Thursday, April 21, 2011

Toon Legends: Space Ghost (1966)

Today's generation of viewers see Space Ghost as a buffoonish talk-show host, the result of enjoying a lengthy run on Cartoon Network a number of years back with Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast, which recast the Phantom of the Spaceways as a parody of late-night chatters like David Letterman and Jay Leno. While Coast-to-Coast was the forerunner of CN's [adult swim] nighttime block, Space Ghost helped lead CBS' superhero-packed Saturday morning block for 2 seasons (1966-68). LA-based radio personality Gary Owens (Roger Ramjet) was the voice of our stalwart hero, aided by teen orphans Jan (Ginny Tyler) & Jace (Tim Matheson, ex-Jonny Quest).

To counter Coast-to-Coast, and at the same time address the pleas of Space Ghost's older fans, DC released a 6 issue miniseries a few years ago that revealed the hero's true origins, something that Hanna-Barbera never addressed in 1966. Back then, of course, such details were non-essential. Despite a brilliant story by Joe Kelly & Ariel Olivetti, there hasn't been a follow-up, likely because there are too many readers today that might be a wee bit confused. I assure you, pilgrims, that there are enough of us who'd rather see Space Ghost fly again, fighting the bad guys instead of hiring them to be goofy assistants for a talk show.

For those of you who have never seen the original, true Space Ghost, we offer the episode, "The Heat Thing", from 1966, followed by the first appearance of Zorak:

Space Ghost would return to action in 1981, as part of NBC's Space Stars anthology series, and while Gary Owens returned to his classic role, new actors took over the roles of Jan & Jace. Space Stars, as previously documented, was cancelled after 1 season. From time to time, episodes from both 1966 & 1981 have aired on Boomerang, so keep an eye out for them.

Rating: B-.


magicdog said...

I used to love SG back in the day!

I'd seen both versions and I think the 60s adventures were slightly better than the 1980s ones. In the 60s they could still punch out the villians (even kill them - remember how many of Black Widow's spider creatures were vaporized??) but the later versions were watered down a bit.

I also read the DC comic and think the origin story works, but I'm disappointed there wasn't a follow up. Here's hoping there will be a serious reboot for SG in the future!!

I'd love it if there were some exciting, gritty adventures but tempered with some domestic/family issues (Jan and Jace looking up to SG as their father figure and SG as a parent raising his wards to survive in a tough and dangerous world).

hobbyfan said...

The first thing we'd have to do to facilitate a revival of Space Ghost would be to overhaul the entire staff of morons at Cartoon Network. That includes the jabronies at [adult swim]. Their attitude seems to be that they can retool any character in the vaults that they see fit, just to see how many people they can tick off.

My knowledge of the older cartoons would make me overqualified to work for those clowns.

I digress. You can blame one of the first publicly known media watchdogs, Peggy Charren, for forcing the action toons of the 70's and early 80's to be watered down, out of fear that kids might duplicate or emulate their heroes. Small wonder, then, that the Space Stars revivals of SG & the Herculoids bombed in 1981......