Snagglepuss takes on the Red Scare in the latest DC revamp of a classic Hanna-Barbera character
I am not exactly sure what I was expecting when I began reading this title. I watched many Hanna-Babera cartoons when I was a kid; Wacky Race, Johnny Quest, Yogi the Bear, all of them. The character of Snagglepuss was a Pink Panther knock-off with the wry wit of a vaudevillian comedian. ‘Exit Stage Left’ is not the Snagglepuss I remember, it is so much better.
The setting of ‘Exit Stage Left’ takes place in the 1950s during the Red Scare in the United States. There are references to Stalin’s Purges, the creation of the hydrogen bomb, and the congressional hearings that led to the Blacklisting of many of America’s greatest authors and play writes. Snagglepuss has become a target of the cultural war against communism, and the release of this particular plot line is poignant to our current political climate. Yes, I just described Snagglepuss as ‘poignant’. As a matter of fact, it’s amazing.
Snagglepuss has been ordered by congress to give evidence against an old friend of his, Huckleberry Hound [another classic Hanna-Barbera character]. Instead of giving testimony to throw Huckleberry Hound under the bus, Snagglepuss actually comes out with a speech that indicts American culture’s need for entertainment during times of crisis and the infringement of free speech under government censorship. From the lips of Snagglepuss utters;
“The purpose of Art is subversion . . .any culture worth a damn is made by subversives because art is what tells the world it needs to change . . .”
DC has effectively turned Snagglepuss into Arthur Miller, the play-write who penned the famous ‘Death of a Salesmen’, and who, in realty, was targeted by Congress due to their fears of communism. This message is perfect for our current political climate, which finds an elite oligarchy ostracizing immigrants and suppressing civil rights.
Mark Russell, the writer of ‘Exit Stage Left’ has taken the opportunity in the medium of comic books to express the need for a national change of cultural consciousness, in the most unlikely of titles. Just as Alan Moore used the benign title of ‘Swamp Thing’ to express his views on ecological disaster, Russell is using this Hanna-Barbera mainstay as a method of protest against the rise of entertainment news and the suppression of truth in modern American media. If I could give this comic book a standing ovation, I would. I had no idea what I was getting into, and I thank Mark Russell for a history lesson we must remember, lest we repeat it in the modern day. I honestly cannot wait for the next issue to drop, because ‘Exit Stage Left’ may end up sitting next to ‘V for Vendetta’ in the Hall of Fame for socially conscious art work.
Go to your local comic book store and pick up ‘Exit Stage Left: the Snagglepuss Chronicles’ hitting the newsstands May 2nd.