Man's best friend can be heroic. They can lead the blind, find explosives and rescue people. But as heroic as dogs can be, they're not superheroic. But some dogs go further, using amazing superpowers and rocking awesome capes.
Here are our 10 favorite canine superheroes from comics, science fiction and fantasy.
Dynomutt may only be the robot sidekick of Hanna-Barbera's Blue Falcon, but the short lived TV show was named for the dog, not the multi-millionaire socialite/vigilante who fights crime in a costume. As a robot filled with gadgetry and expandable limbs, Dynomutt was spectacularly incompetent — but always helped to get the villain. The "Dog Wonder" even had a crossover show with Hanna-Barbera's more famous dog detective, Scooby-Doo. On the air in 1976-1977, Dynomutt is still shown in syndication sometimes.
9. Hong Kong Phooey
We're not sure if this 1974-1975 Hanna-Barbera cartoon was the earliest meditation on the fame of superheroes, but it is the earliest one starring a dog. Hong-Kong Phooey is the alter-ego of Penrod Pooch, a mild-mannered police station janitor. Whenever he hears of a crime he ducks into a filing cabinet, changes into his Hong Kong Phooey costume, hops in his "Phooeymobile" and races to stop the bad guys with his "Hong Kong Book of Kung Fu."
HKP is actually quite incompetent and regularly fails to catch anybody, in fact, he's regularly saved by his sidekick, the cat Spot. But even though he couldn't catch a fly ball, Hong Kong Phooey is famous and beloved of all the townspeople. For example, when Honk Kong Phooey ruins a rich lady's hat and her response is, "What an honor to have had my expensive hat destroyed by the magnificent Hong Kong Phooey!" (at 4:10)
The show is a weird combination of chop-socky and ‘70s Blaxploitation wrapped up in a Saturday Morning cartoon. Is it the sort of amazing cultural mash-up that could only occur in America? Or is it slightly offensive? It's probably offensive. But it gets extra points for Hong Kong Phooey being voiced by the amazing Scatman Crothers.
There's no need to fear – we're not going to talk about that live action movie thing that happened in 2007!
Underdog may be the greatest superhero ever to come from an ad agency's General Mills account. W. Watts Biggers, Underdog's creator, worked for Dancer Fitzgerald Sample, the agency that created the show for General Mills to sponsor. The cartoon ran for nine years and had 120 ten-minute episodes.
Underdog, the superhero alter ego of Shoeshine Boy, rushes about to rescue Sweet Polly Purebred from the evil Simon Bar Sinister or Riff Raff. And he did it all in rhyme!
Equipped with superstrength, the ability to fly, x-ray vision and superbreath, Underdog seems unstoppable. But, if you've seen the original show, you know he gets his powers from "Underdog Super Energy Pills." For some reason, the scenes were edited out of episodes during more recent syndication.
We all know that Underdog is really beloved, not for his ability to kick his habit or save Polly, but for the theme song. Above is the whole song, which is longer than the traditional intro to the show.
The video game Okami was IGN's Game of the Year in 2006, and for good reason. Its stunningly beautiful art is based on traditional sumi-e techniques, its Celestial Brush gameplay uses paintings to defeat the bad guys, and it starred Amaterasu. Retelling the story of how Amaterasu, the Shinto Sun Goddess saves the world from darkness by transforming into a white wolf and battling evil.
Amaterasu is single-minded in her destruction of the evil demon Orochi. And while the Celestial Brush allows players to paint their way out of situations (many of the "techniques" are for severing enemies) she can also use more traditional fighting methods like her fangs and claws. Saving all of ancient Japan from evil isn't an easy task — and Amaratsu does it while regrowing trees and restoring beauty to the world everywhere she goes.
Lockjaw looks like a bulldog. But not a whole lot of bulldogs are giant. And telepathic. And capable of teleportation. And a superhero. After an encounter with Mr. Fantastic, Lockjaw decides to search for the Infinity Gems (which were once part of the Infinity Gauntlet, for those keeping track at home). He leaves his cushy life as a royal pet, and gathers a team of animal superheroes (including a sabertooth tiger and Thorg, the Thor Frog).
After many adventures –- including stranding Thanos in an alternate dimension and being swallowed by a whale — Lockjaw and his team find all the Infinity Gems, and are able to give them to Mr. Fantastic. And Lockjaw becomes the leader of The Pet Avengers.
K-9, Doctor Who's robot companion not only shows up on the TARDIS, he was also on The Sarah Jane Adventures. He starred in his own series of books, sans The Doctor, and even has his own TV show in Australia. In his eponymous show, K-9 travels to 2050 where he, a mad scientists and some teenagers protect the world from alien invasions and battle a dystopian governmental agency, "The Department." Also, K-9 gets the ability to fly!
4. Ace the Bathound
There have been several permutations of Ace over the years (including a gravelly voiced version on the cartoon Krypto the Superdog). But the original 1955 version may have the most fun origin story. After engraver John Wilker is kidnapped by counterfeiters, Batman decides to use his dog to help find him. But as Bruce Wayne he had advertised the missing German Shepherd with a star-shaped marking on his forehead. Since this was back in the days when Bruce carefully guarded his identity, he puts Ace in a mask and hood, so no one would link the dog to Batman or Bruce Wayne. Eventually Ace's owner left town, and left his dog with Bruce Wayne. He helped Batman with cases off and on until 1964, when he was almost completely dropped from the story.
Later versions of the Bathound include the 1991's guide dog for a blind Native American who helps Batman track down the tribe's evil-doers. After his owner is killed, he goes to live at Wayne Manor.
The 2005 cartoon Ace from Krypto the Superdog not only has a Batmask, Batcape and and other assorted Batgadgets, he also has a Batwing glider so he can fly. And he gets to flirt with Catwoman's cat, Isis. Meee-ow.
Debuting just a few months before Ace the Bathound, Krypto the Superdog was Kal-El's pet on Krypton. Jor-El used him as a test subject for a proto-type rocket bassinet he would send to Earth with Kal-El inside. But Krypto got lost in space and did not return to Clark Kent's side until CK was Superboy. He's foiled bad guys alongside Superman, and joined both the Legion of Super-Pets and the Space Canine Patrol Agents.
He's got all of Superman's powers, human level intelligence and he's even got a disguise! As the Kent's dog Skip he has patches of his fur dyed brown that he burns off with his laser vision when he becomes Krypto.
Here's a handy comparison of Ace and Krypto from the pages of Superman/Batman:
Much like Ace, Krypto has fallen in and out of favor over the years. For a while there was a regular Earth dog named Krypto and the current Krypto in the comic books no longer has human level intelligence. But he can still fly!
Sergeant Kemlo Caesar is a super intelligent Doberman in an exo-suit that lets him walk like a person and have hands. He's also one of Neopolis's finest, the police who work in a city totally populated by superheroes in Alan Moore's Top Ten. Not only does Caesar track down and arrest the Libra Serial Killer, he also convinces all the officers to stay, after they're forced to sign loyalty oaths. He holds his super-powered police force together, and he eventually makes Major!
1. Rex the Wonder Dog
Rex the Wonder Dog may be just a minor character in the DC Universe, but he first appeared in his own comic, unlike other dogs who joined established human heroes. His comic ran from 1952 to 1959, though Rex has made numerous appearances since then.
Rex was a test subject for a super soldier serum, but unfortunately the scientist who experimented on him was killed by Nazis, so Rex was his only success. Not only did Rex fight in WWII (both theaters), Korea and for the French Foreign Legion, he went on to become a detective, circus performer, forest ranger, stunt dog, bullfighter, astronaut and fire chief. He also shrunk and had subatomic adventure the year before, The Atom appeared in comics. He drank from the Fountain of Youth. Oh yeah, and he once fought a Tyrannosaurus.
Recently, while fighting Gorilla Grodd Rex discovered he had telepathic abilities. He also joined up with the Bureau of Amplified Animals to help fight crime in the DC world.