I never thought in my entire life I would ever see the Suicide Squad teaming up with the Banana Splits. Now for more than a few of you reading this, you have no idea who the Banana Splits are. They’re a rock band from a live-action Hanna-Barbera series that ran for two years from 1968-1970. Put it this way, they were animals and they sang the cheesiest pop imaginable. In this continuity, the band is mistaken for a group of metahumans and this is where our strange story begins. My word this annual to say the least was a ride. Yeah that fits, this is a wacky, zany, odd ride. Let the madness begin as I try and break down the glorious madness that is Suicide Squad/Banana Splits Annual #1.
I still cannot believe this annual even exists. Yet I am glad it does. Suicide Squad/Banana Splits Annual #1 is a strange but magical experience.
The first bit of this leading up to the Banana Splits and Suicide Squad team up is quirky. I think it’s because Tony Bedard is trying hard to make this work initially. Think about this a minute, most readers are going to have no idea who the Banana Splits are. Why do you think I put that intro explaining them to you? I only know them because I watched Cartoon Network a lot in the early days. The Banana Splits have to overcome a lot and I think Bedard knows that going in. The ultimate bubblegum pop/rock band, the Banana Splits with the Suicide Squad, that’s bonkers. Yet in a weird way he manages to make this work. Surprising everyone, including me.
There are many, upon many moments where even I was wondering what in the world I was reading. Bedard takes you on a surreal ride from the police pulling over the band to how they end up in Belle Reve Penitentiary. It will make you laugh while your brain is processing this glorious madness before you. While this is all going on you have the Suicide Squad in need of a rescue, which is where the Banana Splits come in. Did I mention I cannot believe this story works? I think it’s all about how Bedard makes each member of the band a genuine character, rather than a goofy pop band. Even as the story becomes more of a general rescue mission, it becomes a great little fish out of water adventure.
It’s in the interactions of how the teams come together. Characterization is important and that is what helps to make this team-up go over as well as it does.
That’s the key to this story. Characters are key. As rough as the introduction to the Banana Splits is and how they work in this story, the second half of the tale delivers. They may not be metahumans, but they’re a capable crew in their own right. In turn Bedard has great character moments between the Squad and the Splits. It’s a good team dynamic on both fronts and I think that’s ultimately why this ends up working as well as it does. That and the ultimate ending to all this is hilarious and completely delightful.
It doesn’t hurt that Ben Caldwell’s art is animated and energetic, adding such a great energy to this tale. Mark Morales lends a strong line to accentuate the cartoony nature of the art and giving it life. Then you have bright and beautiful coloring from Jeremy Lawson that really helps to set the tone for the story. Extra props to A Larger World’s Troy ‘N’ Dave as their letters were large and bombastic, adding yet another element to this tale. Strong characters, a quirky and strange story, with gorgeous art make this a blast to read.
One aspect that I don’t want to have lost in this conversation is the back-up story with Snagglepuss. I’m excited for this one.
Mark Russell is setting up a take on Snagglepuss like no other and I want more now. I’m getting ahead of myself here but trust me, this is cool. Most of what people know of Snagglepuss are his catchphrases, “Exit, Stage Left”, “Heavens to Murgatroyd”, and that’s about it. They may know the basic idea that he’s a pink mountain lion that wants to be an actor but not much else. This is one of those that I’m mainly familiar with because his cartoons played on TBS and again, a lot of Cartoon Network in the 90’s. Yet Russell aims to dive deep into Snagglepuss as this back-up sets up the upcoming ongoing series.
In this back-up tale it talks about Snagglepuss’s dealings with the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) and trying to get him to name names. It’s a serious yet hilarious exchange as Snagglepuss is barely fussed by this Committee. Russell’s exploration of his writing and how it caught the Committee’s attention, funny yet terrifying if you know the time period. This is 1954 and the fear is real but I like how it is handled. After all that I love the chat Snagglepuss has with Augie and I love how the aspect of writing is talked about here. It’s such a dynamic discussion. The flashback that illuminates it is darkly perfect for how it all comes together, I really enjoyed it all.
Here’s where I talk about one part of the series that I am curious to see how it is explored.
One new character development with Snagglepuss has my attention. Mark Russell is going to explore his life as a gay character. You could tell it was there in the old cartoons but now they’re going for it and I dig that. As I take a quote from an interview Russell did with HiLoBrow.com,
“It’s obviously ignored in the cartoons ’cuz they were made at a time when you couldn’t even acknowledge the existence of such a thing, but it’s still so obvious; so it’s natural to present it in a context where everybody knows, but it’s still closeted. And dealing with the cultural scene of the 1950s, especially on Broadway, where everybody’s gay, or is working with someone who’s gay, but nobody can talk about it — and what it’s like to have to try to create culture out of silence.”
I will say that as well characterized Snagglepuss is, the art is going to divide people on this one.
Snagglepuss is a great character and well handled, that’s spot on. Howard Porter is an amazing artist and since they veer realistic with these stories, hyper realism it is. I have seen discussions where people are harping on how it is too realistic. I have to note this though, it’s the end panels that people are focusing on. Those are the ones that veer into a sort of odd uncanny valley. As you see it all together though, I think it works for the most part especially in the flashback scenes. There’s a softer touch to Porter’s style for those and it lends itself well to the animated nature of Snagglepuss. It does come together in the end and the ultimate tone for what Russell is conveying to the audience.
I also think the coloring in this helps tremendously, Steve Buccellato keeps to keeping a sort of calm vibe to the story. It’s muted but it still has moments that pop out at you at times. Yet the flashback is there the colors really shine, it’s bright and dynamic to help increase the impact of it. The coloring is but one of the shining stars of this adventure. I have to say how much I love Dave Sharpe’s lettering for this. There’s one particular bit near the end of the flashback that struck me. I like how it conveyed how serious it was while still maintaining a cartoon like aspect to the piece, that impressed me.
To put it all together as this is a lot to digest, The Suicide Squad/Banana Splits Annual is a lot of fun with a great start to an upcoming new series in Snagglepuss.
For as weird but ultimately wonderful the Suicide Squad/Banana Splits story is, the Snagglepuss story is a great balancer. The entire annual itself is well worth reading. I’m glad I got to spend some time with it and I get a feeling a lot of you will dig this too. Definitely a solid buy and well worth your comic dollar.