There have been a lot of famous dogs in the history of popular fiction, and even in the history of comic books. Among superdog companions, Bulletdog might be the first. Among DC Comics superdogs, Streak the Wonder Dog first appeared in 1948 and it can plausibly be said that he took over for Green Lantern. But even though he wasn't the first, Krypto is still a heckin' good dog, and undoubtedly became the most famous of the comic book superdogs. Krypto has a more historically interesting inspiration behind him than you might think, which can be sussed out with a careful reading of his first appearance in Adventure Comics #210 in 1955. There's a copy of Adventure Comics #210 (DC, 1955) CGC GD+ 2.5 Cream to off-white pages available in this week's 2021 June 27-28 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122126 session at Heritage Auctions.
The Krypto story in Adventure Comics #210 was written by Otto Binder and drawn by Curt Swan. As eventually discovered during the course of the story, like baby Superman himself, Krypto arrived on Earth in a rocket from Krypton. But Krypto's rocket was launched for a different purpose, as explained in a letter included in the craft, "Scientists experimented with rockets, hoping to achieve a workable space ship. Before daring to send up human pilots, of course, they used test animals in the untried rockets."
While the Soviet space dog Laika famously became the first Earth animal to achieve orbit in space, she was not the first space dog. From 1951 to 1966, at least four dozen dogs were used in the Soviet space program, and those prior to Laika were launched on suborbital flights to the edge of space. The program ramped up its activities in 1954, and in the several months leading up to Krypto's rocket ride which hit the newsstands in late January 1955, an astonishing seven space dogs were launched on suborbital rocket rides — some of them more than once. And in fact, two space dog launches would have occurred while Adventure Comics #210 was on the newsstand.
While earlier rocket tests using monkeys and mice in the U.S. were widely publicized, the Soviet space dog program was little-known outside of specialist journals before Laika's famous orbital flight. Even so, it's likely that Otto Binder had a good general sense of the state of the science at any given time during this period. Aside from being a highly regarded science fiction and popular science writer during his career, Binder had also become friendly with that era's premier rocket scientist, Wernher von Braun. In 1960, Binder would help fellow DC Comics creator William Woolfolk launch aerospace industry magazine Space World. The magazine's contributors included a number of aerospace industry heavy hitters, including von Braun in the debut issue. Binder knew his way around the facts and fiction of the era.
Of course, some of the space dogs survived their missions, but many did not. In the story, Superman's father Jor-El regrets having to use Krypto in a test, in an apparent nod to such risks. So perhaps Binder even wanted the story of a "dogmonaut" (yes, really… that's what they came to be called) to have a happy ending for his journey in space. An enormously important 1950s DC Comic which is a fascinating reflection of its era, there's a copy of Adventure Comics #210 (DC, 1955) CGC GD+ 2.5 Cream to off-white pages available in this week's 2021 June 27-28 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122126 session at Heritage Auctions.
Adventure Comics #210 (DC, 1955) CGC GD+ 2.5 Cream to off-white pages. Featuring Superboy, this is the first appearance of Krypto the Superdog. Curt Swan cover and art. Ramona Fradon and George Papp art. Overstreet 2020 GD 2.0 value = $645. CGC census 6/21: 11 in 2.5, 90 higher.