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?

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About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

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 . Bookmark the permalink. 46 Comments.

  1. Maybe the kid was actually also an adopted dog since we know dogs and talk in this and the parents gave him surgery to look like a human and they wanted a dogchild because it would be, like, totally easier to raise than a real kid because parents are always holding down the youth movement and if the dog got pregnant the kid would realize he was actually a dog and run away to live in the wastelands and gather an army of liberal yet America loving dogs to throw off the chains of the oppressor and liberate pets all over the world?

    • Even though that would be an improvement on the story, Tabby, I think I’d have to run screaming into the wilderness myself if that were to be the direction this comic turns.

      I didn’t get far enough in the comic to judge it accurately before I had the irresistible urge to go to another page quickly and delete my browser history while simultaneously gouging out my eyeballs with heated metal spikes, mid-evil torture style, and scream at the top of my lungs.

      I beg the author of this comic to stop now, destroy any trace, and try something new. She’s got enough talent to do better and her last comic wasn’t bad from what I hear. Just please, please for the love of God, undo this horrible wrong.

      Btw El Santo,
      The comparison to Dreamcatcher was a nice touch and set up for a nice way of explaining the failure comic without sounding insulting to the artist. Four points for class. Though I thought you wrote Dreamkeeper at first glance which makes me now want to bring up that comic, Dreamkeepers, which I guess is hardly a webcomic by most standards.

      The comic’s creator is actually making a comic book series available for purchase online but along with it has a sort of prelude, ongoing webcomic about some of the main characters when they were younger. I haven’t read the actual comic and at first glance the prelude comic didn’t interest me, I thought it was just one more furry webcomic, but I just recently came across it again and was very impressed by the artist’s style and talent, and how it was no more a furry webcomic than a Disney movie. It impressed me enough that I might have to buy the actual comic book when I get the chance, and I’ve never been one to pay for comics so that’s a big thing.

      All that ranting aside, you might be interested in checking it out.

      • Yeah, I wasn’t sure which movie or other media item to use as comparison. No artist hits home runs all the time, so everyone usually has a handful of duds to choose from. For some reason, Dreamcatcher came to mind immediately. Mainly because Lawrence Kasdan (who was also director) and William Goldman (the two-time Oscar winner) wrote the screenplay, and the film was loaded with a bunch of fine actors like Morgan Freeman, Tom Sizemore, Tim Olyphant, Jason Lee, and Thomas Jane. It was about the biggest fall between the potential and the end result that I could think of.

        I really think D. C. Simpson is talented, but, like you said, this comic was all sorts of bizarre that never really elevated to the good sort of bizarre.

  2. In general, your critique doesn’t seem to preclude a legitimate artistic statement, which is that reason is toxic. This is a theme as old as the grail myth, if not older. In the grail myth, reason sterilizes the grail king, unrestrained impulsiveness gets the pagan king killed, and reconciling both allows the grail champion to fulfill the quest.

    To your specific question, as far as dogs are spayed or neutered to keep them from indulging themselves in front of people, the perverseness of the allegory doesn’t seem to exceed what it means to represent.

  3. I think this review boils down to THIS COMIC IS WEIRD.

    AND IT’S SO WEIRD. SERIOUSLY WHAT THE FUCK.

    • I thought it boiled down to THIS BOY IS HAVING SEXUAL RELATIONS WITH A DOG.

      • Oh, and, um… D+. See me after class.

      • I mean it being a dog is crazy enough, but this is a little kid we’re talking about. I mean, really?!

        As for metaphors, you can cut off your left hand and put it in a jar, write a huge speech about how it’s a metaphor for life and call it artistic expression, and put the jar in a museum for the world to see. As nice of a metaphor and act of self expression this might be, it’s still a severed hand in a jar. People will still walk into the exhibit and purposefully not look in the direction of your “art” because of how revolting they find it; they would much rather look at the nice Van Gogh piece on the wall and try not to think about your little “gift to the world”.

        And that’s if this comic even has a metaphor or two buried inside it. Why not just assume the creator is an extreme animal rights activist and thinks that animals should have the same rights as people. No matter how you look at it it’s still just a severed hand in a jar. That part I just said was like shaking the jar… It only makes it worse.

        I’ve commented too much on this comic. I’ve said my bit here and will now spend the rest of my life trying to forget this comic exists. I feel sorry for any fans the artist might have (have had), even more than Ctrl+Alt+Del fans.

        • I already felt like Raine Dog was gonna land me in jail, and now we’re shaking jars of severed hands around?

          what is this i don’t even

  4. I like this comic because… it is blue (see also: http://rts.lunistice.com/index.html)

    But seriously, I like this comic because I’m not analyzing it. As soon as I think too hard the metaphor begins to fall apart and I dislike it, I’d rather just read it for the trippy experience. I still want to see the dog transition from being a dog to being a person of dog orientation. Or Dog-American, or whatever the dog would like to be referred to as.

  5. I’m just waiting for a few fans of this comic to show up to tell you that YOU’RE JEALOUS OF THE BEAUTIFUL MESSAGE OF DOG FUCKING! for eighty comments.

    • Where do you get the idea that the kid fucked his dog? You’re actually the first reviewer to imply that the kid actually fucked the dog, rather than that they merely kissed.

      Believe me, I do not support legitimate animal-rape, but I am hardly offended by a cartoon. On “Family Guy”, the dog actually fucks his human girlfriends. Remember Betty Boop? Her boyfriend was Bimbo the Dog. “Bestiality” hardly holds the same offense in the cartoon world.

      CARTOONS DO NOT EQUATE TO THE REAL WORLD. THEY ARE CARTOONS.

  6. All I can think about after reading this review is, how scarred for life I would’ve been if I saw an episode of “Lassie” as a child, where “Lassie and Timmy” got a bit more intimate.

    Now that I’m older and see stuff like this, I’m just like “Oh… You crazy internet! You’ve done it again.”

  7. Ugh, Dreamcatcher. The book wasn’t all that good to begin with, but the movie… Even now it fills me with disgust and disbelief.

    Also, on a somewhat realated note; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVaEPx_VyXs

  8. Maybe this is all one big, convoluted allegory about how fully anthropomorphizing animals in the real world, like our pets or livestock (as opposed to fictional characters) is both ludicrous and bad for animals as well, and the story shows how twisted, illogical, and uncomfortable the world would be if those foolish kinds of fantasies collided with reality. As such, the parents’ baffling fears could just be another example of how much common sense and scientific fact would have to be disregarded in order for one to take the idea of animals being on the same level of self-awareness/intelligence as humans.

  9. Just to clarify though, I’m not against anthropomorphic stuff in fiction–heck, some of my favorite shows, movies, comics, and the like fall under that category. What I meant was people in the real world fully acting like/believing animals are anthropomorphic, sentient beings. And don’t get me wrong, I love animals, and I’m not saying being close to your pet to the point of feeling like they’re part of the family is a bad thing.

  10. On the spay and/or neutering- I always took it as trying to cut down on her “urges” to ensure that she doesn’t put the moves on their, or anyone else’s, son again. I believe you spay/neuter a pet so that it doesn’t develop the “less desirable” traits that come with puberty, which includes going into heat and trying to mate. I could be wrong, but that was my take.

    Also- is it “and/or” because you aren’t sure if she was originally a male or a female, or because you can’t remember which is done to females? I can’t, so that’s not really a complaint, but when I saw that I was like “Wait- where is it suggested that she’s a trans woman? Why would they name a male dog ‘Princess’?”

  11. Okay, I believe I can offer some clarification that is sadly lacking in the Raine Dog strip. DC Simpson, back before the strip launched, made some remarks about it in an Ozy&Millie fan forum. Unfortunately, it seems that DC Simpson also doesn’t like talking publicly about her comics anymore, so has made a crucial error: she hasn’t explained to the world at large just what the hell is going on in Raine Dog.

    Basically, Simpson’s rational is based upon a thought had while watching Scooby Doo.

    In Scooby Doo, Scooby is apparently sentient. He understands human language, can use tools, can speak, and is actually smarter than half the case. However, the idea is that it is very very weird, if one considers it, that Scooby is also treated fully like a non-intelligent pet in other ways. He’s forced to wear a collar. He’s fed dog food and dog treats. He rides in the back of the truck and sleeps on the floor.

    So, Simpson suggested, what happens if say, Shaggy decides to get “his” dog spayed? What happens if he can’t afford medical bills and tells the vet to put Scooby down? The conflicts in the underlying logic of the cartoon world might be fodder for exploration.

    The premise, at the time mind you, for Raine Dog was claimed to be thus: it is a world where “Scooby Doo” animals exist and can talk, think like people, and are as intelligent as people, but are still treated like animals. The contradictions in this scenario were to be explored, to the end of touching on a variety of themes.

    Sadly, I don’t think Raine Dog lives up to the premise. There are moments when it does click and some strips come off “correctly” according to Simpson’s original mission statement. For the most part however, it seems to have gone far off the rails, owing in part perhaps, to its autobiographical nature. Simply put, for those who know anything about DC Simpson’s personal life, there is a ton of “issues” being aired in Raine Dog. Those issues however, don’t fit the intended theme of Raine Dog’s universe, and leave people who aren’t familiar with the underlying motives for including them confused.

    I think, not to be presumptuous, that Ms. Simpson might have been better off saving the Raine Dog project for a few years down the road after her personal troubles had been given a chance to settle. There is great potential in the original idea, and that theme was largely unexplored territory. As it is now, the strip is a complete mess and lacks any real direction.

    • If that was her intention then it’s too bad she didn’t do it right. It’s not an original idea though. I once came across a comic (Housepets) that successfully did that, at least to some extent. While I would never recommend the comic to anyone, call it good, or care to go back and finish reading it (I just didn’t care for it), I would still rank it far above Raine Dog.

      While many bad webcomics have a chance of pulling up from even the most terrible of nose dives, this one has already passed the point of no return. Simpson would be better off moving on. I hope she does and that she tries something else that works out better. She can do much better than she is doing now, her past work proves that.

  12. I’m not going to say a whole lot about Dana’s work, considering that she does kids’ comics, and I do underground comix, which are vastly different, and that any implied support of her work might get her in more trouble than she is already in for the implication of content that she never actually portrayed.

    But I’d like to state that it hardly seems fair to review part of an unfinished graphic novel. It was probably a bad idea to start with to publish the novel online, but still, you’re reviewing part of a novel, a form which is meant to be read in whole. Yes, this goes back to the point that graphic novels do not translate to the web medium well, but still, when one reads a novel, it does not immediately start off making 100% sense, but once completed, the work as a whole answers questions previously brought up.

    I’ve read what’s been posted thus far, and I would like to see how the entire story turns out. But it’s hardly fair to read part of a novel and decide that the entire thing is terrible.

    And while I don’t follow Simpson’s political beliefs, I don’t have to put down her art. I can draw my own comics and critique the Democrats, she can draw her comics and critique the Republicans. Everyone’s happy.

    • Most good webcomics do well when released a little at a time, some artists even release then in story segments monthly or figure out something else that works for them. So there is no fault on the part of the reviewer to comment on a comic that isn’t done. If the media is not meant to be viewed in the format it is presented in then it is the fault of the one presenting it, as is any negative feedback that results.
      I know certain artists have commented that they would rather people not judge them too harshly until they are finished, like the creator of Phoenix Requiem for example. Many webcomics have no planned ending and can potentially go on and on.
      That said, the negative comments are not about a story that is unfinished and may make sense in the future. While what you’ve said may be true for other comics, like By Moon Alone, it does nothing for the problems this comic has.
      Also, it’s not her political beliefs that are the problem, it’s that she didn’t present them well. It’s not what she said, it’s how she said it. That’s also only a fraction of what she did wrong. Main problem: Dog made out, had a “relationship, and “slept” with little boy. Enough said.

      • While most of the criticisms against this comic are fair, I don’t think the accusations of this being a pro-bestiality strip are particularly accurate or fair, considering that this is a cartoon, and an anthropomorphic cartoon character kissing a human character is not the same as real-life dog rape.

        El Santo, at least, acknowledges that this strip is a fable, and that the dog character is part of a metaphor. It’s a metaphor that he doesn’t like, certainly, but he still acknowledges that the author is not actually promoting animal rape. At least, I THINK that El Santo doesn’t believe that this comic promotes animal rape.

        I’d like to give the reviewer some credit, considering that I might have been unfair to his credibility as a reviewer in response to overtly emotional responses to indie webcomics. I had not known that he was giving negative reviews to comics like these, which are published by major webcomics publishers (in this case, Keenspot) rather than being self-published by the author. So, my first impression of El Santo might have been incorrect.

        However, I will state, for the record, if El Santo really believes that what occurs in this strip equates as a promotion of bestiality, I am not willing to give this website the benefit of the doubt in regards to it being in the least bit fair.

        As far as this storyline goes, when the kiss occurs, both characters are meant to be the same age, so you can’t accuse it of promoting pedophilia, either.

        This is a kids’ comic. The idea here is that it’s the first kiss of two kids. As El Santo notes, it may be a badly-thought out metaphor, but it’s still a metaphor.

        • Sorry, I meant badly-executed, not badly-thought out.

          Again, I’m a more positive towards the strip, because, as a cartoonist and writer myself, I’m not one to bag on someone else’s story.

        • A kids’ comic? Look at the opening page and the way Raine is stretched out with an erotic smile on her face and say that!

          • Now that D. C. Simpson has restarted the comic, at least she replaced that picture. It’s still not a kids’ comic, any more than Walt Kelly’s Pogo was.

  13. What type of kennel/shelter DOESN’T spay/neuter the animals there?

  14. Solenby Sorenson

    Bad webcomics at Wikidot also reviewed Rainedog. The reception was universally critical, and I like the points raised in the reviews: http://badwebcomics.wikidot.com/forum/t-166042/raine-dog

    DC Simpson needs to learn how to make comics that relate to people.

  15. Just to let you know that I wrote the official review page for the badwebcomics wiki site, and even linked to this page:
    http://badwebcomics.wikidot.com/raine-dog

    • You know, I never got why a rabidly anti-furry site has a comic by Jolly Jack on its main page. Right next to one mocking TwoKinds, for fap’s sake, too.

  16. “Rabidly anti-furry”? I never got that impression, since one of the main members admits to being a furry himself. There are a lot of furry webcomics out there, so the laws of proportion indicate a lot of those are going to be no good. The site doesn’t single out any category of webcomics for attack, and in fact some webcomics get positive reviews. With the administrator’s blessing, I’m writing one of “Ozy and Millie”, which we both quite like, to show that D. C. Simpson used to be a great cartoonist.

  17. D. C. Simpson has just announced on her Deviantart page (under the name “Pedantia”) that she definitely intends to give “Raine Dog” a whole new rewrite. Believe me, she can’t do worse than she did already.

  18. How is this any different than me having a big moralistic spazz because I didn’t grasp the point of Blue Velvet?

  19. I’d really like to read this comic but I can’t find it anywhere, and Dana took it off the website.

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