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--For the record, please state your name.
--Your profession?
--American cultural icon.
--Assuming, of course, that we call this "culture."

In 2001, Hanna-Barbera merged with Warner Animation. While doubtless the acquisition brought royalties from rerun cartoons and merchandise, they've experienced only limited success with new incarnations of Yogi Bear, Dick Dastardly, and other fading figures. Scooby-doo remains an exception; the pusillanimous dog and his friends continue to make bank in video incarnations old and new, and DC Comics-- another Warner acquisition-- has sold three different Scooby-titles.

DC has certainly tried to profit from other HB characters. One of the more interesting results: a GLAAD Media Award-winning limited series/graphic novel from 2018 that reinvents Snagglepuss as a closeted gay playwright fighting conformity in an alternate 1950s America where anthropomorphic animals and humans co-exist. The Puss proves the darling of talk shows, makes the social scene with his beard wife, hangs with fellow author Huckleberry Hound, mentors Augie Doggie, runs cover for Marilyn Monroe, testifies before the House Un-American Activities Committee-- and slips away to see his human paramour at the Stonewall Inn.1

No, I am not hallucinating and neither, to my knowledge, are you. This is an actual thing, and it's surprisingly good.

Snagglepuss, with his refined manners, theatrical affections, and Cowardly Lion-derived voice, was often read as a gay stereotype. Exit Stage Left develops the notion, though being a Toon isn't here a metaphor for a sexual orientation. Exit Stage Left's America seems quite accepting of its anthropomorphic minority. They fill all kinds of positions, and interspecies dating and marriage occur without comment. Someone dating a cartoon lion? No apparent problem. Same-sex love? That's another matter entirely. Huckleberry Hound and Snagglepuss grew up together, both became writers, and both live in a certain closet. They're notable public figures-- so long as their sexual orientation remains a rumor. Quick Draw McGraw works for the NYPD, hangs at the Stonewall, and turns on his friends when pressured. A horse cop? Sure. A gay horse cop? That can't even be rumored.

The Lavender Scare is in full swing. A closeted lesbian version of Roy Cohn has been charged to root out perverts-- and persuade the popular Puss to open up about colleagues whose ideologies and/or sexual habits might threaten national security. Does the playwright play the game and keep himself safe, or does he stand up and risk his career? While much more could have been done with characterization and art, author Mark Russell and a team of artists, led by Mike Feehan, do a good enough job that the question matters.

Snagglepuss tells his young protégé that "you do not fight battles because you expect to win" but "merely because they need to be fought." Indeed, we're seeing the America mobs of people now long to restore, without any awareness of what created the appearance of a unified culture. Snagglepuss's choices take the tale to an odd and uneven conclusion. In the end, I'm not certain we learn anything new from Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepus Chronicles. However, its weirdly compelling blend of history, politics, and characters from old-time limited animation makes for worthwhile reading.

1. The graphic novel's notes acknowledge a number of changes from our version of the world. During the time of this story, the Stonewall operated as a restaurant. It became a gay bar in 1966. In Snagglepuss's New York, it has already become a hub of gay night-life in the 1950s.

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