The Flintstones's Mark Russell on A Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm Spinoff, The Great Gazoo, and More

(Photo: DC Entertainment)

Readers were surprised when, with the release of its first issue earlier this month, Mark Russell and Steve Pugh's The Flintstones took on a much more satiric bent than expected.

The first issue, a stand-alone story as the TV episodes always were, was an exploration of the ideas of capitalism, legacy, and misplaced priorities.

...Yeah. In The Flintstones.

During Comic Con International: San Diego this weekend, Russell joined to discuss the series.

I think a lot of people were expecting, based on the preview art and some of your earlier interviews, that this was going to be a very similar Flintstones, just updated. Then you read it and it's very much the Mark Russell version of The Flintstones.

Yeah, I never told anybody this would be like the same Flintstones. I really would like to disabuse people of that notion right now. I mean, yeah, it wasn't as different in that it didn't have a mash up or a gimmick like some of the others. It wasn't like the Flintstones of post-apocalyptic China. It wasn't the Flintstones on planet Mars or something, but it was very different than the original series in the sense that I want it to be more of a dark examination of what the costs of civilization are. I want to treat this as though it's like Bedrock was an archaeological reality. It was the first Stone Age city, and what that would have meant. What that would have meant for human civilization to start out like that.

Now, obviously with the first issue, when I talked to you recently about the idea of doing most of these as one and dones. The first issue almost felt like a Twilight Zone episode. Like the coda at the end was very much calling back to the beginning but it also teased out Slate's notion about immortality.

Yeah, and I think that was what, I guess you'd say, the thesis, I don't want to be too pretentious, but the commentary of issue number one is that all of this accumulation of wealth and prestige that is basically what civilization enables people to do is meaningless, because 100,000 years later everyone attributes the quarry to this poor neanderthal sap who got trapped in ice. Nobody knows anything about Mr Slate, and so it is with us.

I mean, everybody's putting their name on towers, or getting sports arenas named after them. 100,000 years from now, when people excavate the remains of Comic-Con all they're going to find is the giant orange Conan O'Brien head, and they're going to imagine that was our god, whatever it is. They're not going to know. Really all this vanity of legacy that civilization is built on is meaningless.

The original Flintstones mostly satirized the middle class, but here you're going a little more for the entrenched power structure of American culture.

When you watch the original Flintstones one thing that strikes you is, yeah, it's very much supposed to be a parody of America in the early '60s, but one thing that strikes you is really how good they had it.

I mean, Fred is a guy who just works in a quarry, but he can own a house, goes bowling. Barney has spare time to invent a helicopter. It was very much a vision of what America could have, and probably should have, been. It's a sort of paradise for working and lower middle class people.

The reality of what has happened since then is incredibly different, so I wanted to speak more to how we failed the original vision of all the good things civilization was supposed to provide average people and how we sort of let that slip away.

We haven't seen the kids yet in the comic. We have seen in promo art that they are older than traditionally depicted on the TV show. How are they going to play into stories coming up?

They are about 12 years old. 12/13 years old. Middle schoolers, which I found kind of interesting when we were talking about how we were going to approach Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm. That's one age group that never really gets represented in popular culture, sort of middle school. Everyone's either little kids or they're in high school. It's kind of the forgotten age, because I think it's really the age where the lava or your identity begins to settle and cool. It's where you discover the hard lessons about falling in love, and about how uncool you are, and your struggle to become an adult is really formulated in that age. I thought there was a lot to work with there.

It gives The Flintstones another dimension, where it's not just about politics or social satire. It's also about a very human, very intimate voice which human beings develop within themselves. I wanted to give it that extra dimension to the storytelling.

In terms of how they play into the plot, in issue number three, I don't want to preempt too much, but Pebbles plays a very prominent role in the storyline, which deals with aliens discovering Earth and humans. They don't colonize Earth. The Earth is kind of beneath them, but they decide it's a really fantastic Spring break destination. They sort of colonize it via tourism. They basically treat it like it's their Tijuana, which is bad enough. It's tantamount to colonization. Pebbles and Bamm-Bamn both play a prominent role in that storyline. We've been talking about doing a spin-off series that just focuses on Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm.

Is that the Great Gazoo or is it different aliens?

The Great Gazoo does show up. It turns out the Great Gazoo is actually a title. It roughly translates to game warden, so he comes to Earth to make sure aliens aren't coming here trying to colonize us or buy our oceans for beads. He's basically here to protect the human being's natural evolution.