Wondercon 2016: DC Comics: Hanna-Barbera

Back in February, DC Comics announced a new line of comics that would take several Hanna-Barbera properties and re-imagine them for the 21st Century. At Wondercon 2016, they held a panel that went into more detail about these contemporary updates and previewed artwork for the upcoming books. The panel was moderated by Dan Didio, Co-Publisher […]

HB TitlesBack in February, DC Comics announced a new line of comics that would take several Hanna-Barbera properties and re-imagine them for the 21st Century. At Wondercon 2016, they held a panel that went into more detail about these contemporary updates and previewed artwork for the upcoming books.

DC Comics DidioThe panel was moderated by Dan Didio, Co-Publisher of DC Comics. Joining him were Diane Nelson, President of DC Entertainment; Marie Javins, editor of the new line; Amanda Conner, designer of the Flintstones update; and Jim Lee, co-publisher of DC Comics. Didio has wanted to do something with the Hanna-Barbera characters since he started at DC Comics. He credits Nelson with brokering the deal between Warner Bros. subsidiaries and making the update possible. It started with them looking at the whole Hanna-Barbera catalog for titles they could push forward. They came up some crazy mashup ideas such as Scooby Doo meets The Walking Dead and Wacky Races meets Mad Max, and picked the four best to start.

SDA CastScooby Doo Apocalypse was very much the brainchild of Lee, who championed hard for it. The first arc will be an origin story for how the gang gets together. It starts at Burning Man, in the desert. Fred and Daphne are reporters with an internet show like Mythbusters that debunks supernatural phenomena . Under the desert is a government think tank where young geniuses, including Velma, are working on secret projects, one of which is an app that is supposed to make people more peaceful and happy. Scooby-Doo is part of an experiment and has an implant that shows his thoughts as emojis, and Shaggy is Scooby’s handler. They are all brought together when the app is activated, and instead of bringing out the best in people, it brings out the worst, turning people into monsters.

Flintstones castThe Flintstones kept a lot of its original premise. It’s still more of a sit-com in the stone age, but with a more realistic feel. Pebbles and Bam-Bam did get aged up to pre-teen/teens, but it’s still about the Flintstones and their friends and neighbors, the Rubbles, and their lives in the Stone Age—only here their pet sabertooth will eat Pebbles. One of the things the book will do is show Bedrock as the origin of civilization in the Hanna-Barbera Universe.

FutureQuest castFuture Quest was a favorite of Didio’s. It was born out of an outline by creator Darwyn Cooke that would bring together Jonny Quest and all other action/adventure shows such as Space Ghost, The Impossibles, Galaxy Trio, and Dino-Boy. Something is destroying planets and galaxies across the universe. It is moving in a straight line, and Earth is in its path. All of these heroes from these other worlds are coming to Earth to make a last stand against this force.

Wacky RacelandWacky Raceland is the series that has probably the most drastic change in look and premise. The vehicle designs were first done by Mark Sexton of Mad Max: Fury Road and refined by Leonardo Manco, the artist on the book. The character designs are very different from the original TV show but very fitting for its new premise. It is still a race, but the race is now across a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and its purpose is to decide who get to live in Nirvana, a safe haven from the dangers of the wastes. There is one caveat: the racers have to help one another. It is a race where one wins, no one dies. Didio described it as filled with “camaraderie, friendship, and betrayal.”

When DC first announced the line, they had a lot of writers and artists wanting to participate. Several covers and variants were shown, including a Flintstones cover by Ivan Reis with the Bedrock version of the selfie, and Bill Sienkiewicz with his version of Space Ghost.

DC Comics Amanda-MarieThe line is launching with four very different titles, but Didio and Lee hinted at a connection between them. They all share a universe, and what happens in one can affect another, such as Scooby’s tech leading to what Muttly becomes in Wacky Raceland. There might also be a connected lineage with the redheads in the universe, from Wilma Flintstone to Daphne Blake to even Jane from the Jetsons. If the line does well, there could even be a Jetsons title in the future—at least Conner hopes so, as she’s been working on new designs while her husband Jim Palmiotti has been toying with story ideas.

BedrockDidio emphasized that part of the purpose for this line is to have fun with the titles. They are not meant to replace their other Hanna-Barbera titles. They will continue to publish the all-ages titles Scooby Doo, Where Are You? and Scooby-Doo Team-Up. This line will be published in addition to them, and is meant to reach an older audience, teen/teen+ and up. They’ve also been careful to keep away from any “talking animals”—hence Scooby’s emojis.

Questions for the panel were mostly asking for other titles from Hanna-Barbera, and if any of these titles could become an animated series. Didio emphasized that these were meant to be comic-only titles. One question came from a former Hanna-Barbera animator, Daryl McNeil, who expressed the concern that he and other fans of the classic series had, that DC would not take care of the properties. Didio assured him that everyone working on the books was a big fan of the series and they were not meant to replace the originals, but bring them to new audiences.

DC Comics Marie-Jim LeeAnother question asked about bringing some of the “funny animals” as cameos into other books, and my husband and I thought the idea of Magilla Gorilla interacting with Grodd in Gorilla City was a good one. Lee expressed interest in using Josie and the Pussycats as intergalactic bounty hunters, while the mention of Blue Falcon and Dyno-Mutt brought up an assistant editor on the project, Andrew Marino, and his love for the duo, as well as the possibility of them showing up.

It looks like the editors for this line have thought a lot about it and are serious about creating a good product. This isn’t just a publisher looking to pull out some old properties and make a quick buck. They really do care about the properties and want to do right by them. Didio’s laughter was infectious as he talked about the titles, and Lee’s love for the original Scooby-Doo showed as he talked about the premise of the book. If all this love comes through in the books, then this will be a fantastic line and a great addition to the DC lineup.

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