BOOK REVIEW: Dog Man and Cat Kid by Dav Pilkey

written by David Steffen

Dog Man and Cat Kid is a 2017 graphic novel for kids, the fourth in the Dog Man series by Dav Pilkey (creator of Captain Underpants), the series so far has been reviewed here. The title character Dog Man is a half-dog half-policeman who fights crime with the strengths and weaknesses of both a man and a dog, often against Petey the Cat, but also against other villains that threaten the peace of his city.

In the last book Lil’ Petey, a young clone of Petey the Cat, was abandoned by Petey and decided to move in with Dog Man. As this book starts, Petey comes to visit Lil’ Petey and reveals his intentions to turn the sometimes-annoying but always-goodhearted young clone to join him in a lifelong mission of evil! Meanwhile, Dog Man has been getting more attention than ever, and is now the subject of a brand new feature film starring international actress Yolay Caprese. This book introduces Dog Man’s new alter-ego (which you can see on the cover of the book above) and you can also see on the cover that he teams up with Lil’ Petey’s new alter-ego mentioned in the title: Cat Kid.

The feature film plot was probably one of my favorites in the series published so far, the metahumor there with actor doubles of the main characters also playing roles was very fun. These are fun books for kids, especially in early grade school when learning how to read.

MOVIE REVIEW: Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

written by David Steffen

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is a computer animated film produced by DreamWorks Animation that was released in June 2017 in the US, based on the long-running book children’s book humor superhero series.

George (Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch) are the 4th-grade comic book authors who created Captain Underpants, who is pretty much Superman except all of his powers are toilet-related and instead of wearing a cape and underwear on top of his clothes, he wears a cape and underwear on top of nothing.   They’re known for being the class clowns, always pulling pranks on the teachers, and the principal Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms) is always looking for a way to bring them down a notch.  Mr. Krupp decides to pull the ultimate power move and split them into separate fourth grade class with the intention of destroying their friendship.  Desperate, the boys sneak into his office to try to prevent this, and when they’re caught in the act George uses a toy hypno-ring which (surprising them both), actually hypnotizes Mr. Krupp.  They plant a suggestion that Mr. Krupp is actually Captain Underpants.  They discover that whenever he is touched by water he becomes Mr. Krupp, and whenever he hears a finger snap he turns into Captain Underpants, and so to keep their friendship intact they keep him as Captain Underpants pretending to be Mr. Krupp.

But Captain Underpants keeps trying to cause problems, always tending to lose his pants, and trying to rush off into danger, and his happy demeanor is so different from the grumpy Mr. Krupp.  Before the boys can stop him, he hires mad scientist Professor P (Nick Kroll) to the faculty, who soon makes his evil intentions clear.

Keeping in mind that I am in my mid-thirties and thus quite a ways away from the target demographic, I thought this movie was pretty fun, and I’m sure it’s a hit with the kids with all the poop and underwear.  I’m not at all familiar with the source material, but we picked it up as a rental to watch with a four year old, and he loved it.

So keeping all that in mind, I found the protagonists honestly pretty terrible, terrorizing the teachers and then acting surprised when the principal wants to do something about it.  When they realize that they’ve hypnotized the teacher I can understand them being excited at succeeding at stalling the principal’s plan, and at the immediate sense of control, but they apparently have no remorse over completely stealing this man’s life and replacing his mind with a comic book character, only getting upset at Captain Underpants’s behavior when they are afraid of being caught in the act.  And the entire crisis was based on the premise that splitting them into two different fourth-grade classrooms would destroy their friendship.  But their biggest point of bonding was making comics, which they did in their treehouse after school.  I don’t think that every kid’s movie has to have an overexplained moralistic story, but I do think that the themes and ethics involved in the story should be considered, because kids pick that stuff up.  So I guess I’ll file this one with Trolls under “problematic themes that no one else seems that worried about”.


DP FICTION #32A: “Lightning Dance” by Tamlyn Dreaver

Lightning Dance sat next to Willa Bernardi on the side of the road. Rain splattered down around them, damp and uncomfortable, and the heavy smell from the gutter wrapped the air. Dance balanced a cigarette between her gloved fingers; its red tip glowed in the dark street. Somewhere in the distance sirens blared through the city. The police, ambulance, fire brigade: everyone came, and also probably the media.

Dance had pushed her mask up off her face, and without it she looked almost too human. She was beautiful, but faint lines of cynicism marked her mouth and eyes.

Willa huddled further into herself. She tried not to shiver in the chilly air. The rain had plastered her hair to her face. She’d lost her shoes somewhere, and her frozen feet were scratched and muddy. Her blue satin dress, which she’d thought so beautiful — which she’d thought made her beautiful —was ruined, the material stained and torn. Willa stared at her toes and wriggled them.

Dance wore elegant white boots that enabled her to leap from building to building, from wall to ground, as she fought the villains of the city. She didn’t have regenerative powers, but she was never hurt; she moved too quickly. Not many knew that, but Willa did. Willa knew everything about Dance — or so she thought, once upon a time.

Willa darted a quick look at Dance as the hero took a long drag from her cigarette. The street was empty of anyone but them. The sirens grew closer, but no one had passed the abandoned district and stopped to gawk; they’d follow the sirens. The constant sound of water mingled with the slow crumble of the half-demolished building behind them. One functioning street light reflected off the river of water gurgling through the gutters; the rest of the metal poles had been torn up and used as weapons in the fight between Lightning Dance and Unbender. He had used the poles; Dance fought with speed and lightning and pure grace.

The remaining light lit up the street all too clearly. A clump of something unidentifiable swirled by in the gutter, and Willa prodded it with her toe. She almost wished she shivered in the safe, obscuring dark.

“Your boyfriend?” Dance asked unexpectedly between drags; her voice was husky.

Willa hadn’t even known the hero smoked. “Yes,” she said quietly.

Garret had been charming and witty, and raised so many red flags, but she’d ignored them because she could never say exactly why he made her uneasy. Men like him never paid attention to women like her, and she’d alternated between amazement and terror that she’d do something wrong. She didn’t know if Garret had been real — if he was the person behind Unbender’s mask or if he was the mask.

“Babe, you have shit taste.”

“Yes.” Willa remembered the posters on her wall, at first of all the heroes, but then only of Lightning Dance. She remembered the scrapbook of newspaper clippings, then internet articles, the montage of computer backgrounds, and the embarrassing fantasies through high school she wouldn’t even share with her best friend. She still had everything stashed in a box in the back of her cupboard.

Dance muttered something under her breath, cursing, and Willa hugged her knees tightly to her chest. Her wrist hurt. Dance had dropped her down the stairs to get her out of the way, and she’d landed badly. Tears pricked her eyes, and she was glad then for the rain that spat around them.

“Not even going to say thank you?”

“Thank you,” Willa said mechanically.

Dance snorted. She stretched out her lithe body clad in white Lycra that somehow remained clean despite the fight and the mud and the dirty gutter. She didn’t look uncomfortable in the rain, only indifferent. “Not very grateful, are you?” She snuffed her cigarette on the wet sidewalk, then tossed it out onto the road.

“You shouldn’t do that,” Willa said.

The hero, one hand on her mask to slap it down and the other poised to push her to her feet, paused.

Willa flushed. “It can cause fires,” she whispered.

“Huh.” Dance half-smirked. “Not in this weather. Pretty sure I just caused a hell of lot more fires anyway.” Dance jerked her thumb back over her shoulder at the demolished building.

A piece of crumbling wall crashed down and drowned out the sirens. The explosion of dust momentarily overwhelmed the stench of the gutter. Any fires within probably sizzled before the growing onslaught of the rain. It had been an empty warehouse. Garret had said it was an exclusive nightclub. Willa hated nightclubs. It hadn’t seemed odd when they entered the abandoned district; exclusive often seemed to mean luxury in squalid surroundings.

Dance leant back again and pulled another cigarette from her belt but didn’t light it. “Do I know you?”


The hero’s lips twisted. “Fair enough. Half expected a ‘you saved me once before’ there. It’s normally what I get.”

“You did once.” Willa rested her chin on her knees and stared fixedly at the road. “I was five.”

Dance snorted again. “Sorry, babe, don’t remember.”

“I don’t expect you to.” And she didn’t. She’d walked on air for days. She’d fallen in love with Lightning Dance then and there, and she’d thought she’d never fall out. “You rescue people all the time.”

“Way too many sometimes,” Dance muttered.

Willa twisted a fold of her soaked dress into her clenched fists. The sirens grew louder, and the rain heavier.

“You know…” Dance said slowly. “I do remember you. I think.” She twirled her cigarette in her hand and touched a fingertip to its end. With a slight sizzle of lightning, the cigarette glowed.

“I doubt it.”

“Yeah, I do. You told some dude off for littering then, too.”

Willa had. She’d stood up, a tiny child scratched and bleeding, and berated the bemused mayor. Dance had laughed, looked right at Willa, and told her not to change.

“The mayor.” Dance took a long drag on her glowing cigarette.

“Yes.” Willa bit her lip. “That was me.”

She’d almost rather Dance didn’t remember her. Her eyes ached through the rain. Her arm, still locked around her legs, throbbed from elbow to fingers, and she didn’t dare move it.

She wondered if Garret was dead or if he’d escaped. Nothing had been clear in the fight.

“Well.” Dance breathed a smoke ring that lasted only a second before the rain ripped it apart. “You were a lot more grateful then.”


“What changed?”

Willa tilted her head back to the sky. Despite the rain, she could see a sprinkle of stars. A quick burst of light that sped across the clouds was probably Sprint. The city had a league of heroes; some places could only handle one.

“Babe?” Dance looked at Willa as if she was actually interested, and the cynicism in her face faded a little.

Willa sighed. “I grew up.”

The hero laughed and flicked her barely touched cigarette away. “I always thought that was a good thing.”

Willa thought she could hear the engines of the emergency response vehicles now as well as the sirens. They had to be near. “Not always,” she said before she realised she was talking – before she remembered she was sitting and waiting and hoping Dance left to save someone else. “When you’re little, you believe in everything.”

“Reckon if you’d closed your eyes and said this ain’t real, Unbender would have disappeared?”

Willa hugged her legs tightly to her. “No. You believe in heroes and good people and bad people and everything makes sense. When you’re older you realise…”

“Ah.” Dance tapped her fingers against the pavement. Lightning twitched across the concrete, and the rain evaporated with a hiss. As soon as the lightning disappeared, the dry patches disappeared too. “Sorry, babe. There are good people out there. I’m probably not one of them.”

Willa ducked her head. Lightning Dance was one of the good people. And Dance had to be good – she’d saved Willa when Garret would have killed her. She saved people. She protected the city. She just…

“That’s the problem with being a hero.” Dance’s lips twitched, a bitter movement. “People expect you to be perfect.”

She had been perfect when Willa was five and even when Willa was twenty.

Dance rose and wandered down the road; she flipped her mask down, preparing to leave, and suddenly looked much less human and much more the hero on the pedestal where Willa had put her. Willa dunked her feet into the freezing water in the gutter. Her cuts stung, but some of the mud washed away.

Looking back, Dance paused. “Hey, babe, don’t do that. The water’s probably contaminated.” Lightning flared around her and lit the street.

Willa blinked stupidly; then she looked down at her feet. A strangled laugh caught in her throat. It seemed Dance couldn’t help herself: she had to stop and say something because she saved people despite themselves, even when it irked her.

It wasn’t Dance’s fault Willa had grown up. It wasn’t Dance’s fault Willa had worshipped her to begin with.

It didn’t make Willa feel any better.

She drew her feet from the gutter, and Dance nodded in satisfaction.

“Two minutes, and the ambos will be here. You’ll be fine. I’ll see you around, babe.” Her teeth flashed in a grin beneath her perfect white mask. “If I’ve rescued you twice, I’ll rescue you again.”

She darted away, up the wall of the nearest building as if it was flat ground, and Willa sat alone in the street.

© 2017 by Tamlyn Dreaver


author-picTamlyn Dreaver grew up in rural Western Australia and now lives in Melbourne. She’s never had a secret basement or a dragon nesting in the backyard or anything nearly as interesting so she makes up stories about them instead. She can be found on the web at and tweeting at @tamlyn_dreaver.









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DP FICTION #6: “The Superhero Registry” by Adam Gaylord

“What about ‘Copper Penny’?” Lois spread her hands out in front of her like the name was on an old Hollywood marquee.

The square-jawed applicant sitting across the desk arched an eyebrow. “Seriously?”

“Sure! Just think of the potential catch phrases. Your arch-nemesis monologues about how you’ve yet again foiled his or her plans and you say, ‘Of course. I’m Copper Penny. I always turn up.’”

She could tell he was tempted. She tried to sweeten the deal. “Plus, copper is very valuable right now.”

He frowned. “It’s just, it’s a little feminine, don’t you think?”

“No way! I think it’s very masculine.” She batted her eyelashes a little. Anything to get this guy to settle on a name so she could go to lunch. Copper Penny was a bit of a stretch as far as the rules went but she was pretty sure it would pass muster because of his natural red hair.

“Hmmm. No. I just don’t think it’s right for me.”

Lois sighed. They’d been at this all morning and he was no closer to making a decision. Working in the Registry was usually fun. She got to meet the new class of superheroes before they got famous and occasionally she’d even help one pick a name, which was usually a blast. A few of the more appreciative heroes even kept in touch. She was supposed to have lunch with The Valkyrie Sisters next week.

But every once in a while she got one of these fellas. No creativity, no initiative, just expected to have the work done for them. Pretty bad traits for a superhero, in her opinion.

He leaned back in his chair. “Can you go over the rules one more time?”

It was the third time he’d asked and she was tempted to shove her coffee cup down his throat, but the agency had been pushing customer service lately. “These are tomorrow’s superheroes,” the memo said. “We need to establish a strong working relationship from day one.”

So she smiled, brushed her curly blond hair aside, and explained again. “Your name has to have something to do with your super power and/or your look. But, you can only base your name off the latter if you already have a look established, not the other way around.”

“But why? Why can’t I pick a name and then build a look around it?”

She shrugged. “Honestly, it doesn’t come up that often. Most heroes base their costume off something pretty significant like a traumatic childhood memory or the blanket their foster parents found them in. And of course, many heroes are actually green or blue or made out of rock or whatever, so that’s easy.

“But I just look like I always have.”

“Right. So we have to pick a name based on your powers. Now, your fists turn into metal, right?”

“And my forearms.”

She resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “Right. And your forearms. Is that it?”

“What do you mean, ‘Is that it’?” He stood, rolling up his sleeves to show off his shiny metallic appendages. “I can crush cinder blocks with these things.”

“Of course,” she said with a smile. “They’re very impressive.”

He sat down, apparently placated.

“Let’s use that. What else smashes cinder blocks?”

His eyes lit up. “’The Sledge Hammer’!”

She checked the database. “Sorry, that’s taken.”

“What about just, ‘The Hammer’?”

“Nope. Taken.”

“Hmmm… ‘Iron Hammer’?”

“Are your fists actually iron?”

“I’m not sure. Still waiting on lab results. They said it might take two weeks, but I want to get started now!”

“Well, we don’t want to register you as iron if they turn out to be tin or aluminum, do we? I only suggested copper because of your hair color.”

He looked at his hands. “I don’t think they’re aluminum.”

She clicked away at her keyboard. “What about ‘Hard Hand’?”

“Hmmm…kinda catchy.”

“Or just ‘The Hand’?”


“Excellent!” She quickly entered the appropriate information into the database before he could change his mind.

“Talk about catch phrases!” He stood and pantomimed shaking someone’s hand. “No worries officer, I’m always happy to lend a hand.” He punched an invisible assailant. “Sorry, I guess I was a little heavy handed.” He thrust his chest out, hands on his hips. “No criminal can outrun the long hand of the law.”

“Arm”, she muttered.


“Nothing.” She hit the enter button and the successful registration confirmation message flashed on the screen. “Congratulations Hand, you are now a registered superhero. I will forward your information to one of our case managers and he or she will contact you within seventy-two hours to discuss training opportunities and duty assignments.”

“Wait, aren’t you gonna help me with my look?”

She handed him a fistful of colorful pamphlets she had at the ready. “There are dozens of costume consultants that can craft you the perfect super-ensemble.”

“Oh, okay. So, a case manager will call me?”

“Within seventy-two hours.”

“Okay.” He sat looking at her for a long moment. “Okay, well thanks for your help. If you ever need a superhero, look me up.”

Lois waited a full five count after he left, then scurried for the break room. They had a running over/under board for what superheroes would make it past their first year and she wanted to be the first to lay money on “under” for The Hand.

© 2015 by Adam Gaylord


Author’s Note: I love epic action and harrowing plot twists as much as anyone, but often it’s the everyday interactions of the worlds we create that really fascinate me.


HeadShot_AGaylordAdam Gaylord lives with his beautiful wife, daughter, and less beautiful dog in Loveland, CO. When not at work as a biologist he’s usually hiking, drinking craft beer, drawing comics, writing short stories, or some combination thereof. Check out his stuff at and






If you enjoyed the story you might also want to visit our Support Page, or read the earlier story offerings:
DP Fiction #1: “Taste the Whip” by Andy Dudak
DP Fiction #2: “Virtual Blues” by Lee Budar-Danoff
DP Fiction #3: “In Memoriam” by Rachel Reddick
DP Fiction #4: “The Princess in the Basement” by Hope Erica Schultz
DP Fiction #5: “Not a Bird” by H.E. Roulo