Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles

Monday, September 3, 2018


Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles
Mark Russell, Mike Feehan, et al., 2018

New Release! I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for the purpose of review.

Premise: In the 1950s, anthropomorphic animals and humans alike struggle with McCarthyism, censorship, and homophobia. One flamboyant pink-furred playwright is caught between all three. Collects Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #1-6 and the backup story from Suicide Squad/Banana Splits Special #1.

I'm only passingly familiar with most of the Hanna-Barbera characters from this era, but I think this reimagining does some fascinating things by extrapolating out from basic character traits. The core is, of course, taking the extravagant and theatrical mannerisms of Snagglepuss and making him a closeted Southern playwright working in the style of Tennessee Williams. The whole piece has the heightened language and high melodrama that I associate with Williams' work, in fact.

The story is serious and dark, reflecting the paranoia and hatred of the time as well as reflecting into today's culture. Snagglepuss is persecuted by the House Committee on Un-American Activities, and although his success protects him a little, it protects others not at all. He struggles with the balance between cowardice and pragmatism. Between convictions about the purpose of art and the reality that crossing certain lines means you don't get to make art at all.

The art is lovely, and the realism and detail match the writing well. I couldn't quite get over the no-pants thing, though. It was just so weird! Animals live like humans, look very humanoid, have sex with humans, but don't wear pants.

I appreciated that the collection includes a few pages in the back that explain which elements are taken directly from history and which are adapted or adjusted to fit the story. For example, having the Stonewall Inn exist in the 50's the same way it did in the 60's is a blow to historical accuracy, although I understand why the choice was made for narrative impact.

I didn't love everything about this story - I think the emotional beats and climactic speeches land well, but some of the exposition meanders in the middle issues. Overall, though, it's a strong, fascinating piece.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

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