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Committed: The Importance of Krypto

041713_supermantrailerIt is no accident that Superman, the original boy scout, the mildest-mannered, the most humane of all superheroes, always has a dog. Obviously, the concept of a super-powered dog is probably the silliest one yet to come from comic books, but whether it was with Krypto or a more mundane dog, I always picture Clark Kent growing up with animals. Unlike the humans in his life, he would never have to explain himself to them, or fear rejection if they saw his true nature. Animals are important in any kid’s life, but I can imagine that they would be essential to a superhero growing up with a secret like he had. Any hero as solid and grounded as he is would need to have animal companionship to grow up with and in many ways they could be as important to him as his human relationships, since we’re all alien life forms to him.

Late in life I came to understand how much an animal could impact your life. I didn’t really grow up with animals, I was a city-kid with two city-kid parents. Apart from the odd short-lived goldfish (who we would wake up to find floating), and a brief few months with a skittish cat, there were very few animals in my childhood. (We didn’t even name the cat and my parents had to have put down when it went nuts and wouldn’t stop crapping all over the house… In retrospect I can see that they didn’t have a lot of choice, but it probably didn’t help to have their 10 year old kid yelling “MURDERERS!” at them.) When I moved to California I had the good fortune to housesit for a friend who’d gone back East and needed someone to take care of his dog. Needing a place to live, the dog was purely incidental, but that dog walked every neighborhood in San Francisco with me. She was loyal, smart, and wherever I went I felt safe with her. Her wordless companionship gave me the confidence and the comfort to really explore. Later I was lucky enough to live with two strange cats for 5 years. While I was recovering from illness the cats were affectionate and caring, knowing to snuggle close when I was in pain and give me space when I needed it. Animals were my best and easiest companions in stressful times and I began to understand how teenagers growing up in rural settings had such different experiences of life to me. For them, animals gave them warmth and friendship when their hormones were driving them insane (and driving everyone else away in the process). Comparing the process of learning about a superpower, to the process of self-discovery that people go through, animals would be similarly helpful in that time.

041713_krypto1stPeople mock Aquaman for having the weird power of being able to communicate with sea creatures, but imagine how that communion would change a person? It must change a person’s psyche quite dramatically to be able to communicate with something that is almost an alien species. We have no idea how whales, dolphins, or even sea anemones think. What are their priorities? Can he talk to sea sponges and barnacles too? How deep does the communication go when they communicate? Let’s not even get into super powers which involve transformation into an animal, something like that would affect a human’s personality. I once lived in Germany for two years and by the time I left, I was just about beginning to dream in German, which definitely impacted my thought process. Despite their similar roots, German and English use different words to express similar concepts, and there aren’t always direct translations for every concept or experience. If being around an animal affects a person deeply, and learning to think in a foreign language does too, then talking TO animals or even becoming one and experiencing animal-shaped thought patterns would have to change a person immeasurably.

If people who grow up with pets and animals in their lives have a different experience of the world, superheroes who do so are bound to have a less lonely view of their reality. It is no wonder that heroes like Daredevil or Spider-Man who grew up in their concrete jungles have a more desperate, fraught quality to their characters. It is a simple enough thing, but from a super hero standpoint, having an animal to unquestionably bond with would be a huge boon to their sanity and I’m glad that Superman, in every incarnation, never seems to lose his childhood dog.

 

18 Comments

I’d never considered it, but yes, Superman having a dog makes perfect sense. Have we ever seen the adult Superman own a dog? Or any mainstream superhero? I guess I mean a normal dog, not a dog that wears a cape or a mask. Anyway, nice and thoughtful post.

“People mock Aquaman for having the weird power of being able to communicate with sea creatures, but imagine how that communion would change a person? It must change a person’s psyche quite dramatically to be able to communicate with something that is almost an alien species. We have no idea how whales, dolphins, or even sea anemones think. What are their priorities? Can he talk to sea sponges and barnacles too? How deep does the communication go when they communicate?”

I wholeheartedly agree. Alas, in the current New 52 DCU, they’ve taken that away, with Aquaman sneering in the first issue that he doesn’t talk to fish, he controls their tiny minds. What a waste. I am sure the real Arthur will be back someday, though.

Hooray for classic fish-talking Aquaman, and hooray for Krypto! :)

@XBen,

Hmmmm. Dr. Mid-Nite had a pet owl who would go into combat with him. It was still an ordinary owl, though (except for that one time it ate Miraclo). Does that count?

“Have we ever seen the adult Superman own a dog? Or any mainstream superhero? I guess I mean a normal dog, not a dog that wears a cape or a mask.”

It would have to be one of the rich ones, as superheroing would keep you away from the house long enough that you couldn’t really keep a dog (maybe a cat).

Thank you for this. I’ve finally come to the conclusion that people who don’t like Krypto have just never had a dog.
There can be no other logical explanation.

Except maybe they lack souls. That’s it. They have no soul.

LouReedRichards

April 17, 2013 at 1:48 pm

I’m not a huge fan of Superman, but Krypto is awesome. IMHO Krypto is probably the single most heartwarming concept in all of comics.

I must admit I never thought too much about the humanizing effect he must have had on a young Clark Kent – nice observation!

Hawkeye has Pizza Dog. We’ll see how long that lasts.

My wife and I just got a dog. I haven’t had a pet of any kind since I was a kid. We named our new dog Maya Krypto.

Daredevil had a dog for a brief time in the 90′s during Joe Kelly’s run. He came from a night of drunken debachary between Foggy and Deadpool’s then sidekick, Weasel.

I don’t mind the Man of Steel having a dog for a pet. My problem is that it’s a super-dog from Krypton that is also a superhero. That’s just stupid. I mean how many survivors of Krypton do we need? There’s Superman, Supergirl, and Super Dog? And all those other hangers on from the Phantom Zone and Kandor. Not everything in Superman’s life has to be super-powered.

LouReedRichards

April 17, 2013 at 9:46 pm

I’d like to second James Bakers opinion.

@ penguintruth – You’re willing to accept the concept of Superman and all that it entails, but a super powered dog is just too much?

If we start throwing out things in superhero comics just because they’re stupid what are we left with? Where does it end?

You’re parents killed a cat because the didn’t have the sense to find out how to look after it? I am so mad right now i can’t even….

Yeah, they really could’ve just given it to a shelter so it at least had a chance at finding a new owner.

Apparently the cat was too old for a shelter to take him.

What happened was that the next door neighbor’s cats went all territorial and frightened him from using his litterbox. Then my dad found out that he was deathly allergic to the cat and he couldn’t breathe anymore… So basically it was a confluence of bad things which led to coming home from school to be told that they’d had our cat put down.

Maybe I ought to have explained more in the article, or left it out so that we could focus on the importance of Superman’s relationship with his dog. But I wanted you to know that I almost got to experience having an animal friend growing up and so I know how big an impact it could have had.

@LouReedRichards

He’s got a cape, FFS! A dog wearing a cape! Come on, what’s next, Superman teams up with Gilly the Super Goldfish? A little goldfish with a little Superman cape?

It’s not that it’s too outlandish. It’s just lame.

LouReedRichards

April 19, 2013 at 8:53 am

Obviously we won’t see eye to eye on this one. We all have different tastes and all that. I’m sorry you find Krypto lame, as I said, I think he’s great.

I will say, it’s not like we’re talking about the Punisher or Wolverine having a dog (with a cape!). I think Superman’s world is “crazy” enough to handle the concept of Krypto.

Why is a man or a woman wearing a cape acceptable, but a dog with a cape is “lame”?

BTW: I would probably enjoy a Superman/Gilly team-up.

People who do not have dogs are missing something.
People who don’t like dogs are evil.

Comic book fanboys who do not like Krypto probably liked it when Dr Light raped Sue Digby.

One of the few hight spots in comic books during the last ten years is the three parter in SUPERMAN where Atlas is killing Superman and then he hears a growl behind him. It is Krypto.

Krypto then goes one on one with Atlas taking everything the villain and his allies can throw at him. Even annoying dog hating Lois begins to realize how wrong she was.

Brought a tear to my eye.

THAT should have been the next Superman movie and not this upcoming Superman for people who hate Superman.

Ace the Bat Hound was cool too. The fact that the current Batman stand in would never have a dog says all that need be said about how far off the reservation the character has wandered.

Don’t like Streaky the Super Cat though

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