Follow TV Tropes


Comic Strip / Mutts

Go To

Mutts is a newspaper comic created by Patrick McDonnell. It launched on September 5, 1994, and is still running today. The comic centers around Earl the dog and Mooch the cat, their humans, and the many humans and animals in their neighborhood.

The official site can be found here.

Patrick McDonnell is a strong supporter of animal rights, and sits on the board of the Humane Society.

(Needs Wiki Magic.)

This series includes examples of:

  • All Just a Dream: One strip in a ''Shelter Stories'' storyline has Andy, a dog, being afraid to open his eyes the next morning because he's worried that the previous day was just a dream and that he's still in the shelter. Eventually, he works up the courage to open his eyes... and discovers that, indeed, it was not a dream.
  • Amplified Animal Aptitude: The animals can understand humans, world problems and commands perfectly and are smart enough to do various activities such as manipulating objects with their paws and generally act like little humans.
    Ozzie: (to Earl) Do you want to go out?
    Earl: No, I'm studying for my lock-picking class.
  • Animal Talk: Zig-zagged in a confusing manner. Animals can talk to other animals, but not to humans, with humans hearing either barking or meowing or something else depending on the species. Whenever Earl or Mooch's owners are present, they would usually communicate through thought bubbles.
  • Animals Fear Neutering: In a rare aversion for a work featuring animals, all the dogs and cats (yes, even the males) are happily willing to get their sexual organs removed for the sake of Spay Day and even they know about the overpopulation issue.
    • While it's never explicitly stated, this is strongly implied with Mooch and Noodles, two tomcats who fight over the love of a female cat, which is extremely ironic considering they too support the spaying and neutering of pets.
  • Animals Lack Attributes: Played straight for the most part, although the cows always have udders.
    • In a few earlier strips, the anus part is averted for a rabbit, ducks and even Earl himself.
    • Averted in a strip when Mooch is badly beaten up because he accidentally tried to "milk" a dalmatian thinking he was a cow.
  • Anthropomorphic Zig-Zag: The animals, most notably Mooch and Earl, frequently switch from walking on two legs to walking on all fours, but in the former case, they're usually seeing standing on their haunches.
  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Mooch can become this in Autumn.
    • Mr. Chops, the blue pet pig that was scrapped from the final version of Mutts.
  • Art Evolution: Compare how Earl and Ozzie look in the first strip to how they look nowadays.
  • Artistic License Animal Care:
    • Mooch and Earl, along with the other animals, eat a ton of human food that would either kill them or make them sick in real life, though they always remember that chocolate is bad for them.
    • Sid is a goldfish living in the stereotypical goldfish bowl.
    • In the collaboration Darling, I Love You, one poem features Sid's goldfish bowl slowly transforming into the ocean, where he happily swims about. Goldfish are freshwater fish and therefore can die if placed in saltwater environments.
  • Beary Friendly: More often than not when a bear appears in the strip it'll be this. The more ferocious ones are usually provoked by Mooch.
  • Bewitched Amphibians: Happens to Earl in one story arc after Mooch challenges a witch to "prove" that she's a witch by turning Earl into a frog. When Mooch asks her to change him back, she turns Earl into a big, very angry bulldog. Then it turns out it was All Just a Dream.
  • Big Damn Hero: When Earl, Mooch and Shtinky are stuck out in a snowstorm on December 20th, an old man - presumably Santa Claus - shows up to take them home.
  • Big Friendly Dog: Woofie, the dog that "wuvs" everything.
    • Guard Dog, when he's not provoked by Mooch or his owner.
  • Brains and Brawn: According to Crabby, he's the brains of the outfit and Mussels is the mussel.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: One 2004 storyline has Mooch challenging the readers to a staring contest.
  • Butterfly of Transformation: Sequences about caterpillars transforming to butterflies inspire talk about change.
  • Catchphrase: Quite a few.
    • "Yesh!"
    • "Woofie wuvs [insert thing or character here]!
    • "I hate Mondays."
    • Mooch (or Moochie)! Din-din!
    • "Save the tigers!"
    • "Little pink sock, little pink sock..."
  • The Cameo:
  • Cat Concerto: Sometimes Mooch, Noodles and two other cats sing on the fence, with predictable results.
    Noodles: And now fer a really big shoo!
    Mooch: (after getting hit by a shoe) My, that was a really big shoo!
  • Catapult Nightmare: In the strip for May 19th, 2013 Mooch wakes up from a multilevel dream (having a dream about having a dream, which is about having a dream, etc.) in shock. He says to his owner "Now I've dreamed everything!"
  • Circling Vultures: One perched overhead makes Earl and Mooch decide that maybe they've been laying around too much in the summer.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Mooch, but that's probably just because he's a cat.
  • Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere: After one of the squirrels announces that they're going to stop bonking people on the head with acorns, a guy wearing a giant mascot head (apparently the mascot of a store called "Joe's") shows up.
  • Crossover: When Blondie (1930) celebrated the Blumsteads' 60th Anniversary in 2005 Earl and Mooch could be seen with other King Features characters on Blondie and Dagwood's front lawn. In the Mutts comic for that day Ozzie receives an invite to the gala as Earl trips up the oddly familiar looking Mailman.
  • Cue the Sun: One Sunday strip after the solstice. It in fact faced Mooch as he stuck his head out the door.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mooch, occasionally. Like in this example, where he is served his dinner:
    Mooch: Din-din. Now don't tell me... (sniffs food) What a shurprize...shomething from a can. I hope you didn't go to too much trouble. And my...such a lovely presentation... (turns around dramatically and walks away) Enjoy!
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • At the start, the comic focused more on pets and their adventures before gradually becoming a comic focused on animal rights.
    • The animals (most notably Earl and Mooch) acted more animal-like compared to their Anthropomorphic Zig-Zag in later comics. In addition to that, they also opened their mouths when talking, something that rarely happens nowadays.
    • Earl's coat was coarse in earlier strips though this was fixed shortly after.
    • Mooch was really skinny looking, but has since gained a little weight.
    • Noodles, Guard Dog and Butchie originally spoke in heavy Brooklyn accents, but this was dropped as they were too distracting for readers.
    • Guard Dog was often shown off his chain, only becoming chained when needed.
    • Crabby and Lollipop were less expressive in their debut.
  • Eyes Always Shut: Many characters, like Butchie and Ozzie, are almost always seen with their eyes closed, only opening them when surprised or shocked.
  • The Face of the Sun: One Sunday strip, after the summer solstice.
  • The Faceless: Shnelly's face is never seen, except for the tip of her ears. However, her back and tail are seen in a Sunday strip in which she lets her tail down for Mooch.
  • Faux Horrific: For the Mutts Halloween Book Club, Mooch reads "scary" books such as The Exorcist, The Raven, and Journey to the Center of the Earth. But the book club's other members don't become frightened until he announces that they're going to read the complete two-thousand-plus page health care reform bill.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: After getting beaten up by another cat, Mooch demands to know who named her "Cuddles".
  • Flying Flightless Bird: One storyline has a penguin, bored of Antarctica, fly to where Earl and Mooch live. No, really. He flies there.
    Mooch: But I don't believe penguins can fly!
    Penguin: I know. But I do.
  • Fungus Humongous: In the strip for May 5th, 2013, Earl and Mooch walk among mushrooms taller than a human being.
  • Furry Confusion: The main animals are noticeably more anthropomorphic compared to their four-legged non-anthropomorphic friends.
    • Mooch used to own a snail named Little Earl. He also treats Earl like a dog despite being a cat.
  • Furry Reminder: Exaggerated. The pets will occasionally slip into animal-like behavior, such as chasing squirrels or playing with socks.
  • Gentle Giant: Guard Dog.
  • Green Aesop: Starting in 1998, this was incorporated into the comic after only being used occasionally.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: Guard Dog's owner, who has never made an appearance. All that is known about him is that he has a "funny mug" and is abusive towards Guard Dog.
  • Healing Herb: Earl eats grass to help with his upset stomach. Mooch finds it disgusting, commenting that the grass could've been anywhere and then gets sick thinking about it. He eats it after Earl gives him a Death Glare.
  • Hurricane of Euphemisms: Mooch does this after Earl suggests that they hibernate.
    Mooch: Do you mean let's - shleep, shnooze, shlumber, shiesta, get a little shut-eye, catch forty winks, nap, doze, go beddy-bye, hit the hay, zonk out, saw wood, turn in, nod off...
    (By the third panel, Earl has fallen asleep)
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • This strip has Mooch complaining about Earl loudly slurping his water. Earl informs him that what he's slurping is actually milk. Mooch then does some slurping of his own.
    • Here, Mooch calls fleas "lazy do-nuthin's who live off others". Then he hears Millie calling him for dinner.
    Mooch: (dashing off) Hold that thought.
    • Mooch and Noodles support Spay Day, but both aren't willing to get themselves neutered.
    • Earl and Mooch often complain about humans eating meat even though they don't have a problem eating meat themselves nor do they think about it that much, which is justified as they are animals.
  • Idiot Hair: Many characters (most notably Earl) have these, which becomes more prominent when they're sad.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun:
    Frog: You better listen to my frog survival tips. How do you think I lived to such a ripe old age?
    Mooch: You haven't croaked yet?
  • Interspecies Friendship: Natch.
  • Interspecies Romance: One storyline had this between a bird and a bat.
  • I Resemble That Remark!: Frank is insulted that Millie considers him "a lazy, do-nothing cat-hating coach potato" and plans to prove her wrong by going through the effort of building a pet door for Mooch... and then mutters that as an extra bonus, having done so he'll "never again have to get up to let that furball out!" It fails miserably.
  • Jerkass: Sourpuss.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Crabby.
    • Also Frank.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: Crabby delivers one in this strip, one of the many strips where Mooch pretends to be the Sphinx.
    Crabby: All-Seeing Shphinx, why do orcas migrate?
    Mooch: For the halibut.
    Crabby: (agitated) If you have any more bad fish puns, let "minnow".
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: "WHERE do all these question marks come from!?!"
  • Literal Metaphor:
    • One March 1st has Mooch hearing a knock at the door and, upon opening it, seeing a lion walk into his house. Get it?
    • In this strip, it's literally raining cats and dogsnote .
  • Loves Me Not: Mooch does this toward Shnelly — with a three-leaf clover.
    Mooch: (plucks first leaf) She loves me... (plucks second leaf) ...she loves me not. (plucks final leaf) SHE LOVES ME! Let's do it again!
    Earl: There aren't any three-leaf clovers left.
  • Meaningful Name: Sourpuss and Crabby. Guess their respective species and disposition.
  • Meat-O-Vision:
    • One strip has Mooch rubbing Earl - who's been sprayed by a skunk - with tuna in order to mask the skunk smell. Afterwards, he imagines Earl as a giant fish... and gets hungry.
    • In another strip, while they're stuck out at sea in a boat, Mooch imagines Earl as a giant fish, then a giant chicken.
    Earl: WHAT are you purring about?
  • Medium Awareness: Mooch thinks outside the box.
    • This strip has Mooch doing a lot of shedding - so much that the whole strip is covered with cat hair.
    • In 2018, the characters began Breaking the Fourth Wall much more frequently.
  • Messy Pig: One appears in this strip, cheerfully jumping into a puddle of mud to celebrate Earth Day.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: One strip has Earl and Mooch meeting a narwhal while at the beach. Earl comments that he thought narwhals only lived in arctic waters. The narwhal replies, "I'm on vacation."
  • Never My Fault: "WHO leaves a cat alone with dinner on the table?!"
  • Nursery Rhyme
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Whenever Crabby is feeling happy, he knows that something is wrong.
  • Painting the Medium: In an October 2017 storyline, Mooch claims to have magic powers capable of transporting him and Earl into the future. When Earl asks how they'll know it worked, Mooch points to the copyright notice at the bottom of the strip, which reads "Mutts © 2120 Patrick McDonnell". In a subsequent strip, Mooch transports them into the past, reverting them from line ink art to pencil sketches.
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: Upon finding out that it's National Scrabble Day, Mooch exclaims, "That's just schrabbylicious!"
  • Personal Raincloud: Sourpuss gets one when complaining of whether the clouds would decide to rain or not.
  • Pet the Dog: Quite literally.
  • Pet Positive Identification: Earl the dog and Mooch the cat encounter a bizarre, raggedly humanoid with green skin. Mooch panics and advises fleeing the monster. Earl, however, wags his tail, stating: "Green, orange, blue ... I know my Ozzie." Ozzie was mimicking the Frankenstein monster for Hallowe'en at the time.
  • Pretty Butterflies: At a distance. Mooch is less impressed with the face.
  • Polar Bears and Penguins: This strip features a polar bear with penguins. Justified as it's in an Imagnine Spot that Mooch is having.
  • Polly Wants a Microphone: One Shelter Story features a talking parrot named Romeo, and he has this to say...
    "Did you know there are many talking birds looking for new homes? So come to your local shelter and... I'll tell you all about it."
  • Pun:
  • Puppy-Dog Eyes: Used by the characters in multiple strips.
  • Rodents of Unusual Size: A storyline parodying The Nutcracker, with Doozy as Clara and Mooch as the Nutcracker, portrays the Mouse King as one.
  • Scenery Censor: Whenever Mooch and Earl (or some other animal) is seen crouching, grass will always cover their feet. This is done so that drawing them is easier without the need to add feet.
  • Scenery Porn: Many Sunday strips show the landscapes in great detail. It helps that McDonnell is a talented artist.
  • Screwball Squirrel: Bip and Bop are obsessed with bonking people on the head with acorns.
  • Sea Monster: This strip has Mooch asking Crabby if he's ever seen a sea monster. Crabby says yes - a hideous behemoth of a beast, leaving behind a path of wanton destruction. Mooch asks if it breathed fire. Crabby's response?
    Crabby: NO. It spilled OIL.
  • She's a Man in Japan: In the Finnish translation of the strip Mooch is named Kati, which is a female name. It was probably the translator's decision to have a girl cat paired with a boy dog in the comic. It becomes interesting when later in the comic strip's run Mooch is shown to be romantically interested in female cats. Mooch was never renamed in the translation, so to the readers the character appeared as lesbian.
  • Sick Episode: Sometimes Mooch would get a cold and Earl would try to help him, though this happens less nowadays in favor of the ongoing "Hibernation" storylines.
    • One week focused on Growling Guts caused by overeating and stomachaches. It concluded with Earl inducing vomiting by eating grass.
  • Single-Minded Twins: Chickpea and Chickpea's Brother are completely identical. It gets a Lampshade Hanging from Earl.
    Earl: How can you tell each other apart!?!
    Chickpea and Chickpea's Brother: Easy. (pointing at each other) That's NOT me. I think.
  • Sliding Scale of Animal Cast: The strip focuses almost entirely on the daily lives of pets Mooch and Earl and later a cast of animals as a whole. Humans are present, but only a few of them, like Ozzie, are main characters and are mostly demoted to more minor roles.
  • Speech-Impaired Animal: Mooch talks with a speech impediment that makes words like "yes" turn into "yesh", though he doesn't seem to notice this.
  • Spit Take: Implied in this strip - while snubbing his dinner (as per usual), Mooch fends for himself by eating wild berries... only to discover that they taste awful. We then see Mooch eating his dinner - immediately followed by Earl with berry juice all over his face.
  • Straight Man: Earl, to Mooch's Wise Guy.
  • Sugar Bowl: Most of the time.
  • Superior Species: From the animal's point of view, them in relation to humans.
  • That Poor Cat: Occasionally done literally in some Shelter Stories strips featuring cats, but played straight with Mooch whenever he's startled or goes crazy.
  • Thought Bubble Speech: The pets gain these when humans are present, though it's more common for them to speak in the presence of humans. Sid almost exclusively communicates through thought bubbles.
  • Threatening Shark: Averted with Tony the Shark, a friend of Crabby's — he gets scared when there's a human sighting.
  • Toilet Humour: Surprisingly for a comic focusing on animals, the comic averts this for the most part, only going far as to have the occasional mention of Mooch's litter box or Earl running over to a tree or pole (implying he wants to mark his territory).
  • Twice-Told Tale: Mooch and Earl once venture to a house in a retelling of Goldilocks.
  • Uncatty Resemblance: Sal, a shelter dog, winds up with an owner who looks very much like him. The perfect match.
  • Unicorn: One appears, once — though you don't see many nowadays.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot:
    • Earl and Mooch witness a bird feeding her baby offscreen, much to the latter's disgust.
    • After Mooch accidentally eats a show dog's meal of liver and egg, he announces he's going to be sick and Earl tells him to be discreet. Later, we see him throwing up inside a trophy.
    • Mooch gets sick while riding on a Ferris wheel with Earl and then leans over, announcing that it's "time to feed the fishes".
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: One storyline featured Butchie expanding his small business, Fatty Snax Deli, via food truck. Unfortunately, it suddenly concluded for unknown reasons and the food truck hasn't been mentioned or seen since.
  • What's a Henway?: Earl and Mooch encounter a gnu...
    Earl: What's a gnu?
    Mooch: I dunno... what's new with you?
  • When It Rains, It Pours: Black lines attack during rain.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: While Word of God has stated that Mutts is set in New Jersey, it's never stated what city the comic takes place in.
  • Who's on First?: One storyline has Mooch getting into this with an owl.
  • Why Didn't I Think of That?: This is Bip and Bop's reaction to Earl suggesting that they store their nuts for the winter instead of throwing them at his head.
  • Yet Another Christmas Carol: Mooch gets visited in his dreams by the cat lifes of past, present and future, each of which show him how he's always stealing Earl's food at Christmas. When he wakes up, Mooch runs off to steal more of Earl's food, because apparently it's tradition.
  • You Dirty Rat!: Averted. This Shelter Story features a rat named Stefan who's pretty chipper.
    "Yeh... I could be at your local shelter waiting to be adopted. Hey... why not? Rats need love too.
  • You're Cute When You're Angry: Mooch rages against being called cute. Earl responds with this trope.