Review: 'Housepets! Are Gonna Sniff Everybody' (Book 4), by Rick Griffin
Housepets! Are Gonna Sniff Everybody is the fourth annual collection of Rick Griffin’s award-winning (Ursa Major Awards, Best Anthropomorphic Comic Strip, 2009 to 2012) Internet full-color comic strip, following Housepets! Are Naked All the Time, Housepets! Hope They Don’t Get Eaten, and Housepets! Can Be Real Ladykillers. Book 4 collects the strips from June 6, 2011 to June 4, 2012. These are the story-arcs #43, “The Great Water Balloon War” to #55, “The Trial in Heaven”, plus all the one-off gag strips between those.
Book 4 is back to lacking a real title page. Boo, hiss!
Housepets! began on June 2, 2008, and appears on the Internet every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It features the housepets of an American residential neighborhood, Babylon Gardens, with an important difference. This is an alternate universe where the animals can walk upright and talk, including interacting with the humans. They call their human “parents” Dad and Mom. They have some legal rights; when Henry Milton, the ultra-rich developer of Babylon Gardens dies and leaves his fortune to his pet ferrets, they go wild in a riotous and tasteless display of their extreme wealth, despite Milton’s greedy human heirs’ displeasure. Animals write their own popular literature; the cats are addicted to the Pridelands adventure fantasies about the warfare between the tribes of lions on the African savanna. This universe has its own all-powerful mythical animal gods (a dragon, a griffin, a great kitsune, a Cerberus, etc.) that treat both humans and animals as playthings.
The strip started off starring the two pets of Mr. and Mrs. Earl Sandwich; the dog (German shepherd?) Peanut Butter and the housecat Grape Jelly. By 2011 Housepets! had built up a large cast and backstory. Housepets! shares a problem of all long-running comic strips; this collection begins in mid-story despite starting with a new story-arc, and there is no synopsis of what has happened before. But the new fans of long-running comic strips are used to starting them in progress and picking up their past as they go along.
Griffin’s art style was called “cute” and “adorable” by his fans in Book 1, and it has only gotten better over time. Major continuing characters include Peanut Butter and Grape Jelly Sandwich, and their human “parents”; the disgustingly rich Milton ferrets Keene, Lana, Duke, Pit, Rock, and Simon, and their human butler and steward; the wolf pack of Miles, Lucretia, and their cubs who have come in from the wild to become domesticated (they are unclear on the concept, and are joined by several more relatives in this book); the other Babylon Gardens neighborhood dogs, united in The Good Ol’ Dogs Club; Zach the Rabbit; the wild raccoons; Peanut Butter’s girlfriend, Tarot (Pekinese), who has mystic powers; Sabrina, the black cat who also has mystic powers; Spoo the mouse; the police dog squad; Karishad the fox; the pet-hating human who has been turned into King (Corgi) by Pete the griffin, Pete and the other mythical animal gods, and many others.
Important new characters introduced include Itsuki Kitamura, a tanuki in America on a student visa (and Griffin shows that he knows the difference between a Japanese tanuki and an American raccoon); Bailey, a farmdog (Husky) who becomes King’s romantic interest; and Dutchess, a vain and manipulative Saluki. There are examples of Peanut Butter’s very amateur comic strip adventures of Spot, the Superdog; a crime investigated by the police dogs; Peanut Butter and Grape Jelly (and their friends Sabrina, Tarot, and Grape’s boyfriend Max the cat) acting out famous literature (Macbeth by Shakespeare); and Pete the Griffin’s latest meddling in the lives of mortals.
As in the previous books, the year’s worth of comic strips do not quite fit the book’s format of four four-panel strips to a page, and there are several examples of new art by Griffin to even out the pages.
The cover of Housepets! Are Gonna Sniff Everybody shows Officers Byron and Ralph of the K-9 police squad, and one of the forest raccoons. Book 4 is a gotta-have if you are a fan of the Internet comic strip, even if you can read the strips free on the Housepets! archive. If you have the first three books, you need Book 4. If you are starting with Book 4, the first three are still available. Read and enjoy!