DC Comics is revamping classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters for a new line of comics but the Geeksverse’s Troy Osgood asks: Is that really a good thing?
Hanna-Barbera is a beloved name to those of my generation, who hold many fond memories of the company’s Saturday morning cartoons. Comics featuring characters from the shows have been done before—Gold Key published The Flintstones and The Jetsons in the 1960s and more recently, DC published Scooby Doo and The Flintstones and the Jetsons series under its Cartoon Network imprint. Disney and Looney Tunes-branded comics exist and presumably have a readership, so it only makes sense that DC would decide to launch a new line of titles based on Hanna-Barbera properties. It’s a no-brainer. That this is happening makes a lot of business sense and should be no surprise.
But it’s the “how” of it all that is surprising.
Announcing the launch of the company’s new Hanna-Barbera line of comics in a release exclusive to Entertainment Weekly, DC co-publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee talked about taking the properties in new and exciting directions intended to explore what they would look like if they were created today. Like many properties when given the “today” treatment, the initial fan reaction isn’t very good. We long-time fans have a history with these stories and characters, and even putting aside nostalgia, we just don’t like to see them changed. Revamping the beloved and classic Hanna-Barbera characters could very well backfire on DC.
The first four Hanna-Barbera titles and their creative teams were subsequently revealed on Comic Book Resources: The Flintstones features designs by Amanda Conner and will be written by Mark Russell; Wacky Race Land by Mark Sexton and Ken Pontac; Future Quest (featuring action heroes such as Space Ghost and Jonny Quest) by Jeff Parker and Evan “Doc” Shaner, and Scooby Apocalypse from Jim Lee, Keith Giffen and Howard Porter.
Scooby Doo is timeless. Those stories can be set in any time with very little tweaking needed to the characters. Major changes aren’t really needed to spice it up. Why make such a seemingly drastic—and unnecessary—change to Scooby Doo? Maybe the series will be good. It’s certainly got a good creative team and if anyone can make something called “Scooby Apocalypse” work it would be Keith Giffen. But looking at the promo image and the name of the book, it seems like a shock value move to me.
The concept for The Flintstones, based on the text of the release, looks pretty untouched. The series does have the potential to succeed as a platform humor-laden social commentary. It could be interesting to see how today’s issues are dealt with in the world of the Flintstones, and maybe the fan theory that The Flintstones is actually set in a post-apocalyptic world and not the past will be proven one way or the other.
@dandidio1 isnt that Fairchild from Gen13?
— Prof Cucchi (@ProfessorCucchi) January 29, 2016
The early reactions to The Flintstones and Scooby Apocalypse are emblematic of the confusion surrounding DC’s revamp. The former is instantly recognizable, even by the non-comic reading audience. It’s the old cartoon in comic form. But the new Scooby comic? What happened to poor ol’ Scooby and the gang? It’s two extremes: No change vs. drastic change versus.
And that brings us to the book that I am excited about, Future Quest.
A book that combines Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, Herculoids (YES!!!) and others? Bring it on. I’m really looking forward to learning more about the book. I’m neutral on The Flintstones, I have no interest whatsoever in Scooby Apocalypse, but Future Quest? The promo images have me excited. This will be an instant purchase for me. I fondly remember Parker’s excellent (and regretfully short-lived) Marvel Comics series Agents of Atlas, and he seems perfect for this book. There’s a lot of potential with the concept, and illustrates what DC could really do with all the Hanna-Barbera properties.
The announcement of the Hanna-Barbera books generated mixed reactions and lots of head-scratching among fans. I think it will stay that way until the books arrive on the shelves, but at the very least, it’s gotten me looking forward to more announcements as they come.
I’m excited about the potential for future books, but with a caveat: If they all go the way Scooby Apocalypse is headed, that interest won’t last long. The Hanna-Barbera properties have stood the test of time for a reason, and they don’t need radical changes to fit into a more modern world and audience. The classic designs still resonate with old and new fans. DC has to tread lightly with these books—treat the original concepts with respect and care and these could be a gold mine.