When I think of Space Ghost, I draw several comparisons between him and Batman.Â It goes beyond the fact that Alex Toth was asked by the execs at Hanna Barbara to design Space Ghost in a manner than emulated the Dark Knight, but in the history of the character.Â Space Ghost first appeared in 1966 with an action cartoon series that was, though formulaic, particularly violent and fun along the same lines as Jonny Quest.Â He may not have been terribly â€œdarkâ€ or â€œbroodingâ€, but there was no doubt that he was an action character.Â Then the 90â€™s happened; Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Cartoon Planet and the Brak Show hit the airwaves and Space Ghost was reduced to a self-parody.Â As funny and popular as those shows were, the original action-oriented superhero character was lost to popular culture.Â This parallels Batman in many ways.Â The Caped Crusader originated as a dark action hero, was reduced to cheap comedy and self-parody in the 60â€™s and was finally returned to his roots in the late 70â€™s.
Well, the 2005 DC Comics Space Ghost miniseries takes the character and returns him to his original characterization as an outer space wraith of justice.
Writer Joe Kelly is charged with the task of giving Space Ghost an origin.Â A real origin.Â The miniseries is more a set-up tale, almost done as a prequel to the original television series.Â Thaddeus Bach is a member of the Commandment (space police, essentially), he has a lovely (and pregnant) wife and has excelled at law enforcement so ferociously he has been selected to join the elite force known as the Wrath.Â Thaddeus trains with the Wrath under the command of Temple, a rugged and no-nonsense soldier-type.Â Shortly after joining, Thaddeus learns the terrible truth about the Wrath, which leads to his betrayal.Â Thaddeusâ€™ family is killed and he is left for dead on a â€œGhost Planetâ€.Â There he meets the last of the planetâ€™s race, a sorrowful but brilliant engineer once known as the Blood Mechanic, who inadvertently aided in the death of his race.Â Thaddeus uses the engineerâ€™s weapons and technology to craft himself a new guise and heads out for revenge against Temple.Â However, things become ever more complicated when a race of planet-conquering â€œbugsâ€, lead by the vile Zorak, get in the way.
Space Ghostâ€™s origin isnâ€™t just dark, itâ€™s really dark.Â Some have complained, considering it out of character even in regards to Space Ghostâ€™s original characterization.Â Personally, I liked it.Â Space Ghost is treated almost literally as a phantom.Â Thaddeus Bach â€œdiedâ€ and all that remains of the man he once was is a â€œghostâ€.Â Also, does the name â€œThaddeusâ€ sound familiar to you?Â It should.Â In Space Ghost Coast to Coast it was revealed that Space Ghostâ€™s real name was â€œThaddeus â€˜Thadâ€™ Ghostalâ€.Â A nice little Easter Egg tossed in by Kelly.
The story covers Space Ghostâ€™s origin in extreme detail.Â We learn how he became the man he is, how he arrived on Ghost Planet, where he got his weapons and gadgets, how he came to adopt Jan and Jayce, how he was saddled with the name â€œSpace Ghostâ€ and even his first encounter with Zorak.Â All the pieces fit together marvelously.Â There are a few kind of â€œeh?â€ bits, like Space Ghostâ€™s ability to see the specter of his dead wife and son, but not much to complain about.
The characterization of Zorak came under more scrutiny than Space Ghost did, interestingly enough.Â Zorak is presented as the leader of a horde of space-faring insects called the â€œbugsâ€.Â He is a â€œhive mindâ€, so to speak.Â Whenever his body dies, his consciousness awakens in another bug, making it so that Zorak cannot ever be killed.Â In the old cartoons he was presented as just another petty criminal, leaving him rather thin on characterization.Â Not everyone liked this approach, but honestly, it added some much needed depth to Space Ghostâ€™s arch foe.Â I also liked to redesign; it stays very true to Zorakâ€™s cartoon appearance just done in a manner that looks much less â€œcartoonyâ€.Â His head is a little oddly shaped, though.
The interior art provided by Ariel Olivetti is rather stunning, having this detailed â€œpaintedâ€ look.Â There are a few cut-corners which are noticeable, mostly in regards to backgrounds and environments.Â Olivetti uses photographs of forests and wastelands rather than draws them.Â Most of the time it blends well, though there are a few pages where it just doesnâ€™t mesh.Â The cover art by Alex Ross (a self-professed fan of classic Hanna Barbara action cartoons) is beyond gorgeous.Â Space Ghost has never looked cooler or more badass; his art gives the title an â€œepicâ€ feel before you even turn the page.
Only six issues-long (though a sequel has been promised), the Space Ghost miniseries is currently available in an affordable trade paperback.Â I recommend it to any and all fans of Space Ghost or just sci-fi superheroics in general.