Why I Adore Mutts Comics
by Susie Slanina
April 11, 2023
“Comic strips are ephemeral. They come into being in our daily newspapers then disappear into recycling bins. They are fleeting daydreams trying to capture simple elements of joy. I always wanted to be a cartoonist.” ~ Patrick McDonnell, creator of Mutts Comic strip.
Here’s a review I wrote for Mutts Sundays nearly twenty-four years ago. At the time, Mutts had only been around five years, but it had already captured my heart. Reading this review from all those years ago, it’s quite extraordinary to know that Mutts is still going strong today and I still feel exactly the same way. Mutts debuted in 1994, the same year I adopted Metro, who was the joy of my life for fourteen happy years. On Sundays, Metro and I would LOL over the Mutts strips. (Metro laughed by wagging her tail.) It was a wonderful time. The sweetness and hilarity of Mutts touched my heart, and I could relate so much with Ozzie and the adventures he had with his dog, Earl.
ABSURD! HILARIOUS! also, sweet, sad, and even profound…
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on October 23, 1999
As a passionate Mutts fan from the beginning, I waited with great anticipation for this collection of Sunday comics. Read it closely; you’ll find it’s much more than just a comic strip…it’s a gentle philosophy that sometimes touches on such topics as animal issues and pollution, all told in a soft, never strident way. But mostly, it’s funny and fun you will have with the antics of Earl, Mooch and a whole cast of characters that will live in your heart forever! Take a look at some of the front pieces (before the actual strip) Some are parodies of famous art works. What a fabulous gift this would make for anyone who loves animals, art, nature and of course, humor. Please, Mr. McDonnell, keep us amused and inspired for many more years!
I wasn’t the only fan. Although Charles Shulz of Peanuts fame passed away before the majority of Mutts strips came into being, he was also a fan. He called Mutts “One of the best comic strips of all time.”
Here’s how Patrick tells of his meeting with Charles Shulz: “I was waiting for Sparky in the Warm Puppy restaurant at his ice arena. He appeared with an enigmatic smile. ‘Patrick, I have something here that will knock your socks off.’ He handed me a Peanuts daily showing the gang at an art museum. Rerun was standing in front of my character Earl.” That strip was published in 1999. Patrick returned the gesture with a Mutts strip for Shulz’s 100th birthday on 11/26/22.
Patrick has also collaborated with other luminaries: Eckhart Tolle, Jane Goodall, and most recently, the Dalai Lama. There’s a new book: Heart To Heart: A Conversation on Love and Hope for Our Precious Planet, a collaboration with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, was released on January 24, 2023.
In doing the research for this blog, I gathered my collections of Mutts comic books. (I have a lot!) and settled in with them a few weeks ago. Hours and hours went by. I was immersed in the books for days, happily lost in the enchanting neighborhood where Mooch and Earl live. I finally realized I had a blog to write. Reluctantly, I closed the books and thought about how to best express the genius and humanity of this adorable, thoughtful comic strip.
The main characters of the comic are Mooch, a cat, and Earl, a dog. They live next door to each other and have many adventures in the neighborhood. Earl is a really good dog. Mooch is quite the character, and he has a charming speech impediment: For the S sound, he’ll say Sh. So, for example, yes would be yesh, snackie would be shnackie, sleep would be shleep. I occasionally “Mooch-talk” for fun. I’m touched when I ask a friend a question and she replies: “Yesh!”
(When I lived in Big Bear, I adopted another dog, and named her Shweetie, as a little homage to Mooch.)
In March of 2002, I heard Patrick MCDonnell was going to be at a book signing in Beverly Hills, about an hour away from home. I went with a character from the Metro books, Marguerite, a great friend since kindergarten. She’s also a Mutts fan. Sometimes Marguerite and I would have long chats on Sundays, and one of our topics was always about the Sunday Mutts strip.
When I met Patrick, I told him how his work had made a big impact on my life. I told him how I appreciated the Mutts message, and his art. I told him how I liked that he can make it seem Ozzie’s eyes are twinkling when he plays with Earl. He inscribed his book: To Shusie (see banner image above) and even drew a little Mooch and Earl.
The first time I encountered Mutts was on the Metrolink train on my commute home from work. Everyday I had a system:
In the morning, I’d read the news in the Los Angeles Times. In the evening, on my way home, I’d treat myself to the crossword puzzle and glance over the comic section.
One evening, I noticed there was a new comic. I thought it was okay/cute, but soon I looked forward to seeing it everyday.
After six months or so, I realized that Mutts was much more than a comic strip and I couldn’t wait to see it.
I changed my system.
I started reading the comics the first thing and I skipped down to see Mutts. Then I’d start at the beginning of the comic page and get to see and appreciate Mutts a second time. (Sometimes I’d gaze and think about it for quite a while.)
I no longer subscribe to a print newspaper, and I no longer live in the Los Angeles area, but my tradition hasn’t changed. The first thing I do after I log onto the computer is click on the Mutts website. A tiny treasure of a new comic appears everyday! Social media is becoming increasingly uncivilized, but I can always count on Mutts to restore a sense of calm. It’s a nice way to start the day.
Patrick had a real dog named Earl. When Earl died, Patrick created a comic strip in his honor. It has a lot of meaning to me. I think it will resonate with anyone who has lost a beloved dog.
I’ve been a Mutts enthusiast since 1994. Some people have even asked if I worked for Mutts! No, just an ardent fan. But I’m very steeped in Mutts trivia, so if you’re ever on a game show and there’s a question about Mutts and you can phone a friend–call me! It’s likely I’ll know the answer.
“In Mutts I aim for a type of quiet joy.” ~Patrick McDonnell
A few years ago I participated in an online question & answer forum with Patrick and his fans. A person asked him what he hoped the legacy of Mutts would be. Patrick thought for a moment, then replied: “Kindness, I think.”
Susie Slanina lives in Vancouver, Washington. After graduating from California State University, Los Angeles, she went to school in Ireland to study the Montessori approach to educating children. She worked 24 years at CSLA and retired at age 50 to spend more time with her dogs in a cabin in Big Bear. She had been retired for eight years when a poem she wrote about a spider became the catalyst for the Metro book series. She used to enjoy traveling, but discovered that hanging out with her dogs is better than seeing the wonders of the world.