wild Dog’s earlier exploits, do yourself a favor and check out WildPod: A Wild Dog Podcast from our pals over at SNGProductions.

(Not the) Letters Page:

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