News From ME

Christmas, B.C.

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Brian Wong wrote to ask me what I could remember about a Flintstones Christmas comic I wrote back in 1977. There's not a lot there to remember, I'm afraid. I was writing comics for Chase Craig, who was my editor back when I worked for Western Publishing on Gold Key Comics. Chase had retired and then had come out of retirement to edit a line of comics for Hanna-Barbera which were published by Marvel. We were all working for H-B, not Marvel, on conventional-sized funnybooks.

Then one day in mid-August, Chase called me in and said, approximately, "Someone at Marvel just decided they want to put out a tabloid comic for this Christmas. It's got to be 48 pages and feature all the Hanna-Barbera characters in some sort of storyline that ties them all together but they want it to be mainly a Flintstones story."

I was never fond of intermingling the talking human characters (Flintstones, Jetsons) with the talking animal characters (Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear) but by then, I'd already learned a basic truth: When a company owns multiple properties and thinks there's a buck to be made by crossing them over, they cross over. End of discussion. Save your breath and don't bother arguing that the worlds do not quite intersect and that the mythology of each is diminished a little by homogenizing environments down to be compatible with one another. One of these days, someone at Disney will decide that the public is dying for a movie in which Darth Vader and The Hulk team up to battle Donald Duck. And it won't matter one bit that, uh, maybe those folks dwell in separate realities.

Actually, there was no time to even think about such things because the Flintstones comic had an impossibly-tight deadline. Chase, who had a fiendish but friendly glee in sending me off to write scripts overnight, sent me off to write a script almost overnight. I did the first 24 pages that night and the second 24 pages the next day. A few years later during a July heat wave, Joe Barbera asked me to write a prime-time Yogi Bear Christmas TV special with much the same all-star cast, also in two days. So this job was a good rehearsal for that job.

I wrote the comic in chapters — a Yogi Bear chapter, a Quick Draw McGraw chapter, etc. — so we could have different artists working simultaneously on different parts. As fortune would have it, the day I turned in the script, I was sitting with Chase in his office when Kay Wright poked his head in. Karran "Kay" Wright was a veteran comic book artist and animator who had worked for Chase back at Gold Key. He drew, among hundreds of comics, the Junior Woodchucks stories that Carl Barks wrote in semi-retirement.

He had recently been working as a producer for Hanna-Barbera and that very day, he had been laid off. He asked Chase, "You got any work?" Chase grinned and said, "Have I got work!" Kay was ideal for the assignment and he wound up drawing the entire book except for the Jetsons chapter which was drawn (uncredited) by Tony Strobl with inking by Joe Prince. Tony and Joe were other artists Chase had hired at Gold Key. Tony drew the Jetsons comics published in the sixties back when the TV show was first on, and he drew the best Donald Duck comics that Chase edited that were not drawn by Carl Barks.

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Yes, they have Christmas stockings in a world where everyone goes barefoot.

We needed an inker for Kay's many pages and I suggested my friend, Scott Shaw!, who was just breaking into professional comics. He was good and he knew the H-B characters better than anyone except, of course, me. Soon after, I happened to be talking to another friend, Mike Royer, and he mentioned that he had a light work schedule at the moment so I persuaded him to letter the story. Our regular colorist for the H-B comics, Carl Gafford, colored it in, as I recall, record time. Anyway, it all got to press a day or two before it had to be printed.

Given the deadline, it's amazing that it got done at all, let alone that it turned out okay. At least, of the several hundred comic books I've written, it's probably in the Top Ten of those that people ask me about or want me to sign. Since so many are never mentioned at all, I figure we had to have done something right. It also sold pretty well in this country and even better in others. And that's all I remember about it except for this…

The day he sent The Flintstones Christmas Party off to press, Chase and I went out to lunch to celebrate. I said, "Well, at least that's over." He said, "Well, that one is but they called this morning and they want Yogi Bear's Easter Parade. I'll expect a script by the day after tomorrow."