Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Fred Flintstone---Pirate Hunter
There's a theory I once came up with--it later turned out that others had beaten me to the same theory--that The Flintstones isn't actually set in prehistoric times, but in a post-apocalyptic future. That would mean the re-emergence of dinosaurs and the fact that they can often talk is due to radioactive or germ warfare-induced mutation. That would also explain Bam-Bam's super strength. So the society as a whole paralleling 20th Century America is a cultural or racial memory buried in the minds of the descendants of those who survived whatever disaster wiped out our civilization.
If so, then Gold Key's The Flintstones #28 (August 1965) indicates that these cultural memories stretch back even further, since Fred, Barney and their families have a run-in with a villain who is straight out of the Golden Age of Piracy.
Silly theories aside, though, "The Flintstones and the Pirates of Skull Island" is a fun read--with lots of effective humor and a script that catches Fred's personality accurately. It begins with the Flintstones and Rubbles taking a cruise on a rented boat. Naturally, Fred has gotten them lost. Then a storm hits, forcing them to look for a safe harbor.
The writer is unidentified. A knowledgeable member of Facebook's Comic Book Historians group identifies the artist as Harvey Eisenberg and accurately refers to him as "Hanna-Barbara's equivalent to Carl Barks for Disney." We need to give both writer and artists a lot of credit. This panel below, with Fred spotting the dreaded Skull Island (a known pirate hang-out) in the distance, is yabba-dabba-do impressive.
Its a funny scene, with wonderful character designs for the pirate and the parrot. It's a tragedy that these two never got their own comic book or animated series. The Misadventures of Pirate and Parrot would have been a classic.
The pirate forces Fred and Barney to take his treasure chest aboard the boat and repair a hole in the hull. But the villain doesn't realize the boat has no engine. In the confusion, Fred fires the pirate's cannon at him.
This does no damage, but allows the families to escape and get on board the boat. Bam Bam then uses his super strength to work as a replacement engine.
They still have the treasure chest aboard, but between paying for repairs to the boat and buying Wilma and Betty new dresses (their "best dresses" were ruined during the adventure), they just about break even. But Fred learns its just as much fun to play with toy boats with Pebbles and Bam Bam than it is to go on a real boat trip, so everything ends happily.
I only occasionally review a humor comic, simply because the old saying about analyzing humor is true--it's like dissecting a frog. You can do it, but the frog dies in the process. But--much like the the Porky Pig and Bugs Bunny stories I've talked about in the past, this particular story is so much fun that it deserves to be remembered.
Also, Betty is prettier than Wilma. I just thought someone should openly acknowledge that.
For next week--One of the most exciting chase scenes ever appeared in a comic strip in 1949. We'll ride along on that chase.