Snagglepuss, Hanna-Barbera’s old cartoon actor and playwright assists the last session of one of his popular play. It is 1953, in New York and the U.S. has lost fate in its artists and creators. Are they all communists waiting valiantly in the wings to betray their country to the reds? What can be done? How does one artist survive the day, live his life as a gay cat, and does not become a has-been. Will Snagglepuss survive the House Un-American Activities Committee?
Mark Russell is using the same playbook he did with the Flintstones’ reboot last year. He tackles contemporary problems about what it means to be an American minority through an extended allegory with Snagglepuss. As with the Flintstones, everything with Russell is a matter of fact. He does not bother explaining why mountain lions, and dogs live side by side with humans and how they can even fall in love with one another.
Since Art Spiegelman’s Maus, there many creators would have used the animals and the humans as allegories foe minorities. I do not know if Russell will follow that route but for now, he does not care. Do not expect an answer as to why anthropomorphic animals live with humans. This is not the story. The story is the extension of the old Snagglepuss character that we watched as kids becoming the ultimate version of himself as a playwright and battling his own humanity as an artist.
So far, Snagglepuss is no more than a Tennessee Williams’s analogue in a pink mountain lion’s body. His life is different, but he has not yet evolved from the prototype that Russell used to extend the cartoon character. As such, I await the opportunity to see if Snagglepuss will remain a caricature or a serious character whose story is about the witch hunt American government frequently put their people through. Given the growing authoritarian presidency of Donald Trump, it will be interesting to see if Russell can emulate some of political shenanigans that will happen in 2018, in this comic.
Mark Feehan is a solid illustrator at ease with everyday scenes, and the odd animal snout. The work is not dark at all for a period piece. Feehan could have used more contrast with light and dark. Instead, he and inker Mark Morales kept the pages bright and free of shadows and large masses of blacks. Paul Mounts’s colours support this bright world.