The first issue of Gold Key's Dick Van Dyke Show comic book got the series off to a good start with two fine stories.
"Chow Hound" begins when young Ritchie finds a stray dog on his way home from school, brings it home and asks his parents if he can keep
it. Rob thinks this is a good opportunity for Ritchie to learn responsibility so he tells his son he can keep the pooch and they'll buy food
for it as long as he takes care of it. Rob and Laura expect Ritchie to slough off but to their surprise, Ritchie is very diligent about walking
the dog twice a day and caring for it and especially feeding it. The dog whines when it's hungry and it seems to always be hungry.
Ritchie is feeding it eight or nine times a day and the dog always seems to want more.
Rob is spending a fortune for dog food but rather than break his promise to Ritchie, he goes to Mel Cooley and asks for a raise.
Rob's explanation about a "new mouth to feed" confuses Mel, who thinks Rob and Laura are expecting another baby. Sally hurriedly arranges a
surprise baby shower for Laura and...well, it gets pretty wacky before everything gets straightened out. Then a man shows up at the Petrie door
saying that he's heard that they have his lost dogs. Rob says, "Dogs? No, we just have the one dog here." But it turns out, Rob is
wrong. The reason the dog has been eating so much is that it isn't one dog. Ritchie has been feeding eight identical dogs and keeping
them in the garage.
Even better is the second story in this issue, "The Comedy Computer." A network executive comes in one day and announces that
they'll be laying off Rob, Sally and Buddy, and replacing them with a machine. He brings in a scientist who unveils for Mel Cooley, a computer
called L.A.U.G.H., which stands for "Licensed Automation Using Gathered Hilarity." Every joke in the world, he explains, is programmed into the
computer so you just have to type in a subject and it selects the proper jokes and even assembles them into a script. Rob protests that no
computer can create a good comedy script and he has a secret weapon that can prove that: Buddy. A contest is set up with the L.A.U.G.H.
computer competing against Buddy Sorrell, the Human Joke Machine. Buddy and the computer challenge each other in a big amphitheater with all
the movers and shakers of the comedy business looking on. The computer selects a subject and they each have to come up with jokes about
it. Then Buddy selects a subject and they each have to come up with jokes about it. It goes back and forth, and Buddy gains ground when
the topic is "Mothers-in-law" but loses when it's "Crumpled punchcards." Then he falters badly when the computer selects "Famous Bolivian
Soccer Games." The computer has a huge selection of them (my favorite is the one about Alberto Ruiz) and it looks like Buddy's going down to
defeat. At the last minute, in a stunning reversal, he asks, "Why did the chicken cross the road?" which turns out to be the one joke not in
the L.A.U.G.H. database. The computer begins to smolder and spark and it finally blows up. Buddy wins! The computer is scrapped but
we haven't seen the last of it. Sally buys it and announces that she's heard all about computer dating and is going to reprogram the thing to
find her a fella!
The best thing about the issue is the artwork done by Dan Spiegle, who was then known principally for western comics such as
Maverick and the Hopalong Cassidy newspaper strip. There are one or two panels where Dick Van Dyke looks more like James Garner but
for the most part, Spiegle did a great job capturing not only the likenesses of the cast members but their distinct expressions and postures.
When Alex Toth drew a comic book of The Danny Thomas Show for Western Publishing, Thomas was constantly complaining about the way he was drawn
and ordering that his nose be made smaller. But Dick Van Dyke, who was something of a cartoonist himself, was flattered by Spiegle's drawings
and even sent the artist a fan letter illustrated with a little self-portrait. The editors at Western Publishing saw the letter and invited Van
Dyke to draw a cover for the comic book and he said he wanted to, but unfortunately never got around to it. Perhaps if he had, some of the
problems that plagued later covers of the comic book might not have happened. There were also problems with the insides because, against his
wishes, Spiegle was not allowed to continue on the comic. Still, the book was off to a good start.
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