Hanna-Barbera cartoons all thrive, at root, on simple formulas. It’s always Old Man Jenkins under the mask, Fred Flintstone switches personalities when taking a bowling ball to the noggin, George Jetson will always wail about how he has to push a button. What makes DC’s four Hanna-Barbera crossover specials this week that much more intriguing is that these formulas are right out the window, making for a fresh take on some classic, and some barely remembered, shows.
DC’s already debuted four books riffing on Hanna-Barbera properties, most notably Mark Russell and Steve Pugh reimagining The Flintstones as darkly funny social commentary. But all of the ideas, even if they haven’t entirely worked, have the virtue of being bold, and that carries over to these specials.
The four specials range from the obvious, like spacefaring heroes Space Ghost and Green Lantern, to the outright bizarre, with the Suicide Squad being rescued by, er, these guys:
We also see time travel doofus Booster Gold crash land in Bedrock for a crossover with the Flintstones, and Adam Strange visit the brisk, smart adventure bookFuture Quest, which mixes all of Hanna-Barbera’s TV heroes and adventurers into one book. Fascinatingly, the creative teams behind these books play them absolutely straight, so it’s not quite as strange as it sounds on paper; Booster Gold probably really would both meet the Flintstones and screw up their lives. It’s the backups, though, previewing the next round of DC’s Hanna-Barbera books, that get really weird, because they’re essentially all twists on funny animal comics.
We’ve already discussed Snagglepuss, and that story is surprisingly intense for a tale about a talking pink kitty. But we also see Top Cat scam Batman and be revealed as a sort of Howard The Duck of the DC universe; a revelation that the Jetsons’ Rosie is now George’s dying mother transferred to a robot in an unexpectedly sensitive story about how technology will change how (and if) we die; and, strangest of all, comics legend Howard Chaykin taking on the barely remembered Ruff ‘N Reddy, reimagining them as ’50s comedians struggling to make it on TV. Around the time Chaykin, most notable for his comics aimed squarely at adults, has his heroes beat two rivals comics senseless for stealing their material, it’s clear Chaykin has no intention of mitigating his taste for dark material.
People who love these cartoons will likely have mixed feelings, but it’s not like DC is destroying the masters of the cartoon. And if these specials are any indication, we’re in for a fairly wild ride.