No, we’re not talking about Facebook pictures of your cat riding a roomba or YouTube videos of your puppy playing with a stuffed tiger. Housepets! is the name of a webcomic by Rick Griffin started in June of 2008. (So it’s slightly older than this site.) I stumbled across this one looking for images of other things and was hooked rather quick. As of this writing I am not completely caught up on the comic but I have wasted many hours trying because I just really enjoy reading it.
This is actually one of a series of comics Griffin works on, which you can find on his collected website, but I have not checked any of those out at this time. I do notice a trend towards anthropomorphic animals and unusual situations though, so if you end up liking this comic some of them may also interest you. Housepets! has evolved quite a bit between 2008 and 2020 so I can’t cover everything. I will give you what I feel is the important information that should help you decide if the comic may interest you.
Initially the comic focused on two pets in a world where the animals are not fully humanoid but do talk like people and even have thumbs. They appear to have ordinary doggy anatomy, although in classic cartoon fashion you don’t see them. The pets in question are the dog Peanut (full name Peanut Butter) and the cat Grape (full name Grape Jelly, the pun hurting more when you learn their owners have the last name Sandwich…lucky they went for pets instead of kids). They live in a community with a bunch of other pets and their owners…sorry, parents (yep, they’re mostly…those…kind of owners) owned by a rich man who wanted to bring equality between the humans and the intelligent animals, although the animals do maintain most of their traditional instincts at times. When he died he practiced what he preached and turned the community and his vast fortune over to his pet ferrets who, when they aren’t revealing in being rich, pursue their “dad’s” dream. While the humans do pop up the focus is on the pets of the community and their adventures.
The stories vary, not counting the guest strips when the cartoonist needs a break, but follow a few different themes. Peanut has his own comic called The Adventures Of Spot (Superdog), which follows the misadventures of Supermanish canine hero Spot (Superdog), and yes the parentheses (Superdog) is in the spelling to tell him apart from other dogs named Spot, like how there are some many other ShadowWings on the internet I tossed Tronix into my screenname to set myself apart. There are also times the animals put on paper bag masks that cover their ears and eyes, but not their mouths so you can see who is talking, and put on performances that parody famous movies and books. While there are long story arcs there are also one-shot gags, especially by the guest cartoonists whose comics may or may not be in continuity (I’m leaning towards not).
However the important stories are about the pets’ relationships, adventures, and other interactions. Romance shows up quite a bit, which includes romances between cats and dogs, and even a dog and a mouse and praise God this isn’t one of “those kinds” of comics because that would bring up questions I don’t even want to know exist! My favorites tend to follow Peanut, Grape, Peanut’s psychic girlfriend Tarot, and Grape’s boyfriend Max. Tarot’s apprentice Sabrina is a cat in one of those cross-species I mentioned, with popular dog Fido (I think that’s the right dog…I’ll explain that in a bit), who used to be part of the police K-9 division. We do follow other police dogs Kevin, Mongo, and new recruit Fox, who was already in the cast prior to joining the police. We also follow occasionally follow Zach, a bunny who opened a temple once and has become praised as the famed Opener Of Ways, much to his regret (and the annoyance of a possum named Jill, who ends up dating him). Yeah, this is where things get crazy so follow along if you can.
You see, a bunch of demigods were playing a D&D type game with the mortals as pawns. The central players were Dragon, a dragon, and Pete, a griffin. Tarot’s powers came in part from being Dragon’s avatar but Pete needed one of his own. While Zach opening his temple was just coincidental he had started working on Grape as his avatar but ended up using a human named Joel Robinson (yes, we’re all sure where he got that name, no robots were involved) who had a bad experience with pets as a boy and almost took it out on Fox. Long story short (too late) Pete turned Joel into a corgi named King and forced him to take part, which Joel/King wasn’t happy about until he met Fox’s cousin Bailey and his doggy instincts came in. Once the game was all over King decided to stay a dog and he and Bailey married…although relationships for the pets are not the same for humans and part of King’s character is getting used to that. For example, Peanut and Grape can be found cuddling now and then while Grape gets her fair share of crushes, and the current storyline as of this writing is King trying to be true to his wife while the local bicycle Sasha is trying to get him to play with her, which Bailey is not all that worried about. Meanwhile the temple has various cursed treasure and magic-producing manna that the pets often return to, but due to the rules they have to dress up and travel in a fellowship fantasy style. If you followed any of that, congratulations because I could have sworn that would only happen in context. And that’s not even close to all the magic(k)al shenanigans, when things like time travel, alternate dimensions, and numerous trips to the afterlife, sometimes while still being alive, that happen in this series. No, I don’t know why they add the “(k)” in the word magic in there like that. Heck, I only scratched the surface of the relatively normal shenanigans that go on. We haven’t even talked about the wolf pack King and Baliey share a house with.
This is when some of the problems…because no work is perfect…start to show up. Granted the comic has been running for around twelve years (I wonder what that is in dog years?) but a lot has happened. Like I said, I’ve been up late trying to catch up with everything because it’s all fascinating (though admittedly I’ve zoomed past many of the guest comics just to catch up to the main story) but that’s a lot of crazy. Look at all the stuff I’ve described. The supernatural stuff, the relationships (which also include platonic ones), the wacky hi-jinks, parodies…it is a lot of ground to cover, but it also means you’ll find a storyline to your liking but have to wait at times to see conclusions or it could get lost if you aren’t invested in the characters for the other types of stories. If you don’t like the book parodies or for some reason not follow Spot (Superdog) you may miss the latest antics of the demigods, or the police, or the latest ways to drive King and Zach up a wall. It’s a lot to go through but it’s also worth it.
However, the big issue involves the cast. It is way huge at this point. When the comic started the main focus was on Peanut and Grape, with the others as background characters they knew and interacted with in the neighborhood. As the cast has been added to many of them only show up because they were already there. Sabrina’s boyfriend never gets involved in the magic hi-jinks like Peanut and Grape do with Tarot (with poor Max drawn in because he’s with Grape) and the way King, Fox, Bailey, and to a lesser extent Zach have done. Other characters are so not a part of this story they aren’t even worth mentioning but occasionally Griffin or the guest cartoonists will use them for a quick gag. There’s even a tanooki that works for Peanut and Grape’s dad who really doesn’t contribute anything else and you’d think he would get pulled into the fantasy stuff.
That’s nothing compared to the humans, who mattered early on as the “parents” of the pets but now are just an afterthought occasionally brought in just to keep the name making sense and tangentially contribute to the passive attempts at equality by the ferrets. I’m not saying he should get rid of any of them but more often than not they hardly matter. Because the cast is so big I often can’t remember character’s names, like guessing Fido is the right dog dating Sabrina, and only a couple of the wolves have designs I can tell them apart with and even then Jack and Miles are the only names I remember. And I only started my binge reading in the past week or so.
So between the dense history, the large cast, and the scattered approach to theme often broken up into multiple story arcs, why should you read this comic? Because it’s really darn fun! The characters aren’t unmemorable, just that I’m not good with names and as the cast has enlarged I can’t remember them all. They all have unique and interesting personalities. The wildly different adventures have a uniting tone and the lore actually connect better than my review may lead you to believe. The jokes usually hit, the art as you’ve seen is good, and there’s something for everyone there. It’s not quite family-friendly but with no naughty bits or bad language, innuendo dense enough to go over the heads of kids looking to see funny animals do silly things, and at least one character everyone can have a favorite for (I like watching King try to reconcile human and animal culture as he learns to find positivity in his situation but Zach is also fun for similar reasons and I’m probably more like Peanut than I’d care to admit), this is a really good comic and you may find yourself binge-reading late into the night as well to catch up. Give Housepets! a try and you may really enjoy it.