The Webcomic Overlook #106: Raine Dog
D. C. Simpson is probably one of the most successful webcomic creators today. Her first published comic strip, Ozy & Millie, won an impressive number of awards: the 1999 College Media Advisers Award for Best Strip Cartoon, the Ursa Major Award in 2002, 2006, and 2007, and the Web Cartoonists’ Choice Awards in 2002. (Remember those?) She also struck gold last year when her comic strip, Girl, won Amazon.com’s Comic Strip Superstar contest and was awarded a publishing contract from Andrews McMeel Universal.
So I don’t doubt that D. C. Simpson has talent. But, then again, so did the people behind Dreamcatcher, which was a terrible movie but had a two-time Oscar winner writing the screenplay and Morgan Freeman on screen. Talented people make bad mistakes. And sometimes the worst missteps happen on the most personal, autobiographical projects.
In D. C. Simpson’s case, it’s Raine Dog, the comic she hosts on Keenspot. It’s a webcomic responsible for spawning a minor internet meme, and for good reason: it contains quite possibly some of the most baffling and ludicrous scenes I’ve ever encountered in webcomics.
Raine Dog skips between two timelines: one set in the “present” where Raine walks around a metropolitan city in Dame Edna glasses, and one about Raine’s (the dog’s) more innocent past. Present Raine is sort of a “gal makin’ it in the big city” type, and it’s to the the comic’s credit that it succeeds in accurately portraying Raine as your typical elitist big city douchebag. (More on that later.) She is a dog in a human’s world, which I think is supposed to be allegorical about the struggles and oppression of an unspecified minority.
This allegory pretty much falls apart the minute Raine starts going into flashbacks. Narrating events from her point of view, Raine recalls her childhood, when her name was Princess and she was purchased at a kennel. Because, you know, that’s how most minorities get their start out in life: eager-to-please, drooling-on-the-carpet pets who are subject to leash laws.
When the boy takes the dog home, he does the sorts of things a boy does with a dog. They sometimes play fetch. They sometimes play frisbee. When Princess rummages through the garbage, she gets punished, because that’s what you do when dogs are bad.
Eventually, one thing leads to another, and our boy sleeps with his dog. After which they passionately kiss.
No. Wait. What?
OK, let’s back up a bit. We get some blindingly obvious scenes where Princess awakens to her true self when she starts talking and reading. It’s obvious that Raine Dog is being set up as an allegory — never mind that the comic is set in a bizarro world where creatures who can walk and talk and run pharmacies are still sold at kennels.
But an allegory to what? The most obvious metaphor would be something with regards to D.C. Simpson’s sexual orientation, the particulars of which I won’t go into detail here. If so, isn’t equating homosexuals to pets just about the silliest thing to do? The closest the allegory would ever come to working would have to deal with slavery (and there is imagery suggesting that this is about the civil rights movement). Even then it’s kinda ridiculous to show metaphorical slaves playing fetch and getting belly rubs.
Let’s face it: Animal Farm, this is not. Equating humans to pets totally doesn’t work, and this whole webcomic is based on that flawed proposition. I supposed D. C. Simpson wants us to be upset over a society (and those damned bigots who call themselves “parents”) who won’t let this kid sleep with a minority. But, seriously, given the setup, how else am I supposed to interpret this scene than a kid having sex with his dog?
This culminates into an even crazier scene. After the parents find their kid and their dog making sweet sweet nookie, they have Princess spayed and/or neutered. Think about this for a second.
Really, really think about it. There’s going to be an essay question later.
Eventually, Raine breaks free of her human masters to wander the countryside and run into a bunch of philosophical stereotypes. Cows are mindless followers of The Man, we GET IT! Raine eventually falls in with a colony of stray dogs. The want her to turn against humanity, who have mutilated her. They want her to embrace her dog nature. The force her to hunt for her food. But Raine is a pacifist at heart. Even though she’s commanded to channel the animal within, when she’s faced with killing another living being she fails because killing is wrong and it is better to root around in garbage or be a vegetarian and blah blah blah blah.
Back in the present day, Raine gets all up in your grille with how the world works, man! Reading Raine Dog, I was reminded of a time when the A.V. Club’s Nathan Rabin reviewed the movie Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. The heavy-handed liberal moralizing had worn him down to where he wrote:
By this point, my collegiate faux-rebelliousness is but a distant memory, like my hair, dignity, and self-respect. Re-watching Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, I found myself thinking, “Get a job, you f****ing hippies! And would it kill you to shave once in a while? You look like a buncha goddamned yeti.”
Have you ever run into a person who is so annoying and so smug that even when you agree with them, you’re compelled to take the opposite side on principle alone? That person is Raine Dog.
Raine shares her half-baked thoughts about subjects ranging from religion and health care reform. It’s like the liberal version of Chick Tracts. At best, these asides can be described as “preaching to the choir.” At worst, you can describe it as “even the choir is starting to get sick of your preachiness.” Seriously, one of the arguments boils down to “you’re just mad jealous of me.” Yes, that’s going to win people over to your side.
Even Simpson seems to agree that Raine is an annoying, self-righteous zealot. Take a look at how she draws her every time she goes off on one of her self-righteous monologues. That is the face of one of the smuggest characters in webcomics. Only Kranti from Minimimum Security has her beat.
Maybe Raine isn’t a liberal at all. Maybe Raine is secretly a Libertarian dog trying to subversively tick off everyone she meets into becoming an avid follower of Ayn Rand. That’s what I believe.
I suppose I should give Raine Dog some points for attempting to work an unconventional narrative device into what seems to be a starkly honest and ambitious project. But, like I said, it just doesn’t work. The pet/human world is unbelievable, the moralizing is laid incredibly thick, and there are too many ludicrous moments that derail the entire webcomic. It’s the sort of comic where, after every page, you shake your head sadly at the state of affairs and mutter, “Good Lord, what were you thinking?”
Rating: 1 star (out of 5)
BONUS ESSAY QUESTION: Go back to that scene where Princess gets spayed and/or neutered. For some reason, the parents fear that the dog might get pregnant. Let’s forget, for a moment, that this is impossible, and if it were possible in Raine Dog‘s world, that this is equivalent to someone spaying and neutering a slave. Is this scene merely illogical, or is it unintentionally hilarious? Can it be both?
Posted on January 29, 2010, in 1 Star, dramatic webcomic, furry webcomic, slice-of-life webcomic, The Webcomic Overlook, WCO Big Review, webcomics and tagged Raine Dog. Bookmark the permalink. 49 Comments.