Cosmo: This past Wednesday DC revived their Hanna-Babera properties in a grand manner. Except for Scooby-Doo, these characters have been pretty much neglected by DC of late. Not anymore as DC unveiled the first in a series of new titles: Future Quest. From the start it had bold ambition: uniting diverse characters from across the Hanna-Barbera stable under the aegis of the dynamic collaborators Jeff Parker, Evan “Doc” Shaner & Jordie Bellaire. Expectations were pretty high for this debut, yet, Parker, Shaner and Bellaire were able to meet them.
Pat: My expectations were far exceeded even though I had a feeling I’d like the book. Then I actually read it and WOW, what a debut. This is one of the coolest new series from DC Comics in quite sometime; it incredibly fun, visually stunning and unequivocally imaginative. I was completely blown away.
Cosmo: I agree that it was a really fun read, which hooks you immediately. Maybe one of the reasons my expectations were higher was my previous experience with the creative team. Their Flash Gordon run was really unappreciated. They filled that title with exciting swashbuckling adventure in the midst of imaginative worlds. At the same time, Parker displayed a great knack for character work, even adding some poignant layers in the final issue. Meanwhile, conveying a similar sense of wonder made their Shazam book one of the few highlights of Convergence. I figured if they could bring all these qualities to Future Quest as well, it would be a natural fit.
Pat: Yes, their work together on Convergence Shazam was fantastic. Shaner & Parker seem to have a natural chemistry that comes through in the comic, it’s storytelling is really smooth even as it jumps around from multiple settings and characters. While Future Quest are “classic” Hanna Barbera cartoon character’s, I think I speak for most readers when I say that these aren’t the Hanna Barbera cartoon’s I grew up on. My memories of the animation studio are Yogi Bear, The Jetsons, Tom & Jerry, The Flinstones or Scoody Doo. Most of the Future Quest cast are either a blank slate or were used for comedic reconfiguration’s in latter period Cartoon Network shows like Space Ghost: Coast to Coast or Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law. So while I was excited for the creative team, it was with trepidation based on lack of experience. But from the opening pages of the dying planet to when they transition onto Johnny Quest on the Jet Pack, I was in 100%, any pre-conceived notions were quickly out of sight, out of mind and I was engrossed in the comic.
Cosmo: Yes, Parker, Shaner & Ballaire have built up a great dynamic with each other. At the same time, we should not slight Steve Rude’s artistic contribution to the title. His pages, while slightly different in style, blended well with Shaner’s. I did not even realize that he was working on this series until I got to the title page and went “damn, I get Steve Rude art too? Awesome.”
I think that you hit on another aspect that was key to Future Quest’s success: accessibility. While I did watch some of the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons as a kid (mostly Space Ghost and Scooby-Doo) they were never a key part of my childhood. Later on, most of what I did remember got overwritten by the Cartoon Network reworkings. So I came to this series with very little in the way of active knowledge of the characters. Yet, as you stated, Parker did an excellent job of introducing who each of these characters are, along with their personalities. It’s a lot to juggle but he pulls it off expertly, while at the same time never allowing the action to get bogged down in exposition. (This was another hallmark of his work on Dynamite’s King properties). In addition, there is no sense of ironic distance to any of it. Parker takes these characters at face value without apology which only increases their charm. One of the best jokes of the week was the “wrrf” interjections from the dog. He ended up having as much personality as any of the humans.
Pat: On Steve Rude, I was saving talking about him because he actually did my favorite page in the book and I think you know exactly what I’m talking about….
Cosmo: Steve Rude’s great. And I just realized that Future Quest has two pencilers who both have nicknames. The credits could have read “Art by Doc & The Dude.” Now if only Jordie Bellaire has one as well . . .
Judging by last week’s Freeze Frame, I’d say your favorite was the splash page of the villain peering into all the various vortexes, which was also one of my favorites. The Harvey Birdman taking flight page was striking as well . . .
Pat: Yes, that page was incredible to me. What Rude did with the shifting of geometric perspective was awe inspiring while the way Bellaire user her colors to accentuate that while giving it a psychedelic vibe was out of this world. I could not stop staring at it
Cosmo : At a glance it almost looks like the page is entirely constructed out of abstracted geometric forms, but the more you look at it, the more detail work you pick out. Really a fabulous page.
Also, this would be a great place to mention Jordie Bellaire who does her usual exceptional job with the coloring. Just in this sequence with the villain it was interesting how she shifted the palette to darker hues such as orange and black more associated with sinister figures. Meanwhile Shaner’s pages are bursting with bright colors. Not that Rude’s scenes completely lack heroics (see above mentioned Harvey Birdman image). He does have a heavier line than Shaner, which Bellaire seems to take into account with her colors . . .
Pat: Bellaire is so impressive to me here, mainly because I’m so used to seeing her do more abstract and loose coloring on Image or Marvel comics like she does on that Steve Rude page but what she does with a much cleaner line here is equally impressive. Her colors are bright and expressive but also much more defined and it works perfectly on Future Quest. It’s hard to believe that this is the same colorist from books like The Manhattan Projects, Zero or even that last issue of The Vision but the way she’s evolved has shows an amazing level of versatility.
Cosmo: Bellaire colored Shaner’s art for Flash Gordon, so I’ve seen her work in this register previously. That takes nothing away from the versatility of her craft, however. There is very good reason why she is so highly praised.
Pat: Based on your past experience with this creative team on Flash Gordon, how does Future Quest stack up for you?
Cosmo: I would say that they are pretty comparable. Form-wise, Flash Gordon also jumped straight into the action, though, in that case it was spinning off from Parker’s earlier King’s Watch series. You could argue that Parker is recycling story beats as the narrative of Flash Gordon also involved a lot of jumping through warps to different worlds. However, I think that misses the forest for the trees. As I mentioned earlier both series share the same spirit of rollicking adventure and engaging characters expressed through Shaner’s dynamic art. Quality-wise they are equal.
One difference is that while Flash Gordon had a vast stage, it was defined by the established settings of the property. Future Quest has a much broader scope in that it promises to unite several different characters who had not previously co-existed. As such, it is a more ambitious undertaking. So far, all indications are that the creative team is up to the task.
Pat: Let’s talk about those dimensional warps. Even without having read Flash Gordon, I get really tired of other dimensions being used as a crutch in comic book stories. That said, I liked Future Quest a lot partially because that they established it as a feature of the book from the outset and that I find interesting.
Cosmo: Well, in the case of Flash Gordon it was more of warping between worlds than dimensions . . .
What was it about Parker’s use of the trope in Future Quest made it rise above cliché for you?
Pat: It was baked into the plot and feels like a plausible reason for why all these random people would be meeting up with one another.
Cosmo: Agreed. Gathering a large cast of disparate characters can often present plot problems. Parker appears to have found a good method for not only bringing his characters together, but also presenting a threat to justify their uniting.
The whole narrative, in fact, unfolded rather organically.
Pat: It really did, One of many reasons that Future Quest #1 was such a joy to read that I can’t wait for the next chapter.
Cosmo: Indeed, it made quite a first impression. DC was smart to lead their Hana-Barbera project with this one.
Speaking of which, does the success of this title alter at all your plans to pick up any of the other Hana-Barbera series? I had been on the fence about Scooby Apocalypse ’cause the concept doesn’t really grab me. Still at the end of the day, it’s hard to resist trying any new Keith Giffen/J.M. DeMatteis collaboration (even with the additional meddling of Jim Lee). Fingers (paws?) crossed that it’s crafted with the same care as Future Quest.
Pat: Yeah, this was pretty much the only one I’m interested in. Creatively it’s the strongest team and while you might’ve been able to talk me into Scooby, those new designs have assured I’ll probably never read it. I resent being pandered to poorly
Cosmo: What works in Future Quest’s favor is not only how strong the creative team is but how well suited it is for the material. For example, when DC announced Giffen for Scooby Doo, I was like “well, could work, he’s clearly done wacky well in the past.” Whereas hearing Parker/Shaner for Future Quest, I was “damn, they’d be perfect.” This is something that I believe has cropped up repeatedly in our discussions of creative team choices for initiatives such as All-New All-Different and Rebirth: it’s one thing to get good talent, it’s another to match it to the right material.
Which is not to say that Giffen/DeMatteis couldn’t write a great Scooby Doo book. I’m curious enough to give it a try. Just not going in with as high expectations. Also, yes, those redesigns are, well, lackluster . . .
Pat: That a good point about the team being right for the book. And I feel like Parker, Shaner & Bellaire have been together long enough that they’re working together really well as a creative team. Because of that, I think this series could be special. Like seeing the trio take it to the next level special.