For nearly three decades, Hanna-Barbera Productions dominated the field of television animation, creating dozens of popular shows including The Flintstones, The Jetsons, and Scooby-Doo Where Are You! While the company also had successful, Emmy-winning forays into live-action, they're most beloved for their impressive cast of animated characters.
In 2001, Hanna-Barbera was fully absorbed by Warner Bros. Animation and as of today the company exists in name only. Their catalog of characters now belong to Warner Bros., the company that also owns DC Comics. Over the last several years, characters such as Scooby-Doo have enjoyed appearing in a number of all-age comic series, serving the nostalgia of an older generation of animation fans while introducing the new generations to classic characters.
According to a recent interview published by EW, that is about to change. DC Comics have announced plans to launch a number of new titles based on the characters and revitalize them for the modern era. Among the new titles are Scooby Apocalypse, Wacky Raceland, The Flintstones, and Future Quest.
DC Entertainment co-publisher Dan Didio explained the decision to relaunch this set of characters.
"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..."
Those top creators include legendary artist Jim Lee, Superman artist Howard Porter, and writer Keith Giffen (The New 52: Futures End) on what is easily going to be the most divisive titles of the launch: Scooby Apocalypse. While there aren't any plot details quite yet, the character redesigns and high tech weaponry indicate a sharp divide between the original cartoons and the new series.
The Flintstones should be an easy sell for DC, with Mark Russell (writer of the brilliant Prez) scripting the series. The characters were redesigned by Harley Quinn writer Amanda Conner, modernizing the characters without fully abandoning the classic look. Wacky Races is being rebooted as the darker Wacky Raceland, designed by Mad Max: Fury Road designer Mark Sexton and written by Ken Pontac.
Finally, the most ambitious project of the publisher's initial Hanna-Barbera slate is Future Quest, a massive team-up book featuring Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, Birdman and the Galaxy Trio, and the Herculoids. Written by Jeff Parker (Aquaman) with art by Doc Shaner (Convergence: Shazam!), the series promises a sprawling science fiction adventure. Darwyn Cooke created the promotional art for the series, pictured below:
Though the characters have largely been relegated to all-ages stories in recent years, these books will likely be aimed at an older audience. Didio teases a "scary, dangerous world" in Wacky Raceland and a new take on Scooby-Doo that will "challenge people." The Flinstones title will serve as a "social commentary," as is to be expected with experienced satirist Russell on the script. The line is being promoted as a return to the primetime status of these early shows rather than a new take on Saturday morning cartoons.
Initially, there's going to be push back from the intended audience, as is the case with any highly-regarded, nostalgic source material. It's admittedly jarring to see the tattooed Mystery, Inc. wielding futuristic weapons against otherworldly forces. That said, these titles still have every chance on delivering worthwhile stories and reinvigorating the classic franchises. If the creators can harness the spirit that made the old shows great, the new line can be a success. Then hopefully DC will continue to delve into the massive Hanna-Barbera vault, allowing modern audiences to experience great characters like Secret Squirrel and the SWAT Kats.
The release dates for Scooby-Doo Apocalypse, The Flintstones, Wacky Raceland and Future Quest are currently unknown. We will keep you updated as new information becomes available.