The creators of The Flintstones comic on bringing existential dread to Bedrock

DC Comics made the Flintstones sad. These geniuses are the culprits.

In all probability probably the most emotionally devastating comic e-book in newest memory features a man coming to grips alongside together with his obsolescence, questioning humanity’s squandering nature and gross consumerism, and coping with the scars of battle.

His title is Fred Flintstone.

Created by writer Mark Russell and artist Steve Pugh, The Flintstones is obsessive in regards to the human frailty that permeates the colorful, humorous, Yaba-daba-doo Time Bedrock that many individuals grew up with. It makes use of Bedrock’s first family and Hanna-Barbera’s gag-filled prehistoric imaginative and prescient to tell a basic reality about human nature: civilization’s first steps to survival consists of one other particular person’s doom.

It’s all heavy stuff, and given the newest improvement of cartoons and comic books going darkish and soiled, the Flintstones’ existential catastrophe might merely be a gimmick inside the arms of anyone nevertheless Russell and Pugh. The two imbue the comic with a stunning thoughtfulness and humanity that makes this melancholy swerve work for the modern Stone Age family. The Flintstones is a comic book ebook that aches and breathes, and that seeks to current us readability about our private lives.

Pugh and Russell’s run is being released as a collected volume this week, and I recently acquired the likelihood to talk to the two in regards to the creative course of, the e-book’s unusual glimmers of happiness, and the best way they determined that best technique to a cartoon acknowledged for its prehistoric puns was inescapable existentialism.

This interview has been edited for dimension and readability.

Alex Abad-Santos

Mark, I be taught in a single different interview about your intense dislike for Flintstones dietary nutritional vitamins. Did you make this e-book so sad because you hated the Flintstones dietary nutritional vitamins loads?

Mark Russell


Pugh/DC Comics

No, I didn't even truly keep in mind when writing the e-book, think about it or not. I did ought to profit from the possibility of writing a Flintstones comic to make a jab at Flintstones dietary nutritional vitamins, which you may want seen in drawback 2, when Fred appears to be instantly on the reader and he says, "Vitamin pills are a scam."

Alex Abad-Santos

You talked about they tasted like batteries.

Mark Russell

I found it very gratifying to position that in Flintstones comics. Yeah, primarily what you're paying for is costly urine.

Alex Abad-Santos

On a additional extreme bear in mind, one in every of many reoccurring themes of the comic is desirous to essentially really feel very important in a world the place you're terminally insignificant. How did you guys discover that was the theme that you just simply wished to associate with the Flintstones?

Mark Russell

As a writer, I actually really feel like I don't choose what I'm going to jot down down about loads as a result of it chooses me. I write in regards to the points that problem me, and one in every of many points that bothers me is how we're repeatedly dehumanized by the minutia and the pettiness of the world spherical us. So that's one factor I didn't truly acquired all the way down to make a comic book ebook about, nevertheless it's one factor that sort of imbues the comic that I'm writing, on account of it's one factor that weighs on me.

Steve Pugh

Visually, it was kind of as a lot as me to once more Mark up in that technique. Possibly among the finest seen illustration of that is Fred himself. He's an infinite man, massive barrel-chested ex-army man, who 20 years earlier might take one thing that the world threw at him. Nonetheless now that world is shifting on, his bodily power and his power is kind of meaningless inside the new state of affairs by which he finds himself. Civilization is now sort of edging him to the aspect, on account of the entire points that made him able to take care of the world are the problems which could be making him not part of it any additional.


Pugh/DC Comics

Mark Russell

I consider that one in every of many elementary choices of civilization is that it tends to reduce people to their monetary capabilities, and that's one factor I consider is additional clear with the animal house tools, that even their names are merely what their function is within the house, like “Lamp” and “Coatrack” and “Bowling Ball.” These are the one names they know each other by, and it's primarily just because when you're dwelling in an interconnected societal monetary system, that's how people are prone to see you and what you subsequently are sometimes lowered to — your monetary function.

Alex Abad-Santos

One different theme of the e-book is the consequence of consumerism. At first, you’re like, "Oh wow, this turtle's so cute, because he's holding ice cream," after which after Fred and Wilma go to the mall they often start searching for the power goat lawnmower, you start realizing these animals have emotions too, they often merely kind of get tossed off.

Mark Russell

I consider that consumerism, primarily what it is is a cute dystopia. I consider that the majority dystopias you see in literature are gray and darkish and sometimes very conformist. America, and I consider in most industrial worldwide places, we don't acknowledge ourselves as dystopias on account of we're vibrant, we're marketed to, points are shiny and shiny. Our dystopia appears to be additional like a Taco Bell than a spotlight camp.

Alex Abad-Santos

How is that mirrored in The Flintstones’ paintings?

Steve Pugh

It's one factor I noticed as I went by the use of the e-book, pitch notably the animal house tools, how cartoony to make them and the best way actual trying to make them in a number of circumstances, and permit them to have the power to emote enough to empathize with them.

And as far as the human characters go, it was very important that they sort of not discover what they're doing to these animals. These are good people doing harmful points to completely different dwelling creatures, nevertheless they don't get it however. If any particular person kind of took them aside and outlined what they’d been doing, they'd be horrified. Nonetheless on account of the society they're working in doesn't perceive these values, they're completely oblivious to the chaos they're inflicting.

Alex Abad-Santos

That comes by the use of in State of affairs #three, with the aliens Spring Breaking in Bedrock, this entire idea that the aliens are treating Bedrock’s civilians the easiest way Bedrock’s finest dealt with the people who acquired right here sooner than them.

Mark Russell

I consider it's one in every of many themes of The Flintstones whole, that every civilization we see is constructed on any one that was murdered or kicked out of the land they’d been occupying. There's this uncomfortable family historic previous to every nation, every civilization on Earth. As we turn into additional civilized we pleasure ourselves on being additional ethical people, nevertheless the earlier points, like imperialism and conquest, sort out utterly differing kinds. They don't truly go away. As an alternative of actually militarily occupying the land and kicking out the occupants, we merely go there on spring break and trash the place.

Alex Abad-Santos

Fred's a battle veteran on this sequence, and it seems all people has their very personal sort of hurt. Does that tie once more to the thought of our “uncomfortable” family historic previous?

Mark Russell

I needed to do one factor with the Water Buffaloes [the organization Fred and Barney belong to], nevertheless inside the earlier 1960s cartoon, the Water Buffaloes had been merely sort of a gentleman's membership — , similar to the Rotary or the Lions — and it didn't truly actually really feel very associated to me. What did actually really feel associated was plenty of vets returning home from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the best way we truly haven't created one thing for them to return once more to. So that to me felt like a far more associated use of the Water Buffaloes than going once more and kind of visiting this Mad Males-era social membership for gents who merely have to get away from the wives for plenty of hours.


Pugh/DC Comics

Alex Abad-Santos

In one in every of many factors, Fred and Barney’s good pal — a Water Buffalo down on his luck — actually is blissful on the considered getting once more to battle as soon as extra.

Mark Russell

Yeah, as soon as extra, it's about them having been lowered to this operate that they play, versus being celebrated or given appreciation for merely being the human beings that they are.

Steve Pugh

Mark acquired right here up with the cool conceits strategy sooner than I was launched on board, and after I be taught the script in regards to the Water Buffaloes being veterans, it was a form of ideas that's obvious as quickly as any particular person's thought-about it. You see it on the internet web page and likewise you suppose, "Of course, that's beautiful, that's perfect," nevertheless it took Mark to consider it, and it actually works truly, reasonably nicely. It's a bit pin inside the map you possibly can cling plenty of the alternative stuff spherical.

Alex Abad-Santos

Steve, when Mark tells you that he wishes to take the Water Buffaloes on this route, what’s your thought course of? How do you take care of that idea?

Steve Pugh

Mark doesn't put in an infinite amount of seen info. He lets me kind of run with the ball. What I’ve to do is be taught the dialogue, be taught the characters, after which assemble points to help that. I identify them gags. They're not gags, nevertheless these set objects. It's implicit in the easiest way these characters are relating to 1 one other, so I can inform roughly the age and the demeanor and the physique language of these characters merely from what they're saying, almost, and for in all probability probably the most half we've managed to stay in sync. I haven't made too many errors, I hope, or he hasn't talked about if I’ve.

Alex Abad-Santos

I'm not a visual specific particular person, I can’t draw, so it's laborious for me to think about points spatially or know the place to even start visually. Nonetheless when you talked about “body language” — that clicked.

Steve Pugh

Some artists truly, actually need all of the issues on the internet web page, almost like an Alan Moore-full description of the state of affairs. I'm top quality with that not being there. The first issue for me is I understand the motivation of the characters. If I do know what they're feeling a few state of affairs, then all of the issues else is okay. Nonetheless usually you get a script the place it's not going obvious if the character's utterly happy or sad or indifferent about what's happening to them, after which it's a nightmare, on account of plenty of what I do depends on physique language and facial options. Nonetheless it's not at all a problem with Mark's scripts. They on a regular basis have the meat of the character in there.

Mark Russell

Typically I'll ship a script off and the artwork work will come once more utterly completely different than what I envisioned, nevertheless it's on a regular basis increased than what I had imagined, so I've realized to current Steve as little route as attainable and let him shock me with what he comes up with.

Steve Pugh

Good lesson. Write that down, Alex.

Alex Abad-Santos

The comic’s moreover deeply skeptical of nightly info and journalism. The place does that come from? Is dig at how we present tales over time?

Mark Russell

It's about attempting to find out what people are going to look at and supplies it to them, versus actually severe about tales — and , it's a extremely human issue. All of us do it. We're additional about getting the curiosity of various people than we’re about contemplating deeply in regards to the exact points.

The problem is that we're on a regular basis chasing completely different people's approval. In plenty of strategies in life we're having fun with a recreation of Family Feud, the place we're attempting to guess probably the most well-liked options versus the correct ones. That's sort of the cardinal sin that Bedrock Info makes, and the place journalism goes incorrect, is that they're attempting to find out what people want to listen to versus telling them exact particulars or the truth about points in Bedrock.

Alex Abad-Santos

The e-book moreover has a skeptical and perhaps grim view of religion and morality.

Mark Russell

I don't suppose it's a grim view of religion. I consider they're merely — it's trial and error. They're attempting to find out what people need from religion, and the underside line is all of us technique the universe incomplete and with utterly completely different holes inside us that need filling by spirituality. They usually additionally're going by the use of a interval of trial and error the place they're attempting to find out what's going to serve people's non secular desires.

It doesn't diminish the efforts to try to find one factor that folk can latch onto that makes them actually really feel linked to the universe, by benefit of them getting it incorrect sometimes. It's merely that that’s what happens. We get it incorrect, and we're attempting to find out what completely different people need. The problems that institutions have is trying to present an institutional decision to what’s primarily a personal need.


Pugh/DC Comics

Steve Pugh

There’s moreover the aspect that you just simply launched in of the two forces at play in Bedrock, the place you've acquired the science man and likewise you've acquired the religion man, they often're every attempting to win over the group. They're every searching for their strategy, they often're every comparatively reliable about what they think about. The science man doesn't truly know what's occurring, nevertheless he's truly searching for out, and the non secular man, he's truly searching for his strategy. You perceive, he wishes people to be good. He wishes people to care about each other.

There's no intent to ridicule science or religion as harmful points, nevertheless the place they’re inside the story in Bedrock, in prehistoric cases, they're truly out of their depth. They're merely discovering their strategy on the start of their journeys.

Alex Abad-Santos

Maybe I’m leaning on the phrases grim and skeptical an extreme quantity of. Nonetheless there's positively an thought inside the e-book that you need to be questioning what you’re launched.

Mark Russell

I consider in the end what we're saying is that everybody's truly merely guessing. It doesn't indicate they're harmful people within the occasion that they get it incorrect, nevertheless they're lastly guessing. The reality that there's an authority, whether or not or not it's inside the church or science or in politics, telling you one factor doesn't absolve you of the duty of contemplating to your self.

Alex Abad-Santos

The e-book has often been described as melancholy, nevertheless in plenty of interviews I've be taught with you guys you on a regular basis say one factor to the influence of, "There are humorous and joyful components in it.” So what’s probably the most joyful half in The Flintstones?

Mark Russell

I consider for me, I truly similar to the friendship between Bowling Ball and Vacuum Cleaner.

Alex Abad-Santos

That they every reside in a darkish closet?


Pugh/DC Comics

Mark Russell

Yeah, they're primarily house house tools that don't have tons to sit up for in life, nevertheless they uncover each other. They uncover good solace of their relationship, and I consider that's lastly what all of us do. The whole thing we now have that's worth having lastly comes from completely different people.

Steve Pugh

I like Pebbles and Bam-Bam goofing spherical, nevertheless I do … Hmm. I do know they're in there, on account of I keep in mind going, "Oh, that's nice."

Mark Russell

I consider the connection between Fred and Wilma could be very optimistic and genuinely loving, and is an environment friendly sort of humanizing part of the story.

Alex Abad-Santos

What in regards to the gay couple, Adam and Steve? I actually really feel corresponding to you guys had been sitting on that one for a bit bit, and in Fred and Wilma’s marriage drawback it feels corresponding to you every acquired to say, "Yes! We get to make this joke."

Steve Pugh

There's a bit issue after they meet Fred on the road, I consider one amongst them's like ruffling his hair or one factor. I truly liked that. Yeah, you're correct, that was joyful. It was a really good second, , between mates who've acknowledged each other a really very long time, and actual affection between people.


Pugh/DC Comics

Alex Abad-Santos

The flashback whenever you decide what Adam and Steve indicate to Fred is kind of an enormous deal, too. You suppose that it's merely the plain joke, after which it goes a bit deeper and it pays off.

Steve Pugh

That full marriage drawback was lovely. I indicate, there have been some horrible moments in it, nevertheless there have been precise good people having good points. Properly, let me suppose, did good points happen to them? I'm making an attempt it up as I'm talking. Yeah, that was pleasurable. That was joyful. I do understand it sounds weird, nevertheless you neglect this [certain parts of the comic book], on account of this has been like a yr between, a whole yr for us. Why don't we do director's commentary for each drawback?

Alex Abad-Santos

You have to.

Mark Russell

I'm top quality with that.

Steve Pugh

We are going to put it out as a sequence.

Mark Russell

Sitting at nighttime, consuming sandwiches whereas finding out our comics.

Steve Pugh

Yeah, the person who did the Battlestar Galactica TV sequence did that. He merely sat on the sofa, watching his private TV current, consuming a glass of whiskey, talking about it. Sounded all correct.

Mark Russell

That's gig.

Steve Pugh

Sorry [for getting sidetracked]. Thanks for taking an curiosity in us. It means tons. We had been shocked how loads people cared about our e-book, and it's good.

Alex Abad-Santos

Why are you shocked? It's an superior e-book.

Steve Pugh

Good books don't on a regular basis get consideration.

Alex Abad-Santos

A complete lot of my mates who’re into comic books, they on a regular basis inform me, "Oh man, it is vital to be taught The Flintstones." And I'm like, "I do know. I'm finding out The Flintstones, nevertheless it makes me truly sad," they often're like, "I know, I'm sad too."

Mark Russell

It acknowledges the shared, sad humanity between you.

The Flintstones Vol. 1 will in all probability be obtainable in comic e-book outlets on March 22 and all bookstores on March 28.