I'm not a reader of Marmaduke. (Seriously, smart guy.) My newspaper doesn't get it, and that's about the only decision made by my newspaper that I approve of. I saw this Marmaduke when Tom Spurgeon complained on his blog that "This Marmaduke Joke Grosses Me Out". I have to admit, I didn't understand it at first, and I even started a thread on the Straight Dope asking for an explanation. What passes for humor on the funny pages is often lacking in humor, and occasionally we're confronted with something so lacking that not only is the humor undetectable, but the very nature of the joke itself is undetectable - something B.C. treats us to on a regular basis. So I assumed this was another one of those moments.
Instead, the consensus seems to be that Marmaduke wants to be knockin' paws with the little dog. Ewwwwwwwwwwww.
Not that I object to canine sex, or comic strips tacking subjects people might fight objectionable. The weirdness comes from the juxtaposition of a normally vanilla character with a risque subject. No one would think twice about a joke about dog sex in a strip like Red Meat; in fact, it would probably not be edgy enough for the likes of Red Meat. But in a strip like Marmaduke, it takes on a different character entirely. One of the posters on the Dope compared it to "the moral equivalent of Peppermint Patty & Marcie talking about sharing a sleeping bag on a camping trip". Marmaduke is - both figuratively and literally - neutered for the family friendly comics page, and this is where the "joke" gets its, in this case unintentional, power to disturb. It's like the notorious Air Pirates or The Disneyland Memorial Orgy, both of which depicted the normally squeaky clean Disney characters using drugs and getting it on. Neither one would have been at all memorable if they had depicted regular people engaged in those activities .
The most disturbing thing about this strip is the fact that I had to think about Marmaduke having sex. God, I hate that Marmaduke.