Lest you think I”m complaining with that headline, that’s a quote from Jeff Parker, the writer of the Future Quest series, which mashes up classic Hanna-Barbara adventure creations into one big epic story. Or, as Parker said, “The New Frontier of the Hanna-Barbara universe.”
The first issue, with co-creator/artist Evan “Doc” Shaner, comes out tomorrow and is available at your local comic shop or on Comixology.com.
When Future Quest was first announced, I was skeptical but after interviewing the creators last week, it’s now become one of my most anticipated projects. Shaner and Parker realize that they need to keep the fun of the original cartoons but also provide a modern spin that will make it relevant to today’s audience.
And fun. Did I mention fun? There is no team better suited to do fun that this creative team, including colorist Jordan Bellaire, who were responsible for a terrific Convergence series that focused on Shazam and the Marvel Family of Billy, Mary, Freddie, and their over-the-top supporting characters, yet also managed to add humanity and depth to everyone. Even the talking tiger.
What’s so grand about these cartoons? It’s more than just nostalgia, there is something timeless about them and their appeal. I grew up watching Jonny Quest in the mid-1970s, and also watched the Herculoids, Space Ghost, and some of the others but it’s Jonny Quest that sticks in my mind. Why? One, the adventures were so cool, scary and fun. “The spirit of Anubis is walking!” The big black eye that turned into a spider. The pulsing theme music. And, oh, yeah, Race. Yes, Race was my first television crush. I still maintain there is no one cooler than Race on television. As cool as, yes. Not cooler, though.
When I rewatched Jonny Quest with my kids some years back, they had the same reaction as I did. “This show is so cool.” They were riveted. They even gave up some time with their own generation of cartoons to watch. However, as an adult, I noticed that certain elements were dated on the rewatch. One, no girls or women. (Well, Jade but she was in maybe one or two episodes.) Also, some of the attitudes toward other cultures were more along the lines of “well, let’s just kill them” than anything constructive.
Space Ghost and the Herculoids had female characters too but they were pushed to the side often so the guys could do manly things.
That made me wonder about how Parker and Shaner would update the cartoons for modern times.
“The first thing I thought when I looked at these was ‘what’s with all the dead moms?'” Parker said. He and Shaner took a look at the female cast members, added one major new character, and brought a few others to the forefront.
“Diva is our main law enforcement figure, and we wanted to give her a prominent role.” [You can see her in some of the preview artwork in this post.] “We also checked out the other cartoons and realized no one was going to fight us to keep Professor Conroy as part of Frankenstein Jr., so we swapped him out and let the mom be the inspirational figure. With Herculoids, it’s Tara who comes through the portal with the monsters without the rest of her family, so she has the spotlight. We wanted to make this way more equitable than the original cartoons.”
Shaner, however, said that some things needed no updating, especially from a design standpoint.
“Right off the bat, I noticed that Jonny’s flat black shirt is amazing. The color always keeps it the focal point of any scene.” Shaner was also full of praise for the original futuristic designs of many of the characters. “That’s 1964 designs but it’s such slick tech that you can present it now.” He agreed that certain designs, such as the rolling black eye that turns into a spider, needed no updating.
“I’ll tweak some of the minor aesthetic details and I’ve been taking screenshots of the cartoons but I’m trying not to go too far into Easter eggs. But certain things like Dr. Quest’s laboratory have some.”
There are also minor changes in clothing, such as for Hadji, such as giving him jeans. Both creators laughed when they pointed out they’d solved a problem that long-vexed viewers of the show.
“We finally figured out what Jonny’s hair does when it moves!” Shaner said.
Hair jokes, aside, the overall plot revolves around an inter-dimensional/inter-galactic threat that requires all the heroes to join forces. “It’s a Force of Nature creature that has ravaged this area through time and space and is trying to come through to Earth via these portals.”
The portals are the gateways not just for the threat but also the means for all the characters to met.
Having read the first issue, I can report that the love for the creations evident in the preview panels carries through to the final product. I was especially blown away by an opening epic space battle and the two-page spread showing the portals and the glimpses of all the other worlds.
Even if you’re not familiar with these characters (or maybe only familiar with them through Venture Brothers), this promises to be spectacular fun.