Proving their worth as part of the larger Warner Bros. media family, DC Entertainment has just announced a comic book revamp of the Hanna-Barbera characters bringing the Flintstones, Scooby-Doo, Johnny Quest and Space Ghost and more into the “modern world,”
A long interview with co-publisher Dan Didio and Jim Lee that doesn’t actually come out and name the teams on the new books, but from what we can gather they are:
Scooby Apocalypse with designs by Jim Lee, and apparently an ongoing by Keith Giffen and Howard Porter.
Wacky Raceland, a reboot on the venerable Wacky Races story that was satirized in a lovingly nostalgic fashion last year by South Park, with vehicle designs by Mad Max Fury Road designers Mark Sexton and Ken Pontac.
The Flintstones updated by Amanda Conner and written by Mark Russell (Prez)
Future Quest, which gathers up Jonny Quest and a bunch of characters designed by Alex Toth in a version by Jeff Parker, Evan “Doc” Shaner and Darwyn Cooke—which, looking at the art suggests that if these characters were created today they would look exactly as they did when they were invented!
That wasn’t the goal, according to DiDio who says “It was so fun to go out and look at them, but not just bring back versions that existed 40, 50 years ago and really look at it the way of saying, if these characters were created and interpreted today, how would they exist? So we handed off our materials to a number of top creators, and what came back was an exciting look that felt very true to the existence of the characters. We didn’t want to just repeat what people saw in the past. It’s really important for this to resonate with folks who have never even heard of the characters.”
I don’t mean to pick on a promotional interview, but I think most people have heard of Scooby Doo. including all of JIm Lee’s nine kids, it seems.
“All my kids know of Scooby Doo from the various cartoons and live action movies, and we’re in a period where you have people my age that are spending their days thinking about cartoon and sci-fi action movies,” Lee told EW. “It’s a multigenerational obsession at this point, and we just thought it would just be really interesting to take the cartoon version of these characters and see where they would be if we took what existed in the very first iteration of the cartoon and moved it into this day and age.”
Lee jokes that the reaction to the new characters will be “Outrage!” — showing he knows a thing or two about the internet.
These are not kiddie books, so it’s unknown what will happen to the ongoing DC Scooby-Doo comic with the “classic’ version of the characters. The target age for these books seems to be “young adult.”
I don’t know where to begin with all of this. The materials shown look just fine for what they are. It does smack a little bit of Loonatics, a revamp of the Loony Tunes characters as futuristics space cops a decade ago that was even more dreadful than it sounds. WB has historically had an uneven track record in trying to update their legacy characters. Sometimes, as with Loonatics, it’s spectacularly bad; on the other hand Space Ghost Coast to Coast, the talk show version of the character, kicked off Adult Swim and inspired a generation.
The oddest thing about all this is that one of the “revamps” —Future Quest—is just a continuation of the originals, although I’ll buy anything by Jeff Parker and Evan Shaner, let alone Darwyn Cooke. Amanda Conner interpreting the suburban sensibilities of the Flintstone is another natural and Mark Russell is great. Nobody needs to redo Scooby Doo — it’s one of the most durable and beloved franchises of all times. However Lee, Giffen and Porter can add the same thing that countless kids on tumblr do to their professional portfolio now.
Wacky Races…now you’re on to something. This is a property that’s been batted around many times with an eye to finding out what happened to Dick Dastardly. Suggesting that he become Immortan Joe is not a bad idea.
To my eye the origin of this project is probably more a notch on the belt of corporate synergy than anything else. But if you were REALLY going to update these characters, how about making them more diverse? Imagine Johnny Quest as a story of a white kid who goes to live with a gay South Asian Couple and their daughter.
Now THAT would be totally 2016.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.