Review: The Snagglepuss Chronicles

"Please state your name."

"Snagglepuss."

"Your profession?"

"American Cultural Icon."

With Snagglepuss defending himself with a quick wit in front of The House of Un-American Activities, we meet the newly imagined queer version of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon character as translated into DC Comics. He was introduced in a backup feature, "The Snagglepuss Chronicles," supporting the Suicide Squad/Banana Splits Special #1. Seems ol' Snagglepuss (the committee refers to him as Mr. Puss) has written a bestial play titled "The Heart is a Kennel of Thieves," and the production has raised questions regarding his loyalty to democracy, capitalism, and the American way. We have seen a "gay" version of Snagglepuss in the television series Drawn Together, The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live, and arguably, in the original Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Here, for the first time, Snagglepuss is being interpreted as a grounded character whose queerness is closeted, but is core to his character, and is just one dimension of who this cat is. His setting is the spectacular New York theater scene of the 1950s. Mark Russell (Prez, The Flintstones) beautifully realizes Snagglepuss as a Southern Gothic playwright who resembles aged male queer writers of the past Quentin Crisp, Noel Coward, and, more closely, Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams. He's a wit and a wag with something to say, and isn't afraid to speak it.

Cover of Suicide Squad/Banana Splits Special #1

Howard Porter's art is his consistently beautiful work. My introduction to him was through Grant Morrison's JLA, and it's nice to see his polished style adapted to something cartoony that Morrison himself would probably love. The mere idea of Snagglepuss facing off against the House of Un-American Activities glows with Morrisonian delight. The story, expertly titled "House Fires," is Russell's take on the cartoon-living-in-the-real-world conceit elevated to an emotionally moving level. Snagglepuss talks to a young writer, this universe's Augie Doggie, about what it means to be a writer seeking to change the world. Besides being a cute and clever story with Snagglepuss-styled zingers, it's also a lovely tale of an older writer sharing his experience with the next generation. This is one of my favorite pet themes, and it was a delightful surprise to see the sharing of power explored in the pages of what could be seen as a cash-grab DC/Hanna-Barbera crossover comic.

A panel from "The Snagglepuss Chronicles."

While this backup story places emphasis on the strength of subversives, its ultimate message lies in pointing to the role of writers in the real world. Snagglepuss delicately tells Augie that the world is on fire, and as writers it is only proper to warn people. However, getting people to listen to the truth in this world is difficult, and a writer shouldn't expect to change much. Instead, a writer should write what they want, and realize that people ultimately want to have a good time. "In life you do not fight battles because you expect to win...you fight them merely because they need to be fought," Snagglepuss impresses upon young Augie. This a powerful message for any work to communicate. It is impressive that it is said, and accomplished with words and images, here in the pages of a comic book; a mainstream comic book, even.

Snagglepuss, a Hanna-Barbera cartoon character introduced in 1959 when President Harry S. Truman denounced The House of Un-American Activities Committee as the "most un-American thing in the country today"

Find the "The Snagglepuss Chronicles" back-up story in the back of Suicide Squad/The Banana Splits #1 at your local comic book store today!

gavsygoo's picture
on April 5, 2017

Native Chicagoan. Former comics slinger. Current comics reader. Bespectacled.