For most people, the idea of reading a Flintstones comic book in 2017 is absurd. We get it — not only is the show not aired much anymore, it was a cheaply animated ripoff of The Honeymooners. The most modern point of reference is the occasional “It’s a Living” joke in Family Guy.
But last year,DC Comics launched its new “Hanna-Barbera Beyond” line. The comics in the series brought modern updates to some of our most beloved cartoon characters. Wacky Raceland turned Wacky Races into a Mad Max situation. Scooby Apocalypse turns Scooby-Doo into a post-apocalyptic sci-fi title. Though the Hanna-Barbera Beyond books have done well commercially and critically, the most positively reviewed title is The Flintstones, by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh.
Under Russell and Pugh’s hand, The Flintstones changed from a dated domestic sitcom to a deftly satirical comic. While Fred and Barney still wear their same outfits, they’re now making their way in a brand-new civilization.
We know, that’s a lot to take in. We get it if you don’t believe us that The Flintstones is now relevant.
But to prove our point, here are 5 favorite storylines from the revamped Flintstones comic.
1. Fred & Barney Have PTSD From a Genocidal War
If you remember the old show, Fred and Barney belonged to a Shriners-type organization, the Loyal Order of Water Buffalo. But in the new comics, the Loyal Order has been reimagined as a support group.
The Flintstones comic goes into more detail about the founding of the town of Bedrock than the series ever did. Bedrock was built over the remains of Tree People Acres. Before Mr. Slate became Fred’s boss at the quarry, Slate bankrolled the building of Bedrock. But before Bedrock could happen, the previous inhabitants — said Tree People — needed to be cleared out. So Slate and military leader Mordok the Destroyer convince the future Bedrockians to form an army. The Tree People are painted as insurgents who need to be wiped out before they wipe Slate’s crew out.
Unfortunately the truth is outed, and Fred and Barney realize they’ve committed genocide. But the Tree People aren’t completely forgotten — the Bedrock Middle School sports team is the Fighting Tree People!
2. The Flintstones Discover the Intersection of Religion and Commerce
Though we never found out what religion, if any, the Flintstones observed in the original show, in the comic they’re members of the First Church of Animism. They worship the bird god Morp — until they discover that Morp’s just a bird record player. This throws the church in crisis as they look for a new savior. After trying baby elephant Peaches (which leads to a great sign gag as the church invites Bedrockians to listen to The Teaches of Peaches), they eventually discover the utility of an invisible god that can’t let you down, run around or desert you.
3. The Fight for Marriage
The First Church of Animism makes an appearance in the storyline about the institution of marriage. While the controversial practice has a few adherents in Bedrock — like Fred and Wilma, Betty and Barney — most Bedrockians think it’s unnatural. They don’t see what’s so wrong with the old traditions, like orgies in sex caves!
The issue is a pretty obvious metaphor for the fight for marriage equality in our modern world. But, like with most of the Flintstones stories, a brilliant comedic touch keeps the book from getting preachy. (Besides, how can you go wrong with a protester holding a sign reading “God Hates Dads“?)
4. The Birth of Space Travel
While we only made it to the moon in 1969, it’s good to know that cartoon cavemen were making the attempt. These early attempts at space flight attract the attention of some intergalactic aliens — which then leads to Bedrock becoming the most popular Spring Break destination for privileged space teens.
There’s a reference to the Tree People Genocide here, too. Not only does Bedrock have to learn how to use guerrilla tactics to take back their home, the character of Joe is introduced. Joe’s a veteran of the same war Fred and Barney were in. But where Fred and Barney were able to adapt to civilian life, Joe wasn’t so lucky. When the aliens make a mess of things, Joe’s on hold on a suicide hotline. (The hold message repeats “Please Hold. Your impending suicide is very important to us. An operator will be with you shortly.”) The best thing about The Flintstones is how it’s not afraid to get dark.
4. The Animal Appliance Rebellion
Speaking of “dark,” in the original series, the animal appliances were a never-ending source of puns. Though the animals were all clearly sentient and could speak English, they never seemed to mind so much being used as a vacuum or record player.
In the comic, however, things are a bit different. The animal appliances have a terrible life. They’re bought, used in frequently painful ways, and when they “break,” they’re recycled into meat to feed other appliances. If in the cartoon series being an appliance was “a living,” in the comic, it’s anything but.
The first trade collection of The Flintstones comic is in stores now. The second and final collection will be available Oct. 4, 2017. Mark Russell’s next comic in the Hanna-Barbera Beyond line will be Snagglepuss, coming this fall.
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