Like a lot of people my age, my first introduction to Space Ghost was through the Coast to Coast late night talk show on Cartoon Network. Shortly after that began airing, they started to rerun the classic Space Ghost action cartoon shorts from 1966 (or, at least, I began to notice them). Although I loved Space Ghost as a comedian, I found him much more enjoyable as an actual intergalactic superhero. Jan, Jace and Blip were annoying as crap, but theyâ€™re not why I watched the show. Space Ghost had a really well-rounded rogues gallery, a great character design (thanks to comic book artist Alex Toth, no less), awesome superpowers and a sweet theme song.
Space Ghost-himself was voiced by none other than Gary Owens. You might recall him as the voice of Blue Falcon from the Dyno-Mutt show, Commander Feral from Swat Kats, Powdered Toastman from the Ren & Stimpy Show or even as the voice of 1960â€™s era Batman from the â€œLegends of the Dark Knightâ€ episode of the New Batman Adventures. Heâ€™s known for having this commanding yet humorously heroic voice. Heâ€™s one of my favorites and the fact that he voiced Space Ghost made it all the cooler.
As far as plot goes, there isnâ€™t much of one to speak of (these were 6-minute shorts, after all). Space Ghost is an outer space policeman who dwells on Ghost Planet with his sidekicks Jan (the girl), Jace (the boy) and Blip (the monkey). They fly around in the Phantom Cruiser, battling evil-doers like Zorak, Moltor, Brak, the Spider-Woman, Metallus, the Creature King, Tansut and numerous others. Space Ghostâ€™s superpowers include the ability to turn invisible thanks to his inviso-belt, flight (by some unknown means) and his trademark power bands. The power bands give him the ability to shoot various destructive rays, like a heat ray or a freeze beam etc. He can combine the rays to create new effects and so-on.
There were 42 episodes of the original Space Ghost cartoon from 1966, as well as 22 episodes of the New Space Ghost produced in 1981. For whatever reason, Hanna Barbara has not seen fit to release the series in a box set, like they have most of their other flagship cartoons. Yet, thanks to the miracle of You Tube, I have managed to find a bunch of episodes for a recreational nostalgic marathon.
Episode #1: â€œThe Ovens of Moltorâ€
The villainous Moltor has just completed a process to create a legion of Mighty Molten Men. He unleashes his first Molten Man on the unsuspecting Jan and Jace. The pair call for back-up from Space Ghost who arrives without delay. A short battle ensues and Jan and Jace are taken prisoner by Moltor. Space Ghost defeats the Molten Men and comes to the rescue. As soon as he arrives in Moltorâ€™s lair, Moltor traps them in a tremendous oven. Space Ghost uses his power bands to blast out of the oven and the group escapes just as the asteroid lair explodes. It would seem that by blasting a hole in the oven, the ventilation caused such a rapid change in temperature the ovens could not withstand it and detonated.
One thing I never quite got about Space Ghost was that the villains almost always survived certain death. Now, I realize thatâ€™s a comic book clichÃ© and I shouldnâ€™t be perplexed by it, but it was different with Space Ghost. In Space Ghost, when the villains died, they really died. Hell, I remember one episode that ended with Brak being eaten by a school of space piranha. Yet he still managed to come back relatively unscathed. Another thing you might notice about this episode is that Moltor is wearing a yellow and white get-up. Heâ€™s most commonly recognized for his red and grey duds, which he wears in every appearance after this one.
Episode #4: â€œSpace Armadaâ€
Metallus invites his foe, Space Ghost, to come onboard his Man-of-War and see his latest plot to conquer the galaxy. Metallus introduces Space Ghost to his unstoppable Metal Men: robots that can out-think and out-maneuver any ship in the galaxy. He threatens to unleash them in one hour. Space Ghost takes on the Metal Men but is held at bay by their extreme numbers. Meanwhile, Jan, Jace and Blip sneak onboard the Man-of-War to try and sabotage Metallusâ€™ plans. Metallus gets the drop on them and holds the two teenagers hostage. Blip sneaks past him and grabs a de-lube gun. He squirts Metallus with the de-lube gun, freezing the cyborgâ€™s lubricant and rendering him paralyzed. The Metal Men are then called off and Space Ghost leaves Metallus to be picked up by the Galactic Patrol.
What was Metallus thinking? I mean, I know that supervillains are compelled to explain their devious schemes to the enemy before they enact them, but Metallus goes just short of inviting Space Ghost to a barbeque. And Iâ€™ve never even heard of â€œde-lubeâ€, though it is rather convenient that there was one right behind Metallus, who just happened to *not* notice the monkey hanging around the two invisible teenagers. The Metal Men werenâ€™t all they were cracked up to be, either, as Space Ghost obliterates them with relative ease.
Episode #7: â€œThe Robot Masterâ€
Metallus is back and this time he isnâ€™t screwing around. Metallus unleashes a full-blown invasion on Ghost Planet, as his horde of robot spaceships tear the planet apart. Jan, Jace and Blip narrowly escape as Metallus takes over the command center. Space Ghost arrives and fights his way through a swarm of robot spacecraft. Space Ghost and his sidekicks get the drop on Metallus, who manages to hold them at bay with his ray gun. Blip sneaks up behind him, lifts Metallusâ€™ head off his shoulders and drops a grenade down his gaping neck-hole (holy shit!). Somehow the explosion doesnâ€™t kill Metallus, who tries to escape. Space Ghost captures Metallus and whisks him off to prison.
That is twice in a row Metallus has been defeated by a monkey in a space suit. He really isnâ€™t fairing too well. The concept of the episode was pretty cool, with Metallus just all-out attacking the Ghost Planet with thousands of space ships. No more of that Bond villain crap like in his last appearance. Too bad he only seizes command for a total of 2 minutes.
Episode #9: â€œThe Creature Kingâ€
Jan, Jace and Blip are out on patrol when their vehicle has a reactor failure. They crash-land on a bizarre planet filled with strange monsters. They call for help from Space Ghost but are quickly taken prisoner by a fleet of giant bat-monsters. The bats take them to the lair of the Creature King, a little green gnome-thing who has mental control over all the beasts on the planet. He intends to use them to conquer other worlds. Space Ghost arrives just in the nick of time but the Creature King threatens to unleash all the planetâ€™s monsters on them. Blip brains the Creature King over the head with his flight pack, causing him to lose his mental control over the animals. A giant bat then swoops down and carries the Creature King off for reasons unknown. The heroes then depart as Jan and Jace bicker over whose fault the crash-landing was.
Yeah! Take THAT women-drivers! Iâ€™m sure the humor was more relevant in 1966. The Creature King managed to make a number of appearances in the series, even joining the Council of Doom for the finale. Oddly enough, when the Council of Doom appeared on Space Ghost Coast to Coast, the Creature King was absent. Honestly, I never liked the guy, anyway. Probably my least favorite of the returning villains.
Episode #14: â€œThe Lootersâ€
The marauding space pirate, Brak, attacks a gold shipment with sleeping gas missiles and makes off with the loot. Jan, Jace and Blip are vacationing on a tropical planet when they get the word about the heist from Space Ghost. By happenstance, Brak lands his ship on the tropical planet and unloads his ill-gotten booty in the caverns below. Jan and Blip investigate and Jan is taken prisoner. Brak orders her execution, but before she can be killed, Space Ghost and Jace arrive (Jace having called Space Ghost in). Brak and his minion man a pair of ray cannons and blast the crap out of Space Ghost. Jace then uses the sleeping gas on Brakâ€™s minion to weaken their offensive. Space Ghost then uses his destroyer ray on Brak, causing the cavern to cave-in. The heroes escape just as Brak and his stolen gold are buried underneath tons of rubble.
Brak almost always had the most gruesome deaths at the end of his episodes. I already mentioned that he got eaten by space piranha in one episode, but here he gets buried alive. Yet somehow he always seemed to come back. Space Ghost was a pretty hardcore superhero, now that I think about it. I mean, he used his destroyer ray to try and kill Brak and then left him for dead under tons of rubble without even trying to dig him out. And people think Superman is a dick.
Episode #16: â€œThe Challengeâ€
Zorak has returned and with a new devious scheme. He has created a robot called Titanor, with all of Space Ghostâ€™s powers amplified. Zorak issues a challenge to Space Ghost: should he defeat Titanor, Zorak will disappear forever, but should Titanor win, Space Ghost must vanish. Space Ghost heads to Zorakâ€™s lair to meet the threat, but is quickly hammered into crap by Titanor. Jan, Jace and Blip think something is amiss and sneak into the control room. They discover that, at some point, Zorak had switched out Space Ghostâ€™s real power bands with fake ones, diminishing Space Ghostâ€™s strength. The sidekicks retrieve the power bands and return them to Space Ghost. Space Ghost makes short work of Titanor with his pile-driver ray, but before he can arrest Zorak, the evil mantis escapes.
Finally, a Zorak episode. Watching Titanor pound on Space Ghost is hilarious, especially since he cartoonishly drives him into the ground like a nail. I had forgotten that Zorak was voiced by Don Messick, AKA Scooby Doo. Good to see a villain actually escape for a change, instead of being killed or arrested. But I guess thatâ€™s what makes Zorak Space Ghostâ€™s arch foe.
Episode #17: â€œHi-Jackersâ€
Jan and Jace spot Tansut and his crew raiding a space freighter. They follow him to his hide-out but are quickly captured. They call for help from Space Ghost, but before he can respond, the Phantom Cruiser is pelted by meteors. Now on their own, Jan, Jace and Blip have to escape Tansutâ€™s clutches. Blip sneaks through the bars of their jail cell and beats the ever-living crap out of the guard. Now free, Jan and Jace use their wits to detain all of Tansutâ€™s associates. Tansut then takes matters into his own hands and fires upon the sidekicks in his hover-thing. Space Ghost finally arrives and blasts Tansutâ€™s vehicle, sending the villain spiraling into the Death Mists, a place where apparently no one has ever returned from. Space Ghost compliments the trio on their teamwork in his absence, as Jace tows the damaged Phantom Cruiser back to Ghost Planet.
A spotlight on Jan, Jace and Blip, showing that theyâ€™re more than just hostages. Pretty good in that regard. I used to make fun of Blip, but after watching these episodes, I have to say heâ€™s pretty hardcore. I mean, the little chimp throws hand grenades at villains, belts them upside the head with his jetpack or crushes their skulls in doorways. Heâ€™s a killing machine! Also of note, is that while Tansut only appeared in one episode of Space Ghost, he was in just about every episode of Coast to Coast. He was the unseen narrator (the guy who sounded like an old man).
So thatâ€™s it for now. What I really want to track down is the 6-episode series finale featuring the Council of Doom. Not only did that arc pit Space Ghost against all his deadliest foes, but it was a massive cross-over special, to boot. Space Ghost and his sidekicks were teamed up with the Herculoids, Shazzan, Mightor, Dino Boy and Moby Dick. It was awesome.
If you still need a Space Ghost fix, try picking up the trade paperback of the recent DC comic or even the DVD season sets of Space Ghost Coast to Coast. And if youâ€™re interested in the history of the character be sure to check out the Original Space Ghost FAQ, an exhaustive source of Space Ghost info.