In 2018, Warner Animation Group’s S.C.O.O.B. will (if successful) mark the beginning of a shared cinematic universe of animated films based off classic characters and creations from the Hanna-Barbera library.
We are about two years away from seeing that happen, but a certain comic book company may be giving us the next best thing this year.
Back in February, DC Comics announced that it would start a new line of titles that would see top comics creators put their own unique, modern spin on Hanna-Barbera properties like Scooby-Doo, Johnny Quest, The Flintstones, Wacky Racers, and possibly more down the line.
At this year’s WonderCon 2016, DC finally lifted the curtain on these new titles, which will all be published under the umbrella name of Hanna-Barbera Beyond.
Hanna-Barbera Beyond will officially launch tomorrow with Future Quest #1, Scooby Apocalypse #1 on May 25, Wacky Raceland #1 on June 8, and The Flintstones #1 on July 6. For those interested in picking up these titles at your local comics shop or on a digital platform, consider this article a primer on everything you need to know Hanna-Barbera Beyond and the need-to-know details behind each title.
(NOTE: the following information is derived from multiple sources, mainly Comic Book Resources and Bleeding Cool.)
At the hour-long presentation held at WonderCon, DC co-publisher Dan DiDio explained the central impetus behind the new publishing line, crediting DC president Diane Nelson with striking the deal between the Warner Bros.-owned subsidiaries that made Hanna-Barbera Beyond possible: “I’ve been with DC Comics now for 14 years, and probably since the day I walked in the door I’ve been wanting to do something with the Hanna-Barbera characters.” He also credits the success of Archie Comics’ more atypical books like Afterlife with Archie and their modernized relaunch of their main titles (Archie, Jughead, and Betty and Veronica) for inspiring DC to take the leap.
According to DiDio, one of the most attractive prospects of Hanna-Barbera Beyond was seeing big name creators use the medium of comics to tell stories in a way that couldn’t be done within the limits of TV animation. His fellow co-publisher Jim Lee also saw an opportunity to reinvent this characters for older audiences while still staying true to the core spirit of the characters.
“I grew up on Scooby-Doo, and my kids grew up on Scooby-Doo…so the idea of doing these characters a little more adult or T/T+ meant we could flesh out these characters more,” he said.
(Main cover by Jim Lee.)
(‘Scooby and Shaggy’ Variant cover by Dan Panosian)
(“Velma” variant cover by Ben Caldwell.)
Creative Team: Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis, and Howard Porter (with designs by Jim Lee.)
Based on: Scooby-Doo, created by Joe Ruby and Ken Spears
Premise: Those meddling kids – Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and their dog, Scooby-Doo – get more ghost-debunking than they bargained for when faced with a fundamental change in their world. The apocalypse has happened. Old rules about logic no longer apply. The creatures of the night are among us, and the crew of the Magical Mystery Machine has to fight to survive, because in the apocalyptic badlands of the near-future, the horrors are real! This new monthly series takes Scooby and the gang to a whole new level and features character designs by comics superstar Jim Lee!
Previously referred to as the “crown jewel” of Hanna-Barbera Beyond’s initial lineup, Scooby Apocalypse offers a new take on the iconic franchise by breaking one of its essential rules: “ghosts aren’t real.” Dan DiDio describes the mash-up style of the project as “Scooby Doo meets The Walking Dead.”
Jim Lee, who developed the project and provided character designs, explained the backstory behind this new version of the Scooby Gang prior to the titular “apocalypse.”
“In a way, this first story is an origin story for the Scooby Gang and tells what puts them together. We update it. The story actually starts at Burning Man, and you see that these characters are coming and meeting for the first time. Fred and Daphne are darlings from the early days of the internet bubble. They were a YouTube sensation with a ‘Mythbusters’ type show…but they’re at the end of their 15-minutes of fame.”
“Meanwhile, you find out there is a secret government think tank buried beneath the sand,” Lee said, joking it was easier to draw a base under the desert. “In that think tank is Velma who exists in a lab full of kids who are young geniuses but have been raised to always be given awards and never get challenged in any way. The geniuses create a high-powered app that will virally effect every phone at once at the beginning of Burning Man. While the idea is supposed to bring the world together, the nano-virus they make mutates in the wild and brings out the worst elements in people’s personalities… hence Donald Trump,” Lee joked.
The actual result is a growing computer virus that turns people into various kinds of monsters, and the Scooby Gang come together with their own baggage to try and save mankind. “You find they have a lot in common, and all these sub stories reveal themselves,” Lee explained.
I mentioned how Hanna-Barbera Beyond would modernize the characters for a new audience. There is no truer example of this in action than Scooby Apocalypse: Fred and Daphne are washed-up YouTubers, Scooby now communicates with a device that projects different emojis, Shaggy now looks like the modern definition of his hipster-ish characterization (not a giant leap, really), and Velma is a modern geek girl, complete with a ‘pet drone.’
(Wraparound cover by Evan Shaner.)
Creative Team: Jeff Parker, Evan Doc Shaner, and Steve Rude (story outline and character designs by Darwyn Cooke.)
Based on: Action characters from Hanna-Barbera. Jonny Quest created by Doug Wildey. Space Ghost created by Alex Toth, William Hanna, and Joseph Barbera.
Premise: When the adventurous and inquisitive Jonny Quest and his adoptive brother Hadji make a startling discovery in the swamplands of Florida, they are pulled into an epic struggle between the Space Rangers and a dangerous villain who threatens the galaxy. Now it’s up to the combined forces of Team Quest, Inter-Nation Security, Space Ghost, and a host of Hanna-Barbera’s greatest action heroes to stop him and save their universe! Don’t miss the start of this new, monthly series that features character designs by comics superstar Darwyn Cooke and kicks off with an extra-sized story and a wraparound cover!
The first real ‘team book’ for Hanna-Barbera Beyond, Future Quest was born from a story outline by the late Darwyn Cooke, which brought together the action heroes of the Hanna-Barbera library (Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, Birdman and the Galaxy Trio, The Impossibles, etc) in a Justice League-style setup that allows the creative team to tell epic adventure stories. Indeed, the opening arc of Future Quest tells a massive story that features the first meeting of Team Quest and the other heroes.
Parker and Shaner both grew up with characters and shows like Jonny Quest, and in an Emerald City Comic-Con interview, they both stressed the importance of staying true to the characters while servicing the larger narrative: “Neither of us has to look at it from the outside in and try to guess what people would like. I know what people would like. I’m the number one Jonny Quest fan. And Doc loves Space Ghost. We want Blip running around and doing things. But like Doc said, you can’t be so respectful that you choke the life out of the story. You can’t have everyone show up on the first page and there is no element of surprise. To really honor the story, it still has to have all of the possibilities and all of the ups and downs of those stories. You have to cherry pick from the best ones.”
Now, exactly how many characters are we talking about? In a earlier interview that took place during this year’s In-Store Convention Kick-Off, Parker and Shaner mentioned as many as 30+ characters. Their work on Future Quest was even delayed because DC had to sign off on a lot of characters. The plus side is that everyone is available for them to use (even Dino-boy).
Future Quest skews younger than the other Hanna-Barbera Beyond books, so there’s not much in the way of ‘modernizing.’ That being said, we can expect new origin stories for Space Ghost and the Herculoids, establishing that both exist in the same galaxy. Their origins will also serve as the trigger for the events of Future Quest, as explained below:
“We start back in time a few years and on the other side of the galaxy with this enormous war that’s happening — a war against an almost natural force. And that is the origin of where Space Ghost is going to come from. And, without spoiling anything, what happens there — in all of this tragedy — ultimately connects the universe and affects Earth in the past and the present. There is a lot of sci-fi in it. But when we pick up on Earth, Dr. Quinn and Race and the rest of the team are traveling the world and trying to figure out this phenomenon. Something seems to be breaking though from the other side of the galaxy.”
Also, all of the big heavies on Earth like the agents of F.E.A.R. (from Birdman and the Galaxy Trio) and Dr. Zin (from Jonny Quest) are trying to control whatever it is so Dr. Quest knows that is something very important and they have to figure it out fast. Very quickly, it escalates and becomes a big threat and that’s when Birdman and everyone else comes on board to try and help the Quest team. They end up finding a Phantom Cruiser in the jungle. I don’t want to spoil too much more but this all opens up a mystery that becomes more clear with each issue. Don’t worry. I don’t save all of the reveals for the end. You know exactly what’s happening by halfway through the series.
Also, expect a twist in Jonny’s origin story, involving a figure from his past. As Jeff Parker puts it: “There are a lot of dead moms in comics and I wanted to fix that a little bit.”
It is also worth mentioning that Future Quest will be Darwyn Cooke’s final comics project. He passed away last Saturday at the age of 53 after battling an aggressive form of cancer.
(Cover by Leonardo Manco.)
Creative Team: Ken Pontac and Leonardo Manco (with designs by Mad Max: Fury Road‘s Mark Sexton.)
Based on: The 1968 Hanna-Barbera TV series Wacky Races.
Premise: The world has ended, but the race has just begun! Penelope Pitstop, Peter Perfect and the rest of the Wacky Racers vie for the finish line in a contest where the winner takes all and second place is death.Today’s trial: the shattered maze of freeways known as the Überpass, where they’re beset by giant sand beasts, mutated insects, and worst of all, Dick Dastardly’s murderously poor sportsmanship. The last thing they need after surviving the race is a brutal bar fight in a local dive, but that’s just what they get!
This is probably the weirdest book in the entire lineup, and Dan DiDio and DC’s senior editor Marie Javins admit as much. “Let’s be honest: this is the weirdest one,” Javins said.
Just like Scooby Apocalypse, Wacky Raceland is a mash-up of genres that sees the premise and characters of Wacky Races applied to a Mad Max-style apocalyptic environment. That in itself is no surprise, as Mark Sexton worked on Mad Max: Fury Road. As such, his designs largely informed the look of the characters (Dick Dastardly, Penelope Pitstop, Muttly, etc.), all rendered in Manco’s gritty, photorealistic art style.
“We didn’t want this to be silly,” DiDio replied jokingly.
Nonetheless, the format of Wacky Raceland should allow for the kind of pulpy, over-the-top action that made Mad Max: Fury Road a thrill to watch in theaters. That, and the book will harbor some surprising connections to other Hanna-Barbera Beyond titles (more on that later).
(Art by Amanda Conner.)
Creative Team: Mark Russell and Steve Pugh (with designs by Amanda Conner.)
Based on: The TV show of the same name, created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera.
Premise: Welcome to Bedrock, where Paleolithic humans head to dinner for a taste of artisanal mammoth after shopping at Neandertall & Big Men’s Clothing, where Wilma shows her modern art, and where, if you take a plane, you could literally end up sitting ON the tail section. Join Fred and Barney as Mister Slate sends them on a mission to show some Neanderthals a night on the town in hopes of luring them into this new system called ‘working for a living.’ In Slate’s Quarry, of course. Is Fred’s ship about to come in? Find out when the gang finishes out the evening at the employee hot tub party, where they learn how the one percent lives here in Bedrock, home to the world’s first civilization and the modern stone-age family-The Flintstones. Don’t miss this extra-sized debut issue!
So, how do you modernize an iconic animated family sitcom that takes place in the Stone Age? Amanda Conner, who developed the project and provided concept designs, went with a simple answer: by taking the absurd reality of the original 60’s show and making it more real.
“Mark Russell envisions Bedrock as the basis for modern civilization and everything comes from there,” she said. While the situational antics of Fred Flintstone, his best friend Barney Rubble, their wives Wilma and Betty, and their children Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm remain unchanged, there will be a more concerted effort to have the characters and their everyday problems reflect that of the modern-day family. For example, the first story in the over-sized first issue deals with the divide between working-class guys like Fred and Barney and ‘rich’ people like their boss, Mister Slate.
This philosophy also extends to the character designs. In particular, Fred and Barney’s designs were inspired by real life actors Kevin James and Patton Oswalt and both men are drawn as stockier and more muscular than their animated counterparts. Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm are now preteens as opposed to infants, and Wilma and Betty have other interests besides being housewives (Betty does modern art, for example).
Different era, same problems. That’s the mission statement for the prehistoric family’s first comics outing.
Hanna-Barbera Beyond: An Interconnected Universe?
Remember when I said up top that the introduction to Warner Animation Group’s shared universe of Hanna-Barbera properties was two years away? Well, DC co-publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio also have some ideas as to how the Hanna-Barbera Beyond books will connect and expand on each other.
For example, the technology used to make Scooby talk with emojis in Scooby Apocalypse will eventually morph into the cybernetics that adorn Muttly’s design in Wacky Raceland. One other idea involves a ‘legacy’ of redhead characters that connect all the way into the future, where Jane Jetson would have genetic(?) ancestors in the form of Wilma Flintstone and Daphne Blake.
Speaking of the Jetsons, a possible story idea was brought up where the events of the other titles would be connected to the reasons for why The Jetsons live above the clouds, with the future family working to save the past.
Questions about Hanna-Barbera Beyond
As to whether or not the comics would inform future animated projects (again, see above), DiDio waved off those speculations by replying that for now, these stories are being told strictly on the page and nowhere else.
When asked about the possibility of other Hanna-Barbera properties getting a similar redesign, The Jetsons was mentioned as a strong possibility. Amanda Conner even let slip that she had been drawing concept designs for the characters while her husband and frequent writing partner Jimmy Palmiotti has been toying with storylines. Assistant Editor Andrew Marino loves Blue Falcon and Dyno-Mutt (both are referenced in Scooby Apocalypse #1), while DiDio is fond of Top Cat. Jim Lee pitched in by saying that while the focus is solely on 60’s-era Hanna-Barbera creations right now, they are continuously searching the vault for other animated properties that could get a comic book makeover.
Once again, Hanna-Barbera Beyond launches tomorrow with an extra-sized Future Quest #1. You can buy the books at your local comics shop or digital reading platforms.
What do you think? Are you interested in reading any of the Hanna-Barbera Beyond titles?
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes