Snagglepuss: Exit Stage Left

Exit Stage Left brings an original and witty re-imagining of Snagglepuss that holds your attention until the very last page. A bold story from Mark Russel, brought to life by Mike Feehan and Mark Morales, shows the beloved character as a Tennessee Williams type play write in the 1950’s during the Red Scare with themes that relate to modern society. A cultural and political satire that does not shy away from the harsh realities of life as a gay man during the mid 20th century.

Full disclosure, I did not choose to read this on my own but on recommendation from my father who loved it. As of writing this article he is currently the ONLY person to own a Graded issue #1, something that my brother and I made fun of him for. But when the trade came out he bought multiple copies to force people to read, myself included.

I was hooked after the first page. Laughing and crying was not something I expected to do reading this mini series. With the current climate of gay rights and government finger pointing, this story is extremely relevant.

During a hostile committee hearing in DC, Snagglepuss keeps an easily smile as he declares himself an American Cultural Icon. In 1953, this committee is hell bent on finding communists in show business and have their sites on the lovable pink mountain lion. Later while talking to another writer, he declares “the world in on fire” and that some fights simply need to be fought. Friends of Snagglepuss such as Lillian Hellman and Dorothy Parker have already been blackballed by the committee, and they are out to destroy more lives. As the series progresses we see the committee of Un-American activity is also targeting people they deem as perverts and degenerates, mainly the gay community.

Snagglepuss himself is gay, secretly visiting the famous Stonewall Inn to see his boyfriend after his wife goes to bed. The arrival of his old friend Huckleberry Hound highlights how difficult it is for homosexuals in the mid century. Bringing Huckleberry to the Stonewall, the blue dog feels reinvigorated that there is a space where he can be himself. Huckleberry begins writing after a long break due to depression after finding love with a police horse, McGraw. Though for the pair life seems to be going well, the Committee of Un American Affairs is planing a raid of the popular gay bar in an attempt to smear Snagglepuss’s image.

Picking a rare day that Snagglepuss was not at the bar, the police raid the bar while Huckleberry Hound was there. In a heart breaking series of panels we see the closeted McGraw strike Huckleberry to keep his private life secret. This betrayal not only causes public disgrace for Huckleberry, but for him to dive into a deep depression that ultimately leads to his death.

These events lead to Snagglepuss taking a deeper stand for himself and those being unfairly harassed. After publishing a biographical play about his friendship with Hucklberry, he divorces his wife and goes into another committee hearing. This time instead of smiles, he berates the committee and blames them for the death of his friend. He successfully humiliates them, leading to his own blacklisting.

Years later we see Hucklberry alone and ostracized. He seems content with what he has done with only minimal regrets. With a surprise visit from McGraw, recently disgraced himself, he offers Snagglepuss a chance to get back into show business and around being blacklisted. Hesitant, Snagglepuss eventually decides to do it, bringing in the son of his best friend Huckleberry hound.

Ending on the sentiment that “this is as close to a happy ending as [he] needs”, I heartily agree.

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