All The World's A Stage...
Written by: Mark Russell and Brandee Stilwell
Art by: Mike Feehan, Mark Morales and Guy Vasquez
Colours by: Paul Mounts and Ross Campbell
Letters by: Dave Sharpe
I must admit I was a bit harsh on this series to begin with, but it's beginning to grow on me. After last issue's ending, which indicated that our pink hero would soon have to appear before the government committee trying to clean up the performing arts in 1950s America, the stage seemed to be set for some kind of confrontation and, presumably, a considerable quantity of drama. While there is indeed a fair number of dramatic goings on here, it's very much an incidental issue, replete with charm, humour and a surprising level of pathos. Let me explain…
The issue is bookended by Snagglepuss and Huckleberry Hound's appearance on The Moe Franklin Show, a TV chat show on which the pair wax lyrical about their views on a range of topics including writing and the differences between television and stage acting. Using this framework, writer Mark Russell continues his approach of weaving historical figures into the ongoing Snagglepuss narrative with Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio, Arthur Miller and Clint Eastwood all making an appearance.
And Russell treats them all with sympathy. From DiMaggio's story about his parents to Marilyn's insights into the restrictions of stardom, there's a richness of characterization on display here that is very appealing. DiMaggio, in particular, comes across as a very well-rounded character. It would have been very easy for Russell to have DiMaggio purely as the physical threat to the more cerebral Miller (much as Nicholas Roeg does with DiMaggio in Insignificance), but he refuses to do so, instead presenting the baseball star as the son of immigrants and still, despite his success, unable to feel as if he truly belongs in the America that idolizes him. The notion that fame is no substitute for other, more meaningful, experiences is, of course, not new, but Russell handles the idea very deftly here.
That's not to say it's all pathos and profundity. There's tension, too, when Snagglepuss' Cuban lover makes an appearance again and takes umbrage at the playwright's thankfulness that he isn't caught up in the revolutionary action against Batista. The ability of Snagglepuss to support his lover comforts the playwright but leads to resentment for Pablo, who clearly wants to be involved in liberating his homeland. Once again, the richness of Russell's characterization is impressive.
So, too, is Russell's dialogue. Snagglepuss is endearingly philosophical. His acceptance of human nature, of its frailties and contradictions, is expressed in witty, often lyrical, terms and his warmth is genuinely appealing. Some of his characters are a bit too loquacious for their own good, but, although not quite having the satirical edge of his work on The Flintstones, Russell's writing is generally excellent here and I found myself smiling and nodding in appreciation and agreement more often than not.
The art team of Feehan and Morales once again do a great job; characters are never stiff and facial expressions generally do a great job of conveying whatever emotion the script requires. There might be a colouring error on page 21, but that's a very minor quibble with what is otherwise a rather charming story.
As with the previous issue, there's a back-up featuring Brandee Stilwell's Sasquatch Detective and, as with the previous issue, it is neither terrible nor spectacularly good. It is, however, mildly amusing and the panel of Sasquatch Detective taking a selfie with the decayed corpse of a serial killer did make me chuckle. I can't imagine too many readers clamouring for more of her adventures, but there are a lot worse ways to pass the time.
Bits and Pieces:
While something of a pause in the ongoing narrative, this issue's Snagglepuss tale is nonetheless warm, charming and witty and features great art and extremely engaging dialogue. Russell is doing a good job fleshing out the main character and an even better job at using historical figures as ways of commenting on and providing insight into the human condition. I'm still not 100% sure about the direction this series is heading, but this issue was, on the whole, rather lovely.