In Gay-Man columns thus far, I’ve written a lot about contemporary comic books I’m enjoying, as well as a little bit about some characters I’ve loved ever since my childhood. This week’s topic fits both of those descriptors, and I’m excited to take a break from superhero analysis to talk about one of my favorite characters of all time: Scooby-Doo.
I am not hyperbolizing. Scooby-Doo is legitimately one of my favorite characters, and the Mystery Inc. gang is one of my favorite casts as well. I, like just about every other American born in the last half century, grew up watching Scooby-Doo cartoons and loving them. I laughed at Scooby and Shaggy’s antics. I admired Velma’s intelligence and loved her own more dry humor. I analyzed which parts of backgrounds were painted versus hand-drawn to determine what objects would soon be interacted with. I loved the different monster designs, particularly the green ghosts with their chains and the genuinely unnerving Spooky Space Kook. I also loved the odd, seemingly unrelated songs that would play as the Mystery Inc. gang would run away from angry monsters chasing after them.
Looking back on the old “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” cartoons with a more adult gaze and vocabulary, I realize that they took mystery and horror concepts and put them through the most high-camp filter imaginable. That combination, for me, hit a sweet spot, comprised of several of my different interests all at once. As a result, I’ve often revisited the franchise and I have had several Scooby-Doo phases over the years. I remember a point in high school where I went back and Rewatched most of the different cartoon incarnations of the characters, and I’ve recently reconnected with my love for the franchise once again. The main catalyst for my renowned interest as of late is the currently-running DC comic, Scooby Apocalypse.
Scooby Apocalypse is exactly what it says on the tin: Scooby-Doo (and the rest of Mystery Inc.) reimagined in a post-apocalyptic, monster-filled landscape. The characters are aged up to be definite adults (young adults, but adults nonetheless) and their redesigns fit within the new, more brutal setting they inhabit in the comic. When I first saw artwork from the series prior to it coming out, I didn’t know what to think. On one hand, it was a Scooby-Doo comic, so my attention was definitely grabbed. On the other hand, I couldn’t tell if the series would be a somewhat darker reimaging of the franchise that still retained its heart, or if it would be cringe-worthy drivel designed solely to be “gritty.”
Thankfully, the comic is superb. While the idea of taking Mystery Inc. out of the context of men in masks and fun 60s chase scenes and putting them instead into a Walking Dead-esque hellhole may sound potentially sound like an exercise in killing the fun of it all, the end result is still true to the characters in all the ways that matter most. The characters’ relationship dynamics are different, but familiar enough to read as the classic characters we all love. Shaggy and Scooby are still best friends, and the series’ most heartwarming moments involve depictions of their friendship. Fred is no longer as definite of a leader as he usually is, but he is still a fundamentally nice guy. He still cares for Daphne, more explicitly than in the original cartoons even, but their dynamic is shifted considerably and is actually more interesting in this incarnation than in the original.
Speaking of Daphne, she remains my least favorite member of the cast, but she is also the most improved from her original self. Fred and Daphne always struck me as the blandest members of the cast when I was a kid, and in this iteration Daphne is headstrong, confident (perhaps overly so), competent, and constantly speaks to her cohorts in a scathing manner. She takes the stress of trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world out on her teammates, and as a result is often unlikable in individual scenes. She also has softer moments, however, as the kinder sides of her personality peak through when she lets her emotional defenses down a bit more. Ultimately, this version of Daphne Blake feels more multi-faceted than the original. I don’t hold this against the original cartoons, as they were never really meant to dive deeply into the characters’ psyches. That wasn’t what those shows were about. With that said, it’s still cool to see more fleshed out versions of characters I’ve known for as long as I’ve had memory capacity.
I haven’t touched on Scooby Apocalypse’s iteration of Velma Dinkley, and I’m not really going to. I’ll just say that she remains a favorite and that Scooby Apocalypse #6, which centers on her, is a shockingly deep and moving portrayal of a character who has mostly been known for her intelligence and her propensity for dropping her glasses. Even more shocking than the character depth accomplished with Velma is the degree to which the series breaks the laws of physics and alchemy: Scooby Apocalypse makes Scrappy-Doo an enjoyable character to watch.
I want to point out that, despite my discussion of character depth and heartwarming moments, that Scooby Apocalypse is not high drama. While the world Scooby and the gang traverse in it is hellish, the tone of the book is not. The comic contains the same over-the-top humorous tone that has defined the franchise since its inception, and because of that the change in setting still works. Scooby-Doo stories are not supposed to leave you with nightmares. Scooby Apocalypse knows this and, despite having a comparatively more serious approach than the original cartoons, and remains a fun, campy experience in its own way.
With that, I leave you with my recommendation to check out Scooby Apocalypse, which is published monthly. If you’re interested in reconnecting with the characters but would prefer more traditional versions of them, the recent “Be Cool, Scooby-Doo!” cartoon was wonderful and held true to the tone and spirit of the original series. These characters have been beloved for decades, and with so many great versions it’s easy to see why.
I’ll be back in two weeks with more comic book banter. See you then,
Eric Cline is a gay poet, 2016 Best of the Net nominee, and the founding editor-in-chief of Calamus Journal. His debut chapbook, “his strange boy eve”, was published by Yellow Chair Press in September 2016. He tweets @ericclinepoet.