As DC launches a slate of new Hanna-Barbera comic books, Keith Giffen is giving Scooby and the gang a new "semi-serious" horror bent, as the characters get modernized for a story of survival in the apocalypse.
Scooby Apocalypse is written by Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, joined by artist Howard Porter, based on a new premise for the franchise by DC Co-Publisher Jim Lee. DC is hopeful that the new status quo for the redesigned characters will give the Scooby franchise — and similarly, a slate of other Hanna-Barbera characters — new life.
With the first issue of Scooby Apocalypse set to launch May 25, Newsarama talked with Giffen to find out more about what those meddling kids have gotten themselves into this time.
Newsarama: Keith, you're working from some ideas from Jim Lee for this new story involving Hanna-Barbera Scooby Doo Apocalypse. Is this a reworking of the characters, similar to what you're doing with Sugar and Spike for Legends of Tomorrow?
Keith Giffen: With Sugar and Spike, I was working with DC characters, so I felt like I could really push it further, as long as I didn't get outrageous. With Scooby Apocalypse, I do get to push it in a new direction and have some fun with the characters, but I think Scooby Doo's got a much greater recognition than Sugar and Spike.
Scooby Doo's been around for years. People come into this with a certain expectation, so Shaggy, Velma, and Daphne and Fred and Scooby — the core of who they are had to be there. You can change the situation they're in, you can change the group dynamic.
I always bring up Afterlife with Archie, wherein they told a different kind of story, they approached it from a different angle, but it was still Archie and Reggie and Betty and Veronica and all the characters you knew. It's just that they were tweaked a little for the story being told.
So with the Scooby Doo stuff, I'm not looking to tell people, "I know Scooby better than anybody else — I'll just change everything!" No. I'm trying to approach the characters by keeping as much of who they are as is possible within the limits of the story.
I'm not looking to do a complete revamp of Scooby Doo. I don't think there's any reason to.
Nrama: But they look different on the cover we saw, and it doesn't feel like they're meddling kids who are getting into crazy hijinks.
Giffen: No, we're taking a semi-serious bent. The threats are genuine. We're putting it a little closer to… it's more of a horror book than it is the Scooby Doo fun and games of the past — you know, unmask the villain and "oh, you kids!"
We're just trying to push it into another direction without violating who they are.
Nrama: They look like modern versions of who they were though — with, for example, Shaggy sporting a hipster beard instead of a hippy hairstyle. But you're saying they're still the personalities they were in the past?
Giffen: Yeah, it's kind of got to be that way, because if I were to come in and say Daphne's like the Black Widow and knows kung fu and fights crime? It won't work. We all know Scooby Doo. We've known the characters for years. If we changed those characters completely, I think people would reject it.
So you have to keep the core of who the character is. You can add to it. You can put them into different situations. But it's still Shaggy and Scooby.
We've found a different way of bringing them together. But they're still those characters.
Only now, instead of Shaggy and Scooby looking for a sandwich instead of finding clues about a masked ghoul, we have Shaggy and Scooby looking for something to eat in the middle of the apocalypse.
Nrama: Is it fun to take characters who are so well known and do something new with them?
Giffen: Oh yeah. It's a lot of fun to do the characters, even as they are. I was exposed to Scooby Doo for years and years and years.
And then to go in and go, OK, here are the characters. What kind of story do you want to tell?
Yeah, it's a lot of fun. And it's comforting to know that a lot of the groundwork has been done. I don't have to sit down and think of the relationship between Daphne and Fred, or Velma and the group, or Scooby and Shaggy. That's pretty much been established in the cartoons. It's been established in years and years and years of cartoons and booklets and comic books.
All I do is take the core of that and then do what I like best, which is to spin a story around it.
Nrama: So it's the familiar characters, but in an all-new story and premise.
Giffen: Right. They're in the apocalypse, and so we get to put them in situations they haven't been in before.
We're playing it a bit closer to reality.
It's remaking the concept without remaking the characters.
Nrama: OK, so they're in the apocalypse, and you said this is a bit more of a horror book. We've been told that the group has to fight to survive because the "creatures of the night" are among us. So would you describe this as creepy?
Giffen: Yes, they are horror. They are creepy stories. They're definitely creepy stories. And when it comes to the whole creepy story thing, I can run the entire gamut. I can do something that kind of freaks you out but has a little bit of a humorous overtone, and I can push it all the way to full-blown horror. So it's a really wide playing field I've got here.
It's always going to be fun, though. That's ultimately what I can say. I am having fun doing this Scooby book. And I think that counts for a lot, because hopefully, the fact that I'm having fun will translate through to the audience.