Friday, February 6, 2015

Jetsons Served “Right”… and Jetsons Served “Wrong”!

We've been having so much fun and interesting discussion in OUR LAST POST, where we contrasted the cover of Gold Key Comics' THE JETSONS # 21 (1966) with that of DC Comics' SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP # 8 (2015) that I thought... Why not do that sort of cover-contrast again?  

You can take the link above, or just check 'em out here! 

I still wonder if the SCOOBY cover wouldn't have been ever so slightly improved if Shaggy had said "George!  Stop that CRAZY THING!"instead of that "Vacuum of Space" stuff.  ...Naaah! 

Say what you will about your own individual preference, ultimately I think both are perfectly fine in their own way, despite my opting for the 1966 cover.  

Sadly, we cannot say that about our next "Jetsons Cover Competition"...

Meet the reigning champion: Gold Key Comics' THE JETSONS # 8 from 1964...  (YAAAY!)

...And, our artistically-challenged challenger: Charlton Comics' JETSONS # 1, from 1970...  (BOOOO!)

Um... Does this even qualify as a cover-comparison?  I guess so, since the subject matter and character posing are (Eeesh!) similar.  

Just look at Tony Strobl's perfectly on-model character work on the Gold Key issue, vs. that (presumably by Ray Dirgo) of the Charlton issue. 

Even if the Charlton character designs were more professional, the STAGING is atrocious!  Why is Rosey's BACK turned to the audience?!  How could any editor have approved such an outright BAD cover composition?  

Even George turns-up his nose at this... and HE was THERE!

And finally, exactly WHAT is the GAG on the Charlton cover?  

Ice-Cream Sodas?  What's so funny about that?  

Er, maybe if they were somehow "color-coded" to match their hungry recipients -- or had some other defining attribute that would match soda to family member?  And, even that wouldn't exactly be a laugh-riot, but it's the best I could come up with on such short notice.  

Or, maybe if the "Cherries-On-Top" floated, circling each soda like little orbiting satellites!  YEAH!  That might have been good.  

Oh, wait... Gold Key did that gag back in 1965!

But, even if Charlton duplicated that "orbiting food product" gag, it would have been a far sight better than this! 

Turn around, Rosey! 

In contrast, the Gold Key cover offers-up a definite gag about what Robot Rosey's idea of a "birthday cake" might be...

Maybe that's why she's proud to be on the Gold Key Cover...

...And can't show her face on the Charlton one!  

On the subject of the Charlton Hanna-Barbera comic books, I said this in another comment thread:

"...And that, to me, was the overarching problem with the Charlton Hanna-Barbera comic books of the ‘70s… no one (…and I mean NO ONE) there seemed to have ANY sense of what was “good” and what was “bad” for these comics – and “bad” became the default setting… for BOTH writing and art!"  

It amazes me that the controversy over the abominable job that Charlton did with these comics has lived on from 1970 into 2015 -- and beyond.  
This one's for our great friend Scarecrow33!  Enjoy!  Or, RECOIL IN HORROR!  
They must have been spectacularly bad to have achieved this type of longevity in our collective consciousness.  

Let's have your thoughts...    


scarecrow33 said...

Hey, Joe--thanks for the honorable mention! I think my choice is "recoil in horror" at the image of the dreaded Sum Toi!

When you mention "controversy" over the Charlton comics--does this mean that there are actually those who find merit in them? My impression has been that most comics fans today who remember them at all remember them with distaste. (Of course, as you well know I'm referring specifically to the cartoon-based Charltons of the early 70's, not to some of the superhero, drama, or mystery stuff which sometimes was more acceptable.)

Point by point, you are spot-on with your comparison/commentary.

The only "gag" I can think of (and I don't mean the way the cover makes one react--that's a separate reflex!)is maybe the fact that these people have all these futuristic gadgets and they still go for a simple 20th century treat like an ice cream soda. That's a bit of a reach, I know, but it's the best I can come up with. And if I were a robot maid, I would not want to show my face, either. (Come to think of it, edibles were not very consistent in the Jetsons universe--sometimes they took food pills, sometimes regular food, etc...)

The Charlton folks not only had a knack for incorrect renderings of every character--but they also got their personalities and motivations all wrong. Would George EVER throw Rosey down the disposal chute? Just three pages in from this cover, that's what he does!

They churned out a whole lot of material--for example, the Flintstones had four spinoff titles--so they must have had some measure of success to keep it going so long. But who was buying that stuff? And WHY? (Well, these WERE the only comics versions of these characters available at the time, so that might account for some of it--but it doesn't explain coming back again and again for more.)

The Marvel comics that followed these were truly a breath of fresh air--and the Marvels were among the all-time best treatment the HB characters ever received in print!

Joe Torcivia said...


Naturally, “Sum Toi” was placed there just for you, to show “Sum Appreciation” for the great comments you regularly (and not only “Sum Times”) provide.

Perhaps “controversy” might not have been the most precisely accurate word to use in that situation, but my intent was to note how even something (“Sum Thing”?) as relatively trivial – certainly on the overall scale of “That-Which-We-Encounter-Throughout-Life” -- as the lowly comic book, when done as spectacularly bad as these were, can still evoke such visceral reactions from those who appreciate (..and, yes, love) the art form… even after 40-plus years.

Yet, as you say, “They churned out a whole lot of material--for example, the Flintstones had four spinoff titles--so they must have had some measure of success to keep it going so long. But who was buying that stuff? And WHY?”… and therein might lie the actually “controversy” .

I’d sure be interested in hearing from someone (“Sum One”? Okay, I’ve carried that bad gag far enough!) who continually bought and enjoyed these comics, and learn their reasons why. If any such person is out there, I’d really like to hear from you… honestly. And, don’t be shy. Unlike lots of the Internet, we treat everyone with respect around here.

You continue: “Well, these WERE the only comics versions of these characters available at the time, so that might account for some of it--but it doesn't explain coming back again and again for more.”

After that first year, and much of that was owing to the reflex-action of automatically buying these titles that was ingrained in my young-child years, I soon realized they weren’t going to get any better and stopped cold!

I will never understand how product THIS “spectacularly bad” (there’s just no other word for it) was allowed to ooze-out into the marketplace. The decidedly lesser Gold Key product, post-1968, still had enough professionalism to it to be somewhat worthwhile – including what I still regard as the single worst Disney comic book story of all time! Or, maybe I just see it that way, because the then-contemporary Charlton’s were just (all together now) so “spectacularly bad”!

The Marvel H-B comics certainly WERE INDEED “a breath of fresh air” after the (once again) “spectacularly bad” Charlton Era – thanks in very large part to Mark Evanier. And the Archie and DC H-B titles of the ‘90s were pretty good too. And, let’s not overlook the magnificence that is SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP! But, in my opinion, the Dell and Gold Key versions of these titles will always be the ones to beat.

…And no one has beaten them yet!

Anonymous said...

My guess would be that the TV adaptations were given a low priority at Charlton, and the artists and writers assigned to them were the "B" team. (Maybe further down the alphabet than that.) The publishers may have been aiming at very young children who would recognize the characters from TV. And I mean preschool-age kids whose parents read the stories to them. Charlton may have assumed that those kids would not know the difference.

Also, Charlton quality in the 1970's was hit-or-miss. They published a few good comics now and then (e.g., E-Man), but mostly (IIRC) their output was reprints of old horror, war, and romance anthologies.

Comparing comic book publishers in 1970 to movie studios in 1940, DC and Marvel were Paramount and MGM, and Charlton was Monogram or PRC.

Joe Torcivia said...

I see your point, but major publishers have “B Teams” (and, as you say “Maybe further down the alphabet than that”) too. Though their work might be lesser, it is not “spectacularly bad”.

Compared to when Carl Barks was doing UNCLE SCROOGE, you could say that DONALD DUCK had a “B Team” – but DONALD DUCK was still enjoyable in its own right. Or, for mid ‘80s DC, it’s most likely that the SUPERMAN and BATMAN titles had “A Teams” and other titles had “B Teams” (…remember “Justice League Detroit”?). But, those other titles were also good in their own way. Yes, even “Justice League Detroit”.

Kid’s comics or not, there’s no excuse for the sorry level these particular titles sunk to. Dell never did that and, even when Gold Key DID decline, it was never as horrid as Charlton.

More often than not when these comics are discussed, it seems to be the ART that takes the most critical of hits – but nowhere near enough criticism is leveled at the sloppy and outright poor WRITING.

A badly written story, even if it were drawn by Carl Barks or Harvey Eisenberg, is still a “bad story”.

Now that I CAN call myself a “comics writer”, even if it is only in the scripting sense, I take more offense at this than ever before, because there’s no excuse for the WRITING to have been so dismal. It’s as if they didn’t care one whit about what was on the printed page.

I can say that, over my experiences with Gemstone, Boom! Studios, and now IDW, I’ve been given stories to work with that I absolutely loved – and others that I didn’t much care for. I don’t think it would be fair of me to NAME which ones I didn’t care for – but, suffice it to say that I consider it my job to make ALL of them read as crisp, funny, and accurately-characterized as possible.

And, to that end, I treat all of them with the same dedication and enthusiasm, even if it’s not such a great story. My respect for these comics and their readers is evident on every page – because I OWE it to them. I don’t want anyone to ever level this type of criticism at anything with my credit on it.

That’s another thing: Harvey Eisenberg, Pete Alvarado, Tony Strobl (I know, they were artists and not writers, but the point remains the same), and the rest of the Western Publishing creators never had their names appear of the great Hanna-Barbera (and other studios) comics they did. …And, often the Charlton folks DID!

Would that not be more incentive to at least up the quality of your efforts?

Even if, as you so fittingly suggest, Charlton was the “Poverty Row studios” of comic books, wouldn’t you want the work with your name on it to perhaps be noticed by a higher tier publisher? (...And, to quickly digress, I liked a lot of stuff that came out of Monogram!)

Lots of great creators broke out of Charlton: Dick Giordano, Denny O’Neil, even John Byrne. (We’ll leave Steve Ditko out of this particular discussion for the moment.) If *I* were writing Hanna-Barbera comics for Charlton, I would do so to the very best of my ability – for, if not my own personal pride, so that I might be noticed by Gold Key, Archie, or Harvey – just as the talents mentioned above were noticed by DC and Marvel.

And, even if the stories were illustrated badly, I’d know that, at the very least, I’d given the kids something good to READ (if not “look at”) – just as I had growing up in the sixties!

TC said...

Is it possible that the Charlton artists and writers *were* doing the work to the best of their ability, and that their best just wasn't very good? Maybe these people just weren't very talented.

If so, it would have been a vicious circle. Charlton, a "poverty row" company, would have paid lower rates, and would have ended up having to settle for B-list (or, "maybe farther down the alphabet") artists and writers. And those artists and writers, unable to get hired at the upper tier publishers, had to settle for Charlton.

There were the talented rookies, like Byrne, Giordano, Staton, and O' Neil, but they soon moved up to the big leagues after serving their "apprenticeship" at Charlton. (In fact, most articles I've read that praise Charlton seem to emphasize that it was a good training ground for comic book artists, just as vaudeville was for comedians.)

I doubt if they were intentionally making bad comics. But then, a drunk driver doesn't intend to cause a traffic accident, and a person handling an electrical appliance in a bathtub didn't intend to electrocute himself.

And Charlton's management may have been counting on the name recognition factor to sell the TV tie-in comics, without too much concern for the quality. That is, they weren't intentionally making bad comics, but they saw no pressing need to spend a lot of money and effort to make really good ones.

That's just my theory, anyway. I don't insist on it.

And Monogram did make some very good "B" Westerns in the 1940's. :)

Joe Torcivia said...


I don’t honestly believe that Charlton *set out* to make bad comics. I’d like to think that NOBODY would do things like that intentionally.

But, as I said in the post, I don’t believe that anyone there had any sense of what “good” was for comics like these! And, because of that, nothing ever changed for the better.

It’s as if they never even LOOKED at what these comics had been in years past and, if so, it would add that they never LEARNED anything about what would and would not work.

It’s a funny thing… Over the years the complaints tend toward the art – and not without serious justification. But, both back then and (especially) from my perspective now, I find the WRITING (such as it was) to be even more appalling.

Go back and read a couple. While there will be exceptions to any rule, these are NOT stories. They are not even gags. They are just a series of “events”, or “things” that happen… Okay, let’s do this… Now, let’s do this… Now, let’s do this… Let’s act like it’s a LOT FUNNIER than it really is, and “The End”. Now, let’s do it again…

Little or no logic, humor, or accurate characterization. If that was really the *best* those writers could do, perhaps I shouldn’t hold it so vehemently against them… but, then perhaps different writers could have been added to the mix to better give these characters the justice they deserved.

And, before anyone writes this off as “just being for kids”, or as you say “…counting on the name recognition factor to sell the TV tie-in comics, without too much concern for the quality”, go read SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP and see just how great a “kids’ / TV tie-in comic” starring classic Hanna-Barbera characters can be!

Once again, I’d truly be interested in hearing from someone who actually, honestly, and truly enjoyed these comics… and not because “you were six at the time”, but for some supportable reason unique to the work itself. Even if it’s just one’s own personal taste, it’s still something that could be defined. It would be both welcome and fascinating.

rodineisilveira said...

Joe Torcivia,

If you saw the Jetsons stories which Bill Wray drew for DC Comics in the 90s...
They seem so funny!
When I saw the Jetsons stories drawn by Bill Wray, I've laughed so much...

Joe Torcivia said...


I liked the Jetsons comics of the ‘90s.

The DC and Archie ones, that is. Not the Harvey issues that reprinted those dreadful Charlton comics.