Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Patina of Nostalgia Makes Junk Look Shiny

Last weekend, the topic of the old Hanna-Barbera cartoon Space Ghost came up. The original series, which ran from 1966-1968, featured characters created by comic book legend Alex Toth, and was a whiz-bang space opera rendered in six-and-a-half minute episodes in which the titular superhero, accompanied by his twin teenage sidekicks and a monkey, fought a variety of alien weirdos bent on anything from simple hijacking to galactic conquest. The first episode, though, has our hero harassing a simple-minded native of a very unscientifically plausible Jupiter when he just should have left the planet, and the poor-harried 'bad guy' alone:

The show is total cheese, featuring redundant plots and a kinda thick-headed character who's a one trick pony (he relies on his Swiss-army power wristbands for practically everything). The hero almost invariably gets captured and the monkey is the one who ends up saving the day (seriously, Blip comes across as the real brains of the operation). The 'science' is ludicrous, with our heroes zooming around through space without protective equipment, and Space Ghost being able to travel more quickly without his space-cruiser. The show is saved by fun character design, including a wonderful assortment of alien monsters, voice acting by such luminaries as Keye Luke, Ted Cassidy, Hanna-Barbera legend Don Messick, and my beloved Paul Frees. Gary Owens lends his distinguished voice to our lunk-headed hero. The theme song was by the brilliant Hoyt Curtin:

In the 1990s, the titular character was resurrected as a dopey talk show host, with several of the original cartoon's most memorable villains cast as his bandleader, technical director, and sidekick in Cartoon Network's Dada-esque Space Ghost Coast to Coast. Here's the epic science-fiction crossover episode featuring Mark Hamill:

The show lent itself to some really nice d├ętournement by internet pranksters:

I'm about twenty episodes into the original 'Space Ghost' series, and each episode follows pretty much the same format- villain emerges and imperils civilians or sidekicks in order to draw out Space Ghost, Space Ghost shows up and gets captured, losing power bands, monkey saves Space Ghost, Space Ghost kicks villain's ass and leaves him for the Galactic Patrol to pick up. Jeeze, Space Ghost, figure out how to rig your power bands so you don't need both hands to activate them, already. The show is totally goofy, but the bright colors, fast action, and beautiful character design carry the day as long as you don't think too much or watch too many in succession. It's junk, but it's fun junk (SPAAAAAACE JUNK!!!).


Bea said...

The show's intro feels awfully familiar. Space Ghost must have been on in syndication when I was a kid. I have to say, I really dig the show's score. Any sort of sci-fi show with solid orchestration is tops in my book.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

I saw it in syndication as a kid as well. I'm kinda surprised no studio has made a live-action movie out of it.

As far as solid orchestration in sci-fi, I can think of no better example than the 'Halo' video game franchise:



Bea said...

I'm trying to imagine listening to the Halo score with surround-sound. -a BIG musical experience.