The first of David Fickling Books' releases from The DFC arrives in the shape of Good Dog, Bad Dog by Dave Shelton. If memory serves, this was one of the first strips to appear in the Guardian Comic section, publicising the upcoming release of The DFC, and it was a good choice then for a taster as it is now for a first shot across the bows for Fickling's graphic novel line.
Good Dog, Bad Dog is a slapstick comedy, parodying films noir of the Forties. The opening story reveals how tough-dog cop Kirk Bergman meets his new partner, Duncan McBoo, a slow-witted, accident-prone officer whose friendliness makes him the Good Cop of the new team. Bergman and McBoo stalk the mean streets of Muttropolis, dogged by the kind of villainy that fills the books of Dashiel Hammett and Raymond Chandler.
The brief story that introduces the two characters is followed by two long tales: "The Golden Bone of Alexandria", in which the solid gold bone of the title is stolen from the mansion of Sir Garfield Woofington. A clue—that old favourite standby, the match book—takes Bergman and McBoo to the Club Fifi where they meet the sultry Fifi and crime boss Wah Wah Johnson. Chaos ensues as our heroes battle Johnson's goons and eventually recover the bone.
"The Dog's Dinner" opens with McBoo enjoying his favourite pastime: eating. Food plays a often vital role in all these stories and this particular serving revolves around a kidnapped cook, a food critic and a crook by the name of Pug Ugly who likes his beans on toast just so.
The jokes are sometimes obvious to anyone who has watched a cartoon but that doesn't stop them being funny. Each page contains between 7 and 15 frames which means a joke can be paced to perfection. The real test is: would I come back for more—after all, this is prominently labelled Book 1 on the cover. And the answer is: yes. The plots are goofy, the laughs are there and writer/artist Dave Shelton has got more expression out of his characters than I thought possible. Let's hope we see more of the Muttropolis duo in the future.
Good Dog, Bad Dog by Dave Shelton. David Fickling Books ISBN 978-0385618250, £9.99, 4 March 2010.