Rex #41, "Wonder Dog of Space!" (etc)

ADVENTURES OF REX THE WONDER DOG #41; DC Comics; Sept.-Oct. 1958; Whitney 
Ellsworth listed as editor (but I think Julius Schwartz did the actual hands-on 
editing); featuring DC's wonder canine in two adventures, "Four-Footed Fire 
Fighter!" and the more outre "Wonder Dog of Space!"  Not to mention the 
incomparable Detective Chimp in "Bobo, Sleuth on Skis!"   On the cover  which looks
like Gil Kane art with possibly Joe Giella inks, illustrating the  "Fire
Fighter" story, Rex is holding a rope in his teeth and lowering a man down  from
the roof of a burning building.

Review by Bill Henley

This  comic book from 1958 technically falls into the traditional Silver Age,
but REX  was really a product of the interregnum between Golden and Silver
Ages.   Still, the Julie Schwartz-edited title was in some ways a precursor of
the  Silver Age, and in particular the second story in this issue could almost
have  been titled "Four-Footed Silver Age Superhero!" 

First, though, we  have the lead story, which is more of a traditional type
of REX story.   There are no credits, but the art is by Kane and probably
Giella, and the  script, I'm guessing, is Robert Kanigher.  The splash page is
another angle  on the scene of Rex helping the man climb down a burning building
by rope, and  the caption tells us, "All Rex the Wonder Dog was interested in
was peace and  quiet!  But he soon found there was no rest for a hero-- in the
blazing  action tale-- FOUR-FOOTED FIRE FIGHTER!"  As our story opens, the
Dennis  family, owners of Rex, are traveling cross country by car when their auto
overheats and they are obliged to stop for repairs at the home of a friendly
farm family.  Their son Andy is a "camera bug" who is delighted by the 
visit of "the most famous dog in the world" since he figures he can win a prize 
in the "Adventure Snaps Contest" by shooting a photo of the Wonder Dog in 
action.  But action is not what Rex wants at the moment. and as the dog  sits on
his rump goofing off, Andy complains, "Why doesn't Rex do something--  instead
of just sitting there?"  Rex's young master Danny Dennis replies,  "You can't
just MAKE exciting things, Andy!  They have to HAPPEN!"   And as the kid
shutterbug follows Rex around, our wonder dog starts to get  annoyed, with a
thought balloon, "I don't like that black box pointed at me all  the time!"   Andy
and Rex are mutually frustrated, as Rex wants to  just lie down and relax (he
sounds like my lazy dog who I can barely get to get  up and go for a walk) and
Andy can't catch Rex doing anything more exciting than  swatting his paw at an
annoying hornet.  But then things liven up, as Rex  accidentally knocks over
the hornets' nest and both dog and boy are attacked by  a swarm of angry
insects.  Fleeing the hornets, Andy falls into a nearby  river and is swept by the
current towards a waterfall.  Rex. of course,  leaps into the river after him
and, grabbing Andy by the collar, manages to pull  him to shore.  Andy's
reaction is, "What's the good of that sensational  rescue?  I dropped my camera!" 
What gratitude.

Later, Andy is  still following Rex around in search of an "action" shot,
when the two of them  attract the attention of an angry bull in a farm field. 
Rex pushes the boy  out of the bull's path, only to hear the complaint, "What
did you make me drop  my camera for?"  (Rex is a better man, er. dog, than I this point  I'd trot away and let the bull gore the @#$%^&! punk kid.) 
With the  bull still on the warpath, Rex leaps onto its back and does a
canine rodeo act  until the thrashing bovine is led far enough away for Andy to be
out of  danger.  But after retrieving his camera Andy is still obsessed with 
getting an action photo, and Rex flees from him, finally climbing a ladder
into  a barn loft where he can nap on soft hay.  But not for long, as Andy finds 
Rex and urges him to get up and do something exciting.  (How about going  for
your throat, kid....would that be exciting enough?)  Just then, a bolt  of
lightning strikes through the window of the barn loft, and Rex finds himself 
suddenly able to flee from Andy at seven times the speed of, not 
really (that's another Julie Schwartz-edited comic).  Actually, the  lightning
sets the barn afire, and boy and dog are trapped too high to  jump.  Rex finds
a coil of rope, but there is nothing to tie it to.   Dauntlessly, Rex grabs
the end of the rope in his teeth and "strains every  muscle" in order to hold it
as Andy climbs downward....and as he climbs,   Andy points his camera upward
to at last catch Rex in action.  He gets more  shots as Rex makes his own
leaping escape from the fire, and has his  prize-winning photo.  When Rex later
sees the photo printed in a newspaper,  his thought is, "Hmmm....thought I
looked better than that!"  (How about  that....a dog with body image issues.)

Following an educational filler on  "Know Your Pet" and another titled "Hear!
Hear!" on the hearing abilities of  various animals (didja know that a sound
that a human can hear 175 yards away  can be heard by a dog a mile away?  So
why can't my dog hear me when I call  her across the room unless I'm saying
"Cookie"?)  we have the latest case  of Sheriff's Deputy Bobo aka Detective
Chimp.  Like all Detective Chimp  stories this one was pencilled and inked by
Carmine Infantino (who in later  years claimed this was his all time favorite
feature to draw) and I think  written by John Broome.  Bobo's ostensible master and
boss, the Sheriff of  Oscaloosa County, informs us, "Take the coldest winter
Florida has ever known--  add to it a real snowstorm and several pairs of skis
bought by the unpredictable  Bobo at an auction-- and you have the recipe for
a thrilling adventure  tale!"  On the splash, Bobo is schussing down a slope
in pursuit of a  couple of crooks, going "WUK--!" which the thought balloon
informs us translates  to "HALT-- in the name of the LAW!"  while one of the
hoods shouts, "It's  the sheriff's deputy!  He's overtaking us!" and the other
overconfidently  replies, "So what?  We can handle a DUMB CHIMP!"  The sheriff
and his  "deputy" are attending an auction where one of the items up for bid is
a set of  skis and snowshoes, presumably of no use to Floridians unless they
go for a  winter vacation up North.  Apparently no one is planning such a
trip, and  there are no bids until Bobo raises his paw with a 50 cent piece held
in  it.  The auctioneer is obliged to accept any bid, and so Bobo is the proud 
owners of the skis and snowshoes, despite the sheriff's loud complaint,
"Bobo,  for the love of Pete-- what are you going to do with (them) here in 
Florida--?"  "KRIK! KRIK!" (meaning) "Don't worry, Boss!  Somehow--  somewhere--
sometime-- I'll find a use for this stuff!" 

Later in  the auction, the auctioneer starts to present a rather more
valuable item, a  pearl necklace with matching earrings, only to find the display box
empty.   Apparently thieves have gotten away with the jewelry, but as the
sheriff begins  his hunt, there is a sudden cold snap and the first snowstorm in
living memory  in Oscaloosa County.  The sheriff hopes the snow will block
traffic and  keep the jewel thieves from getting out of town, but his deputy has
other  concerns, as he grabs his new acquisitions and happily goes skiing in
between  palm trees down a nearby slope.  Meanwhile, the two jewel thieves are 
indeed trapped in town until they notice Bobo skiing around and get the idea
of  stealing his skis to make their getaway.  The crooks manage to overpower 
Bobo and swipe two pairs of his skis, but little do they know he has yet
another  set back at the sheriff's office which he grabs to set out on their trail.
  "I'll show those guys they can't steal from DETECTIVE CHIMP and get away
with  it!"  When Bobo does catch up with the crooks, however, he runs into an 
unexpected setback as he "skis right into a powerhouse punch" by one of  them. 
(Considering that chimps are much stronger than humans, it must have  been
quite a punch indeed.)  Fortunately for Bobo, some local kids are  nearby
delighting in the unexpected chance to play in the snow, and when they  see their
idol in trouble they come to his rescue, as "a human wave of enraged  teenagers
engulf's the crooks".  The sheriff is delighted though mystified  to find that
Bobo and his fan club have captured the jewel thieves, and he  resolves that
"if skiing helps you catch crooks, that's one hobby I'm going to  take up
too!"  (Whenever I read one of these Detective Chimp stories, I  always figure
that if I were a citizen of Oscaloosa County, I'd vote to fire the  sheriff, who
seems to be more or less useless, and elect Bobo sheriff in his  place.)

After a text page on "Canine Explorers" including the Russian  Sputnik dog
Laika and the Husky-Malamute mascot of the South Pole research  station, Rex
does some really far-out exploring in "Wonder Dog of Space!"   This story looks
to me to be drawn by Kane with Bernard Sachs inks and probably  written by
Broome.  On the splash page, a group of alien warriors are  watching Rex balance
on a tightrope and laughing, "Ha! Ha! This canine creature  from the planet
Earth is very amusing!" Little do they know that Rex has his own  serious agenda;
"I must keep up this act until I discover what treachery the  evil king is up
to!"  At the Dennis home on Earth, Rex is oddly excited by  the sight of a
shooting star.  Then an "odd-looking man" shows up at the  Dennis door, and
though Danny Dennis is puzzled by his alien appearance, Rex  joyfully recognizes
him as Xtar, the man from another world whom the wonder dog  met in a previous
story (in the June 1958 issue, a footnote informs us) and who  can communicate
with Rex by telepathy.  "I've come to ask for Rex's help  again-- to save my
world of Yquem!"  (The name Yquem for an alien planet  showed up in another
John Broome-written story-- it was the meeting place for  the Green Lantern
Corps in "The Strange Trial of Green Lantern" in a GL  issue.)  Rex agrees
telepathically to face the dangers of space to help his  alien friend, and on the way
to Yquem Xtar explains that Yquem is divided into  two nations, the
democratic Porus, of which Xtar is the head of the secret  service, and Da-ab, ruled by
power-hungry King Makos.  Poros and Da-ab are  having a peace conference, but
Xtar fears that King Makos plans treachery.   But he figures that Rex can
sniff out any evil plots with his ability to hear  the thoughts of Yquemians,
while appearing only to be a harmless animal.  

Upon arriving on Yquem, Rex is presented as a "gift" to King  Makos.  "It is
called a DOG and it is from the distant planet Earth!"   "Of what use is this
lowly creature to me?"  Rex proves his worth with a  series of "amusing
tricks" such as somersaulting, tightrope walking, and running  a maze blindfolded by
scent alone.  Duly impressed, Makos adopts Rex as his  "favorite pet" and
keeps him at his side constantly.  "Scent of evil about  that king!  But I must
pretend to like him!  And never show that I  understand more than the simplest
commands!"  As he balances a top on his  nose, Rex finds that "It's hard work
to keep a king amused!"  But his  efforts hit paydirt when he is left in the
room while Makos and his chief  henchmen unfold a plot to arrest and seize the
President of rival nation Poros  and proclaim Makos king of all Yquem.  Later,
locked in a room, Rex finds  his only means of escape is to make from a
palace balcony a longer leap to the  ground than he has ever made before.  He takes
the chance, and manages to  land unharmed by somersaulting and landing on his
feet.  Running to the  Porus embassy, Rex telepaths the details of Makos'
plot to Xtar, and instead of  sending their president for a "state visit", Porus
sends batteries of "Porusian  K-guns" to target Makos' palace.  Makos is
forced to surrender, but demands  to know how Xtar learned of his plot.  "Your
ex-majesty, meet the secret  operative who spied on you and exposed you!  REX--
the WONDER DOG OF  EARTH!"  Before returning Rex to Earth, Xtar reveals that the
citizens of  both Yquem nations have voted to unite under the democratic
leadership of Porus'  President rather than the tyranny of Makos.  "You helped
save my world,  Rex!  Perhaps one day we can return the favor for your world!" 
"It'll  be good to be home-- and see my master again!"

REX was nearing the end of  his run at this point, but the remaining issues
followed the pattern of this  one, with a mundane earthbound type canine
adventure in the front of the book  and a sci-fi tale at the back.  In issue #43,
Rex became "The Smallest Dog  on Earth" as he and his "scientist-friend" John
Rayburn were shrunk down to  midget size.  (Ironically, when REX was cancelled a
while later, regular  artist Gil Kane asked for a new feature to replace it
on his schedule, and that  ended up being the Atom, another shrinking
scientist.  And an early sample  drawing of the Atom shows him riding on a dog who
looks a lot like Rex.)   In #44, Rex went to another alien planet, the "World of
Human Pets1"  REX  #45 takes him to the "World of Giant Dogs!"  And in #46, the
last issue,  the Wonder Dog faces the "Mystery of the Magnetic Monsters!" 
Much later,  in an early 1980's issue of DC COMICS PRESENTS, Gil Kane and fan
writer Mike  Tiefenbacher produced a story, "Whatever Happened to Rex the Wonder
Dog (and  Detective Chimp?" in which a rejuvenated Rex dons a dog-sized
spacesuit to  become the first dog on the moon.  But that must have been kind of an
anticlimax for him, as he had already traveled much farther out in space in 
these stories.