Time for another installment of Heroes & Villains, the comics column that’s becoming less and less about comics as the lockdown slogs on. I know I made a Simpsons reference LAST week, but I feel very much like Krusty The Clown when he tried to host his own show from a shack in the desert with only a scorpion and a battery to entertain his viewers.
Buckle up because it’s going to be one of those kind of columns.
As I attempted to magic a column out of my ass with no new comics to talk about I confirmed that I’m doing this whole thing for myself as much as anybody else. Having a free block of time isn’t something I’m good at and I don’t quite know what I’d be doing on a Tuesday afternoon other than writing this column. Yeah, I could be watching Avengers: Endgame again to kill a few hours but for some reason my Apple TV keeps telling me “content not available” and I do not want to go though the hassle of going into the next room and getting the blu-ray to put into the player. In addition to proving how lazy I can be after a full day of work I’ve also made a pretty solid case for maintaining a library of physical media.
My local comic shop began doing curbside delivery this week which is promising. Soon Diamond will begin shipping again and I’ll have access to my favorite method of escapism. If you’re REALLY hard up for stuff to read, Marvel has put up a bunch of free graphic novels on their app and there’s some really good stuff on there. DC, on the other hand, has put up an bunch of free…first issues. Just a taste! Anything else is going to cost you. Still, free is free I guess.
Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated
There’s been score of articles about stuff to binge watch now that people are stuck at home so why should I throw my hat into that proverbial ring. Last week I recommended a podcast and thanks to the magic of Twitter I discovered that the comic I wrote about had an unforeseen connection to the podcast (go look @BiffBamPop or @eahenson for more on that). This week I’ve got a cartoon recommendation sure to thrill and delight mystery seekers of all ages.
Yeah, that’s right I’m going to rap at ya about some Scooby-Doo…AGAIN.
Specifically, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated which is perhaps the best Scooby-Doo show EVER. Originally airing on Cartoon Network from 2010 to 2013, I discovered the show quite by accident and immediately got sucked in to it. As I’ve written about previously, I have a longstanding adoration for the cartoon and its various iterations but I was not prepared for how much I was going to love this show.
I’m sure that when you think of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! your first thoughts are of the general formula of the show and the (what I consider to be) charmingly low-budget Hanna-Barbera animation. It was comfortingly formulaic. There was never really a monster, just some criminal that would have gotten away with it if not for those “meddling kids.”
Concepts such as nuance, subtext, character growth, homages, and so forth were almost completely foreign to the Scooby-Doo franchise up until Mystery Incorporated. True, there were some glimmers of self-awareness with 1998’s Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island but that was only the tip of the iceberg compared to where Mystery Incorporated was going to take us.
What Mystery Incorporated brought to the table was a long form, serialized narrative over the course of fifty-two episodes with a completely defined arc and its own unique mythology. It was ambitious in a way that I didn’t think a cartoon about a mystery solving Great Dane could be and it feels completely ridiculous for me to be typing that.
The show is loaded with pop culture references and series callbacks that don’t feel blatant in a Captain America “I understood that reference!” kind of way. I’ve watched the show from start to finish a couple of times and have managed to notice different things on each go around. It’s apparent that the creative team behind the show had a love for the source material and a desire to take it to the next level. If you doubt that, just wait until Scooby winds up in what appears to be The Black Lodge late in the series second season. From start to finish this show was one of the most satisfying viewing experiences of any show I’ve ever seen.
The voice cast is spectacular, complete with several fantastic guest voices but the real MVPs are in the core group. Anchored by the legendary Frank Welker as Fred Jones and Scooby-Doo, the series stars Mindy Cohn as Velma Dinkley, Grey Griffin as Daphne Blake, and Matthew Lillard as Shaggy Rogers. Outside of the original voice cast, this lineup is the definitive way these characters should sound. It’s at that level, for me, where if I hear other actors voicing the characters it just sound…wrong.
The series has received a barebones DVD release of just the episodes and no bonus features. I’d love to see it released on blu-ray with a behind the scenes documentary or even some audio commentary. Still, I’ll take what I can get.
Here’s some good news: You can stream Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated on Netflix RIGHT NOW in both the US and Canada. I was happy to see the series pop back into my queue recently which facilitated a rewatch of the show and this article.