Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #1
Writer: Mark Russel
Pencils: Mike Feehan
Inks: Mark Morales
Colours: Paul Mounts
A high-stakes political drama, set in the early 1950s at the height of the 'Red Scare'. The story of a gay, intellectual playwright struggling with the knowledge that it doesn't take much for a writer to go from being the flavour of the month to cat food. The story of the execution of the Rosenburgs in Sing Sing Prison for selling nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. The story … of Snagglepuss, even?
No, I don't know, either.
But it works, it really works. The story in Exit Stage Left is at its heart a classic gripping political thriller set during McCarthyism, where independent thought and express counter-cultural ideas could lead to accusations of communism and being anti-American, but this real history is set in a fantasy version of the United States, where animals are bipedal and talk. If you're a fan of Snagglepuss, I believe you'll recognise him instantly in Mark Russel's brilliant interpretation of the character: wise-cracking and in love with the theatre, and yet he fits perfectly into this world – the hottest individual on Broadway after the success of his latest play. His success has it downsides, though, as his connections and fame have made him a target of a government organisation known as the House Committee on Un-American Activities – who are aiming to purge show-business of its most subversive voices.
The writing is fantastic, using – as many have done before – the freedom of a fantasy world to paint a sometimes quite painfully accurate view of the real world. The world is no less dark and bleak than if it had been written with greater realism and without bipedal animals, but it takes a little while to see through the veneer to the satire underneath. The story-telling turns in several unexpected directions, is well paced and humorous throughout. The writing for the short scene of 'My Heart Is A Kennel Of Thieves' (Snagglepuss's latest play) alone was enough to convince me that this is going to be a lot of fun.
Artistically, the close-ups of the animal characters work well, with the animal features present and clear, but yet still looking natural in this upright form. The full length shots work slightly less well for me, especially when you see that Snagglepuss himself is often wearing a shirt, tie, waistcoat and suit blazer, but nothing below the waist – just cat legs and a tail – but I can see that it is being true to the source material; the ratio of cartoon characters who wear clothes to cartoon characters who wear trousers is surprisingly high. I am amazed at how well the artists have managed to make this a gritty, realistic world which somehow also contains Huckleberry Hound.
Heavens to Murgatroyd, I can't believe this actually works, but it does - somehow, it does.