Flintstones Are Alive and Well and Tackling Social Issues in New Comic


Bedrock, as reimagined by artist Steve Pugh, the artist behind "The Flintstones" reboot DC Comics
Bedrock, as reimagined by artist Steve Pugh, the artist behind "The Flintstones" reboot DC Comics

When "The Flintstones" first went on the air in 1960, the show became a cultural phenomenon. It lasted for six seasons, a record for a prime-time animated show that would be held until "The Simpsons" came along decades later.

The show itself was a prehistoric take on Jackie Gleason's "The Honeymooners," and Gleason reportedly even considered suing them for stealing his schtick but opted against it. The show descended further and further into the absurd and ended in 1966. Since then, it's been a force in the popular culture, from reruns to licensing deals (multivitamin, anyone?).

When DC Comics decided in 2016 to reboot the comic, they felt it needed an edge. So they brought on writer Mark Russell and artist Steven Pugh to give it a contemporary sensibility and some biting social commentary.

Fred, Wilma, Barney and Betty rock the vote in the edgy comic reboot of "The Flintstones."
Fred, Wilma, Barney and Betty rock the vote in the edgy comic reboot of "The Flintstones."
DC Comics

The comic tackles everything from marriage equality and war to the evils of consumerism and politics. No topic's safe from this sort of parody, but Russell, who talked to us by phone, told us that the reboot is all really about what's wrong with civilization.

"Everything that's wrong with our society started there [in Bedrock]. I thought that would be funny, having these people trying things out, like religion or TV, trying these things out for the very first time. Because everyone gets it wrong the first time, regardless of what they're doing. I thought it would be interesting to see what kind of mistakes they would make."

The book fearlessly takes on issues ranging from the poor treatment of veterans to kids seeing grisly accidents on television. In the comic they work both as entertainment and as moments that stop you and make you wonder why we're still making some of these mistakes.

Even marriage is a mistake in this new civilization. In one issue, Fred and Wilma are at a marriage retreat plagued by protesters who think monogamous marriage is unnatural and that sex caves were the way things were meant to be.

Ultimately, Russell wanted to use "The Flintstones" as a platform to understand why humans can be nice to each other one-on-one but horrible to each other in a group. "The Flintstones," Russell says, helped him understand some of that in the context of modern politics:

"The liberals and the conservatives are kind of the modern ancestors of what we had back in the hunter-gatherer days. There are people who are outsider friendly and people who are outsider averse."

Russell postulates that if one side won out over the other, humanity probably wouldn't have survived: "What we need is for both sides to come to a compromise that allows us to interact with other peoples in a fruitful, but in a realistic way. We're not so friendly we'll let you have your way with us. But, we're not so unfriendly that we won't learn from you, or try to kill on first contact."

Although the comic sounds serious, it doesn't mean that Fred doesn't let out his trademark "Yabba-dabba-doo," or that Dino isn't in the picture. And yes, even Bamm-Bamm still has his signature super-strength.

The book doesn't skimp on the things you might remember liking about the television show, but it also doesn't shy away from the brutality of humans and sharp criticism of the modern world. 

"The Flintstones" Volume 1 by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh came out on March 28, 2017.