Are you ready for Scooby-Doo to take on the apocalypse? Because the classic cartoon characters are back in a brand new iteration from Hanna-Barbera and DC Comics... And this time, the Mystery Machine gang is suiting up for the end of the world.
The new ongoing comic book series — titled Scooby Apocalypse — is scripted by J.M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen, with art by Howard Porter; but the concept started far before they got on board. It actually began with DC Co-Publishers Jim Lee and Dan Didio, who were talking about how to update the characters and mythology of the classic series, while doing something that hadn't been done before.
"We noticed there wasn't really an origin story for the characters," Lee told TVGuide.com over the phone. "What if we refined who these characters are? They're really cyphers in a way."
Those who might not 100% recall the characters from the 1969 debuting cartoon series — or the numerous iterations in movies, on TV, and even in comics that have popped up in decades since — you're forgiven. In short: a group of plucky teenagers drive around in a van called the Mystery Machine with a talking (sort of) dog named Scooby-Doo. They investigate bizarre, seemingly supernatural cases that almost to a fault end up being caused by a cranky old man in a mask.
The teens in question? Velma, the nerdy one; Fred, the hunky one; Daphne, the reckless adventurer; and Shaggy, the... Medicated... One. Those archetypes stay pretty much constant in the new comic, with new character designs by Lee (augmented by Porter), and a futuristic setting.
With one big exception: "The monsters are real," Giffen told TVGuide.com, adding that the first few issues of the book are about, "how the group gets together."
The first part of the process, though, was updating the characters for a new generation. Lee, a comic book artist before he was co-running DC Comics, would take a pass at the designs, then get notes from Giffen and Didio, then Porter would add his own unique spin. "[Porter]'s a little more grounded in reality," Lee noted.
In fact, though it seems the creative process was smooth, as the members of team were all fans of the characters, occasionally some of the gang would have, shall we say, strong feelings about what the Scooby Gang should look like.
"Velma is my favorite," Lee said laughing. "I did something a little more traditional. Everyone else got plus-ed up, and she just got a white lab coat."
Once Porter got his hands on her, though, he shrunk the size of the character significantly, and exaggerated her glasses and other features. "He liked her being a short person," Giffen added.
Shaggy was the biggest reinvention on the table. The character has always embraced a certain part of the culture, but for Apocalypse he's gone full-fledged hipster... Which hasn't sat well with some fans.
"We knew it would be controversial," Lee said on updating the look. Noting that over time Shaggy's look has become dated, the team instead turned towards hipster culture to freshen up his appearance. "All these people saying, 'it's horrible, he's a d-bag,' and I say, 'wait... you look like this guy!' It's an unusual look, but it's to show he's visually distinct from the others, and not part of the mainstream."
Lee added that changing an older character's look is part and parcel with what DC Comics does, using Batman as an example: Bruce Wayne hasn't kept the same costume and trappings for more than a decade at any point. But when it comes down to it, the core of the characters remains the same; they're just "tweaked" to fit their setting.
"Keep in mind, it's a comic book. If the book does badly... [Shaggy] shaves," Giffen joked.
Even with the grungier beard and lobe piercings, Shaggy still does have his special connection with Scooby-Doo — "he's the dog whisperer," Lee said — and the classic Scooby-Doo comics will exist alongside the more apocalyptic versions. "We've got something for everyone if you're a Scooby fan," Lee said.
As for the set up? Lee and Giffen were relatively mum about the rebooted origin story, but we can say that yes, it does take place at some unspecified point in the future; the characters do follow their original roles (with some tweaks and surprises); and the Mystery Machine does show up — though not in the first issue.
...But that's it! Giffen did note that once the world, and the characters are cemented in the first few issues that almost anything is fair game. "Any type of monster, any type of horror, and kind of story," Giffen said about how the plot will develop, adding that as he's written ahead on the title, Daphne — surprisingly — has been his favorite character to write. "In the cartoon she's been the straight woman of the group. I worked up a bit of backstory for her, [and] she's the one I find most interesting."
Okay, there is one thing we can tell you, and that's the glimpsed, but not explained headgear Scooby-Doo is wearing on covers and designs for the series, which seem to be throwing emoji style bubbles in the air.
"Well I can tell you: Scooby's wearing headgear, and emojis are coming off of it," Giffen joked, before relenting. "Scooby's story is, he was one of the early attempts to implant cybernetics into dogs, to increase their intelligence and possibly use them for either military, or inner city activity."
Scooby, they elaborated, was actually the first try at the technology, and became more of a mascot for the mysterious "they" who later created (unseen in the first issue, at least) attack dogs. In order to communicate, Scooby uses a device inspired in part by Periscope — the live-streaming video app that lets viewers float hearts over the video, if they like what they're seeing.
On Scooby, the cybernetic device floats these emojis so you know what's going on in the mystery loving canine's mind. "Velma can see [the emojis] because of her glasses," Giffen clarified, as well as Shaggy because of special contact lenses he wears. But not everyone will be able to understand what Scooby is "saying."
"It makes the Shaggy and Scooby relationship more special," Lee added.
Lee also lauded the "thought out" design for the Mystery Machine, which he admitted he couldn't quite nail... But that Porter's more military, but still fun design got to the heart of what works about this new world: combining the classic Scooby-Doo characters with a more realistic sci-fi setting in what is - hopefully - a seamless whole.
And as for the future? Scooby Apocalypse is just one of the Hanna-Barbera books DC is launching, along with Flintstones, Future Quest, and Wacky Raceland. Could a mega-crossover be in the cards? At the moment, at least, Lee and Giffen aren't ruling the possibility out.
"There's a lot of thoughts shared, non-sequitors thrown out," Lee said on the possibility. "We love doing world-building."
Lee noted that Wacky Raceland also takes place in a post-apocalyptic future, and also includes cybernetic, augmented dogs, so there's a natural entry there. Or there could be a, "dream sequence where Scooby finds himself in the Wacky Racelands," Lee noted. He also added that every Hanna-Barbera franchise has its own red-head, teasing the creators could start drawing connections there, too.
"[The books are] stretched out not just throughout the world, but throughout time," Lee continued. "That definitely leads to a world-building dialogue and discussion."
Giffen, meanwhile, is game for a crossover, but for the time being is just concentrating on making Scooby Apocalypse as good as possible. "I just love the characters," Giffen added.
Scooby Apocalypse #1 is on sale from DC Comics in stores everywhere on May 25. Check out an exclusive preview of pages 2-6 from the first issue, below!