Glenn Eichler & Joe Infurnari
“Venus wants Buddy to quit asking her to “make puppies.” Buddy wants Winston’s help wooing Venus. Winston wants Guy’s respect. Guy wants Dolly’s job. Dolly wants to know the meaning of it all. Nobody knows what Fiddler really wants, not even Fiddler. But mostly . . . these sled dogs just want to run.”
“Sounds simple? It should be, but even dogs have their office politics. Office politics with sharp, sharp teeth.”
It’s been a long time since I’ve read something in comics that’s so obviously set up to be a sit-com, and I certainly wasn’t expecting Mush! to be it, but sit-com it is. And a pretty fine one at that.
It’s got everything a sit-com needs; an ensemble cast kept tied to one specific place, group dynamics, conflict, relationship issues, smart dialogue, wacky characters. It doesn’t matter one whit that the cast of characters happen to be a sled dog team and their master and mistress, far, far North in total isolation – this is essentially the equivalent of a canine Friends or doggy Office. And here’s the cast….
You really get everything you need plot-wise from that little bit of PR above. The main thrust of the episode book is the complex Machiavellian manoeuvring of Guy as he tries to manipulate everyone around him into overthrowing top-dog Dolly.
But essentially, that’s unimportant, because like every good sit-com worth it’s salt, the basic plot is merely a scenario to hang a set of gags off. And Eichler’s tight writing (no doubt developed in his ongoing role as a US TV writer) works the set pieces, the thin plot and the gags almost perfectly. Whilst Infurnari’s art is expressive and fun, although there were moments early on when I wished he’d have done a better job creating truly distinct characters and likenesses – it was all too necessary to have that cast list picture at hand.
Essentially, Mush is at its best when the dogs get talking, when Eichler just lets the dialogue flow, when Infurnari’s art relaxes and when the gags keep coming…. take these few isolated scenes….
(Running. Very important. Very, very important to some….)
(… but then Dolly spends a fair bit of her time wondering just what she’s here for…)
(And Fiddler spends his time messing with everyone’s head….)
(… whilst poor dumb Buddy can only think about his “relationship” with Venus. Venus is not impressed.)
There’s some great, great stuff in here, all playing around with the basic ideas of making the dogs as both recognisably human and obviously canine, working the characters for all their worth and really trying hard to make every single bit of dialogue count, making it all sit in place as one big sit-com episode.
The absolute master (in my eyes at least) for comedy of this kind in comics is Kyle Baker. His masterpiece (criminally out of print) is Why I Hate Saturn, where Baker plays out a madcap comedy with a deliciously insane cast of characters, perfectly timed dialogue and laughs that keep coming, one after another, building and building until your sides feel like they may just split.
And bless it, Mush! tries very, very hard, but it never really attains the heights Baker reaches. It does get close occasionally, but the timing is never quite right, or at least never quite right in as consistent a fashion as it needs to be to really work. If you want a TV sit-com example Mush! really wants to be Fawlty Towers or The Office, but in the end it’s merely a good episode of Friends. But think back to when Friends first appeared, before we got tired of it, back when it was funny …… see, that’s what I’m talking about. As a good sit-com in comics form, it’s merely guilty of trying a little too hard, nearly but not quite being as funny as it wanted to be. Still damn good fun.