Updated on 16 October, 2021
Buckles is a comic book series by David Gilbert about the adventures of an average, naive pet dog. It started as a six-issue miniseries, and later became a complete book series. Buckles featured the dog Buckles, an ever optimistic comic book hero whose every day life is riddled with mischievousness and peril. Buckles first appeared on March 25, 1996 and was last printed on March 21, 2021. In between, there were four one-shot specials, which provided Buckles some unique settings and time periods.
The first series of Buckles Comic had a very different tone to it than the series we see today. In the first strip, Buckles is a devoted and protective father who cares deeply for his best friend, Bo. When his beloved owner is brutally murdered in cold blood, Buckles avenges the loss of his family. In the second strip, Buckles' owner's killer is escaped to continue his grisly crimes against the Buckles family. This second series of Buckles Comic was not well received by critics, but it did become successful in getting the comic book into the midst of the cultural appreciation for animals.
Following the second strip, Buckles underwent some changes. One issue featured a murder mystery that Buckles solves while dressed as a forensic scientist. The first few strips featured only Buckles, and the rest of the comic consisted of him solving the mystery and making Bo "look" like a dog, or doing whatever he was supposed to do. In the latest strip, Buckles is asked to solve the case of a missing girl and is forced to dress as a dog in order to solve the crime.
The third strip featured Buckles solving a case involving the theft of government money. Buckles realizes he must wear a wire to prove his innocence, so he decides to give the wire to an animal. After Buckles wins this case, people are skeptical about his capability, but the comic Strip Five shows him solving other mysteries. Soon, Buckles has built a devoted fan base. The newspaper editor assigned to the strip is impressed with Buckles' dedication to helping the community, and asks him to be the morning star at the newsroom. This newsmagazine show is syndicated to many local newspapers.
Following the second strip, Buckles decided to take on another ethical issue in his strip. This time it involved a crook who wants to sell Buckles' family diamond and gold. Buckles realizes the guy is planning to frame the diamond for a robbery, but he must first let the family know he has fallen out with them. After this, the entire strip is devoted to Buckles finding the criminal and getting his family's valuable piece of property back.
As you might expect, Buckles' misadventures with his dog Le Tigress continue in this next comic strip. Here, Buckles must deal with a sadistic dog trainer who makes Buckles work long hours by leashing him to a cart, forcing Buckles to walk through a corn field, and finally forcing Buckles to discover the source of his strength: a large stick. This comic strip is among the finest examples of late cartoonist humor, as it features one of Buckles' classic traits: his strong canine instincts. It also introduces the character of the strip's wise, grandfatherly mentor, Mr. Van Gogh. Van Gogh is an important part of the French art movement, who was known for painting beautiful pictures of the streets and buildings of his famous neighborhoods. This is another reason why I love Buckles.
Finally, in the third strip, Buckles and his faithful dog Le Tigress stumble upon a snake in the mall, which is enough to send Buckles into a fits of depression. Buckles must overcome his fears of going on any further misadventures, and he must learn to trust again - but only if he can forget about Le Tigress. These are three of the most famous Buckles Comic Stripes, and I defy anyone to read them and not think of them when they first encounter this great comic strip.
But perhaps my favorite things about Buckles is that he always manages to find the good in people, and that he always seeks to improve the world. In many ways, Buckles is a symbol of the American ideal - a hard-working, honest, caring person who doesn't believe in selfishness or deceit. It is interesting to me that a classic strip which has always included social commentary manages to maintain its popularity even today, as many Americans don't believe in many of Buckles' morals. So, although I love the Buckles Comic Stripes, I'm not sure why, in particular, they have become such a beloved children's book title. Maybe they just live up to their reputation.