Grappling With Issues: Scooby-Apocalypse

I’ve been threatening to do this for quite a while, and now the time has finally come – the comic column of this blog! For our first digression into the world of pictures and words is the little renown Scooby-Apocalypse, part of the first wave of Hanna-Barbera ongoings that DC Comics have been putting out. Much like its inspiration/namesake it is also the longest running one, at 15 issues so far with 3 more solicited – putting its current confirmed total at 6 issues more than either of the other longest ones. It is also the one to get the least press, for reasons I cannot comprehend.

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Much like Wacky RacelandScooby-Apocalypse was in the first round of advertisements but quickly fell more into the background. Others like Future Quest and The Flintstones took most of the spotlight due to more cult oriented nature of the content or quality. The latter especially gained more attention due to writer Mark Russell’s unabashedly cutting ideas making the series an entertaining and ripe material in the current social climate. While Wacky Raceland, which had good ideas here and there, failed to connect with audiences due to badly planned out initial issues before being cornered into a rushed conclusion – Scooby persevered. It’s been going for over 50 years in animated form, and it’d take a lot to keep it down in print for sure.

Yet, just because the series has been making its way in the background for over a year, that doesn’t mean that something interesting wasn’t happening. In fact, the series has a better pedigree than most, being the brainchild of Jim Lee and then handed over to the curation of Keith Giffen and J.M. Dematteis, veteran writers who are no slouches when it comes to taking concepts that others might find a bit weird and making them work. I mean, what other mainline concepts could possibly stand up against taking the Scooby Gang, Mystery Inc. itself, and putting them in a post-apocalyptic setting? It’s no surprise that people resoundingly scoffed at worst or were cautiously open to it at best. If it had such an uphill battle then how can it still be around?

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The answer is simple. It’s actually a really well done survival horror comic. It places the genre at the forefront rather than trying to mesh the cartoon with the idea of placing them in this dire situation. This allows for the fact that the characters are still written with a sensitivity toward their character voices to produce a believable mash-up mess. While these characters are wholly new with different backstories and circumstances – you can believe them to be the basic characters. This might not seem like a big deal, but large swaths of what-ifselseworlds, and reimaginings have fallen short of this crucial aspect. With all of that taken care of – the series has been able to go really harrowing places. Much like The Flintstones, with its commentary on modern life, Apocalypse doesn’t pull punches with digging itself into the mire.

Giffen and Dematteis have made the Scooby Gang into these incredibly detailed and engaging characters, who react to the end of the world in (relatively) realistically rendered ways. They are scared, traumatized, coping, and maybe even shattered by the experience. Yet, it is their burgeoning bonds with each other that is their only recourse for stability. Without that, they are lost – a subject that does come up. It’s so elegantly written and plotted out. It charges right into the complexities of their situation and how uncomfortable and guilt ridden each of them become in their strives toward finding a solution, or at least making it to another day. No one is left unaccounted for in this wheel of, well, being a fleshed out survivor.

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Daphne and Scooby over-exert themselves with bluster in order to deal with the horrific nature of the new environment and what they must do. Velma is so wracked with guilt that it causes her to breakdown – and Shaggy and Fred are just trying to find out ways to help or stave off more insanity, while not processing things as well as they could. If it just pushed a minuscule amount farther, then I doubt it would be allowed to still use the Scooby brand. While not as overtly intense as other horror survival books, it doesn’t shy from the content in those books in terms of the visceral. It confronts those head on – it’s premise, its characters, its setting…it’s just a good comic. Maybe that’s nothing to celebrate like this, but it is something to spread the word about.

What sticks out most of all is the way the comic carries itself, as a continuous serialized story that never fails to reap some sort of progress each issue. It makes the immediacy of the threat so much more palpable. Scooby-Apocalypse, in short, proves the versatility of the concept – this group of five characters with their own voice forming an entertaining whole. Then again, no surprise there, as the years have shown that the series has always had longevity.

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