It is an oft-used phrase, particularly in these perilous times when far right nationalists seem intent on trying to reshape the earth in their poisonously dark image, but one that very much deserves repeating:
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
(There is some conjecture about the exact wording and who said it first, or at all and why, but the fact remains, it is a truthful axiom.)
Simon Wiesenthal, and many brave souls like him were most definitely not among the good men who did nothing, bravely going out and sacrificing their lives to bring many fugitive Nazis to justice, and it is their inspiring story that writer Andre Frattino with illustrator Jesse Lee has chosen to ensure they are not forgotten.
“We’re going to have the next generation who’s not going to have anyone who’s affected by the Holocaust,” Frattino said. “Not only are we forgetting, we’re normalizing it. We’re playing it down. ‘Oh it was so long ago, it doesn’t matter anymore, we won’t do it again.’ Those who don’t remember their mistakes are bound to repeat them.” (source: IO9)
This impressive and important comic book, which will play a vital role in reminding younger generations of the need to stay eternally vigilant against evil, is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign, which will run for another 10 days or so.
These types of ambitious and I would argue necessary projects must be supported and I’d urge you to contribute to making Simon Says: Nazi Hunter a reality and be part of inspiring a whole new generation to speak up, act and stop evil in its tracks before it has a chance to wreak the horrific, lives-destroying damage it did during the Holocaust.
Who actually reads Terms and Conditions (T & Cs) documents? Anyone? anyone? Bueller? Just as I thought – NO ONE.
Yeah, yeah we totally should so we know if the vendor we’re signing up with is going to require our firstborn in the event of a missed bill or demand we recreate the Mona Lisa in coloured pasta as punishment for not downloading something correctly … BUT WE DON’T.
Why? Because they’re fantastically boring.
But no longer if insanely clever New York-based cartoonist R Sikoroyak has his way.
This talented guy has recreated all 96 pages of Apples T & Cs in the style of various famous cartoons and comic strips, and the results are nothing short of “hell to the yeah I’d read that!”
Seriously I would and I would love it, and be fully aware of the fact that at midnight on the 4th July 2018 Apple will repossess my home, car and collection of antique poodle statuettes because I accidentally didn’t tick some box somewhere.
Nothing stays the same forever, including it seems some of Hanna-Barbera’s most beloved characters who have been thoroughly and impressively re-imagined by DC Comics in the last year or so.
In that spirit of reinvention, one that reflects a more grim aesthetic than the knockabout fun of the 1960s and ’70s, The Wacky Races became the grimly apocalyptic Wacky Raceland, Scooby Doo became Scooby Apocalypse, JohnnyQuest, The Herculoids and The Mighty Mightor became Future Quest, and The Flintstones became, well, The Flintstones, although nowhere near as much of a Stone Age family as they had been.
To this burgeoning gang of reborn Hanna-Barberans comes Snagglepuss who from September/October this year will be presented, according to CBR.com, as “a gay Southern Gothic playwright.” (To those of us who grew up with him and were also of a non-heterosexual person, this was blatantly obvious from day one so it’s fitting it’s now being openly acknowledged.)
Writer Mark Russell will pen the new-and-improved Snagglepuss, who debuted in 1959 as one of the ensembles characters on The Quick Draw McGraw Show, and had this to say about remaking the character:
“I envision him like a tragic Tennessee Williams figure; Huckleberry Hound is sort of a William Faulkner guy, they’re in New York in the 1950s, Marlon Brando shows up, Dorothy Parker, these socialites of New York from that era come and go. I’m looking forward to it.”
And as for the fact that many supposed him to be gay, well Russell is openly embracing of that fact too.
“[I]t’s never discussed and it’s obviously ignored in the cartoons ’cuz they were made at a time when you couldn’t even acknowledge the existence of such a thing, but it’s still so obvious. So it’s natural to present it in a context where everybody knows, but it’s still closeted. And dealing with the cultural scene of the 1950s, especially on Broadway, where everybody’s gay, or is working with someone who’s gay, but nobody can talk about it — and what it’s like to have to try to create culture out of silence.”
The newly openly out Snagglepuss will make his debut in March with an eight page story in a Suicide Squad/Banana Splits Annual (the mind frankly boggles; that will be interesting), before getting his own starring comic book vehicle later this year.
Have you wondered what Linus would look like as a zombie? Or Pigpen as Daryl (he’s the one Peanuts character who’d be untroubled by the ablution-challenged environs of the zombie apocalypse).
Or perhaps you think Game of Thrones could do with a dose of Calvin and Hobbes whimsicality? (Let’s face it, sleigh rides that delight you rather than kill you are always the better option.)
Would Dilbert and Silicon Valley be corporate-sceptical soulmates? Or how would Cathy handle the morally-challenged, logic-averse surrounds of VEEP‘s Selina Meyer’s White House?
Wherever your TV – comic strips mashups mind may wander, there’s a very good chance that DirecTV have got there first and the results are absolutely delightful, as well as definitively nailing how Charlie Brown might fare in Negan’s bloodthirsty universe or Garfield‘s Jon Arbuckle might find the gritty, morally-ambiguous world of Mr Robot.
To find out more about how the creators of these mashups envisage the two worlds colliding, go to Direct Deals.
If you were to imagine a Calvin and Hobbes Christmas, the odds are you wouldn’t imagine a traditional Norman Rockwell moment.
Oh sure Calvin’s parents would love that kind of Christmas with everyone grouped around the table in blissful, festive repose, but the reality is that Calvin, who never met an expectation he couldn’t gleefully confound (in common with many mischievous children), would never go along with.
This is after all, the boy who spends his time out in the snow, the very setting of the much-loved and hoped-for “White Christmas” of which Bing Crosby sang so eloquently, creating freaky, scary but ultimately hilariously subversive snowman.
Not for him, the boy who torments Susie Derkins and delivers blisteringly bad poll numbers to his dad, the beatific scarf-clad snowman standing all jolly in someone’s yard.
Nope, his snow people are fiendishly troubled souls who get stabbed, fed to giant snow monsters or fired through by stray cannon fire.
Pretty sure that Norman Rockwell would not recognise these snowmen.
But that’s the whole point.
Calvin is a young boy, created by Bill Watterson as the very embodiment of the misunderstood child who doesn’t fit neatly within society’s parameters, with boundless imagination, a questioning spirit and a complete lack of willingness to play by the rules.
So it makes sense that A Very Calvin & Hobbes Christmas, created by Jim Frommeyer and Teague Chrystie (and inspired by Bill Watterson, who is acknowledged in a heartfelt message at the end – “We miss you Bill”) would keep that subversive spirit bubbling along with a tableau of horrifically gruesome scenes that somehow never made it into the lyrics of Crosby’s immortal Christmas song.
The thing is, as Buzzfeed makes beautifully clear is that Calvin actually loves Christmas.
He believes in Santa – even if he does try to game the system – and doesn’t him to burn up in a lit fireplace, is horrified when his father says they’ll get a near-dead tree after New Year’s and happily takes all the loot he can get (“Getting loads of loot is a very spiritual experience for me”).
But yes he is also a subverter and a sceptic and A Very Calvin & Hobbes Christmas captures it all perfectly, reminding us that we all need a healthy dose of questioning to go with our wonder.
And that even when we’re neck deep in festive music, Hallmark movies and eggnog, that having some fun with the conventions of Christmas is not just a cool way to spend some time, it’s damn near a requirement!
Integral to Mutts from the start has been a commitment by McDonnell, a committed vegetarian and animal lover who sits on the Board of Directors for The Humane Society of the United States and activist for various animal rights causes, to put the plight of many animals front and centre.
Thus on a member of occasions, usually for a week at a time, Mutts features stories about various issues such as Farm Animal Awareness Week and Shelter Stories, and on a more global level, whaling, seal clubbing and tiger conservation.
As a lifelong conservationist and animal lover, it is exciting to see an artist use a platform such as comic strip to such great effect, reaching people who may otherwise not be aware of the issues or what they can do to address them.
A natural outworking of this commitment to promote animal welfare is McDonnell’s appearance on Shelter Me, an online PBS series “celebrating the human-animal bond” and the important work of animal rescue organisations.
In the latest episode, “Hearts and Paws”, McDonnell visits Animal Care Centers of New York City (ACC), drawing on his inspirational for stories featured in his Shelter Stories series and promoting the work of these very important organisations.
As previously reviewed modern comic book iterations of Scooby Doo, The Flintstones and Wacky Races have illustrated, reviving an old pop culture property, in the case of Future Quest, quite a number of them, comes with a unique set of challenges.
Not insurmoutable challenges of course but fairly sizable ones nonetheless that brand new original ideas don’t have to grapple with, possessed as they are of an expectations-free blank slate.
One of the first exciting things you notice about Future Quest is that it has not succumbed to this pressure, boldly preserving the clean, retro-future lines of the original 1960s-era action cartoons that Hanna-Barbera produced as a marked departure from the lighter, frothier fare of Huckleberry Hound and the like.
Taking in the artwork by Evan “Doc” Shaner, Steve Rude and, Jordie Bellaire and Dave Lanphear, and the zingy, breathlessly-excitable but portentous dialogue by writer Jeff Parker, it becomes immediately obvious that the re-imagining of a slew of Hanna-Barbera characters has paid due homage to what went before while updating the look and feel of properties like The Herculoids, Jonny Questand the Mighty Mightor and placing them in a fast-paced, thoroughly imaginative story arc which makes good use of a newly-expanded universe.
What is impressive is the way the new series creators have managed to seamlessly weave together characters that, while they shared the same look and paint-by-numbers narrative feel, weren’t ever really connected in their original incarnations.
Jonny Quest for example is a young inquisitive, impulsive boy on earth, the son of a cutting-edge scientist Dr. Benton Quest, who together with his adopted brother Hadji, and bodyguard/secret agent Race Bannon goes on all kinds of adrenaline-pounding action adventures.
The Herculoids by contrast are inhabitants of the planet Amzot, later changed to Quasar – in Future Quest, both planets make an appearance – a motley crew of lifeforms, human and otherwise, fighting to keep their planet free from outside interference.
And yet despite these considerable differences, Future Quest has found a way to weave these disparate characters into a compelling, coherent narrative, that also features Birdman and the Galaxy Trio, Space Ghost, Frankenstein Jr. and The Impossibles.
It helps in an undertaking that audacious that the series has chosen a commensurately expansive narrative universe for this crew of otherwise disconnected characters to inhabit.
While the threat posed is extraterrestrial in nature, a creature called the Omnikron which has decidedly Borg-like tendencies assimilating every alien civilisation with which it comes in contact with obviously catastrophic consequences for everyone involved, the action largely but not exclusively takes place on Earth where an evil scientist called Dr. Zin is hoping to harness and control the Omnikron’s attenpts to reach our planet for his own self-interested purposes.
The head of an organisation called F.E.A.R., a delightfully silly Get Smart-esque acronym that is anything but goofy in practice, Dr. Zin is a rival of Dr. Benton, with the two men, leaders in their field along with Professor Linda Kim-Conroy, studying and responding to vortexes that have opened up across Earth, delivering parts of the Omnikron but also beings like The Galaxy Trio, and glimpses of Space Ghost among others.
Slowly but surely over each issue, the universe in which everyone is imaginatively interconnected in a Cold War-style battle to the death – if the Omnikron reaches Earth and establishes itself in its full terrifying majesty, then the battle is well and truly over – builds and grows, developing an all-enveloping story that brings these characters together as if they always belong together.
Even more impressively, as the story takes shape at a reasonably breakneck speed, Future Quest still finds the panel-space to neatly introduces each new character with minimal fuss but exposition-rich fulsomeness, artfully bringing everyone together in a way that makes sense, despite their disparate origins.
What results, so far at least, is a cracking good story, one that positions Future Quest as an epic tale of good versus evil, with the artwork lending it the look and feel of an old-fashioned movie serials with some unobtrusive but welcome modern touches.
Future Quest is a triumph, the perfect melding of past and present that acknowledges the weight of nostalgic expectation and pays homage to it while still creating something utterly new, highly-engaging and unique that is begging for eventual transition to a sprawling cartoon series all its own.
Watch Simon’s Cat face his greatest nemesis, the scary vacuum cleaner in this hilarious animated cat video. ‘The Monster’ is our 2016 Halloween film and features a number of cat fails, an ‘evil’ vacuum cleaner and of course lots of silly, cute and funny antics. (synopsis via Laughing Squid)
If you’re a cat, and if you’re reading this post then it’s highly likely you are not, you will know that many threatening things lurk deep within the shadow’s of the person-who-feeds-you’s house.
Chief among them is the vacuum cleaner, that noisy, smelly, dusty contraception that can leap to nerve-shattering life with little to no warning, aggressively zipping across the carpet and making life hell for a kitteh in search of a quiet, nap-filled life.
Is it possible, particularly at a monster-filled, nightmare-rich time of the year like Halloween to actually quell the savage mechanical beast or perhaps, you know, vanquish it completely with a judicious swing or five of a baseball bat?
Hard to say but Simon’s Cat, who amusingly moves from terror to curious relief to terror throughout this hilarious animated short titled The Monster is going to give it his best effort.
If only to keep his tail from the vacuum cleaner’s unceasingly ravenous maw.
No matter how well-educated we might be, all of us have a tendency, to a greater or lesser degree, to interpret other cultures, peoples’ situations or even ancient civilisations through the lens of our modern worldview.
We might have all the facts or evidence we need at hand but the interpretation will still be that they can’t be as advanced or have lives as progressively fulfilling as we do.
So it is in the first few panels of DC Comics’ more muscular – literally when you check out Fred, Barney and some of their Neanderthal coworkers – interpretation of Hanna-Barbera’s iconic The Flintstones, where a visitor to a museum remarks that, all evidence of complex civilisation to the contrary, that life in a Stone Age civilisation must have been “awful”.
It speaks to the intelligence of this quite modern take on The Flintstones, which crams motions of existential angst, consumer regret, veterans issues and the debilitating after-effects of war, frustrated career and artistic ambitions, teenage angst – Pebbles is as sullen as any teenager and reads book with titles like Cannibalism: The Unknown Ideal – and the stresses, strains but ultimately love of a modern marriage.
It’s way more thoughtful and introspective than its animated forebear which ran from 20 September, 1960 to 1 April 1966 and promised to bring us the “Modern Stone Age family,” a riff on popular sitcom The Honeymooners – to be fair though the animated series contained quite a number of pithy observations about society and the way modernity was changing it, not always for the better, making it way more clever that appearances might suggest – but as a result also lacks much of the sitcom-y fun that was, and is, a central part of the appeal of Fred and Wilma Flintstone and their neighbours Barney and Betty Rubble.
Even so, it’s a really clever read overall, retaining all the pun-laden verve of the original – dinosaurs are still the backbone of the workforce at Slate’s Quarry and shops come with names like “Tarpit”, “Starbrick’s Coffee” and “Outback Snakehouse” – and it’s central conceit that there life couldn’t possibly be advanced when it’s back in the Stone Age.
Ah but that’s the thing it is and quite demonstrably so.
The Flintstones even have TV – though Fred initially goes to throw a rock through Barney’s new purchase, calling it a “demon in the wall”; there is religion too but it’s a revolving door of pointless deities that provides a deliciously withering commentary on religion and the church – abstract art (one of Wilma’s great loves, both appreciating it and creating it), and modern appliances which yes, are still animals which have attitude just as in the original.
The thing is, and why shouldn’t a cartoon or a comic be able to make this point, is that relative to the people of the day, their civilisation is advanced and certainly as far as Fred and Wilma, Barney and Betty are concerned, they are astride the very pinnacle of humanity’s achievements to date.
In the animated series, this idea of modern viewpoints skewering our idea of what was advanced was implicit; in the comic book series, which is exquisitely drawn, keeping the visual gag of the Stone Age being modern going – again to the people of the era, it is – it’s said upfront with the narrative making it clear again and again that The Flintstones aren’t lacking in anything.
The visitor to the museum might think so but the residents of Bedrock Valley at the time don’t, with their feet-powered cars, giant sloth couches – yes, that is how they went extinct I believe – their goat-powered lawn mowers and octopus-dishwashers proof that life is good and very good indeed.
To illustrate just how good everyone has it and how recent a development this is, the former lives of Fred and Wilma are illustrated to brilliant storytelling effect.
Wilma makes constant reference to her childhood as a nomadic hunter-gatherer, something she has in common with pretty much everyone in Bedrock, remarking on how much better their lives are now but acknowledging some nostalgia for the past.
Fred too is appreciative of where he is, though he carries some anxiety about being a good provider to Wilma when the demands of modern life, there’s that word again, mean it’s no longer enough to drag a mammoth to the door for dinner and be done with it.
Now you must have all the accoutrements of life in the modern Stone Age but as The Flintstones discover over and over, all that stuff doesn’t necessarily bring you happiness and that it’s who you’re with that makes the difference ultimately.
A nice touch in the comic series is that Fred is a little more in touch with his feelings that he was in the animated series; sure he expressed love and affection for Wilma but it was limited for the most part, but in the comic series he is a modern husband who’s wife is as much a friend as a domestic companion.
While re-imaginings of any pop culture property are always fraught with risk and don’t necessarily work perfectly, The Flintstones is a pretty clever updating of the original.
It retains the quirky premise of a Stone Age civilisation that looks much like our own, rock puns, visual dinosaur gags and all, but makes some very clever observations too about the inherent contradictions of civilised life in the 21st century, giving the series by Mark Russell, Steve Pugh and Chris Chuckry, and how very much like us they actually are.
But also reminding us, and trust us we need constant reminding, that the more things change, the more they stay the same; it’s true for humanity and for The Flintstones, which keeps its goofy edge while sharpening its blade of social observation in such a way that it’s impossible not to wonder just how far we’ve really come after all these eons.
Something tells me that the newly-ruined earth in which the just-united Scooby gang emerge in this considerably darker take on the perennial Hanna-Barbera favourite is not going to be easily-righted by the end of one their franchise’s normally light-and-airy “And I would’ve gotten away with it too if it wasn’t for you meddling kids” episodes.
This is a real apocalypse, the kind of everything is wrecked and your survival is not guaranteed scenario so beloved of franchises like The Walking Dead, Z Nation and 12 Monkeys.
There’s not even a hint of a disgruntled former employee who wants to ruin the redevelopment of the fun fair that was once their life, or of an angry disinherited scion of a wealthy family who’s determined to put the Haunted back in haunted house, capitalised letter H and all.
No, this is a world into which the four cohorts of Dr Velma Dinkley, who operate from a suspiciously hidden, superbly equip laboratory complex deep underground, have released an army of eager to mutate nanites whose idealistic job, at least it was initially, is to rewire humanity so they’re docile, pacifistic dolts.
The end result was supposed to be a worldwide population of well-behaved village morons who wouldn’t raise a warlike figure to their neighbour and would presumably sup on tea and talk about scones and knitting to their equally-happy neighbours till their dying day.
But alike the best plans of mice and men – seriously someone has to stop letting rodents plan things; it always ends in tiny mice-like tears – things have gone awry and what the world gets instead is a nightmarish transformation of pretty much everyone into the kinds of freakish, flesh-hungry monsters that Scooby, an experimental dog who failed his training, and his handler Shaggy, would run from in an instant. (Think the movie Serenity, which wrapped up the much-loved Firefly series.)
Battling this hideous monster mash, with nary a bad mask or slipshod CGI projection to be seen, is Velma, who is in the process of blowing the whistle to onetime highflying reporter and host of a subpar mysteries show on the Knitting Channel Daphne and her college friend/sweetheart (from his side only alas), Fred.
Throw in Scooby and Shaggy, who along with the others are spared the mutating effects of the Nanites by virtue of being in the complex’s Safe Zone when things go royally and quite unplayfully to crap in a major way, and you have the gang we know and love, well apocalyptic iterations thereof anyway, together and ready to right a once-well intentioned scientific gone horribly, and perhaps deliberately, wrong.
Doesn’t sound much like your grandma’s Scooby Doo now does it?
And of course it isn’t, given that Scooby Apocalypse – the “Doo” presumably got lost somewhere in the march to gritty darkness and end of the world despair – is part of DC Comics much-ballyhooed revamp/reimagining/rebooting of a number of Hanna-Barbera properties including Wacky Races (now Wacky Raceland) and The Flintstones.
As a story in and of itself, it’s actually pretty cool, giving us all the world-gone-to-s**t vibe that any apocalypse show worth its salt should have in spades. While we’re not sure in the first three issues if Scooby and the gang are the only unmutated survivors of this beastial attempt at societal conditioning, it’s strongly suggested that Velma’s colleagues are pulling the puppet strings from somewhere nearby.
We’re also given an assurance of sorts that this experiment gone awry might be reversible but this and many other “what ifs?” are left to blow into the wind as everyone simply tries to survive the onslaught of nasty, freakish brutish beasts, some of whom can speak and some cannot.
The question is of course is this really Scooby Doo?
Well it’s not meant to be classic Scooby Doo, a franchise that has gone through more iterations down through the years – the less said about Scrappy Doo the better thank you very much – and it’s not just the lack of the “Doo” in the title that gives that game away.
The gang are visually and character-wise completely badass versions of themselves and while Velma is still the knowledgeable geek and Scooby and Shabby still adorably devoted to each other, not much else of the warm bonhomie between the dedicated mystery solvers remains.
Now whether this is an issue depends greatly on how you view Scooby Doo as a whole. If like many people, including yours truly, the loss of the somewhat irritable but always devoted bonds between the gang and their propensity for goofiness feels strangely deficient.
If however you like your characters dark, their relationships dark, troubled and twisted and your monsters of the flesh-tearing rather than homemade mask-wearing variety then you will likely lap this series up.
As noted, as an apocalyptic series judged on its own merits its beautifully and tautly written with impressive world building by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis with suitably full-on, vividly colourful art by Howard Porter.
As a reimagined take on Scooby Doo? Possibly less successful. Too much of what made Scooby Doo and his human mystery solvers such a goofy delight to watch is lost, and with it much of the connection to the characters.
Do I want to see how this all ends? Absolutely, it’s that well-conceived and executed with all the tension and narrative momentum you could for. But as another entry in Scooby’s long and varied annals? Not so much and I wonder how many fans will last the distance in this new dark and thoroughly unfunny take on the tenacious denizens of the Mystery Machine.