The Flintstones Volume 1 and 2 by Mark Russell
Updated: Feb 18
As with all reviews on this website, our goal is not to provide a complete overview of the book; rather, it is to examine how the book relates to the meaning of life.
The Flintstones comic - volume 1 and volume 2 is a brilliant and hilarious retake on the age-old cartoon from our youth (well, for some of us, our youth—those us of reaching midlife that is, or perhaps even those of us a little over the hill now). The series was written by Mark Russell, and it is all about the Flintstones confronting big questions such as the meaning of life, loneliness, religion, and even aliens. I'd be surprised if there wasn't an episode of Ancient Aliens on the subject.
One knows they'll be in for a philosophical treat when the opening page contains images of things like Plato's Cave and Tarpit (play on the store, Target). In issue 1 of volume 1, we see Wilma coming to terms with society not appreciating her artwork, not understanding and not caring to understand the importance or significance behind her work.
In her tribe, once an individual reached adulthood, he or she adds their hand print to the cave wall—a recording of everyone living now and everyone who lived before—a recording of each person's place in the universe. Einstein would be impressed.
Russell doesn't stop there on the topic of meaning. Bedrock struggles with religion, and the people cycle through worshipping birds to worshipping elephants, to eventually a mysterious being named Gerald which no one can see. On this, the priests explain the constant confusion and changing of who and what are to be worshipped:
... isn't the important thing that the God makes you feel like your life has meaning?
For a substantial portion of people, religion is what gives meaning to life, and Russell plays on that throughout the series.
Circling back to the idea that relationships give meaning to life, elephant, former God, and now vacuum cleaner that lives in the closet all alone in the dark, says:
Knowing that my friend bowling ball is on the other side of the door. It makes me think. Maybe the only meaning to life is that which we get from reach other.
After some in society split off from the church to worship a serpent—hell bent on power, strength, lust, and all the good stuff that comes in between, boss man Mr. Slate learns heartbreak the hard way. He thus concludes:
That once you pray to a God of strength, you surrender all right to beg for mercy. And Gerald help us, we all need mercy. Because in the end, it's only our inefficiencies and the softness inside us that makes life worth living.
Russell continues to hit the point home that relationships are a key component to the meaning of life after former God, now vacuum cleaner dies.
Death, like life, finds meaning in our connections to each other. Grief is bearable only because it can be shared.
In the final issue, Russell wrestles with religion and meaning once more.
The truth is, we are all born incomplete into a university not of our making. And we all need something to fill that void, to make us feel like we exist for a reason, for some people, that's family. For others, it's art. But some of us need Gerald to fill that void. To make our lives feel as though they've mattered.
Though religion and meaning are central themes in Russell's re-imagining of the Flintstones, he also tackles topics like out of control consumerism—I mean, in what world do we need Starbricks's Coffee, Shamrock Vitamins, and comics to survive? Sloth meat, yes, definitely yes. But the rest ... shams, and shame on us. Okay, comics are fine too, I suppose.
Overall, this was a very enjoyable read, and a series that also had some deep insights into life—our struggles to find out place in the universe, and our future as a species—both here on earth, and beyond. Shoutout to the artist Steve Pugh who also did an amazing job. Check the series out if you have a chance.
If you read the series, comment below and let us know your thoughts.