When faced with the challenge of combining the "real" world and the cartoon world of Hanna-Barbera, Garth Ennis is literally bringing one into the other - complete with the ACME catalog and a talking dog.
In Dastardly & Muttley, Ennis and artist Mauricet are establishing a world based in reality, but where a mysterious mist is causing cartoon-like surrealism to invade.
"I initially pitched the idea to my friend Marie Javins at DC," Ennis said, "after I heard that the old Hanna-Barbera characters were being brought back. I always enjoyed Dastardly & Muttley as a kid, so it seemed like a good fit."
The concept, Ennis said, allows he and Mauricet to inject both surreal horror and fun humor into the series. "Or fun horror and surreal humor," Ennis joked.
After all, imagine the real-life experience of falling from an airplane and bouncing on springs in your shoes. Or, in the case of Muttley, having the body of a dog but the mind of a human.
"There's some mildly unpleasant stuff in the story, but I don't think it ever pitches all the way over into the truly ghastly," Ennis laughed. "At one point we get a hint at a possibly supernatural origin for all the weirdness, but I made sure it was a case of 'maybe it is, maybe it isn't.'"
DC launched its new line of updated Hanna-Barbera comic books in 2016 - announcing that they were "new visions" of the classic cartoons, "injected with current sensibilities and aimed at the teen-plus set."
Titles in the initial launch in May 2016 included Scooby Apocalypse, Future Quest, Wacky Raceland, and The Flintstones. Several other titles have followed, with Dastardly & Muttley the latest as it launched this week.
Fans of the original cartoon versions of Dick Dastardly and his sidekick dog Muttley will remember them as bumbling villains from various Hanna-Barbera cartoons, including Dastardly and Muttley in their Flying Machines. In the cartoon, Muttley didn't actually talk, although he had a signature wheezing laugh.
Now the two characters are based in a much more realistic world, but one that has cartoon moments. However, Ennis said readers shouldn't look for familiar real-world characters to show up.
"The story was conceived and begun in the summer of last year, so none of the political or military figures who appear are supposed to be anyone in disguise," Ennis said. "The president is neither Trump nor Obama; he's one of those standard issue 'could be anyone' DC Comics presidents. There is one exception to that rule, but he shows up a bit later on."
And although Ennis is creating a new world for the comic book - and in fact, his Muttley does talk - he said the original cartoon versions of the characters always inform what he's doing in the comic book.
"Let's say the cartoon is constantly in the background," Ennis said, "laughing an excruciating doggy laugh."