McGruff Takes A Bite Out Of Comics!

Welcome back to Rotten Ink.  One thing we all know is that crime doesn’t pay.  Sooner or later if you lie, cheat, steal or kill you’re going to be caught and punished for your crime…well most the time…I mean the original Night Stalker, Zodiac Killer, The Phantom Killer Of Texarkana and many other baddies have never seen justice, but times have changed and so have crime stopping technics and some of the times people get caught. Okay I’ll say it, growing up I really did think that the police and FBI would solve almost every crime and that bad people would get what’s coming to them. Now, as an adult, I believe that not every crime gets solved but many of them do thanks to the hard work of law enforcement. Some of the leading factors for me to think that criminals always get what’s coming to them were characters like Dick Tracy, Batman, Robocop, Officer Carey Mahoney, Inspector Gadget and McGruff The Crime Dog who would all tell me about crime on TV, Radio, Comics, Movies and even in person when talking about McGruff! So for this update we are going to have a Rotten Ink Neighborhood Watch And Read as we take a look at a promo comic featuring McGruff as well as quickly look at this crime dog’s history and connections to my life. So get your peepers peeping and your jaw working as we take a Bite Out Of Crime and flip the pages of a comic.

McGruff The Crime Dog was created by Dancer Fitzgerald Sample via the Ad Council for the government in 1980 to help educate kids about the dangers of crime and drugs. His name was created by New Orleans police officer John Isbell who won a contest, and with this McGruff and his saying “Take A Bite Out Of Crime” were unleashed on the public via billboards, radio and TV ads. The response to this cartoon dog in a trench coat was overwhelmingly positive with his anti crime messages helping kids learn that crime is not cool and to trust their local police as well as no to do drugs. His impact was felt as many of Americans had seen and took action via his PSA’s and with most people polled McGruff was a favored mascot at the early stages of his appearances with only a very small amount not liking him as they thought he was too cartoonish. Over the years McGruff was used to make people aware of such things as the dangers of drugs, stranger danger and how to take steps to make your house safe from burglars. In the late 90’s his young nephew Scruff was added to the PSAs in order to add a more kid appeal to the messages and to make him more modern in his surroundings. Also during his spotlight time, actors in McGruff costumes would visit schools with law enforcement officers as well as lots of cool items were made with McGruff’s image like comics, stuffed dolls, t-shirts, posters, jackets, bags, buttons and more. While in 2018, McGruff has slowly been pushed to the back of the mainstream attention, his appearance and messages are still being taught to this day. So here is to you McGruff, for all your years teaching kids and people that crime don’t pay and how to be safe and live your life right.

Growing up during the 80’s and 90’s was a great time, and Saturday’s meant cartoons, Horror Hosts, wrestling and Horror Movies as the TV airwaves were flooded with amazing broadcasts. And while watching cartoons I can remember seeing lots and lots of PSA’s from McGruff, and I can remember him telling me to stay away from drugs and JUST SAY NO. I can remember him trying to warn me not to talk to strangers. And then in the late 90’s when I was a late teen, I can remember them also adding McGruff’s nephew Scruff to have the youngster to tell us about stopping crime and to do the right thing. It’s funny that PSA’s that were sandwiched between toy commercials and breakfast cereal ads are things that I fondly remember about my cartoon watching on Saturdays. Again I have to ask, why are CBS, NBC and FOX out of the Saturday Morning Cartoon business? I understand that Cartoon Network, Disney and Nickelodeon run cartoon and youngster programing all day but the basic networks could step up and deliver quality cartoons that are just for their station that could draw in young viewers. But I will move on from my dislike for the end of Saturday Morning cartoons and say that while the PSAs would be very dated in 2018, I for one grew up and listened to what McGruff had to tell me.

When I was a kid growing up in Waynesville, our school did lots of cool field trips and had lots of cool guest speakers to teach and educate my fellow classmates and myself about all types of topics from the joys of reading to listening to actor Robert V. Barron (or so we were told) dressed as Abraham Lincoln telling us about the life of our 16th President…not to mention that we also got to meet Miss Ohio and Ronald McDonald at a field trip and both were super cool and nice people and bless them for putting up with a bunch of bratty kids running wild at a park. But one of the coolest guests was McGruff The Crime Dog who came in with an officer to talk to us all about Stranger Danger.  It was all standard stuff about not getting into cars with strangers and not taking candy from them as well. Of course the officer did all the talking, as McGruff was a man in a walk-around costume who would do all his talking with body actions. They showed us some videos that had PSA’s and such, and after it was all over, they gave out plastic police badges that had McGruff on it! All of us guys took our plastic badges and wore them during the day, and I could not wait to get it home and show my brother who also thought it was pretty cool. Sadly I don’t have the plastic badge anymore, and I could not tell you what happened to it, but if I had to guess I sold it at a garage sale or gave it to my cousins. Below is a picture of one of the McGruff badges that looked kind of like the one I had as a kid. Oh yeah and I can also remember one year using a Halloween trick or treat bag that had McGruff on it that was green!

I love classic mascots, and I really do think that one of the best from my generation is McGruff as he was such a great character back then and is still used to this day showing that he is a true icon of pop culture and Americana. And while they have slowed down using him and his last major TV push was to push car insurance for GEICO, he still is a great tool to let people know that they need to stop crime. I want to thank Bell, Book And Comic for having this comic in stock, and I want to remind all you readers that I grade these on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So lets take to the streets and see what McGruff has in store for us and what kind of crime he is going to warn us about in this comic book adventure.

McGruff’s Surprise Party # 1   **1/2
Released in 1989     Cover Price FREE     U.S. Government     # 1 of 1

McGruff The Crime Dog is hanging out with a group of kids and asks them to help throw a surprise party for a friend as he wants to teach them to say no to drugs! As the kids run off to get board games and popcorn, Sarah, one of youngsters, asks McGruff why should people say No To Drugs. He calls back the rest of her peers, and they share facts about drugs and this is all Sarah has to hear and she now understands. The boys split off from the girls and go to the park to blow up balloons and chat about how beer is bad and that kids should not drink while the girls go to a house and make popcorn and talk about drugs and how one of the kids is no longer friends with her old pals as they tried to push her to do drugs with them! Back at the park one of the boys saves another boy from a drug dealer who was trying to push for him to try it. After all the balloons are blown up and the popcorn made, the kids go back to McGruff’s house as we learn that this surprise party is for us the readers!

This is one silly and overly kid friendly PSA comics as it breaks down the horrors of drug and alcohol abuse down so simply as saying…they are bad! This comic’s plot is super simple: McGruff wants to throw a surprise party and his friends the kids get the stuff needed to bring to the party.  All the while, they talk to each other about how drugs are bad, when the stuff is ready the return to McGruff and we find out this whole party was for the reader. This was a fun read and took me back to being a kid when McGruff really did rule when it comes to crime prevention, but this also was a little bit of a letdown as McGruff takes a backseat and the kids are the main stars of the comic as they are the ones who mostly do the talking and eat up pages with their appearance. McGruff is very thoughtful as he wants to throw a party for whoever is reading the comic and he makes sure that he gets his friends to help make it special, and while he is the spokes person for people not to do drugs, he also does not get to preachy with his message…he leaves that to the kids. The kids are all good kids who have a Charlie Brown aura around them and for the most part goofs who like popcorn and balloons. One of my favorite creepy characters from this comic is the weird drug pusher who looks like he should be a bad guy in a Fat Albert cartoon.  He is so 80’s fantastic goofy looking with a mix of late 70’s attitude. This 16 page comic also has a few activities and sports a very generic free comic looking cover, you know like comics that were free at Big Boy and Captain D’s. The interior art is done by an unknown artist and is really good and holds a classic 80’s kid comic look. Over all this is a simple comic with a simple message and that’s Drugs Are Bad! Check out some artwork below to see what this comic has to offer to young readers and the young at heart.

Man it’s weird as their just is not a lot of mascots being used in promotion any more like back in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and now everything just seems so cold and to the point. I can say I really do miss seeing them around. I should also just once more bring up that one of my founding memories of Dayton, Ohio Horror Host Dr. Creep was the old picture my brother Bryan was in that was taken at the old Kettering Theater that had him standing with Creep as well as McGruff The Crime Dog…so this mascot was even in my earliest memories of one of the greatest Horror Hosts ever. And this brings us to what we will be looking at for out next update.  I think we will stay with the theme of crime fighter and let’s also stay with the Horror Host vibe as we will travel to Cleveland, Ohio and take a look at the icon of afternoon fights and laughs the one and only Superhost! So until next time read a comic or three, watch a crime movie or two and as always support your local Horror Host. See you next update as Supe’s On!

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