This ICHF was written by Title Known, who you can find at http://titleknown.tumblr.com/. I may have made a few touch ups and notes here and there, but the bulk of this entry is their work!
Art by Titleknown.
Courage The Cowardly Dog is one of the greatest horror-comedy series put to animation, let me be up front about that. With its blend of nightmarishly surreal scenarious and genuine heart and emotion, it’s an amazing series. And, while TT’s probably going to get to Courage someday, and I could do its gargantuan bestiary of antagonists, I think it’s more interesting to focus one one in particular: Eustace Bagge.
The husband of Courage’s owner Muriel Bagge, Eustace is; to put it bluntly; a gargantuan trainwreck of a human being. He’s cruel to his dog, awful to his goddamn saint of a wife, greedy, selfish, apathetic when others need him, often trying to resort to violence as the first option (THAT’S IT, I’M GETTIN ME MALLET” being a common turn of phrase,) always willing to throw others under the bus when it benefits him; and while he’s not often the main horror of the episodes (One of the few examples being him turning into a kaiju-sized were-kangaroo), he almost always ends up either aiding and abetting that horror; getting Muriel and Courage into trouble due to his sheer awful stubbornness and greed, or needlessly cruel and mean spirited to those genuinely benign supernatural entities.
There’s a reason he always dies when there is karmic retribution to be extended (Though he’s always back in the next episode) and there’s a reason that; when a zombie made a monster out of pure negativity for a reality show (Long story) it used mostly Eustace’s negativity.
If he were real, you could see this motherfucker wearing a MAGA hat and watching Jordan Peterson all day. And yet, for all he does, he’s somewhat pitiable. He has a severe inferiority complex both due to an abusive ruthlessly-industrialistic mother who runs a profitable wig business that has been horrifying and exploitative every time we see it, and he had a genuinely abusive brother named Horst who “succeeded” in performing the sort of abusive, toxic masculinity Eustance is presented as failing at in a way that eats Eustace up inside. And, one could infer that the perpetual comeuppance doesn’t help that complex.
It’s telling that the most major act of kindness he committed was giving a hallucination of his younger self a hat. He’s a man who cannot love himself and so he treats others without love. But, his contrast is with Courage, who’s eternally self-sacrificing for Muriel; treats those who are different with kindness rather than hate; solves problems with cleverness and helping others rather than violence, and even saves Eustace; a man who has shown him zero kindness throughout any of the show’s four seasons.
And, I think he teaches a powerful lesson to kids. That there are people around you who will; if they are not monsters; are those who aid and abet monsters to hurt others. But, so many of them; at their core; are broken; sad people. And you can be better than them.
It’s a lesson a lot of people need to learn these days, now moreso than ever, because we need a world filled with more people like Courage than like Eustace…
Editor’s Note: Man the late 90’s/early 2000’s were a great time for horror themed kids’ cartoons, weren’t they? Courage, Invader Zim, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, we were spoiled.