The Desperate Search for the Rare, Elusive, Original Reboot Joke

Extreme Scooby!

All-new all-different Scooby-Doo art by DC Comics VP Jim Lee. To the EXTREME.

Just when you thought entertainment corporations had cooled down on the idea of rebooting their property catalogs, along comes a day like today to remind you to stop overestimating entertainment corporations. This morning Entertainment Weekly reported Hanna-Barbera has struck a deal with DC Comics — that bastion of work-for-hire literary integrity — to jump-start some of its most well-known characters as 21st-century comics for a new generation who doesn’t know them and/or an old generation that will shell out money for any repackaged remnants of their childhood.

The article linked above includes teaser images from DC’s planned reboots of Scooby-Doo (now with weapons and tattoos!), the Flintstones (realistic proportions + painful Stone Age puns = PROFIT), Space Ghost and Brak (no more Adult Swim irony, natch), and more. (Jonny Quest’s cast looks surprisingly unchanged, but we’ll see what happens after half of them are killed in the first issue.) The official press release offers additional details omitted from the EW summation, including the part where the Scooby Gang will be fighting nanites, which are now officially Over if they weren’t already. (Trivia undisclosed in the article: DC, Hanna-Barbera, and EW share the same giant parent company.)

It didn’t take long for Twitter to burst into laughter and kick off another round of reboot jokes. Within the first thirty seconds after I caught the news, I next saw other users lining up to brainstorm concepts for a grim-‘n’-gritty Yogi Bear, scoffing about a Jabberjaw revival, hoping Mighty Man and Yukk were up for grabs, and so on. By the time I got home after a long work day and in a better position to interact, I didn’t even bother checking Twitter because I assumed all the best jokes and obvious intellectual properties were spoken for, and my late contributions would be tired and redundant. What’s a sarcastic guy to do?

To an extent I’m fine with opting out this round. I’ve done more than my share of reboot jokes in times past. Longtime MCC readers may remember previous entries in that vein:

* My detailed overview of a young-adult series based on Disney’s Cinderella called “The Cinder-Earth Trilogy”, written over two years before I learned Disney themselves had a live-action reboot in the works. I’ve yet to watch it because I don’t want to know how many of my genius ideas they refused to steal.

* My list of suggestions for overhauling various old Star Trek villains, written during the short time frame when we believed JJ Abrams when he said Benedict Cumberbatch was totally playing not-Khan.

* The synopsis of what could be my first summer blockbuster extravaganza, E.T.: The Epic Traveler, which turns Steven Spielberg’s tiny leather gargoyle and Drew Barrymore’s precious urchin into a total ripoff of Edward and Bella.

* Capsule descriptions of the first thirteen episodes of The CW’s Snowman: the Series, my visionary reimagining of Frosty the Snowman that would be like Smallville on Red Bull Sugarfree.

* My predictions for the very real Teletubbies reboot. I’m pretty sure my version is better than what we actually got.

I could probably turn “MCC Reboots!” into a regular feature without really trying, but I’d rather not. On the drive home from work, I found myself — against my will, mind you — outlining a multi-season arc for a potential relaunch of Barney the Dinosaur that cruelly shuns his preschool fan base and appropriates the character for the TV-14 audience that grew up on him but are afraid to admit they miss him and need him back in their lives. Tentative story arcs so far:

Season 1: Barney travels to our time, takes a full 22 episodes to learn that he should stop murdering children.
Season 2: Slowly learns English from a high school in which no two kids belong to the same minority. The season’s Big Bad: some greedy old big-game-hunting white guy.
Season 3: Learns colors, shapes, numbers, and what “fruits” and “vegetables” are. Big Bad: his larger, hungrier father.
Season 4: Picks up singing; catches on quickly thanks to special guests who used to be on Glee. Has advanced surgery on his arms so his hands can finally reach each other and clap. Big Bad revamped from the old show: that annoying blond kid Michael who always looked ten years too old to be into Barney.

…you get the idea. I even mocked up sample concept art for All-New All-Different Barney using a coloring book page and as much MS Paint as I could throw at it before I got bored within minutes.

Xtreme Barney!

Cel shading easily on par with half of Cartoon Network’s current lineup.

Alas, news sites last fall insisted Barney is indeed up for a reboot circa 2017 because youngsters need their sincere dinosaur singalongs. I think we’re reaching a point where Hollywood can reboot all the media characters faster than we can crank out the wonder-who’s-next! quips. Unless we’re content to recycle the same silly what-ifs for the same ten cartoons over and over and over again, those of us who like to blaze their own comedy trail have no choice but to scrape the bottom of the barrel.

Fortunately I found a pair of pop-culture losers that time forgot. Meet Calvin and the Colonel.

Calvin and the Colonel!

The cover of Dell’s Four-Color Comics #1354, cover-dated April-June 1962. My 2006 Overstreet guide priced mint condition copies at $130.00. Mine’s not mint, but this is probably worth, like, fifty grand today, right?

I picked this up in a Mooresville antique store in 2013 when my wife and I were driving around southern Indiana for her 2013 birthday. (I posted pics from our tour of Martinsville, but not the Mooresville stopover.) I found this in a box with other oddities like Jeff Nicholson’s Ultra Klutz and a forgotten old Warren Ellis project called Ruins. It’s now officially the oldest comic I own, and I had to buy it because I knew Dell Comics used to be the kings of making comics based on cartoons, but I had absolutely no idea who these strangers were. The mystery was too tantalizing to abandon.

Some light research uncovered their short-lived history. Just as the Flintstones were cloned from The Honeymooners, Calvin and the Colonel — a dumb bear and a crafty weasel — were basically furry versions of Amos and Andy. If you know TV history, you’ll know that’s not a team that would play well today (as Nicolas Cage and Samuel L. Jackson found out to everyone’s regret). In 1961 someone thought it was good enough to kill airtime for twenty-six episodes before they came to their senses. You can follow the link for a sample on YouTube (complete with value-added ’60s laugh track and vintage commercials intact as palate-cleansers between segments), or you can pretend to enjoy this excerpt from the comic.

Calvin + the Colonel!

As was the standard of the day, the comic contains no credits for writer or artist. I’m not holding my breath waiting for them to step forward and confess.

A quick search for “Calvin and the Colonel reboot” yields no relevant results, thereby making this very entry the definitive internet hot-spot for anyone weird enough in the future to look for “Calvin and the Colonel reboot”. I’ve done it! I’ve found undiscovered country! I could be a reboot-joke pioneer, if only I could think of a single new joke to go with this!

…honestly, I got nearly nothing. All that comes to mind is reframing this dire duo in a dark, violent rehash in which Calvin is an actual ferocious grizzly; the Colonel is a short, weaselly, angry guy who dresses in a lot of fancy furs and thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room; and the whole series is the two of them fighting and fighting and fighting. Then I realized even that reboot has already been done and it was called The Revenant, except for some reason they left Calvin out of too much of the running time. And in this politically divisive era, I’m at a loss how you’d preserve the artistic integrity of those atrocious plantation accents. For once, the bottom of the barrel has failed to give me what I need.

So I guess it’s back to the internet-humor drawing board for me. Maybe I can crank out a 1500-word reboot lampoon based on the Book of Habbakuk, unless SNL already called dibs.

4 responses

    • Cartoon Network did a reboot a few years ago that gently introduced new concepts like subplots, continuing storylines, smoother animation, and Easter eggs, but the characters still looked and felt like the same old fun characters. But I’d have to agree with the previous commenter — DC’s new take has all the same names but none of the charm.


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