When I heard about Wacky Raceland #1 I thought, “No, it can’t be”. I remembered seeing an old cartoon, most likely in a 2AM college-induced haze about a band of quirky characters and their themed cars, racing around America. Could DC Comics really be trying a gritty remake?
I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall when someone broached the idea for this comic: “Hey, I got an idea, let’s take a nonsensical kid’s cartoon from 1968 and turn it into a band of post-apocalyptic degenerates racing for their lives.” “Fantastic idea, Daryl! Now we won’t regret not buying the rights to Mad Max when we had the chance.”
Wacky Raceland #1 (DC Comics)
Well, that’s exactly what they did. All of the characters are back in a new jacked up, tattooed, murderous manner. The ’68 Penelope Pitstop could never have packed such a punch and Pussycat has lost her parasol. Some now don mechanical teeth, are part bear and are generally creepier, but you can tell it’s them beneath the ferocious appearance. The cars have had a makeover as well — they have a Mad Max feel. The vehicles are faster, slicker and meaner. Oh, and did I mention they can talk?
This race takes place in a post-apocalyptic earth and the prize is the promise of a place in Utopia. The Announcer is again never seen, but we soon learn she has a twisted sense of fun: throwing obstacles in the paths of the racers similar to The Running Man or Death Race.
Ken Pontac keeps readers engaged by weaving the past, present moment and race day events into his storytelling. Each character is slowly being introduced through their flashback and each time we learn a bit more about the sadistic nature of the Announcer. Nods to the classic cartoon are present in Dastardly’s desire to win solely by cheating, although in this world his schemes are grander and downright murderous. Despite the fact that these racers are competing against one another there is an underlying sense of camaraderie.
The art is dark, edgy and extremely detailed. Leonardo Manco does a fantastic job of illustrating every spoiler, pipe, grill, axle, tread and gunnery for the eleven vehicles. Each vehicle has their own distinct look. The characters are meticulously drawn as well. I appreciate the overlapping imagery from one frame to the other. It is visually appealing and enhances the movement of the race and fight scenes.
A special nod to Mariana Sanzone for the coloring. Sanzone knows how to portray light. The sheen of dare I say body oil on the three-legged goon’s fishnet leg and the reflections in Dastardly and Red Baron’s goggles are just two examples. There are countless reflective surfaces on the cars and characters’ costumes and Sanzone captures each moment precisely.
Did I like it? Yes. After researching the older cartoon I am impressed by the character makeovers. We have only had a peek into the characters’ backstories and the Announcer has me intrigued. This storyline has great potential and could go in many different directions. My interest is piqued to see which way they turn.
My fears? There’s a mash-up of many movie components here: Mad Max, Death Race, Running Man and Tremors. I hope they are careful to develop their own world moving forward. I also wonder if I found this more interesting because I had researched the older cartoon. The stark contrast between then and now made this comic all the more enticing to me. Let me know in the comments what you think. Were you aware of the older cartoon and did this influence your opinion?
Either way, the race is on!