WARNING: This article includes spoilers for Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #6 by Mark Russell, Mike Feehan, Sean Parsons and Paul Mounts, on sale now.
Over the last few years, Hanna-Barbera has given DC Comics carte blanche to re-invent its iconic cartoon characters, leading to some unexpected evolutions and truly extraordinary stories. Mark Russell and Steve Pugh's take on The Flintstones was some of the smartest social satire of 2016-17, and Scooby Apocalypse by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and artists beginning with Howard Porter has introduced a weird, wild take on the mystery-solving teens.
Russell's second Hanna-Barbera series, Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles with artists Mike Feehan, Sean Parsons, and Paul Mounts has proven another devastating modern parable, casting the pink mountain lion as a gay Southern Gothic playwright targeted by the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) in 1953. The series has explored the reactions of several real-life writers, artists and members of New York high society of the era as they negotiated the dangers of the Red Scare, and issue #5 saw novelist Huckleberry Hound, Snagglpuss's closest friend, commit suicide after being betrayed by his lover and indicted on indecency charges. In short: Snagglepuss has been a brutal comic book.
In this week's finale, however, Russell takes perhaps his boldest leap yet -- Exit Stage Left leads directly into Snagglepuss's 1959 debut on The Quick Draw McGraw Cartoon Special.
That's right, everything in this series is now in canon for the string tie-wearing cartoon character most famous for exclaiming, "Heavens to Murgatroyd."
Snagglepuss #6 picks up in 1959, six years after S.P.'s testimony before HUAC and the death of Huckleberry Hound. He's been blacklisted, unable to get his plays produced or find other work in the industry. But a remorseful Quick Draw McGraw, the police horse who turned against Huck to save his own hide, comes to Snagglepuss with a new opportunity: cartoons.
"It's easy," he tells S.P. "All you need is a silly catchphrase." Snagglepuss's first attempt doesn't quite hit the mark, although some may enjoy imagining a world in which the pink mountain lion's famous line was "Sweet tits of Billy."
Quick Draw explains that the burgeoning cartoon industry needs stars, and "we can hire anybody we want," regardless of the blacklist. Just in case, though, Quick Draw suggests a disguise -- the "disguise" Snagglepuss is seen in for that initial episode, before unmasking as the more familiar character we know and love.
Quick Draw's take on the what their innovation will mean for the Hollywood blacklist is another bit of optimism in this concluding issue -- despite its somber tone throughout, there are a number of such redemptive moments, including one last visit to the Stonewall Inn. Even S.P.'s ex-wife Lila Lion finds happiness in the arms of baseball great Joe DiMaggio. The final pages, though, tug at the heartstrings one last time, introducing S.P.'s new comedic partner: Huckleberry Hound, Jr.
And that's where our story begins, of cartoon animals that have endured for almost sixty years. How does the tragedy of Exit Stage Left influence our viewing of silly talking animal cartoons?
Lighten up, it's just the funnies.