Academic Probation
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Ryan Pike and Julie Phillips/the Gauntlet

Deconstructing Horsedog

A look at the world's greatest achievement since the pyramids

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Human beings have walked the Earth for roughly 200,000 years, according to scientists. In that time, we have discovered fire, mastered flight and made scientific discoveries that have revolutionized the way the world works. The creation of Horsedog makes every other human achievement seem like a small child's inane scrawlings. In the annals of Western civilization, only the Cosby Show and Webster's English Dictionary come close to having the cultural impact that Horsedog boasts.

Created by Nobel laureate Julie Phillips, Horsedog has garnered unprecented critical acclaim and catapulted the paper that publishes it from a ragtag publication full of typos and factual inaccuracies into one that publishes pure greatness on its comics page.

"When Julie came to me with this project, I orginally thought, 'Hey, this could fill some space on the comics page'," reflects Gauntlet illustrations editor Gina Freeman. "When I actually read it, I immediately felt that this was something that could change the world and, in a very real way, we could try to make money off of it."

While there is actually no real way anybody can make money off of the Gauntlet, Horsedog's runaway success has resulted in its creator being besieged with lucrative endorsement opportunities. To her credit, the reclusive Phillips has refused all of them, wishing to remain true to her craft.

"Julie has always been intensely passionate about Horsedog," says Freeman. "She used to joke that she put her blood, sweat and tears into each strip. Later on, I discovered that was literally the case."

Phillips declined to be interviewed for this article, wishing instead for her work to speak for itself. Needing more interviews to fill out his story, Gauntlet writer Ryan Pike instead spoke to the people that Horsedog has touched the most: its readers.

"Right from the first strip, Horsedog has tackled the tough issues plaguing humanity," notes media scholar Jordyn Marcellus. "When Horsedog is asked whether he is horse or dog, the comic asks the same thing to its readers. Who among us hasn't asked ourselves, at some point, whether we are horse or dog?"

Marcellus argues that Horsedog's assertion that it is a horse expresses a belief in the power of self-actualization and that modern identity is not imposed by any outside source, but instead is created by one's self.

"Horsedog also asks the tough metaphysical questions," says Christian Louden, the Gauntlet's token philosophy major. "The strip that asks, 'Why does it need to mean something?', that was profound. Why does anything need to mean anything? Why can't it just exist? That's fucking deep, man."

Avid reader and part-time philosopher Ændrew Rininsland also noted the strong philisophical undertones that permeate the series.

"That one strip had a Descartes quote in it," recalls Rininsland. "That totally reminded me of The Matrix, which is kind of like Descartes' Third Meditation, right?"

[Editor's note: No. It's really not.]

While Gauntlet sports editor Chris Pedersen complained that Horsedog doesn't involve enough sports, three lines free editor Laura Bardsley had fond rememberances.

"The Horsedog that said 'What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas' really says something profound about secrecy in our modern world," says Bardsley. "It also made me laugh."

Despite its successes, questions abound regarding the future of Horsedog. There is pressure mounting for Phillips to give in to corporate offers to helm the proposed spin-off Horsedog Minus Horsedog. Nevertheless, Horsedog stands proud and true as a monumental achievement that has brought joy and wisdom to the masses.

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