♦Tripwire’s Contributing Writer OLLY MACNAMEE takes a look at the first trade paperback collecting DC’s The Flintstones comic series…
The Flintstones Vol.1
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Steve Pugh
Shhh. Don’t tell the American readership, but what they’re reading whenever they pick up The Flintstones is something of a subversive, left-wing leaning comic book from a major American corporation at that! And, I’m all for it.
The Flintstones, from the very first installment in this collection (of issues 1-6) has something with a whiff of socialist leaning humour about it in its many, many targets for satire. In the first two issues/chapters alone there are comments made, both implied and shouted out loud and proud, about the worker/employee relationships, or as I would call it, the proletariat vs the bourgeoisie, as well as our modern age preoccupation with the accumulation of ‘crap’ (not my words, of course, but the comics. I would never be so foul mouthed, gentle reader) for the sake of it. For example, a throwaway line in chapter/issue one regarding the motivation behind the war that Fred was a veteran of (“And thousands of men like you, fighting and dying, to make Bedrock safe for business”) could so easily, and correctly I think, be taken as a sharp shot at the recent ‘skirmishes’ America, and other Western powers took for the sake of Corporate America in Afghanistan and particularly in oil-rich Iraq. Hell, just watch any Adam Curtis documentary (and I implore you all to do just that!) and you’ll know what I’m talking about. After all, you’re not reading this review to be lectured at, now have you?
Add that into the puntastic visual gags on each and every page and what you have is a phenomenal reinterpretation of a cartoon I found, as a child, to be entertaining, but of poor quality. I’m sorry, but I never warmed to the Hanna-Barbera (HB) stuff that was consistently shoved in front of me every summer holiday. The repetitive backgrounds, the inanimate animation; even as a not-so-small nipper I wasn’t fooled by it’s made for TV production qualities and canned laughter. The Flintstones comic, however, is a different animal altogether because of it’s high quality writing and art.
Maybe that’s why I was one of the few observers who took great offense at the keyboard warriors and online moaners who declared the whole idea of reimagining The Flintstones and other HB properties as a doomed affair. Maybe they weren’t looking at the early Steve Pugh artwork the same way I was? Or, maybe they were just blind or simply ignorant. Either way, I hope many had the decency to accept they were wrong. The Flintstones has been met with wide critical acclaim and rightfully so. The sharp, on point, satirical writing by Mark Russell is a joy to take in and one of those comics that, like good satirists can do, make you feel that your thinking is shared by others and you’re not alone. Even in Trump’s America.
Steve Pugh, as has widely been recognised as having adapted his style to suit this comic, brings a sense of realism to these one-time cartoon characters, through his use of clean, fluid linework which suggests a certain minimalism when compared to other, more textured and layered work he is better know for, that only adds weight to the rich satire running through each and every chapter of this trade paperback and makes it resonate more as a result of this artistic approach. Take Clod The Destroyer, and his dad, Mordok The Destroyer, in chapter/issue 5, all brutish brawn and xenophobia encouraging the citizens of Bedrock to join the fight against a perceived enemy. This event is the catalyst for an issue of both flashbacks and parallel subplots too. While Fred, and Barney, remember the mass genocide they actively partook in, a school election is played out with worryingly similar outcomes to both the major Mayoral election and the all too real American nightmare, sorry, election, too. As well as being funny, it can also be thought provoking too, and shows a real development in the characters, the families, we remember from the cartoons. The realistic approach to this comic allows for these more poignant moments to be played out and taken up by the reader.
And, while it’s nothing new in using a particular time to explore and comment on present day events, the cartoon from which this more adult and more realistic comic, gains its inspiration from, Bedrock, The Flintstones and Barney and Betty their neighbours, allows for far more imaginative, closer-to-home punches to be landed in the similar tradition of the original prime-time predecessor to The Simpsons. Something I would not have been aware of from my youth, but in now understanding that The Flintstones was a satirical forerunner of the aforementioned show, recognise and embrace that this comic is a grand continuation in the very same vein as the original 1960’s show. And, as such, an appropriately timed return of a working class family simply trying to work their way through life. But then, aren’t we all.
Sharp, hitman-like accuracy in the targets aimed at by Russell, and suitably and somewhat realistically illustrated by Pugh. This is the full package! And, one of the best DC comics on the shelves. So, what’s stopping you?
The first collected trade paperback is out now. A worthy alternative to chocolate eggs this Easter maybe?