DINOSAURS, CRAZY DRIVERS, TALKING DOGS, GIANT ROBOTS, GHOSTS IN SPACE, SUBURBAN CAVEMEN, PRE-TEEN ADVENTURERS, AND GLOOP AND GLEEP: THE CRAZY WORLD OF DC/HANNA-BARBERA

KC Carlson (I think)

KC Carlson (I think)


A KC COLUMN by KC Carlson

With the publication of The Flintstones #12 (the last issue) on June 7, it appears that the first wave of the DC Comics/Hanna-Barbera publishing experiment is drawing to a close, with what appears to be Wave Two commencing soon — centered around the ongoing Scooby Apocalypse and the slightly rebooted Future Quest (as Future Quest Showcase #1) in August. This is good news for me, and hopefully for you as well, as the line so far has been a mostly fascinating experiment. The titles managed to remake some of of HB’s most enduring characters for a slightly more sophisticated audience, while retaining and extending the basic essence of these classic kid-vid properties for new generations.

THE ORIGINAL WAS MUCH BETTER

Wacky Raceland

Wacky Raceland


There was one early misfire. Wacky Raceland was cancelled with issue #6 without finishing its storyline. I didn’t make it past #1, despite the original show being one of my faves as a youth. The original Wacky Races was a huge hit in 1968. Loosely based on the 1965 comedy film The Great Race (starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Natalie Wood), the cartoon depicted 11 different racers competing with each other in various road rallies. Since many of the cars had two or more drivers, the regular cast of Wacky Races topped out with an unheard-of 23 different people (or animals). Oddly, the starring characters were two dastardly (ahem) villainous characters — the stereotypical mustache-twirling Dick Dastardly (originally voiced by Paul Winchell) and his henchman/dog Muttley (originally voiced by HB animal expert Don Messick).

The rest of the racers included:

Peter Perfect (driving the Turbo Terrific)

Penelope Pitstop (the lone female who mostly portrayed the damsel in distress)

The Slag Brothers (Rock and Gravel), two cavemen driving the Boulder Mobile (basically a big rock)

The Ant Hill Mob, a group of diminutive gangsters, driving the Bulletproof Bomb

Professor Pat Pending, a crazy scientist, driving the Convert-a-Car

The Red Max, “piloting” a car/plane hybrid

Rufus Roughcut, a lumberjack, and his companion Sawtooth in the Buzzwagon

Hillbilly Luke and his “pet” Blubber Bear in the Arkansas Chugabug

Sergeant Blast, in an army tank/jeep hybrid called the Army Surplus Special

Plus there was The Gruesome Twosome (loosely based on various movie monsters) driving the Creepy Coupe who may — or may not — be The Gruesomes who originally appeared on The Flintstones, OR The Creepleys who appeared later on Laff-A-Lympics, OR a previous HB monster family known as Mr. and Mrs. J. Evil Scientist (who appeared with both Snooper and Blabber and Snagglepus). They all looked a bit alike and most likely shared voices between them. (I’ve never managed to assemble them all in the same room.) All of them were somewhat and somehow based on the original Addams Family cartoons from The New Yorker magazine (or later, from the very popular TV show based on the cartoon). And that’s more than you needed to know, and so I have done my job.

Wacky Races was such a popular show that there were numerous spin-offs and revivals, including The Perils of Penelope Pitstop (1969) (starring guess who and the Ant Hill Mob). Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines (1969) was another obvious pairing, but many remember the show as being called “Stop the Pigeon” because of the show’s annoying theme song. In 2006, Cartoon Network developed an unaired pilot for a new series, and supposedly there’s a new Wacky Races show on streaming service Boomerang starting next month. Amazingly, there have been five different video games based on Wacky Races.

Wacky Raceland (the comic book) put the characters into a Mad Max-like not-very-funny post-apocalyptic setting. No wonder it was cancelled.

FLINTSTONES, MEET THE… (Yeah, yeah, you know the song by heart…)

Flintstones

Flintstones


The soon-to-be-ending Flintstones comic book was a really interesting experiment of recasting the classic characters for a more mature audience. Instead of wacky hijinks (although there was some of that), the book — written by Mark Russell (God Is Disappointed in You and Apocrypha Now from Top Shelf, Prez (2015) and the upcoming Snagglepuss comic book) and drawn by Steve Pugh (Animal Man, Generation X) — largely commented on current social issues, transferred to the historically wacky caveman days so familiar from the many, many animated versions of the family over the decades. As with so many projects like this, this current incarnation of the comic book garnered many positive critical reviews but sadly not enough sales for the series to continue past #12. I wasn’t always on board for what was going on in this comic, but I freely admit that it was one of the more unique comic book experiences of the last year. The entire series will be collected. The first volume (collecting #1-6) is already available, with volume two (#7-12) scheduled for release in October.

SKETCHY SUPERNATURAL SHENANIGANS

Scooby Apocalypse

Scooby Apocalypse


Scooby Apocalypse, on the other hand, is still rolling along in its own little post-apocalypse Keith Giffen-directed universe. It has both nothing to do with previous Scooby-Doo series as well as everything (which pretty much describes most Giffen projects in recent years).

Oddly enough, it is pretty much the exact same premise as the original cartoon series: Those four meddling kids and their dog travel around in the Mystery Machine (called the Magical Mystery Machine here. Ooooo…) solving mysteries and irritating local authority figures (who just happen to be corrupt). You gotta love this description of the first Scooby Apocalypse collection from Amazon: “Fred. Daphne. Velma. Shaggy. Scooby-Doo. Roaming the globe in their lime-green Mystery Machine, they’ve solved countless crimes and debunked dozens of sketchy supernatural shenanigans.” I think there’s a fortune to be made with t-shirts with that particular phase that describes so much of current modern life. Giffen is a genius, but don’t tell him that.

Volume two of Scooby Apocalypse (collecting issues #7-12) will be available in September, while the current ongoing comic book is still rolling along monthly. Its current creative team is Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis (writers) and Dale Eaglesham and Tom Derenick (artists). It’s a great read, currently featuring Velma’s evil brother. But coming soon… Scrappy-Doo back-up stories! (As if you didn’t already want to flog Giffen…)

MORE FUTURE QUEST ON THE WAY

Future Quest

Future Quest


If you’re as old as me, your current favorite DC/Hanna-Barbera project was most likely the recently completed Future Quest, which stars over a dozen of the greatest HB action characters, mostly from the 1960s and ‘70s. The twelve issues (or so) of Future Quest gathered up everyone from Jonny Quest to Space Ghost to Mighty Mightor to Frankenstein Jr. and the Impossibles. (That’s not even mentioning the Herculoids!) As we learned in the text feature in the first Future Quest collection, the series was originally brainstormed by Darwyn Cooke (sadly, one of his last projects) and executed exquisitely by a top-flight group of creators including Jeff Parker, Evan “Doc” Shaner, Steve Rude, Ron Randall, Jonathan Case, Aaron Lopresti, and Karl Kesel. It recently wrapped up its 12-issue run but resurfaced in the recent Adam Strange/Future Quest Special by Marc Andreyko, Jeff Parker, and Steve Lieber. (This and the other recent DC/Hanna-Barbera specials will all be collected as DC Meets Hanna-Barbera, scheduled for release in September.)

Future Quest Showcase #1

Future Quest Showcase #1


Also, word is now out about an upcoming new Future Quest Showcase series featuring team-ups of all the Future Quest characters. The first issue features Space Ghost and crew teaming with the Herculoids, written by Jeff Parker with art and cover by Ariel Olivetti (and a variant cover by Steve Rude). The first issue will be in August, and Future Quest Volume Two (collecting issues #7-12) is currently scheduled to ship in October.

I love the idea that the classic Hanna-Barbera characters are being reworked and retooled for new audiences. I may not always be pleased with how they are being revamped, but they are indeed a treat for the fans (like me) who loved the (admittedly limited) animation produced in that early TV era — largely led by the folks at the Hanna-Barbera studio. I truly hope that a new generation of fans will be entertained by these often unique characters and shows (many of which are still on DVD, although continually going out-of-print and being priced as “collector’s items”). They are indeed a part of American pop culture, still entertaining people today after more than 50 years!

_____________________________________

KC CARLSON, as a kid, had a wonderful collection of tiny plastic figures (like one inch tall) based on the classic HB characters. One day they all disappeared, but they later resurfaced after my father had taken them and built, by hand, a shadow box designed to be hung on a wall that included all of the figures in separate compartments. I still have it today — one of the few things I still have from my father.

WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you. Or made you say “Awwwww.”

USER COMMENTS

We'd love to hear from you, feel free to add to the discussion!