By Drew Baumgartner
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Gordie: Alright, alright. Mickey’s a mouse. Donald’s a duck. Pluto’s a dog. What’s Goofy?
Teddy: Goofy’s a dog, he’s definitely a dog.
Chris: He can’t be a dog. Wears a hat and drives a car.
Vern: God, that’s weird. What the hell is Goofy?
Stand By Me
There are no rules inherent to a cartoon world. Maybe this is one where dragons exist. Maybe this is one where elephants can fly. Maybe this is one where an anthropomorphized mouse can own a regular (albeit cartoon) dog. We can accept those conceits on the terms they’re given, because it’s a cartoon. Audiences balk at other media for being “unrealistic,” but “cartoony” — effectively stylized unrealism — is a compliment. At least, that’s how I tend to think of cartooniness: a fun relaxations of the “rules” that govern fictional worlds, making room for a heck of a lot more imagination and fun. Such is certainly the case with Lockjaw 3, which finds even more fun to mine from relaxing its already madcap rules.
This issue picks up on Larval Earth, the cartoon home of Spider-Ham. I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for bad animal puns, so the appearances of Mooster Fantastic (patriarch of the Fantastic Fur) as well as writer Daniel Kibblesmith’s “Wrecking Zoo” put an easy smile on my face.
But the choice of setting is much more inspired than giving artist Carlos Villa some hilarious characters to design; it allows animals to talk, finally shedding some light on just what the heck is going on with Lockjaw. That insight comes via Lockjaw’s sister, Doc Jaw (did I mention how much I love these stupid puns?), who has been sending a distress signal to Lockjaw in hopes of rescuing one of their siblings (and thus, the rest of the world) from Annihilus. It’s a surprisingly complicated (and serious) premise, but the cartooniness primes us for it perfectly. Only in cartoons can a sunglasses-wearing sun share page space with threats of inter-dimensional annihilation.
That is, the tonal flexibility of the cartoon world allows the series to make as many dumb animal puns while it can without sacrificing the emotional and mortal stakes of the narrative. It also helps to drive home that this series is ultimately about family connections, as Lockjaw’s reunion with his sister reminds Dennis that his sister might be worried about his sudden disappearance. Actually, she seems to take the news that he “disappeared into thin air” with a gigantic dog rather well, perhaps because she knows his life is already a little cartoony? This isn’t the kind of series where people freak out when weird stuff happens. Of course both Pluto and Goofy are dogs — it’s a cartoon, silly!
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?