Mark O'Hare, Creator of Citizen Dog

28 May 2004

   We should have guessed it – the signs were right there in the comic strip Citizen Dog. No longer do our pets sit subservient at our feet, waiting for a scrap of food or a tickle behind the ears. Instead, those endearing creatures are making us laugh as they take the car keys and drive away. We chuckle as Fergus Dog and his friends lock the doors when they see his master, Mel, coming and we smile when the dogs refuse to let him in.

Citizen Dog

    Cartoonist Mark O’Hare has caught on to the sly, hilarious antics of pets and shared them through Citizen Dog. Though the delightful comic strip is no longer in production, it can still be enjoyed daily on Universal Press Syndicate’s ucomics.com.

    Bursting with personality and adorability, Fergus Dog rules the house and the strip. Loveable in one panel and a little devil in the next, the dog gets his way whether Mel agrees or not. Torturing Cuddles the cat, attacking the mailman and hassling passers-by are favourite pastimes for the smiling Fergus and his friends. The comic is one chuckle after another as readers nod their heads in agreement and understanding about their own pets.

    Mark O’Hare seems to have a direct link to the household pet’s mind in Citizen Dog, the perspective of the strip being a fully sympathetic and hilarious view of how the animals think. But… Mark has no cat. He has no dog. He didn’t have them as a boy and he doesn’t have them yet. His childhood home did have other critters, though. “Growing up, I had all kinds of smaller animals – snakes, lizards, birds, hamsters, rabbits… whatever my mom would tolerate.” *(1) Mark saw his animals as his friends, saying, “I think writing for animals is just an extension of that attachment. It’s a universal theme.”

    Studying at Purdue University from 1986 to 1990, Mark began his education with plans of a career in Aeronautical Engineering. He worked at The Exponent, the student newspaper, and found an artistic side of himself that he didn’t know was in him. He was inspired to change his studies to Graphic Design and then to change university, moving west to attend the California Institute for the Arts.

    After completing his education, Mark found a position at Nickelodeon. While working on animation projects, he developed the idea for a comic strip. His hard work produced Citizen Dog, debuted in newspapers on May 14, 1995. Mark found that working on the comic strip in the mornings worked best for him. He told The Exponent that early in the day “My head is clear and I have a fresh outlook. By two o’clock my head is so clouded with other things.” *(2)

    Citizen Dog was a resounding international success in newspapers for just over six years. Mark’s last strip appeared in May of 2001. “I had to stop doing this comic because I could not put the work into it that it dexerved.” Mark is particularly busy as a storyboard writer and artist with Dreamworks Animation. Along with movies, he participates in several shows including “Rocko’s Modern Life", "SpongeBob SquarePants", "Powerpuff Girls" and "Dexter’s Laboratory".

    In 2001, Mark developed “Jeffery Cat”, a cartoon pilot in the running for a slot on the Cartoon Network. The cat was the only feline on a K9 police unit, using the mystery/police show theme and the “undercat” (as opposed to the underdog") winning. The unique art of "Jeffrey Cat" was signature O’Hare, with much resemblance to characters in Citizen Dog. Unfortunately, the pilot seems to have not made the cut.

    How regrettable that Citizen Dog is no longer created. The comical gags, the amazing expressions on the faces of the characters and the smooth, professional art made this cartoon one-of-a-kind. If you just gotta have it, Citizen Dog may be enjoyed in three books by Andrews McMeel Publishing: “Citizen Dog,” published 1998, “Dog’s Best Friend, More Citizen Dog Reflections,” published 1999 and “D is for Dog,” published in 2000. The comic is also available in merchandise such as mugs, t-shirts, caps, lunchboxes and more.

    Mark O’Hare shared solid advice to The Exponent, something that all pressured creative people could use and that he employs in his own life. Regarding the deadlines he works with constantly, Mark said, “If you are put into a situation that is challenging then you will rise to that challenge. If you think simply and clearly then ideas come through.”

    Good advice from a very creative man. Better grab the dog quick - I think I hear the mailman!

For a daily laugh with Citizen Dog see:
http://www.ucomics.com/citizendog/

Read more about Mark O’Hare:
*(1) http://wba.toonzone.net/ohare/

*(2) http://www.purdueexponent.org/2001/05/25/features/

© Susanna McLeod 2004
TheCartoonists.ca  
   
(Originally published in The Cartoonists on suite101.com.)