A Dog’s Life: Neighborhood Conversations At Flowerbeds and Fire Hydrants

Posted by on February 17th, 2010 at 5:19 AM

Rob reviews Antje Herzog’s canine love story Neighborhood Conversations at Flowerbeds and Fire Hydrants (self-published).

Antje Herzog’s Neighborhood Conversations at Flowerbeds and Fire Hydrants clearly was intensely labored-over to provide a maximum amount of verisimilitude for dog lovers.  It was unusual to see that amount of labor given the very modest but pleasant rewards the story had to offer.  On every page, Herzog employed a dense use of hatching and stippling to create images of dogs that were astoundingly naturalistic, yet were still clearly to be understood as drawings.  This painstaking approach allowed Herzog to apply her central storytelling conceit: that urinating on fire hyrdants and flowerbeds is a form of dog expression.

That expression sometimes took the form of simple communication, like a bulletin board.  Sometimes it was a kind of graffiti.  On other occasions, it was a sort of personal ad.  That particular device set up this 40-page comic’s very simple plot: a male dog named Samson encounters a female dog (a poodle, I believe) named Stella.  They can’t take their eyes off each other, but they’re both on leashes and unable to otherwise get to know each other.  From there, Samson and Stella spend the rest of the comic trying to find each other through this communication system.  A happy ending ensues when they see each other at a dog park, and dogs everywhere rejoice when an annoying cat was finally cornered in a tree.

As a narrative, this comic is quite slight.  The book felt like an artist taking a single concept (the way dogs communicate) as far as she possibly could, and it’s that luxuriating in the details of this idea that make this comic a small delight.  For example, the page where Samson & Stella meet again is notable because while they are still (and in the middle of the page), there’s a pack of running dogs in the upper right-hand corner of the page and another dog running to tree a cat in the lower part of the page.  That moment where the two dogs meet on this page is wonderfully understated (especially with the intensity of the hatching), and serves to set up the close-up of the couple on the next two pages.

Herzog also had a lot of fun with the dog billboards, both with the sort of things the dogs “write” and how she translated the dogs’ experience of smell into a human’s sense of sight–down to the rain washing away “messages”.  The other impressive thing about the comic was Herzog’s nuanced understanding of how dogs move: their gestures, their motions and the ways in which they carry themselves.  The simplicity of the story allowed Herzog to focus on these sort of physical elements, making it more an extended exercise than a real narrative–albeit an interesting and attractive exercise.  I’d be curious to see what other comics work this artist has done, especially since there’s a flow to this comic that was surprising given its labored nature.

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2 Responses to “A Dog’s Life: Neighborhood Conversations At Flowerbeds and Fire Hydrants

  1. vommarlowe says:

    Do you know where this can be purchased? It looks delightful.

    Also, a small correction. Based on the drawings, Stella looks like a Pomeranian, not a Poodle. Poodles have much curlier fur.

  2. Rob Clough says:

    Thanks for the correction; I’ll update the article.

    Not sure where to purchase it, but I’d recommend contacting the artist in the link I provided above.