SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the Snagglepuss story “House Fires,” in “Suicide Squad/Banana Splits Special” #1, on sale Wednesday, March 29.
Readers get their first full look at Marc Russell’s bold and socially-conscious reimagining of Hanna-Barbera’s classic cartoon character Snagglepuss in next week’s “Suicide Squad/Banana Splits Special” #1. Illustrated by Howard Porter, the eight-page backup feature “House Fires” unveils the immediately recognizable character who’s still an anthropomorphic lion, still adorned in his pink fur and his trademark collar and cuffs, and still speaking in his classic drawl replete with his oft-quoted catchphrases.
Added to the character, though, is a degree of sociopolitical relevance – having been given an origin of being a gay playwright from the south, Russell’s reinvention isn’t really a change as much as it is an acknowledgement and expansion. The solidification of this childhood favorite’s characterization allows for Snagglepuss to move from the realm of benign escapism to pseudo-activism, giving the character a level of importance that no one watching his classic escapades after school over the years likely ever imagined.
Russell’s story puts Snagglepuss in the 1950s, the same decade as his creation, but in a decidedly atypical environment as we find him sitting before a congressional meeting of the House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities. With his stage plays seen as subversive to the committee’s perceived view of American values, Snagglepuss – or Mr. Puss, as he’s called by the committee members – defends his work and his standing with bitingly clever one-liners. His quips are every bit representative of the beloved traditional cartoon figure that everybody knows, but carry a more serious meaning considering the committee’s accusatory and troubling line of questioning. Narrow-minded conformism vs. progressive individuality dominates Russell’s opening sequence, and the flamboyant Snagglepuss standing up to the stodgy committee not only evokes laughs, but also sends an important message of resistance.
Resistance is the primary message of Russell’s story, at least on an intellectual level. When Snagglepuss later shares a defining moment from his past with the younger, and likewise familiar, cartoon character of Augie Doggie, he stresses the importance of writing the truth – a statement that can be interpreted in multiple contexts. His own works mirror the truth in the form of fiction, but as he states, “The world is on fire,” and telling the truth, whether it be in the form of fiction, non-fiction, or journalism, is an important message that comes at a time where lies are so readily accepted as fact. Snagglepuss’ words imply activism, but don’t apologize for the need of escapism – in troubled times, the need for escapism is never greater, as proven by, Heavens to Murgatroyd, the surprisingly insightful words of a talking cartoon lion. A pink one, even.
Porter’s final panel shows the dialogue symbolically taking place in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol Building, a site of so many important, game-changing, history-making battles. The near future promises only more of these skirmishes, both in the real world and the upcoming “Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles” comic, and, as Russell’s story states, these are fights we all need to be a part of.
DC Comics’ “Suicide Squad/Banana Splits Special” #1 goes on sale March 29.