What is going on at DC’s offices in Burbank?

As you might recall, DC Comics pulled up stakes in New York and moved their entire operation to Burbank about a year-and-a-half ago. Why did they do this? Well, they claim they wanted to be nearer to the Warner Brothers Studio, but I think it was because Jim Lee didn’t want to fly cross-country all that much anymore, so they moved their entire operation to appease one man. SUCH IS THE POWER OF JIM LEE! But since the move to Burbank, DC has been a far more interesting publisher, and this year, they’re releasing some of the best books out there. No, I’m not talking about “Rebirth” and all the superhero stuff, although the “DCYou” initiative, which failed commercially, gave us some fascinating books in the tail end of last year. I’m talking about the Hanna-Barbera books, the Young Animal line, and to a lesser extent, Vertigo. So what’s going on at DC these days?

When I first reviewed The Flintstones, I wondered why Hanna-Barbera would allow DC to do what they did to these characters, and more than a few commenters noted that DC and Hanna-Barbera are both owned by Warner Bros., so it wasn’t that big a reach (I honestly did not know that, but I probably should have Googled it – the internet is awesome!). It’s still bizarre, but it makes more sense. Because the DC comics starring the Hanna-Barbera characters are very strange, but also quite amazing. I decided to wait for the trade on Scooby Apocalypse, but just the fact that the Scooby gang has been transplanted to a monstrous post-apocalyptic dystopia is interesting, even though we’ve seen plenty of post-apocalyptic dystopias in fiction. But I’ve been reading the others in single issues, so I thought I’d write a little bit about them.

Of the Hanna-Barbera books, The Flintstones and Wacky Raceland are a bit better than Future Quest, which I wouldn’t have thought would be the case when it was announced that Jeff Parker and Evan Shaner would be working on Future Quest. I like Parker a lot, both as a person and a writer, and I figured he’d have the most fun with his title, while I wasn’t sure what to expect from the others. But The Flintstones has been amazing. Mark Russell, the writer, did the fairly well-received but commercially disappointing Prez (I didn’t love the first issue, but I know a lot of people dug it), and The Flintstones is more of the same, I guess – sharp social satire that is also a deeply humanistic study. Russell gives us a civilization that’s still trying to figure itself out, which means it’s ripe for satirizing, and Russell takes on some of what would be, I guess, “standard” satirical topics – religion, politics, war, and marriage. They’re “easy” topics, I guess, and it’s clear that issue #5, which came out in November and so was written before the presidential election, is a response to Trump, who’s perhaps the easiest president in history to satirize, but just because they’re “easy” doesn’t mean Russell doesn’t make trenchant points. He weaves all these topics together, too, so he’s not just taking pot shots and then moving on. Bedrock’s religion, for instance, evolves over time, as it begins with the worship of a bird named Morp, but as the people of Bedrock get caught up in consumerism, they’re not impressed with actual physical beings as their gods anymore. So the reverend invents an invisible god named Gerald, and he becomes the focus of worship. In issue #6, the news reports that a giant meteor is heading toward Earth, so the people of Bedrock descend back into untamed savagery (as opposed to their war against the Tree People, which was “civilized” savagery), which upsets the minister so much that in issue #7 (which came out this past week), he invents Hell as punishment. Then he accidentally invents indulgences, which he eventually rebukes, but Russell alludes to the idea that once you introduce commercialism into an enterprise, it’s very hard to get rid of it. It’s subtly done, so even though the point of the issue is that the Great Gazoo, who is monitoring the planet, gives humans not much of a chance to survive while Fred, the nominal hero of the book, gives us at least one reason that they will (and also fires off a superb rationalization for civilization and a wonderful guide to life), it’s still a key part of the book. Meanwhile, we’ve gotten Fred’s disillusionment with war, why people align themselves with bullies (a very nice point for our post-truth age), a critique of our marriage constructs and why denying some people that right is silly, the resentment of “slaves” toward those who align themselves with their masters, and the crushing dehumanization of unbridled capitalism. Russell brings in an alien presence, as extraterrestrials appear in issue #3 and tell the citizens that they’re just there to look around. This leads to Bedrock turning into a prime spring break spot for alien teenagers, which leads to the appearance of the Great Gazoo, who is there to enforce a Prime Directive. The aliens allow Russell to show the people of Bedrock both as colonized and colonizers (as they’re living where the conquered and exterminated Tree People used to be), which is a clever way to get his points across. The people of Bedrock are always our point-of-view characters, so when they’re invading, we see their arrogance and cruelty but also their crippling insecurities laid bare, and Russell can equate that with America’s own policies. When they’re being invaded, he can shift our understanding to those people who have been crushed by invaders, and we see how they struggle against superior technology and how some would collaborate with the conquerors in order to survive. In both instances, we get a deeper understanding of why societies conquer and what it means to both the conquerors and the conquered. It’s a clever trick, and Russell pulls it off nicely.

Whenever you have a satire, there needs to be something that anchors it, and the basic decency of Fred, Wilma, Barney, Betty, and their kids helps ground this comic. Wilma’s story about why she paints is a highlight of issue #1, while Fred and Barney’s reasons for joining the army to fight the Tree People are all too relatable. Bamm-Bamm is super-strong, of course, so the fact that he stands up to bullies rather than become one is important, while Pebbles doing the same but with her mind is also a good moment. Even Mr. Slate, as close to a regular villain as the book has, gets moments where we realize that he’s as scared as everyone else, even if he hides it under a tough veneer. It’s even better because the moments sneak up on you – in one panel, Russell could be making a dry joke or even killing someone, then in the next, he hits us with something insightful and tragic. Even in issue #7, where Fred’s heroism is more overt, he doesn’t overdo it, so what Fred says is more poignant.

Meanwhile, Steve Pugh and Chris Chuckry have been doing amazing work on the art. Pugh’s slightly exaggerated style makes it easy to digest animals as appliances or giant sofas, and he gives Fred and Barney an everyman lunkheadedness that belies their common decency. Wilma and Betty are out of their league, but they’re not so beautiful you can’t believe they’d end up with Fred and Barney, and Pugh gives Betty, especially, such a joie de vive in her limited page time that it’s a joy to see. Pugh has always been good with grotesquerie, so when Clod the Destroyer shows up to run for mayor in issue #5, Pugh makes him a bizarre nightmare, but even then, he’s a tamer version of his father, Mordok the Destroyer, who was around before Bedrock became truly “civilized” and is therefore even scarier than his son. Pugh does a fine job with the odd mix of ancient history and cutting-edge technology, and Chuckry’s bright colors help paper over the sadness that permeates Bedrock and its people. Chuckry also does a nice job using muted colors on the war flashbacks, giving them a slightly grainier feel, which fits the “newsreel” feel to them. Rick Leonardi, who pencils issue #7, isn’t quite as good at getting across Fred’s stature (he’s far shorter in issue #7, which is weird), but he acquits himself well. Leonardi isn’t quite as angular as he was when he began his career, but his Bedrock still feels like a sharper and slightly nastier place than Pugh’s, which could of course be due to the subject matter of issue #7. Either way, it’s nice to get a good artist to fill in.

If The Flintstones is one of the best ongoing series of the year, Wacky Raceland is one of the best mini-series of the year. Ken Pontac, Leonardo Manco, Mariana Sanzone, and Sal Cipriano did one of the most insane first issues I’ve ever read, and the book never came down from that high. Pontac’s satire was a bit less pointed and subtle than Russell’s, although the series wasn’t really about satire, so it’s not a big deal. Pontac simply took the odd characters from a short-lived 1960s Hanna-Barbera cartoon and put them in Mad Max’s world, and the results were brilliant. His main idea – that the world has gone to hell and that the racer who wins will get to enter the last refuge on the planet – is nothing great, and most of the twists in the final issue are easy to suss out. But that’s not really the point – it never is with these post-apocalyptic stories. We know Max will never find peace, but it doesn’t matter. Pontac gives backstories to some (not all) of the characters, and they fit well into the personalities of the characters as we stereotype them from the cartoon. He doesn’t exactly redeem Dick Dastardly, for instance, but we do get to see his horrific “origin,” and it explains a lot about his character. Penelope Pitstop, the nominal hero of the book, gets an intriguing backstory, one that seems to imply that in this world, older gods remain pertinent to several supposedly Christian cultures. Pontac fills the series with violence, bad behavior, alcohol consumption, and mayhem, but he never loses sight of the fact that these people are survivors of a catastrophe and they’re all broken in one way or another. At the end they need to band together, but that doesn’t mean they like each other. Wacky Raceland isn’t as deep as The Flintstones, but it’s one of the most purely enjoyable comics I read last year.

Pontac ends the series with one of those “The End?” captions, which is never not annoying but at least hints at more to come, which would be fine with me, as the storytelling possibilities of this comic seem vast. I wonder (and hope) that we’ll get series of mini-series because Manco needs time to catch up, because his and Sanzone’s art on this book is tremendous. Manco has always been a good artist, but not too long ago he seemed to lean too heavily on photo reference, which is fine in limited quantities but can easily distract from the art. He still uses photos, probably, but he seems to have incorporated them into his work a little better (or stopped using them completely, which is a possibility), so his art is back on point, and this is best Manco art in years. He packs each panel with details, making this grubby world absolutely horrifying, but he still manages to mirror Pontac’s twisted sense of humor while he does – as I noted when I reviewed the first issue, Pontac has a lizard peeing on the cars on the first few pages, and Manco makes it even more absurd by giving the lizard eight legs. Manco does a great job with the people in the story, but he has a lot of fun with the cars, as they resemble their cartoon counterparts but actually look like things that would be cobbled together after society has collapsed. He also does a great job with the creatures the racers encounter, like the “sandtipedes” and the nanites that constantly threaten them. Manco’s terrific page designs make a lot of the book jagged and frenetic, matching the tone of the narrative, and he does a brilliant job turning Penelope’s reminiscences about her life before the apocalypse into a child’s imagining of a terrifying Greek myth. When we learn Dick’s history, the emotions that play out on the faces of the people involved are wonderful, and while Pontac’s writing is great there, the way Manco shows how awful the moment is sells it perfectly. Manco gets to save the best for last, though, as he draws something in the final issue that I really don’t want to spoil but earns its double-page spread. It’s the moment that the book goes from highly entertaining, bordering on great (I really can’t stress how amazing the first issue is) to stupid brilliant. Man, I really hope there’s another series in these creators.

Given the stunning artistic success of the first two series in this post, it’s surprising that Future Quest isn’t better. Part of that, I think, is that Parker is writing a straight adventure story, so while it’s entertaining, it really doesn’t contain any subversive elements like the first two do. That doesn’t make it bad, it just makes it a bit less interesting. Parker is simply telling the story about a planet-eating creature called the Omnikron, which has been slaughtering its way across dimensions and space right to Earth, and no one has figured out how to stop it yet. So we get Jonny Quest and Hadji as the nominal main characters, but Parker brings in a bunch of other adventuring characters from the Hanna-Barbera vaults, from Space Ghost to Birdman to the Herculoids. That’s another problem – Parker’s long-term scripting is fine, as by issue #8 we’re closing in on a plan to stop the Omnikron, but the comic is really all over the place. He has to introduce a bunch of disparate characters, and not many of them get much personality other than responding to threats. The most interesting people, so far, are Jezebel Jade and Dr. Zin, mainly because they have moments where they act like actual people and not plot devices. I have a lot of confidence in Parker, though, and reading all 8 issues in one go is a lot better than reading them monthly, because you can see all the connections and how he’s bringing them together. So I have hope!

I also hope the art situation gets sorted out. Until issue #8, the art was pretty good, but wildly inconsistent. In seven issues, we had Evan Shaner, Steve Rude, Ron Randall, Jonathan Case, Aaron Lopresti (with Karl Kesel inking him), Parker himself, Craig Rousseau, and Steve Lieber provide artwork, with Jordie Bellaire, Steve Buccellato, Hi-Fi, Jeremy Lawson, and Veronica Gandini coloring. All the art is good, but it also feels jolting, especially when artists do seemingly random pages. Rude’s art is always wonderful to see, and his story in issue #3 is stunning, but it’s not the quality of the art, it’s the lack of consistency. In issue #8, we get a complete issue drawn by one person, but that one person is Ariel Olivetti, and you guys might remember how I feel about Olivetti’s artwork these days (I yearn for the days of the late 1990s, when he got his start and was quite good!). It’s Ariel Olivetti art, so you know what you’re getting – whether you like it or not is up to you. I don’t, but I’m buying the series and I know he’s not the new regular artist (which would get me to drop the book), so I dealt with it.

Future Quest doesn’t have the impact that The Flintstones or Wacky Raceland does, but Parker writes very good adventure stories, and this one is slowly rounding into form. It’s frustrating that it’s taken so long to get there, but we’ll see what happens going forward. Right now, the other two titles are higher in quality, but who knows if that will change as Parker continues his epic?

Meanwhile, DC also launched the Young Animal line a bit later in the year, and those comics have also been quite good. Gerard Way, who’s “curating” the line, has a good, twisted sensibility, and he’s bringing that to Doom Patrol and Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye, the two very good comics in the group of four (although he will soon be leaving Cave Carson, so we’ll see if co-writer Jon Rivera can continue its quality). Cave Carson has calmed down a bit since its crazy first issue, but that’s to be expected as Way and Rivera need to give us a reason to care about the craziness, so they’ve been focusing a bit more on Cave and his daughter, who is learning things about her life that her father kept hidden from her. People are chasing Chloe, and they have a nasty habit of turning into monsters, and Cave’s old employers at “EBX” are up to something, and now they’re trying to stop him from discovering what that is. There’s nothing particularly revolutionary about it, but the way that Rivera and Way are telling the story is a lot of fun. Carson’s cybernetic eye is presented as something malevolent, which makes it far creepier than anything in, say, Cyborg’s body, and the scene in issue #2 where we see him getting it is terrifying. This comic makes the most use of DC’s rich and occasionally weird history, as Doctor Magnus and the Metal Men appear in issue #1 and Wild Dog is apparently Carson’s drinking buddy and, for now, partner-in-crime. Carson, Wild Dog, and Chloe are trying to discover what happened to Muldroog, the underground kingdom where Carson’s wife was born. Rivera and Way are also using the cybernetic eye to show Carson moments from his life he’d rather forget, and it’s clear that those memories and/or the eye itself are affecting his brain. So while it’s a fairly standard adventure so far, the creepy touches make it more interesting. Plus, Michael Avon Oeming’s art is spectacular. He’s using wonderfully jagged panels, thick motion lines, and Benday dots to fantastic effect, giving the book a terrifically hyperactive feel to it. He uses clever panels to show action differently, like when he turns a car into panels to show what’s happening inside it, or when he shows the underground chase in issue #3. Nick Filardi’s colors are superb, too. The “real world” stuff is colored fairly realistically (not completely, but mostly), while Carson’s memories are hallucinogenic and the creatures that come after Chloe are colored a bit more nauseatingly to set them off from the “real world.” In a few places, Filardi does some off-register coloring to show the effect of the power being used, and it’s a very neat choice. Of course, one other reason CCHaCE is such a delight is the ridiculously weird back-up story by Tom Scioli, which is about Zan and Jayna, the Wonder Twins. Scioli’s delightful artwork is in service to a bizarre tale that also has time to give us a new origin of Green Arrow, one that makes no sense whatsoever but still rocks, all while Jayna and Zan slowly discover what they are. It’s completely bonkers, and it’s probably good that it’s coming out three pages at a time, because you can try to make sense of it (and fail) a little bit at a time. My biggest fear is that the book will get canceled before Scioli has the 300 issues it seems like he’s going to need to complete this epic. But it’s a fun treat at the end of whatever crazy adventure is going on in the main story – just when you think there’s no more awesomeness in the issue, Scioli manages to cram three more pages in!

Three issues of Doom Patrol have also shown up (its schedule is a bit more flexible, I suppose, as it skipped December), and it’s also been very good. As I never get tired of reminding you, Grant Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol is my favorite comic of all time, so I’m always a bit nervous whenever someone tries to bring the team back. Way has Morrison’s sensibility, though, so the first three issues bring in a lot of what Morrison did (Flex Mentallo, Danny the Street, but thankfully, no Kay Challis yet – and I hope never) but he’s also trying to synthesize the entire history of the DP (Larry Trainor mentions Oolong Island, for instance) and push it into the future. Way keeps things very bizarre, but there’s a clear plot line so far, as new hero Casey Brinke is tasked with figuring out what’s going on. Way has managed to make the characters interesting even though we don’t know very much about even Casey so far (we learn quite a bit in issue #3, but it’s still tough to get a read on her), and unlike some of the Doom Patrol issues I’ve read since Morrison’s run, these comics have a sense of humor so far (I haven’t read too many of the issues in between the Morrison ones and these, so some of them might actually be funny). Way’s dialogue is weird and almost goofy, even when the bad guys are being menacing, while Cliff remains a grounding presence, which makes his observations quite humorous. Each issue so far has had one page showing Niles Caulder, the mastermind/psychopath who put together the Doom Patrol back in the 1960s, and those pages, with their simplistic 2×4, 2×3, and 2×4 grids, are hilarious partly because they’re so understated. There’s a lot going on in these issues, but so far, Way has kept the fine line between absurdity and terror, as it’s clear something very bad is going on, even as strangeness surrounds Casey.

Nick Derington and Tamra Bonvillain are doing excellent work, too. Derington’s cartoony style is perfect for the Doom Patrol, as he’s perfectly capable of drawing “realistic” stuff but shines on the weird stuff, too. His creatures are terrific, but his solid, clean line works well with Cliff, for instance, and his fluid line helps with the fight scenes, while his imaginative depiction of the Negative Spirit is otherworldly and creepy. He really shines in issue #3, when Casey gets to Danny and Danny reveals things about her in a beautifully rendered sequence. Derington’s body language is excellent, too – the way Terry None, Casey’s new, strange roommate takes in all the weirdness around her is great. The few pages with Caulder are wonderful, too – Way’s humor relies on Derington’s subtle facial expressions, and he nails them. Bonvillain is superb, too, as she turns Derington’s stark burrito world in issue #1 into a beautifully shaded reality, and in issue #3, her contribution to Danny’s story about Casey is brilliant, as she flattens the colors to make the tale look “old-school,” which helps the effect immeasurably. (I was writing about transgender people creating comics in my monthly post, and how I’d rather have minorities creating comics than starring in them, and Bonvillain is a good example of that, as she’s a trans woman who has been working her way up the ranks and is now working on a prominent DC book, but she’s not getting work because she’s trans, just because she’s a good colorist.) I don’t know why Doom Patrol is late, but if it’s because Way, Derington, and Bonvillain are working hard to make sure each issue is an event, I’m willing to cut them some slack.

The other two Young Animal titles are a bit difficult to get a bead on. Only two issues of Mother Panic have come out so far, and writer Jody Houser is still developing things. She’s working from a new concept, so unlike Way and Rivera, she can’t rely on old mythology to fill in some gaps. It’s a vigilante book in Gotham, so of course mention is made of Batman and he even shows up in three panels in issue #1 (plus Jim Krueger and Phil Hester’s back-up story seem to concern him, so there’s that), but other than that, Violet Paige is a cypher, so Houser needs some time to build her up. We know she’s seeking revenge on one person, so she’s not specifically a crime-fighter, but we get hints that she might be seeking revenge for the wrong reason, and the person she’s seeking is tied up with some evil people, so she might end up fighting crime anyway. Houser cleverly takes Bruce Wayne’s playboy persona to its logical extreme, so Violet is even more unpleasant than Bruce can be, but with Violet, it doesn’t seem like an act. The big draw so far as been Tommy Lee Edwards’s art, but that’s frustrating because he’s not drawing issues #3 and 4, and I’m not sure how much he’ll draw after that. But his work is, not surprisingly, great, and his use of weird images juxtaposed with Violet’s activities hints at dark things in her head, while his depiction of her mother’s Alice in Wonderland gazebo is haunting. Shawn Crystal has become a very good artist, but he’s not as good as Edwards, so I hope he can at least come close to the standard of the first two issues. Mother Panic is more of an interesting book than a good one so far, but it has potential.

That leaves Shade, the Changing Girl as the odd title out in the line. Shade, the Changing Man from the early Vertigo days is brilliant, but even that was hard to love at times, and the new book isn’t off to a great start. Cecil Castellucci’s story is meant to be at least somewhat of a metaphor for high school and the way kids grow into adults, but she’s failing the most important thing in fiction – telling a good story. Metaphors are fine and all, but when your main character is reprehensible (which can be overcome) and every character barely has a personality, the book is going to be tough. An avian Metan named Loma gets her boyfriend to let her try on the Madness Vest, and she possesses the body of a teenager named Megan, who’s been in a coma. On Meta, Mellu (Shade’s old girlfriend) is trying to figure out who took the vest because it’s been classified as dangerous technology, while on Earth, Loma is trying to adjust to her new body, her new reality, and the fact that Megan is a world-class bitch. Before she tried to vest on, Loma didn’t seem like too great a … person?, but compared to Megan, she’s Pope Francis. Megan’s so-called friends aren’t much better, and her boyfriend seems kind-hearted but very feckless. The circumstances around Megan falling into a coma are mysterious, and Castellucci is slowly showing that Megan’s friends and boyfriend had something to do with it. The problem with that is that it’s hard to care if all of these characters live or die, because they’re all horrible. Meanwhile, Loma is learning about life on Earth and trying to control the madness, which, as we know, is never a good idea. The problem with the story is that Castellucci writes with such detachment that even things meant to be heartfelt – Loma’s appreciation of Megan’s parents, for instance – comes off as sterile. They’re just words on the page, and Castellucci zips through so many scenes in an issue that nothing takes hold. Even the madness, which is seeping into Earth, doesn’t seem to faze anyone. Meanwhile, I’ve been a fan of Marley Zarcone for a while now, and it’s very cool that she’s drawing a relatively big-time book, as her buoyant style works well with the madness all around Loma/Megan and she even makes Meta less of a cold, calculating place and more like a slightly wacky place where we can believe madness originates (making the people of Meta several different species is a good idea, whether it was Zarcone’s or Castellucci’s). Zarcone’s problems have to do with perspective – the panels feel flat (I know, all panels are flat, but some are “flatter” than others), as very often people in the background appear to be on the same plane as those in the foreground. As this is a very busy comic, as well, Zarcone has to jump around a lot, and she has to cram a lot of visual information into each panel, which she does with varying degrees of success. The back-up stories are interesting, especially those in issues #3 and 4, which feature a clever (and sad) “Dial H for Hero” story beautifully drawn by Sanya Anwar and a heart-wrenching Element Girl story written by Magdalene Visaggio (who wrote Kim & Kim, which I reviewed last month) and dazzlingly illustrated by Paulina Ganucheau. So those are neat. The main story, however, is falling short.

I haven’t mentioned Vertigo yet, but even that hoary old line is doing well, creatively. With the weird stuff of the DCU moving back to the “regular” universe a few years ago (John Constantine and Swamp Thing, most notably) or more recently over to Young Animal (which seems like it takes place in the regular DCU, but is somehow walled off), Vertigo could have lost its purpose. It was once the place for comics starring the more bizarre characters from DC’s rich history, then it transitioned a bit into a place for Neil Gaiman derivatives, then it turned into a place for hard-boiled crime for a while (which reached its apotheosis with the hardcover “novels” they published, which were all pretty good but sold terribly), and now it seems like it’s a place for horror comics (it’s kind of always been that, but more since American Vampire launched) or a place for their well-regarded creators to do some stuff if they don’t have the cachet yet to go to Image. But Vertigo has been doing some very cool books in the past year (I’d like to say it’s because Jamie Rich started working there, but that’s only because Rich is a cool dude) – Survivors’ Club ended poorly, but it was a bizarre horror story with a cool foundation; The Dark and Bloody was a weird revenge tale with good Scott Godlewski art; the first trade of Clean Room was absolutely brilliant (I haven’t read the second one yet, but it’s sitting on my coffee table waiting to be read!); the first trade of The Sheriff of Babylon was also excellent; and of course, Astro City is the most unlikely Vertigo book ever, but it’s always good. Vertigo might not be the big name it once was, but you can still find very cool comics coming from the imprint.

DC has always been a bit more experimental than Marvel, as what was once a liability – their convoluted continuity and even their disdain for even having a streamlined continuity – has, over the years, become a strength, because they think nothing of walling off sections of their titles and creating their own little bubbles. Whenever Marvel tries that – the 2099 line, Marvel MAX – they always seem to end up incorporating those titles into their one big universe, to the detriment of both, I think. In the early Dan DiDio/Geoff Johns years (2004 to, let’s say “Flashpoint”), it seemed that DC was increasingly adrift, even if they still put out some good comics. Marvel in the Bill Jemas years (1998 or so through 2004) took the lead from DC in the creative arena (except for WildStorm, which experienced its own Golden Age during that time), and DC struggled to keep up after their own brief Golden Age in the late 1980s to late 1990s. Once DiDio and Johns took over, DC slowly circled the drain, creatively. They tried to fix it during the Great Non-Rebootening of 2011, but it took until 2016 and another Non-Rebootening to get people interested in their main superhero line again, and they also decided that having separate “universes” isn’t such a bad thing. So we get Hanna-Barbera books, we get Young Animal, and DC will soon relaunch WildStorm, with Warren Ellis “curating” much like Way is for Young Animal. I’ve heard that the Hanna-Barbera books aren’t selling all that well, which is sad, because I want DC (and Marvel, which has increased its diversity – a good thing – but is spinning its wheels a bit creatively) to be able to publish more than Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Captain America, Iron Man, and Avengers comics. That’s always my hope, and occasionally, we get conditions where those books can be successful. I really hope we’re in a place like that right now.

So that’s DC’s more esoteric stuff at this moment. I don’t know if the California sun is making them heat-dazed and they’re approving all sorts of weird things, or if they’ve all taken up surfing so when something comes across their desk, they say “Sure, fuck it, we’ll publish that, as long as we can catch some tasty waves” in their best Jeff Spicoli voices. I don’t really care, because I’m enjoying the heck out of them. They’ve gotten some really cool talent and are basically telling them to go do their thing. I only hope it lasts, because we need more crazy comics in our lives!

TL;DR:

The Flintstones: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
Future Quest: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆
Scooby Apocalypse: N/A; the first trade comes out soon enough!
Wacky Raceland: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Doom Patrol: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
Mother Panic: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ (but more incomplete than anything)
Shade, the Changing Girl: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Lots of interesting stuff outside of the “regular” DCU. It can’t hurt to check some out!

12 Comments

  1. tomfitz1

    Mr. Burgas, has it ever occurred to you that the reason why DC moved to Burbank is too get far, far away from you and anyone who reviews their books? 😉

    I haven’t read any of these titles, but have been thinking about checking out the Young Animal imprint titles.

    I’ve never really watched any of the Hanna-Barbera cartoons when I was a kid, but the Future Quest seemed interesting – I read the Jonny Quest series from Comico. But I may check these titles just to see what’s the fuss is all about.

    Keep reviewing, eh?

  2. Simon

    Soz, from 2017 onward, I’m off Disney-Warner’s overpriced popcorn! (But if you swing their way, be on the lookout for their upcoming reprint of WASTELAND from Ostrander, Del Close, Messner-Loebs, etc.)

    – “compared to Megan, she’s Pope Francis”

    Today’s archetype for a good person is a Vatican politician? (I guess that’s in line with the Nobel for best writer going to a singer!) Where did Mother Theresa and Gandhi go, though?

    – “it’s hard to care if all of these characters live or die, because they’re all horrible”

    So are the popes, so your archetype seems consistent, after all!

    – “we need more crazy comics in our lives!”

    I think there’s plenty of great crazy comics. (Such as COPRA, NECESSARY MONSTERS, HABITAT, PROPHET, THE LEANING GIRL, SUNSTONE, DON’T GET EATEN BY ANYTHING, RACHEL RISING, PHILÉMON, HENSHIN, ARSÈNE SCHRAUWEN, TRASHED, CELESTE, etc.) But only corporate serials get reviewed.

    – “Lots of interesting stuff outside of the “regular” DCU.”

    Outside of DC and Marvel, even!

    1. Greg Burgas

      Simon: I think Pope Francis is a pretty good dude. Better than Mother Theresa, who seems to be a pretty horrible person all around. Not better than Gandhi, I suppose, but comparing people to Gandhi gets old, man!

      Regarding your comment about “corporate comics” – I know you’re an even bigger comics snob than I am, but that seems a bit unfair. You know I review a lot of books from odd publishers, but that doesn’t mean DC and Marvel are incapable of producing great comics. This year has been difficult for me to get to everything I buy because my schedule has tightened up a bit, but I still plan on reviewing a lot of non-Big Two comics. As well as, yes, more of those!

      1. Simon

        @Greg: Oh, I agree “Mother” Theresa wasn’t such a good person… but I’d still indict you on a technicality! You said you didn’t care about “the sun going nova” being nonsense because it was a common phrase. Well, isn’t the comparison to Theresa a false but commonly understood expression, too?

        As for drag queen Francis, why prop him up before his mandate and its aftermath are assessed? Saying right now that he’d be a better role model than Gandhi, wouldn’t that be like giving a Peace Nobel Prize to some politician right after his election, or not unlike releasing a best-of-year on November 1?

        And wouldn’t a “comics snob” avoid genre books, especially COPRA, NECESSARY MONSTERS, or RACHEL RISING? I happen to find more good stuff than time can buy… Did that stop me from liking such word-for-hire as Graham’s PROPHET, Kindt’s DIVINITY, or Tobin’s WITCHER, despite their being from Rob Liefeld, Valiant, or a videogame?

        As for my dig at reviews, I meant it in a more general way. In fact, I whittled down my examples by removing the half I know you reviewed! But surely you can see how most sites give a puff to the same fluff?

        1. Greg Burgas

          Simon: Yeah, giving the Nobel Peace Prize often seems to bite the committee in the butt. But calling the pope a drag queen? That seems harsh.

          I was just funnin’ with you a little about calling you a comics snob (mainly because I’m one too!), but you make a valid point about what constitutes a comics snob. Is it someone who refuses to read the Big Two or even, possibly, the Big Four, even if they publish unusual comics? Or is it someone who refuses to read “genre” work even if it’s self-published, like Copra (which many so-called “comics snobs” LOVE). It’s kind of an interesting conundrum.

          Well, I know other sites are often stuck in the DC/Marvel (and possibly Image/Dark Horse) spiral, but I do try to be eclectic. I’m trying to get through Fantagraphics’ latest Crepax book, so I can review that soon!

  3. I’m still a bit behind on FUTURE QUEST, and had no real interest in the other H-B books. Even in the art you posted here, I’m a bit weirded out by Wilma looking like Lucille Ball in the first page.

    The satirical elements sound cool, but I guess I don’t see much point in doing a more realistic-looking FLINTSTONES. I didn’t really see the point of doing the live-action movie in 1994, either.

    1. I think Wilma was always intended to be Lucy, at least a little. H-B never created anything if they could steal it.

      They picked up “Life of Riley” (the Flintstones are a lot more suburban and middle class than the Honeymooners were), made Riley more like Ralph Kramden in personality (Jackie Gleason had briefly played Riley on TV until William Bendix moved from the radio version), swapped out Lucy for Alice and called it an original.

      So it makes sense that they’d make Wilma look like Lucy in this borderline-creepy-looking revival.

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