Inside Scooby Doo's unlikely transformation into a superhero icon

Contributed by
Jan 9, 2018

The Scooby gang, at almost 50, is as popular as ever. So popular, in fact, that everyone wants to hang out with them. The release of Scooby-Doo & Batman: The Brave and the Bold is the latest example of the iconic franchise's ability to seamlessly join forces with just about any pop culture persona. The animated movie follows recent team-ups with World Wrestling Entertainment stars, the rock group KISS and the Hanna-Barbera superhero Blue Falcon. There's also a monthly Scooby-Doo Team-Up comic from DC Comics and a much-anticipated appearance on a spring episode of The CW's long-running horror hit Supernatural.

Scooby-Doo is one of the world's biggest entertainment franchises, with various incarnations airing 50 times a day globally, according to Warner Bros. Consumer Products. The official Facebook page has more than 25 million followers, a sign that kids aren't the only fans of the Mystery Incorporated squad of teenagers Fred, Velma, Daphne, Shaggy and their Great Dane, Scooby-Doo.

Their comedic crime-solving adventures launched on CBS's Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! in 1969 and have been featured in dozens of TV shows, movies, video games, two live-action feature films and even animated LEGO specials. The most recent series, Be Cool, Scooby-Doo!, has wrapped up and a live-action Daphne and Velma movie is scheduled to be released later this year.

In almost every Scooby story, an apparent supernatural-themed threat (ghosts, monsters, vampires, etc.) is eventually revealed to be an elaborate ploy by some disgruntled (and very human) party, who inevitably blames those "meddling kids" for foiling their plans.

 

The key to Scooby's enduring appeal is simple. "Kids like things that are funny, kids like mysteries, kids like things that are spooky," says Sholly Fisch, who writes DC's Scooby-Doo Team Up, which pairs the team with a variety of superheroes and Hanna-Barbera characters. Fisch, who has a Ph.D. in developmental psychology and consults on educational TV shows, adds that, "from a psychological perspective, kids find it very reassuring when the big scary monster turns out to be a guy in a costume."

The gang is well-suited for unlikely alliances because after five decades, fans know exactly what they're getting. "It's a very old-school comedy trope that these characters are the same no matter what situation you throw them in," says Warner Bros. Animation's James Tucker, who wrote and produced the new Batman: The Brave and the Bold movie. "It's kind of like how the Three Stooges always had a different job in every episode or every short and it didn't matter: They work on a golf course, now they're janitors, now they're construction workers. They just plop 'em into these situations."

Tucker created the beloved 2008-2011 Brave and the Bold series, which paired Batman with a variety of allies, so he's something of an expert on team-ups. His own love of Scooby-Doo was born from The New Scooby-Doo Movies, a 1970s series of adventures that featured popular real-life and fictional guest stars, including Don Knotts, Phyllis Diller, the Harlem Globetrotters, Josie and the Pussycats and Batman and Robin.

"It's a magic formula that it defies breaking apart," says Tucker, who also produced the 2013 movie Scooby Doo! Mask of the Blue Falcon. "I was the first generation to see it and it instantly clicked with me." While a few fans have groused at some of the more unlikely unions, Tucker believes it's all part of Scooby's DNA. "People were complaining about the wrestling team-up and asking how does that happen, and I'm like, we had Scooby-Doo movies and they were hanging out with Sonny and Cher!"

Credit: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

For Fisch, the only limit to who can play in the Scooby sandbox is his own imagination. The upcoming 34th issue of Scooby-Doo Team-Up (on sale January 24) features DC's Birds of Prey super team (Batgirl, Black Canary and Huntress), with Mystery Inc. members Daphne and Velma suiting up to join the squad.

"As I started to plot it out, I realized, oh here you have two best friends who solve crimes together, and one of them rushes into danger with her martial arts skills and the other one is the detective, who is trying to work everything out and solve the mystery," he says. "Well, yeah, that's Daphne and Velma, but it's also Black Canary and Batgirl. So sometimes you can have fun with those relationships."

So far he's written issues guest-starring Batman, Superman, Aquaman, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, the Flintstones and the Jetsons, among others. "The wish list is getting shorter and shorter because I'm doing more and more of these," he says. Among the upcoming team-ups are the Justice Society (with the Scooby gang traveling back in time to World War II) and the Swamp Thing.

"It's the Alan Moore Swamp Thing," Fisch says with a laugh, referring to the iconic creator's dark take on the human/plant hybrid. "It's mostly the Scooby-Doo version of that, but I did get to have the fun of writing a page of Alan Moore captions bringing the whole thing together." Jack Kirby's New Gods and Forever People are on his wish list, though he has not yet gotten approval to venture into DC's Fourth World.

We may never see that epic collaboration, but Tucker believes there are few limits on Scooby alliances. "The thing about Scooby-Doo is that they're a great gateway to expose people to other kinds of characters," he says. "To me they're the Hanna-Barbera touchstone. Scooby-Doo will never fall into obscurity."

Scooby-Doo! & Batman: The Brave and the Bold is now available on DVD and digital on demand platforms, including Amazon Video, iTunes, Vudu, PlayStation and Xbox.