The Hardcore Review; Battle Pug Vol. 1
Mike Norton’s Battle Pug is one part Conan to four parts, the goofiest looking dogs on the planet. But that’s why I enjoyed it so. Originally released as a web comic, Battle Pug tells the story or a beautiful woman, naked in bed, telling the story of an unknown warrior, seeking revenge, to her two canine companions, Colfax and Mingo. All the while, both dogs are bantering back and forth like so much Waldorf and Stadler.
This book was so much fun to read. Norton does an amazing job both with the narration and the line art. Battle Pug is one of those rare treats among the successful webcomics out there. It has a bit of everything; sexy woman, humor in the form of both the two dogs bantering about the greatness or lack thereof regarding the story being told as well as Scribbly the ranting old man who follows the nameless warrior around. That’s an element, although not completely necessary for a sidekick to be comic relief. Take my main man Agnew for example. A character who is not simply baseless humor, or the butt of jokes, but an essential point and helps carry the story further. Norton does a great job in fleshing out Scribbly as more than a one note joke. And I honestly had my doubts when he first showed up early on. But Scribbly proved me wrong. And then of course the nameless warrior, who, honestly is probably the least likeable character in the whole book. He’s the huge muscled guy who just wants to kill everybody. Sure he suffered great loss early on by way of a GINORMOUS white seal who may or may not have been controlled by a man with a scarred face. And let us not ever forget about Battle Pug. The bug eyed, snorting, drooling steed sized Pug that only wants to be friends and help serve his new master. Although the nameless warrior doesn’t seem to like the gigantic awkward hero dog much, in spite of Battle Pug stabbing the huge evil frog king to death. Battle Pug saves the day. And even if the Schwarzenegger-esque hero doesn’t see it, Scribbly seems to understand Battle Pug’s plight.
I got to meet Mike Norton at Phoenix ComiCon a few weeks ago. I got to tell him about how I bought the print he did for pro wrestler Colt Cabana. Norton told me that ever show he does, someone always mentions buying the same print. I was happy to hear that Mike in fact lives with two Pugs of his own. In fact, the collected first volume of Battle Pug contains prelim sketches of all the dogs included in the title. The intro is written by a close friend of Norton’s in Skottie Young, who Mike sat with numerous times during a Chicago area Drink and Draw. The DnD (no 20 sided dice needed) sessions, which were done as much for socialization as for a release from their day jobs of cranking out graphic art for the likes of Marvel and DC. In the intro, Skottie talks about how the Drink and Draw got Mike started in fleshing out what would become Battle Pug. Whether you drink or not, Drink and Draws can be great ways to unwind and even come up with amazing concepts. Being around your peers can motivate you to end up doing what you truly want to do (meaning project wise). And I am thankful that these gatherings helped spawn Battle Pug. Some people don’t really like the extras that tend to get added to graphic novels or trades. But I am a huge fan of the DVD-like extras. It helps me get into the mindset of the creators. It also gives a very humanization to the creators, giving me motivation to continue creating on my own.By the way, Battle Pug is published by Dark Horse and the panoramic hardcover retails for $14.99.
The grade for Battle Pug has to fit the concept of the book. And given its constant humor, and high profile dogs as titular characters, I don’t think it’s possible for me to go with anything but the following. The British Bulldogs were a huge tag team around the world, but headlined events with the World Wrestling Federation during the mid to late 1980′s. Their main rivals were the heel team of Bret Hart and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart (father of Natalya or Nattie Neidhart). The Hart Foundation (Hart and Neidhart) were managed by the venerable and outlandish Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart. Jimmy Hart was loathed by the fans for his ostentatious verbal diatribes, as well as his butt ugly ring jackets. Not to mention Jimmy, who weighed in at maybe a buck fifty has a penchant for crowning people with the megaphone he toted around with him (think Bill Alphonso’s annoying whistle, but with a huge mouth painted on it). Well, in the culmination to one of their feuds, the Hart Foundation left “Skinny” Jimmy in the ring at the mercy of the British Bulldogs. And the Bulldogs were seconded by the first dog of wrestling, Matilda. I remember it well, and it looked like Hart had Snausage flavored underwear the way Matilda tore after him and took him down. Classic 1980′s moment. The Bubba Patrol gives it and Battle Pug three paws up!