DC Comics dropped a surprising bombshell in its “Jetsons” back-up feature, which ran in the latter half of the “Flintstones/Booster Gold” DC/Hanna-Barbera crossover comic. The 8-page story depicts a more dramatic, almost sad vision of the future, managing to reshape “The Jetsons” for a modern audience, much in the way “The Flintstones” comic has under Mark Russell and Steve Pugh.
The issue adds an element to “Jetsons” lore that, really, we doubt many people had even considered before: a defintiive origin for Rosie the Robot, a tale that plays sort of like a “Twilight Zone” episode with its emotional twist. And in presenting this story,the back-up sets up a more thoughtful version of the Jetsons as a whole, one that comments on modern society and our relationship to life and death.
The story, from writers Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti and artist Pier Brito, sets up the world of DC’s reinvigorated version of “The Jetsons” briskly, introducing — almost as rhythmically as the original “Jetsons” intro — George, Elroy, Judy and Jane. We get a sense of the sprawling world, packed with hover-cars, funky hairdos and futuristic slang, and even get a taste of the world’s origin; at some point in their past and our future, the Earth flooded, forcing humans to live above sea-level in their mid-air floating homes. Rather than depicting the future as an optimistic place, the issue sets up a world where people wouldn’t be able to survive on ground- (or sea-)level. There’s a deeply sad, almost disturbing element to this story. Yes, mankind escaped extinction, but do people even belong on Earth anymore? If we need to rely so heavily on technology, do humans deserve to stick around?
Apart from establishing these important background details, the back-up primarily focuses on a character we never saw in the original animated series: Rosemary Jetson, George’s dying mother.
The first few pages establish that Judy is secretly seeing her grandmother in 124-year-old woman’s final moments.The process, which will trasnfer her consciousness into some sort of machine, is deemed “better” than life. That’s right — storing your memories on a hard drive somewhere is considered superior to the daily pain of mortality, at least in the world of DC’s “Jetsons.” As technology now renders death irrelevant, it poses two major questions to the reader: What is the value of life if we never truly die? And do our memories — whether they be chronicled in photos, video or on social media — make us who we are?
Managing to pack a lot of emotion into very few panels, Conner and Palmiotti establish a strong bond between Judy and her grandmother, showing us how close they are, and how aging is a horrific experience, even in the distant future. Despite Rosemary’s ability to live on as a machine, she feels a deep sadness as she leaves her mortal body. However, it’s her choice: Rosemary wants to die and relegate her memories to technology. She chooses technology over life, an idea which is sadly relatable even now, in the 21st century.
One important aspect of the issue that rings true is the timelessness of grief. Even with the prospect of having her grandmother live on through a machine, Judy is devastated by her grandmother’s choice. She warns her of the risk — that one in ten consciousness transfers are not successful — but Rosemary decides to move forward with it anyway. The moment is heavy, and plays almost like an assisted suicide case, remarkably dark and harrowing.
George and Jane, who have been wondering where their daughter is, eventually discover her location thanks to the use of a tracking device that the two debate using. There’s a real sense of privacy invasion in this issue — it’s creepy, and almost feels like a comment on modern-day data-mining. George and Jane debate looking at Jane’s diary, even. (It seems helicopter parents still exist in the future…)
When they arrive, just too late, George and Jane learn that Rosemary has already passed away. It’s then revealed where exactly Rosemary’s consciousness was being transferred — into a robot. What robot would that be? Well, none other than an XB-500, a.k.a. the robot maid longtime “Jetsons” fans know as…
Rosie the Robot.
Having Rosie bear the consciousness of a 124-year-old woman is the perfect decision for a modern “Jetsons” take. It takes a rather silly character from the show, and adds a whole new dramatic depth, creating opportunity for plenty of stories down the road. It also leaves us to wonder: Can Rosie ever die? Or, perhaps more importantly, can anyone?
“The Jetsons” saga from Conner, Palmiotti and Brito will continue when DC Comics launches the new series later in 2017.