Review – Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #1 (DC Comics)

Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Mark Russell
Penciller: Mike Feehan
Inker: Mark Morales
Colourist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Release Date: 3rd January 2018

After taking the Flintstones and turning it into one of the most hilarious, engaging and contemplative books of the last two years, Mark Russell now returns to shake up one particularly flamboyant pink lion with just as much grace and gravitas.

In a world where walking, talking animals are the norm amongst humans, it’s 1953 and the United States is locked in a nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union. Snagglepuss the pink lion is a gay Southern playwright, standing amongst the highest echelons of Broadway stardom. With S.P.’s homosexuality a secret kept hidden by family and friends, and a past with communist leanings, his history has made him a target of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. And with plans to purge show business of its most subversive voices, Snagglepuss is well in their crosshairs.

Heavens to Betsy, it’s a heavy concept for a character known for ridiculously flamboyant sayings, fast quips and even faster talking. But this dramatic take is, of course, flawlessly delivered by Russell, whose ability to take us into this ridiculous world and have these characters and narratives play out before us so naturally and assuredly is nothing less than a master-class in writing. With sharp dialogue and wit to match, we very quickly enter this world and very quickly become attached.

Every character’s first speech bubble and their depiction by Feehan, Morales and Mounts gives you everything you need to know about understanding where they stand in the story. And, a few flashbacks aside, Russell manages to establish the history of this world and its characters through dialogue alone.

Plus, the inherent nature of a story about Broadway stars means Russell gets to add some deliciously engaging theatrics and flair to the writing and dialogue that never overpowers the subtlety but always heightens the drama. Plus it works so well for the wonderfully gay Snagglepuss.

Much like The Flintstones, this issue is just as much about its commentary.  Focusing very specifically on both freedom of choice and creative freedom, the backdrop of the 50s and its homophobia and fear of communist takeover is the perfect setting for a discussion on society’s oppression and suppression of diversity and subversion in the name of protecting the conservative. It’s wonderfully multifaceted, working on readers both as lovers of the creative and just as everyday citizens in their own country.

Of course these are just the seeds planted in the first issue that will undoubtedly bloom into so much more in the coming issues, but even this first issue is an inviting and confronting reflection of society’s ugliness. Shown to us in our recent history.

But in adapting Snagglepuss, it isn’t quite 1:1 like Russell’s transformation of the Flintstones. For Snagglepuss fans (there’s plenty of us right?), Russell brings a new characterisation to our beloved character, instead of relying on his known quirks and traits. So I guess if you’re picking this up on Wednesday morning after a late night marathon of Snagglepuss reruns, you won’t be seeing the same character.

This is a theatrical drama through and through, and the maturity and nuance of its characters represent that, and Snagglepuss displays an amazingly different kind of flamboyancy here too.  That said, Snagglepuss doesn’t even say “even” after a sentence once in this issue. Come ON Russell, at least give us an “even”. Even just one “even”, even.

Still, at least he kept the part where none of the animals actually wear pants over their fur.

When it comes to the art, whether it be Russell or editorial, they knew exactly what they were doing when they hired this art team.  While not necessarily my style of choice, there’s no doubt that this grounded, detailed approach with dark, bold inks brings this Tennessee-Williams inspired view of the fearful 50s America on the brink of war to life in stunning fashion. Perfectly matched to Russell’s vision. Expressions are also easily the highlight of the issue, almost single-handedly leading the visual storytelling of the issue with every emotion displeased on these character’s faces. It’s a sight to see.

Colourist Paul Mounts’ incredible palette work also a key to the atmosphere in this issue; from the glamour of Broadway and colourful outfits to darkened back alleys and dreary government buildings. Deftly done to bring these scenes off the page.

As the issue draws to a close, Snagglepuss and everything he loves is about to be pulled out from under him. It’s the perfect set up issue for a story of this nature. The seeds are planted, we have our characters and our themes, and this team has demonstrated they have the chops to flawlessly execute it and fulfill this story’s potential. It also proves why Mark Russell is one of the most interesting and desperately needed voices in the industry.

Although surely some “Evens” are coming? At least a “heavens to Murgatroyd”, right? Are we even going to get an “Exit Stage Left”? Russell, we need to see this. Just once for us Snagglepuss lovers, even.

Rating: 4.5/5

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The writer of this piece was: Connor Stephens
Connor Tweets from @diddlesMVP

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