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ENT="Adobe PageMill 3.0 Mac"> Rex the Wonder Dog

Rex the Wonder Dog

Created by Robert Kanigher and Alex Toth

Okay, I'm not really sure where to begin. Partly because I'm not sure even DC Comics quite knew what to do with REX THE WONDER DOG, who at various times was a faithful canine companion, a superhero, and even, yes, a "detective."

Rex was the top dog of comics in his day, created back in 1952 by Robert Kanigher of Wonder Woman and Sgt. Rock fame, and artist Alex Toth. He made his debut in The Adventures of Rex the Wonder Dog, his very own bi-monthly series which ran from 1952-57.

Every issue boasted at least one Rex story, usually one written by Kanigher or John Broome, and most were drawn by Gil Kane and mostly inked by Bernard Sachs. Kane was also responsible for the great covers.

But what's most amazing was that Rex was just a dog, a white German Shepherd who distinguished himself while serving in the Army's K-9 Corps with his courage and intelligence during World War II's Italian campaign and earning an unspecified medal for saving the life of his handler, Lieutenant Dennis, and later receiving a Silver Star for saving POWs. Rex and Dennis continued to see action, serving in the Pacific campaign against Japan and later in Korea.

After he was discharged, Rex was adopted by now-Major Dennis and his family, and Rex began a whole new career stateside, this time as a crime solver and adventurer. Never one to rest on his laurels, the peril loving pooch found himself in a series of his increasingly wild adventures, often accompanying Dennis' young son Philip.

He was made an honorary Forest Ranger, and found work as a Hollywood stunt dog, was decorated by the French Foreign Legion and became both an honorary Indian Chief and an Honorary Fire Chief. He rode horses, proved to be an expert bullfighter, could operate small appliances such as cameras, swing on ropes, tangle with lions, bears, abomnible snowmen, wolves, elephants, octopuses and dinosaurs, and solved crimes in outer space, helping a friendly alien. He was even shrunk to microscopic size and had a number of adventures in a sub-atomic world, a year before anyone had ever heard of The Atom, never mind Ant-Man. He worked with The Flash, Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and Green Lantern. In his later years, Rex and Danny Dennis became a circus act, where he would befriend Bobo The Detective Chimp (who had made his debut in issue #4 of Rex the Wonder Dog).

Sure, it was all sort of goofy, and some of the plots were crazy, but the mysteries played out fair and square, and despite all those extra abilities, Rex still seemed and (usually) acted like a dog. So the stories were always kind of sweet and innocent. And fun.

But this is CorporateComicLand, so eventually even weirder and sillier shit had to happen, and after being missing in action for close to twenty years, DC began to sporadically bring Rex back, straining to force him all into their idea of cockeyed continuity and relevancy (and possibly preserve licensing rights?). You could almost hear the sense of fun being sucked from the character.

In a serious bit of retconning, in Secret Origins #48 (April 1990) we were told that back in the forties a Dr. Anabolus, impressed with Tex's war time service, had selected the young pup as a test subject for a super-secret super-soldier serum (I wonder if that was the same stuff they gave Captain America over at Marvel?). The experiment proved effective, and Rex found himself endowed with amazing strength, speed, stamina, and intelligence. Unfortunately, Dr. Anabolus was killed by a Nazi spy soon after, and Rex became the only dog of his kind.

But it got even loopier. Rex and Bobo drank from the lost Fountain of Youth, joined The Bureau of Amplified Animals, and eventually both dog and chimp achieved the abilty to speak, joined various superhero aliances and saved the world and the galaxy numerous times from various infinite crises on various infinite earths and alternate earths, popping up here and there in everything from one-offs and mini-series to appearances in Justice League of America, Green Lantern, The Flash and DC Comics Presents.

It was all a long cry from the smart young pup that simply entertained kids back in the fifties.

NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH

  • Krypto

Superman's dog, with whom Rex bore a startling resemblance, although Rex predated him by three years.

  • Rex the Runt

  • Inspector Rex

  • Rex the Wonder Dog

A canine film actor

  • Rex the Dog

Another movie mutt, this one from the silent era

COMIC BOOKS

  • REX THE WONDER DOG
    (1942-59, DC Comics)
    46 issues
    Writers: Robert Kanigher, John Broome, Bob Haney
    Artists: Alex Toth, Gil Kane, Bernard Sachs

RELATED LINKS

A listing of all the private eyes who have shown up in DC Comics.

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Brian and John McDonagh for their help.


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