Hanna-Barbera has been a major force in television cartoons for almost 60 years. DC Comics has been a dominating presence in the comic book world for more than 80 years. The two entertainment giants have come together to produce a new line of comic books featuring familiar Hanna-Barbera characters with new looks and attitudes.
The first offering – “Future Quest” No.1” – hit stores Wednesday, May 18The second offering – “Scooby Apocalypse” No. 1 – hits stores Wednesday, May 25. Two more titles come out this summer. “Wacky Raceland” No. 1 on June 8, and “The Flintstones” No. 1 on July 6.
Dan DiDio, co-publisher of DC Comics with Jim Lee, says he’s been wanting to put a new spin on Hanna-Barbera characters since he was 12.
“It just so happened that I didn’t get to do it until six months ago,” DiDio adds with a laugh.
DC Comics has worked on a few Hanna-Barbera projects in the past, including a Scooby-Doo comic aimed at children. This time, the comic bosses were given the massive Hanna-Barbera universe of characters that include Johnny Quest, Space Ghost, The Herculoids, The Wacky Racers and hundreds of others.
Lee – whose work ranges from “X-Men” to “Batman: Hush” – knew he wanted to do an origin story for Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and their dog, Scooby-Doo. Lee not only co-wrote the story with Keith Giffen (Doom Patrol), he designed one of the multiple covers for the first issue.
“The characters have been a part of the childhood for generations,” Lee says. “But there has never been a story of how they got together.”
Lee’s take is that the group of mystery-solving misfits would meet at an event similar to Burning Man where they would face a real apocalypse.
For the Johnny Quest comic series, there was little done to change the animation style as the original Hanna-Barbera cartoon launched as a 1960s prime-time network series. It has always been the most sophisticated looking title in the company stable. The changes made by the DC Comics team were in the back story for Quest and the other heroes who appear in the book.
“The Flintstones” features a social commentary as Fred and Barney represent the “one per-centers” of the Stone Age, while all of the creatures who work for them are the other 99%.
One of the biggest transformations is to the “Wacky Races” characters. DiDio wanted the cute characters of Penelope Pitstop, Dick Dastardly and Peter Perfect to have a grittier look as they race across a barren world to the only safe place – Nevada.
“We did a mashup with ‘Mad Max.’ It gave us a chance to do this crazy dark gritty style,” DiDio says. “The twist is that every racer must survive. If one racer falls out, they all lose. So it is the strange mix of them competing but also having to work together. It is all about creating a product that is fun.”
Lee says the intention was to find that line between maintaining the essence of the original characters while offering something different.
“There is so many years of history with these characters and we want to stay true to the heritage. But, we will go in a different direction,” Lee says.
The co-publishers don’t reveal what future Hanna-Barbera characters could get the DC Comics treatment. They have been approached by talents in the comic book world who would love to take a shot.
For now, the projects will focus on human characters – so don’t expect to see Quick Draw McGraw heading to Mexico to battle the drug cartels or Huckleberry Hound battling for his life in the world of dog fighting.
Lee suggests that since none of the titles are overly gory, they would be suitable reading for anyone ages “12 to 85.”
Heroes Comics, 110 E. Shaw Ave., and Legends Comics & Games, 639 E. Shaw Ave. Suite 173, will carry the new line of comic books.