In theater if an actor breaks character and begins speaking directly to the audience it is referred to as breaking the third wall. If the character acknowledges that it is a fictional character in a fictional story, it is breaking the fourth wall. In Dark Horse Comics’ new one-shot The Untold Tales of Dog Mendonça and PizzaBoy, writer Felipe Melo and artist Juan Cavia provide a textbook example of how to break both walls just right.
Dog Mendonça and PizzaBoy originally appeared in serial form in the pages of Dark Horse Presents. Like several other great stories from that anthology series making it to compilation form, this one-shot gives fans of the characters previously only given snippets of stories a full volume to enjoy.
Dog Mendonça is an overweight, Portuguese werewolf operating out of what looks like a circa 1930s private investigator’s office. Mendonça has an unpaid intern called PizzaBoy. And he has an assistant who is a little blonde girl who smokes–she really isn’t, she just looks that way. She’s actually a 6,000 year old demon named Pazuul. Mendonça tells the reader his own “comic book creation story” from this future office and sometimes the beach. Each original Dark Horse Presents segment of the story begins with the door of his office showing the names of each creator of the story as if this was normal writing on the door. Immediately the reader is jostled by the conversation between the characters, as they speak to us directly. What’s going on here?
In flashback we see Mendonça’s tumultuous past. We learn that Mendonça’s father and six sisters were killed during World War II so that bad guys led by a Nazi could capture Mendonça and use his beastly werewolf powers for his owns ends. It’s a tale that would partner nicely with The Princess Bride, full of bad circumstances, an epic journey in a small package, and revenge. But with advertisements. Not real advertisements, but ads for Sporty Cola, and references to Dark Horse Presents, read by the characters as part of the story. That’s right, Mendonça knows he is the subject of a Dark Horse comic book and he has garnered endorsements to benefit from this gig. He even sends a postcard to Dark Horse creator Mike Richardson, criticizes the creators’ own plot failings, attends a signing at a comic book convention and has PizzaBoy attend wearing the Dark Horse black chess knight horse as a costume.
As bizarre as this all these elements may appear, the execution is seamless. Portuguese writer/musician Melo and Argentinian artist and set designer Cavia (and colorist Santiago R. Villa) provide a laugh-out-loud level of storytelling along with incredible looking characters and setting. And for fun they pile on Nazis as the villains and even go to Scotland to meet up with a mean Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster. Underlying the craziness is an almost sweet story of a poor kid like Dark Horse’s flagship character Hellboy who once upon a time got stuck in all the wrong circumstances simply because of an old Portuguese curse–legend has it that the male sibling of six sisters is born with a terrible curse… the curse of the werewolf. Soon Dog Mendonça finds he is not the only ex-carnival sight around, and ends up with a group of others, including an invisible man. It’s all set up to be an ongoing series that I’d love to get my hands on if it pans out.
This one-shot may be the funniest and most unique comic book I’ve read this year. The creators know their characters and the characters interact like they’ve known each other for years. Dark Horse has one other opportunity to read these characters’ exploits for English-speaking readers– a trade paperback called The Incredible Adventures of Dog Mendonca and PizzaBoy available at comic book shops and Amazon.com. This one-shot included a translation by Raylene Lowe and was adapted by João Pombeiro and Martin Tejada.