Spotlight Sunday 9.2.18

Spotlight Sundays

The merry-go-round broke down, which means there are spoilers ahead for…

Harley Quinn/Gossamer Special #1
Writer: Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Sholly Fisch
Artist: Pier Brito, David Alvarez
Cover: Amanda Conner
Rated T

“Why is someone out ta get ya? Are you somebody’s pet or somethin’? Maybe a government experiment fer hair growth of aging, bald, white guys? An iconic cartoon character that no one can remember the name of?”

DC continues its series of crossover specials featuring Looney Tunes characters on the loose in the DC Universe, adding some additional pairings to last year’s roster.

I haven’t read all of them – I did two last year and two this year – but this is the first I’ve read that didn’t require a major tonal shift or change in design to fit a cartoon character into a comic book universe, which is an advantage to pairing up with Harley Quinn.

I haven’t been reading her regular series, but I have picked up a few specials here and there, so I know that the tone is generally lightly humorous with some darkness around the edges, and a focus on Harley’s nature as an agent of chaos, a nature she shares with a certain carrot-chomping rabbit.

While Gossamer is rendered at least somewhat more realistically here – inasmuch as a giant hairy monster can be – there isn’t the kind of significant overhaul to his look that some of the other Looney Tunes have gone through as they stepped into the DC Universe.

Our story begins with Harley and Ivy enjoying a day at the beach while they can; Ivy has to head back to Gotham, and Harley needs to prepare for an oncoming hurricane.

Harley tries to convince Ivy to stay and help her ride out the storm, but to no avail, and they part on a fourth-wall-breaking meta-joke about DC’s upcoming line of more adult fare.

…okay, there are some tonal shifts from cartoons, though plenty of media intended for kids contain innuendoes and the occasional double entendre designed to appeal to older audiences. In this book, it’s more a difference of degree than kind, though as you’ll see, the degree is pretty extreme.

In any case, after sleeping through the worst of it, Harley heads out to survey the damage, stumbling upon a large crate that washed up on the shore. She opens it to find Gossamer, and, being Harley, is delighted and not the least bit afraid.

She immediately befriends the monster and brings him around to meet her friends, so they can all get together for breakfast.

Harley takes him shopping for some shoes, and happens to find a place that put in a special order for size eighteens that never got picked up, and from there it’s back to her place where she proceeds to clean him up and attempts to give him a bit of a makeover, complete with some allusions to Gossamer’s iconic cartoon appearances with Bugs, and some more jokes that kids won’t get and that I’m surprised the DC censors let her get away with.

Their fun is interrupted by a giant robot that grabs hold of Gossamer, and which has a familiar smile painted on its face.

Harley and friends manage to take it down, but Harley decides that the Joker must be behind it all and decides to head to Gotham to have it out with him.

(Gossamer, meanwhile, just happily goes with the flow.)

After fruitlessly inquiring about Mistah J’s whereabouts among Batman’s rogues, she stops in to visit Ivy, who does know where the Joker can be found.

Where indeed?

We find the Joker doing that thing he does, which is to say dangling a chained-up Batman over a huge vat of acid.

Harley and Gossamer interrupt the Joker’s fun, and while the Joker denies being behind the giant robot, Harley refuses to believe him.

“Flaky fruit tart?” Is this one of the old Hostess® ads?

The fight is interrupted by the return of the giant robot, which grabs Batman and Joker and tosses them away before grabbing – and swallowing – Harley and Gossamer.

It finally dawns on Harley that maybe this never had anything to do with her, and that the robot was sent to retrieve Gossamer.

They arrive at the home of the scientist who created Gossamer – modelled after the scientist from Gossamer’s second appearance in “Water, Water Every Hare” – who explains that he and his beloved Gossamer were going on vacation and taking a trip to Italy, but Gossamer couldn’t get on a plane, as he lacks a birth certificate and was therefore ineligible for a passport, so they travelled on a cargo ship, with Gossamer as cargo. The ship sank during the hurricane, and so the scientist sent out his robots in search of his lost creation.

As a reward for Harley keeping Gossamer safe(ish), the scientist offers Harley a potion that will give her super powers for a week. Gossamer and Harley say their tearful goodbyes as he and the scientist climb into the robot to fly away for their interrupted vacation. The robot doesn’t have enough fuel to make it to Italy, but Miami is doable.

Before leaving, the scientist arranged for his driver to take Harley home, and on the way, she engages in some meta-musings about what she should do with the powers that the potion will give her.

While it’s clear to us who the driver is based on the way he talks, it all ends on a mysterious note for Harley, as she still has no idea who painted the robot to look like Mistah J.

Yes. Yes, you are.

As is the case with all of the Looney Tunes crossovers, the book is rounded out by a shorter back-up story, this one by Sholly Fisch and David Alvarez, that flips things around and presents the DC character in a format that is more like Looney Tunes, as we find a decidedly more cartoony Harley on the lam and in search of a place to lay low for a while.

She spots a spooky old castle and what she thinks is the silhouette of her old pal Hugo Strange and heads towards it in hopes of gaining safe haven for the night.

Instead, she stumbles upon the home of the mad scientist and Gossamer. The scientist doesn’t appreciate the interruption, and orders Gossamer to rid him of this pest, but Harley channels her inner bugs and Gossamer is amused by her antics, and so the story takes a turn as the scientist attempts to win back Gossamer’s affection.

The scientist engages in the study of the science of humor, but all of his attempts fall flat until he discovers that Gossamer is primarily amused by slapstick and by things – literally – blowing up in the scientist’s face. And so, after assenting to taking some pies and seltzer water to the face, and anvils to the head, the natural order of things are restored. Sort of.

This was a fun little diversion that, as Harley noted, marked the temporary return of husband and wife team Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner to working on Harley after recently ending their popular run on her regular title. Personally, I would have liked to have seen Conner handling the art chores on it, but she doesn’t seem to do a lot of interiors these days, which is a shame.

Not that I have any real complaints about the art. It was fine, and a good fit for the story, and I liked the style in which Gossamer was rendered, maintaining a certain cartoonishness that didn’t seem out of place with his surroundings.

I also liked the art on the back-up story, which was an update of the classic Looney Tunes style that worked well in a print medium.

Obviously, despite the presence of cartoon characters, this wasn’t really kid stuff, which has been the case with most of these crossovers. Last year’s Batman/Elmer Fudd, for example, was a pretty dark story, though that’s not really surprising, given that it was written by Tom King. Then again, almost any story featuring Elmer Fudd is generally pretty dark if you think about it. I mean, he’s usually trying to murder the story’s main character. For fun. (Also, as a kid, the whole “Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit, KILL THE WABBIT!” bit in What’s Opera, Doc? was kind of terrifying and traumatizing.)

My pulse isn’t really on the thumb of what the kids are into these days – do they still say “into?” – so I don’t really know what the current level of popularity is for the Looney Tunes cast of characters, but given that even the kids who loved Space Jam when it came out have been adults for a while already, I suspect that their appeal is more nostalgic than current, so it makes sense to have a little bit more in the way of adult fun with these crossovers.

And while the adult humor was a tad more salacious than what could be found in the classic cartoons – some carryovers from her regular series are the smutty details of the pets that Harley keeps, such as her wiener (dog), Nathan, her cock, Mike, and her beaver, which she always takes with her* – they really seem more like modern-day equivalents of the kind of things the old cartoons got away with in their own time.

Of the two DC/Looney Tunes crossovers I picked up, I chose to write about this one because I enjoyed it more, even though the other was written by Gail. Honestly, I’ve always kind of hated Tweety – and Gail didn’t really make him any more likeable – and my favorite Sylvester shorts were always the ones with him and his son.

Besides, while I don’t read her regular series, I do have a fondness for Harley, and I haven’t had a chance to write about her misadventures so far. While the story took a different path than one might have anticipated, Harley was a good pairing for Gossamer, as she is, more-or-less, the DCU equivalent of Bugs Bunny.

As always, special thanks go out to my comic shop, Comic Logic Books & Artwork. Please remember to support your local comic shop, and if you need to find one, click here.

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*Stuffed. His name is Bernie.

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