Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Ruff and Reddy Show #1 Review and SPOILERS


Written by: Howard Chaykin
Art by: Mac Rey
Letters by: Ken Bruzenak
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: October 25, 2017

DC’s idea of updating old Hanna-Barbera properties for 21st century comic sensibilities is not necessarily a bad one, but I think it’s safe to say that its execution has been decidedly mixed. For every Flintstones, there’s been a Wacky Raceland, and some of the concepts for the re-vamping have been decidedly ill-judged. So, what to make of this – a six-issue mini-series based on a cartoon show that first aired in 1957 and is culturally important more for what it led to than anything else? To be fair, I like Chaykin and I did volunteer for this gig. Time to jump in…

The issue starts off with a potted history of our main characters in the 50s and it’s here that the central conceit of this series is, more or less, established. The Ruff and Reddy Show is set in a world where humans and ‘celimates’ (the name given to ‘real life’ cartoon characters) coexist, although the celimates seem to enjoy a social status considerably lower than their human counterparts. Ruff, a debonair and urbane cat, and Reddy, a large melancholy-looking dog, rise to prominence in this era through their show which offers genre excitement and knockabout laughs. This background is shown through television-shaped flashback panels before being interrupted abruptly by a behind the scenes moment that lets us know that, while their onscreen personas are friendly, their real-life relationship is considerably more volatile.

This volatility leads to the show being canceled when a particularly expletive-laden argument during a televised parade is observed – and understood – by a lip-reading deaf child. The pair carry on their careers separately but find it difficult to replicate the success they enjoyed as a team. Chaykin and Rey present us with a series of showbiz-orientated vignettes that might be more funny to someone more steeped in American theatre and television culture than this somewhat bemused Englishman (Paw and Order was nicely done, to be fair). I can’t help thinking, though, that fewer in-jokes and something more substantial in the way of characterisation would have helped even ignoramuses like me engage with the story.

And there is a story, it turns out. Newly-promoted talent scout Pamela is charged with resurrecting the Ruff and Reddy team. She just has to get them together, which she does at the end of the issue, finding Ruff shopping in the supermarket at which Reddy works.  What she wants Ruff and Reddy to do exactly remains to be seen, but at least the issue has found some momentum, (just about) managing to generate some curiosity about what the next issue holds.

This is a hard issue to review (and read!) in many respects. With a paper-thin plot held together by in-jokes, references to decades-old pop culture and a hard-bitten view of Hollywood that, in this day and age, is not especially remarkable, its one saving grace is to be found in Mac Rey’s art. Although his backgrounds may be a little too sparse for some tastes, his facial expressions are fantastic and his overall style is particularly suited to a comic that has cartoons and human beings inhabiting the same universe. Given the subject matter, his colours are subtly beautiful at times, too.

Bits and Pieces:

A sudden burst of plot at the end and Mac Rey’s delightful art can’t really hide the fact that approximately two-thirds of this issue is self-indulgent, obscure and confusing. It’s difficult to work out precisely who this comic is for, but it would seem it's not really for me. At times diverting, but never fully engaging, I’m afraid I really can’t recommend it.


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