People love children, right? And they also love animals. So animals that live in your house while you take care of them as if they were your own offspring? What’s not to love!
Of course, talking, child-like critters that occasionally dabble with world-altering forces might be a bit much for even the most steadfast animal lover.
Housepets, by Rick Griffin.
Created in 2008, Housepets follows the antics of a neighborhood full of pets in a world where animals are essentially just like hairy children raised by their human owners. They play games with their friends, they have clubs, they watch tv and movies, imagine their own stories, hate going to the vet and taking baths, and occasionally commune with the deities of ancient forgotten temples… alright, so maybe not exactly like children.
Too many to get into all at once, but in a nutshell we have;
Peanut, a lovable, hyperactive pup. He’s usually the Funny Man to Grape’s Straight and his naive innocence plays off of Grape’s sarcastic maturity. Although he’s a member of the Good Ol’ Dogs’ Club, he loves spending time with Grape and even has a secret fondness for cats which becomes a plot point in a few of the early arcs. He draws and writes his own comic book, The Adventures of Spot (Superdog).
Grape, a witty kitty with a mean violent streak. As Peanut’s adoptive sibling, Grape often finds that naps are all but impossible to have when Peanut’s around. Early on, a series of oddly realistic dreams sends Grape and Peanut on a journey of cosmic proportions.
Bino, a local dog, pro tem leader of the Good Ol’ Dogs’ Club, and the most selfish, petty pet in the neighborhood. He’s constantly in the shadow of his more likable older brother Fido and doesn’t like being reminded of it.
King, a diminutive complainer with a knack for brooding. While he mostly appears as a Welsh Corgi, in reality he actually used to be a human with animal issues. He is turned into a dog as part of a cosmic game being played by entities of vast supernatural power – he’s not too happy about that.
And many, many more. Even the Cast page doesn’t list them all (warning: spoilers).
While there are over-arcing plot threads, posts usually consist of stand-alone strips or short arcs that follow the antics of one or more characters. Although Peanut, Grape, Bino, and King have the most panel time, the other neighborhood animals get their fair share of attention, too. If you need comparisons, Housepets is something like a mix between Garfield and Peanuts with a touch of Ed, Edd, and Eddy. The comedy is plentiful and the characters are all distinct enough, even with so many of them, that they play off of each other well in most situations.
But then a sort of main plot-line is introduced and things start getting a bit crazy – there’s an ancient temple situated next to a suburban neighborhood, god-like beings playing D&D, other-dimensional realms, and forgotten prophecies. it’s all so out of nowhere that the humor kinda gets dragged down by the weight of it all. Then the comic goes and seems to forget about the mega-arc for half a year. You can’t just introduce a plot thread about an eldritch contest with world-altering consequences right after the arc about visiting the zoo and expect readers to not have a little whiplash. To not even touch on the myth plot again until seventeen arcs later just tests patience. The genius of the comic, however, is that with so many characters you’re bound to find at least one that you’re willing to wait months for just to see again. Scarcity creates value, after all.
I’m not gonna lie, but Peanut’s ears and everyone’s enormous paw-mitts from the early strips kind of unnerve me. Even so, the art smooths out fairly quickly, settling on a consistent style until the 16th arc. There are a few episodes of stylistic experimentation every so often after that, but, in the end, Griffin manages to maintain a standard look which improves steadily as time passes. The comic’s usual format is the four-panel strip, but it often stretches into larger layouts, especially recently and in particular with more dramatic or emotionally complicated pages. For the first eleven arcs or so, the strips are in black & white, but following the first Christmas comic every page is in color – and some pages look gorgeous in it.
One fault about the art I can’t ignore is that, while the animals look alright (anthropomorphism aside), humans just look downright terrible. The very few times heads are shown, they look disproportioned, misshapen, and faces look utterly incongruous compared to the otherwise cartoony animal characters. Thankfully, humans appear rarely enough that it isn’t too much of a problem… but I still can’t help but wish they were more like the adults from Peanuts.
- Regularly changing art style means it’s always staying fresh if not outright improving.
- Diverse cast of characters keep it interesting.
- Good range of humor, not too reliant on animal puns.
- A bit directionless, with drama, comedy, and romance constantly pulling against each other.
- Character development is chopped up and spread out; months can go by before a character you like pops up again.
All in all, a fun, cute, even touching webcomic, full of great humor and a few scattered episodes of drama. It’s not life-affirming, but, then, neither is Garfield. I’ve kept up with the comic for a couple of years and I thoroughly recommend it if you think you might be interested.
Oh, and if you need a card for Valentine’s Day, Housepets has you covered.
Housepets is written and drawn by Rick Griffin. This comic, including all images used here, belongs to him. It currently updates Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Note: Sorry about the late update. What can I say except… how about that Sochi opening?