In 2016, DC announced plans to reinvent classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters in contemporary comic books such as Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Howard Porter's Scooby Apocalypse -- which, as the name implies, put the Scooby-Doo gang in the middle of the apocalypse -- and people were, not surprisingly, skeptical. Then the comic books came out, and many were won over by the unconventional and creative approaches on display -- especially in Mark Russell and Steve Pugh's The Flintstones, which became one of the most critically acclaimed comic books of that year.
Last year, DC took this Hanna-Barbera renaissance to its next natural destination, in four one-shots that saw DC superheroes matched up with famous names from the Hanna-Barbera roster: Green Lantern/Space Ghost, Booster Gold/The Flintstones, Adam Strange/Future Quest and, of course, Suicide Squad/Banana Splits. On May 30, DC will release four brand-new one-shots crossing over the world of Hanna-Barbera and the DC Universe in unexpected ways, this time focused on Hanna-Barbera characters from the '70s, rather than the '60s. CBR has the first details.
All on the way, as 48-page one-shots with a $4.99 cover price: An Aquaman/Jabberjaw Special by Dan Abnett, Paul Pelletier and Andrew Hennessey (with a back-up by Jeff Parker and Scott Kolins starring Captain Caveman, The Spectre and the wizard Shazam); Black Lightning/Hong Kong Phooey Special by Bryan Hill, Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz (with a back-up by Parker and Kolins featuring a pre-Demon Jason Blood and The Funky Phantom); The Flash/Speed Buggy Special by Scott Lobdell, Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund (starring the Wally West Flash); and Super Sons/Dynomutt Special, which writer Peter J. Tomasi has already discussed online, featuring Fernando Pasarin and Oclair Albert.
”Mixing DC and Hanna-Barbera characters together for these stories is always fun because the results tend to be wildly unpredictable,” DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio said in a statement. “Even before you know what the story’s about, just hearing the names that get thrown together instantly brings a smile to your face and puts your imagination into overdrive, trying to figure out what kind of story could possibly come from these team ups. Fortunately, we’ve got the perfect lineup of creators that can bring those stories to life.”
CBR talked in-depth with DiDio about the new round of DC/Hanna-Barbera crossovers, the inevitable pairing of Hong Kong Phooey and Black Lightning, the opportunity to introduce characters like the Funky Phantom to new audiences, the importance of having fun with DC superheroes and the tantalizing tease of "Reverse Speed Buggy."
CBR: Dan, definitely want to talk about each one of these individually, but let's start from a broader perspective: You've really championed DC's Hanna-Barbera Beyond comics, and these crossovers -- was it a no-brainer to do another round? Did you have enough ideas generated the first time around you had to do it again?
Dan DiDio: We had a lot of fun with the first round of crossovers, and also the series themselves have been a real interesting mix of product that we've been able to kick out, and present these characters in new ways. But one of the things that I've noticed personally is that I was really focused on the Hanna-Barbera characters from the '60s, because that was my sweet spot. Those were the ones I remembered well. Then I had folks in the building coming up to me, constantly asking me about different characters that we didn't use. Characters like Jabberjaw, or Dynomutt, or Hong Kong Phooey weren't my sweet spot. Because of that, I never really gave them the amount of attention. Then, as I started to look at these characters more, I saw there was a lot of potential here, as well.
Sure enough, just as we found creators that were interested in Jonny Quest and Space Ghost, we found just as many characters that were interested in Hong Kong Phooey, Jabberjaw, and, of all things, Speed Buggy. It was a lot of fun. I enjoy any one of these things where we get a chance to look at characters from a different way, and present them in a story that we haven't seen before. We've done it with Hanna-Barbera, we had a lot of success with Looney Tunes -- we still have people talking about Batman/Elmer Fudd -- I'm hoping that with every round of these crossovers, we create that one, two, three books that really pop out, and become something people really enjoy.
It's fun seeing these Hanna-Barbera characters reimagined in different ways, and pairing them with DC characters say something about both. What kind of message, for you, does this send about the current era of DC and the willingness to have fun with the DC superheroes, and the freedom to put them in clearly unexpected positions and situations?
We've been broadening out on a pretty consistent basis, in terms of stories, ideas and concepts that I really think take full advantage of our character base. It's interesting, because DC was always built on a diverse product. You go back to the '60s and the '70s, you had war, horror comics, westerns, everything. Then we really focused on superheroes for a rather extended period of time. By doing crossovers like this, it plays to the strength of what superheroes are, but allows us to really broaden out the type of story we tell with it.
We've had a lot of success with other companies crossing over, but doing these all in-house, with such an array of characters, is a lot of fun. Honestly, if Warner Bros. didn't own the Hanna-Barbera characters, we'd probably try to do these anyway. That's how much these characters resonate with the folks in the building.
It's been a little more than two years since the initial announcement of DC's Hanna-Barbera lineup -- that day, there was certainly a lot of skepticism. Once they came out, I think people saw what they were, and were largely won over. Have you been surprised by how these books received, or is this pretty much what you expected and hoped?
It's what I had hoped for. We've had mixed sales success, but I argue that if you sat down and read any one of these books, you can't argue the quality and the care that's been put into them. It's a level of risk that we're willing to take.
It's been wonderful to work with the folks inside Warner Bros. -- we actually have to negotiate these within Warner Bros. itself, this isn't something we just can do arbitrarily. Diane Nelson was integral in helping us bring the Hanna-Barbera library over to the DCU. There's a lot of respect put into every one of these characters and stories. We love the opportunity to really do what we do with our own characters -- find the core of what makes these characters great, what people remember most, and find a way to contemporize the world around them.
The approach to every one of these stories is, it's a DC comic with Hanna-Barbera characters in it, as if they belong in that world. I think that just naturally makes the artists and writers approach it in a different style and sensibility. That makes this a really fresh take on this type of story.