The Flintstones #1 (DC Comics)
STORY : Mark Russell
ART : Steve Pugh (interior art) and Chris Chuckry (colours)
One of the latest efforts in the DC Comics company-wide revamp has been to take old Hanna-Barbera cartoons and, well, revamp them for a new age and a new audience. Now the warning sign in these situations usually is that some things were fun because of what they were and changing them too much can make them nothing but hollow reimaginings that might have been better as purely new concepts with new characters instead of pandering to nostalgia – THIS to me is the big “?” when it comes to these new Hanna-Barbera titles.
Scooby Apocalypse was quirky and a bit half-assed in the execution and characterisations but not bad, Wacky Raceland on the other hand was such utter wannabe-cool nonsense that I had to restrain myself from flinging what I was reading across the room in annoyance and Future Quest has been the most promising thus far. All of which brings us to the worlds favourite stone-age family and the big question today: Is it good? Well let’s take a look shall we?
Those who know/remember The Flintstones as a cartoon, remember certain things that made the show and the premise what it was, namely: puns and cheesy joke-references with a stone-age theme, simple but entertaining stories with our protagonists in awkward and oft potentially embarrassing situations, clever “gadgets” giving these ancient folks modern conveniences and a brightly coloured and light-hearted aesthetic sprinkled with a variety of character types.
So for me the way I approached this issue was with the intention of seeing (a) how well it lives up to and shows respect for the source material and (b) how the revamped story-telling affects the feel of the new incarnation. (This was more or less how I approached the recent Archie retooling under Mark Waid and Fiona Staples as well as Chip Zdarsky on Jughead)
Well the story is simple enough in that the setting remains the same, the town of Bedrock is more or less as we remember it, apart from adding just a little realistic logic – which in this case I don’t mind to be honest – of the characters, especially the men, being powerfully built because it just makes sense they would be all said. Fred is still working at Slates Quarry, his boss is still a greedy hard-case, he’s still married to Wilma and he’s best friends with Barney – this issue he is supposed to schmooze some Cro-Magnon cave-men who don’t live in Bedrock, to work at the quarry because they don’t really understand money and are even more powerfully built and so Mr. Slate wants them to work for him and offers Fred a promotion if he can get them to commit.
So far this is nice and Flintstone-y and coupled with the more realistic art style (I basically told myself this is sort of a comic of the movie aesthetic) that keeps the colour palette bright and pleasing, all looks promising!
Except that’s where the good stopped for me.
In this full first issue, we get not even basic character time with anyone except Fred, Wilma and Mr. Slate (who has gone from corny schemer to somewhat evil and Machiavellian douche). The jokes and gags are very limited and makes things overall more somber. Fred and Barney are now war veterans from a war between their species and others like tree-dwelling humanoids and neanderthals and such and even has them attending a support group where a dude breaks down crying about setting the trees on fire and killing them – all because they were taking possession of land which today is Bedrock and between this and Mr. Slates dialogues, you have the start of some pretty serious commentary on colonisation, war, genocide, greed and the evils of money and modernisation. There’s also the weird bookend snippets of a Cro-Magnon (who incidentally dies a quick, violent death in the comic!) on display in a modern-day museum which also bugged me because I hope this is just a one-off to start with and doesn’t become a regular thing with the series or have him suddenly wake up and go Encino Man on the future.
THE LAST WORD:
There are other things both positive and negative but the above negatives were enough. They were clearly trying to at a level stay faithful to the cartoons, but personally, after the first splash page showing the city (a scan of which I’ve attached for you here above) which is replete with cheesy joke names and references and seems like you’re about to read a fun comic, it all goes downhill from there.
This is a comic that is trying too hard. This is a comic that is missing the point of what it came from and is one in a long line of childrens products being changed to aim at an older audience. Except that in this case we loved it BECAUSE it was simple and kiddish and fun. I didn’t watch The Flintstones for insightful social comments. I didn’t watch it for realism or deep thought or real violence where a man is killed in a boxing ring and is then in the background being torn apart by Pterodactyls.
I’m sorry DC, this is a terrible, terrible comic and is only slightly better than the abyssmal Wacky Raceland – and for both comics, I apologise to and feel for the art teams who have both done great jobs and produced great looking comics but unfortunately whether by the writers or editorial or choices of both, the stories are just plain bad and I plan to not only not read either series after the first issues, I recommend no one else waste their time doing it either. Spend your money on any of the multitude of better comics out there from other publishers or even from DC itself.
STORY SCORE: 1 / 10
ART SCORE: 7 / 10
OVERALL SCORE: 4 / 10