Swankivy's Reviews > Pug Davis

Pug Davis by Rebecca Sugar
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it was amazing

After a few eBay battles, I finally managed to get my hands on a copy of old Pug Davis. As a raging Steven Universe nerd, I was curious to see what types of indie comics Rebecca Sugar wrote back in the day--especially after enjoying the online piece "Don't Cry For Me, I'm Already Dead," her student film "Singles," and the little random sketches from "Margo in Bed" that were published in an issue of Frontier. Everything she writes has a life juice that speaks to me, so I assumed this would as well.

I was not disappointed.

First, let's get this out of the way: It's not very similar to Steven Universe, but there are some shared elements: queer characters, space adventures, deep and catastrophic trauma, and lots of feelings. The differences are pretty stark for anyone who was expecting her comics to be like her cartoons; the feel is much darker and bleaker than SU, and there are some brutal illustrations that depict fatal wounds and burns, violent battles, and catastrophic transformations. The characters' situations encourage the reader to consider the implications of body horror (such as Pug Davis's dog's-head-grafted-onto-a-cyborg-body), violent homophobia (Pug's sidekick has a history of experiencing gay-bashing and parental rejection), and mental invasion (brain-hijacking aliens figure into several of the stories, swiping traumatic memories for fun and forcing the victim to relive them, or injecting foreign memories into people so they can enjoy the reaction). There are also multiple depictions and implications of sex, some slurs and swear words, and quite a few triggery consent-violating situations. This is a pretty dark universe for something with a goofy-looking doggie on the cover.

I am not a "please give me the gritty darkness" type comics reader, and actually I'd rather not deal with anything on the horror spectrum if I can help it, but I make exceptions for good writing (I even like Stephen King, for instance!). And the fantastic, layered, complex emotion in this weird lump of tales is well worth the slight creep factor. The actual type of adventures Pug and Blouse go on aren't even heavily focused upon; we see their legacy in all the tall tales about the infamous Pug Davis that follow wherever he goes, and we see evidence of battle and space travel and alien encounters, but mostly what we get is the space between--the emotional conversations, the meeting of equals, the characters with little in common finding common ground. Emotion is evident in every choice of expression, every careful rendering of a hand, every stance presenting or confronting or cowering or begging. It feels like real people having conversations even though it's a freaking space dog taking a space leak outside a space bar.

Every character is formed by a history. It is so refreshing to meet characters who lived before page one, who have complex motivations besides romantic relationships and killing bad guys, who are still discovering things about each other and revealing multiple layers of their existence. It's so good to meet characters as we meet people--part way through their lives, not as they begin them or end them. I couldn't be more pleased with the honesty and authenticity of these characters, and I so much appreciate how relatively simple they are about presenting just enough for us to know so much more. I just adored this.

And yes, if you're curious, it's pretty funny sometimes too. I laughed out loud at least twice.
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Reading Progress

February 26, 2019 – Started Reading
February 26, 2019 – Finished Reading
February 27, 2019 – Shelved

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