You remember their names: Fred Flintstone, Scooby-Doo, Jonny Quest. You remember the scenario: Sitting in front of the television every Saturday morning, watching great animated adventures while still in your pajamas. And this May, DC Entertainment is taking you back to those days with an all-new line of comics based on your favorite Hanna-Barbera characters. Featuring books like Scooby Apocalypse, Future Quest, Wacky Raceland and The Flintstones, DC is looking not to rehash old stories, but revitalize the characters in a new day and age — while keeping their charm, of course.
“From a personal standpoint, I was always a fan of the old Hanna-Barbera characters, having grown up on them,” says Dan DiDio, co-publisher of DC Entertainment. “I think what you find right now is there’s so much material on pop culture, and these characters resonate with so much of our fanbase. 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.”
After putting some initial ideas in place, DiDio sought out creative teams, going after the best of the best and securing artists and writers such as DC co-publisher and veteran artist Jim Lee, Jeff Parker (Aquaman) and Howard Porter (Superman). But DiDio was firm about letting his creative teams take the reins. “What you’ll see is that Amanda Connor really looked at the Flintstones and found a way to move them forward, even though they’re set in the past,” DiDio explains. “And then we have a great other creators: Doc [Evan “Doc” Shaner, Justice League Darkseid War: Green Lantern] is having a great time with the characters, and we brought in Mark Sexton, one of the designers from Mad Max: Fury Road to take a pass on the Rocky Races.” But among all the excitement, there’s one book that stands out from the rest, that DiDio and Lee call their “crown jewel.”
“I’m a huge Scooby Doo fan, as I think most people are,” admits Lee. “I mean, look at these iconic series and they were cultural touchstones for everyone. 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. 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.”
“We didn’t want to just repeat what people saw in the past,” adds DiDio. “It’s really important for this to resonate with folks who have never even heard of the characters. If this is the first they’re seeing it, we want them to be enjoying the material. So from our standpoint, our goal is to make this exciting and accessible to all generations, whether they’re fans of the material and the characters or not.” As for what they hope the reaction to these new and updated characters will be?
“Outrage!” Lee jokes with a laugh. “I hope that they put a smile on people’s faces. I think we think of these characters so much as our childhood, and I want people to kind of embrace these updated versions of the characters and really understand that at the core, these concepts are not just limited to little kids.”
“When we discuss the plot of these books, the smile that comes over people’s faces is infectious,” says DiDio. “And even without reading any of the stories, they’re already excited at what we’re trying to accomplish. As a longtime fan of this material…this is my childhood dream come true. And when you see what’s going to happen with Scooby and Wacky Races, even if you were cynical about how we approached these things, you’re going to love everything once you see the finished product.”
Turning these Saturday morning “kiddie” cartoons into young adult comic fare isn’t so out of the question, given that the shows themes at the time were just as suited to adults as they were to kids. “You have to have to remember that Jonny Quest and Flintstones were both primetime fare when they were introduced,” says DiDio. “They were already going for the older audience at that moment.”
What can fans expect from this new series? “You’re gonna have an epic adventure in the future stories with Jonny Quest and Space Ghost,” says DiDio. “You’re going to have a scary, dangerous world in Wacky Raceland that is just as strange and dynamic as you hope it would be. I think Scooby Doo is going to excite people and challenge people, and I think that we’re going to use Flintstones to really bring out that voice and social commentary that they might’ve brought out in the ’60s and raise it back for today.”
Right now, DiDio and Lee can only speak for the initial line-up of titles. But might there be more Saturday morning fun in the future? “There’s a deep, deep bench of wonderful characters in the Hanna-Barbera library we’d love to get involved in, so this is just the first step into a very steep pool,” reveals DiDio.
“And there are certain things you can do in longform serialized content that you can’t do in other media,” adds Lee. “And we want to take advantage of that and give our creators the freedom to take chances with these characters in a way you might not see in other media. I think that’s the fun of working in comics.”
And the fun of working on a project that’s close to the hearts of those who create it. Both Lee and DiDio don’t take for granted how lucky they are to be involved.
“This is just a lot of fun for us,” DiDio says. “We put out a lot of great superhero fare, we put out some crazy issues in our Vertigo universe, but this is something who really appeals to a mass audience — people who grew up with these characters — and we’re hopefully building a whole new generation to have that same level of love that we have for them.”