The Jetsons, Hanna-Barbera's classic vision of the future that parallels their whimsical Flintstones version of the distant past, has almost always been viewed as a depiction of a sci-fi paradise. It has flying cars, robot servants, and all manner of technologies that do seemingly everything else, just so you never have to leave your floating chair. If you choose to seriously look at the world of The Jetsons as something more than just a goofy cartoon, though, you quickly find questions. Why does everyone live in the sky? Why do we never see the surface of the Earth? Why is Rosie the Robot a sophisticated, sassy AI who's still content to exist as an apparent family slave?
The Jetsons, a new DC Comics miniseries from writer Jimmy Palmiotti and artist Pier Brito, attempts to answer some of these questions, and in doing so reveals the world we thought was a paradise to be a retrofuturistic dystopia.
In the first issue of the series, which dropped this week, Jane Jetson -- reframed as a NASA scientist for this story -- explains that the reason humans live in the clouds now is that a massive meteor hit the Earth decades ago. The impact itself was devastating, and the side effects -- including rising ocean levels, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions -- damaged the planet to the point that the surface was completely submerged (at one point Elroy Jetson and his girlfriend, Lake, visit the ruins of New York City in the depths of this devastation).
The survivors (though not all of them; as Jane explains, "nothing could be done" to save everyone) retreated to space stations built as a contingency plan for such a natural disaster. They remained there as their new civilization -- the floating cities we see on the show -- was built in the atmosphere.
So the Jetsons live in a swanky cloud house because the actual surface of the Earth is uninhabitable. It's a fascinating and chilling new take on a classic franchise, and it forces us to ask plenty of questions about our own future.
In addition, other concepts add more depth to the series. George Jetson, always a character abused by his boss, is described as living "an analog life in a digital world," doing dangerous work for Spacely Sprockets because automation has rendered him the only human left able to complete the task. And Rosie? Well, she's not just a robot. She's had the consciousness of George's mother downloaded into her.
If all of this sounds interesting to you (and really, why wouldn't it?), pick up Issue #1 of The Jetsons right now. For more on the fascinating concepts at work in this series, check out this deep dive over at The Verge.