Nostalgia is big business in pop culture. That especially applies with TV and movies, as you surely know. Just about every TV show that was popular during the past 20 to 30 years (maybe even within the past decade) seems like it’s being revived in one form or another. And at the movies, anything resembling a brand is fertile material for a reboot or sequel. Star Wars essentially took over the world for the past two months.
But DC Entertainment might be pushing our affection for the past a bit too far with an upcoming project. The publisher announced on Thursday that it will be rolling out an all-new line of comic books based on the Hanna-Barbera cartoons that populated television in the 1970s and 1980s. But properties like Scooby-Doo and The Flintstones aren’t just going to be revived as the iconic images that we remember. These new comics are going to be updated versions of favorite characters.
Check out the 2016 incarnation of The Flintstones, as first seen from Entertainment Weekly:
OK, a comic book probably shouldn’t be judged solely on one image. But this looks just about as bad as the 1994 live-action movie starring John Goodman as Fred Flintstone, Rick Moranis as Barney Rubble, and Rosie O’Donnell as Betty Rubble. (It might actually lean more toward the 2000 prequel for which Goodman and Moranis couldn’t be convinced to return. Stephen Baldwin as Barney? Viva Rock Vegas? This really happened.)
“I think what you find right now is there’s so much material on pop culture, and these characters resonate with so much of our fanbase,” DC Entertainment co-publisher Dan Didio told EW‘s Andrea Towers. “It was so fun to go out and look at them, but not just bring back versions that existed 40, 50 years ago and really look at it the way of saying, if these characters were created and interpreted today, how would they exist? So we handed off our materials to a number of top creators, and what came back was an exciting look that felt very true to the existence of the characters.”
So Scooby-Doo is now Scooby Apocalypse, making Shaggy looks like someone who wants to sell you an artisanal hemp blanket and maybe plays bongos on a street corner on Saturdays. Freddy looks like a bro, which he probably always has been. But his ascot has been traded in for a bandana and tribal tattoo. Daphne is a weapon-toting asskicker that fits alongside Rey, Imperator Furiosa and Black Widow among female warriors in current pop culture. And Velma… well, geeks are chic now, right? So that probably works. Even if she’s controlling a drone.
But what is Scooby-Doo wearing on his right eye? Is that some kind of monocle that detects paranormal beings? “Apocalypse” would seem to imply zombies. So is the Scooby Gang now a group of zombie hunters or ghostbusters? Actually, that’s a suitably modern update. Those meddling kids were basically ghost detectives, investigating the supernatural. Perhaps we should just be thankful that we’re not getting a found-footage movie titled Paranormal Activity: Scooby-Doo. Or is this going to be a comic book version of that? Oh no…
“We didn’t want to just repeat what people saw in the past,” DiDio added. “It’s really important for this to resonate with folks who have never even heard of the characters. If this is the first they’re seeing it, we want them to be enjoying the material. So from our standpoint, our goal is to make this exciting and accessible to all generations, whether they’re fans of the material and the characters or not.”
But some of us older folk might still be a pushover for nostalgia. I’m an easy sell on anything with Jonny Quest or Space Ghost, for instance.
OK, we’ve teased about these updated versions of beloved characters so far. But DC Entertainment does have a good point in that these properties need to be updated for new audiences to have a broader appeal, and not just appeal to 30-to-40-year-olds who remember Scooby-Doo fondly, but would probably rather just watch the old cartoons on DVDs or streaming video. But DC likely can’t just publish a book about paranormal detectives and expect to be successful. A brand has to be attached. Thus, we get The Hipster Scooby Gang.
Is it too much to ask for Space Ghost Coast to Coast also returning? Yes, the late-night talk show space is very full these days, but Space Ghost interviewing celebrities could be “exciting and accessible to all generations.” Maybe it could come back as an Internet talk show. How much more 2016 could you get than that?