Welcome back, folks! Previously, the very beginnings of the Hanna Barbera superhero initiative have been explained in detail . Now, let’s discuss the first of this new crop of Hanna Barbera superheroes: Space Ghost.
Space Ghost’s creation would be detailed an article for the web site Reel Rundown: Without much input to go on, Toth designed about 40 different versions of an unnamed superhero character, which were presented to Fred Silverman.
Silverman pointed out different aspects he liked, and the resulting design was a character with a black hood, a yellow cape, and an all-white outfit. Joe Barbera came up with the name on the spot: “Space Ghost”. (Measimer, 2019, ‘ History of Hanna-Barbera: Space Ghost and Dino-Boy’). The character was voiced by veteran actor/announcer Gary Owens (best known as the announcer of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In). Most of the episodes were written by the duo of Joe Ruby and Ken Spears.
NOTE: Ruby and Spears would go on to create the next big flagship character for Hanna-Barbera, Scooby-Doo.
Debut: September 10, 1966 on CBS: The series followed the adventures of Space Ghost, an intergalactic superhero/policeman who operates out of his headquarters, The Ghost Planet. The Ghost Planet itself contains an array of advanced computers as well as a hangar for his starship, The Phantom Cruiser. Space Ghost is dedicated to fighting villains and alien monsters. He travels from planet to planet with his two sidekicks Jan and Jace and their monkey Blip. No origin is ever presented on the show as to how Space Ghost became who he is, how he got his powers or how Jan and Jace came into his care.
NOTE: DC Comics’ Future Quest gave a brief origin of Space Ghost being the last member of a peacekeeping group called The Space Force. After a very extensive battle, Space Ghost is left as the lone survivor( very similar to The Lone Ranger). He takes on the persona of ‘Space Ghost‘ as a tribute of sorts. The now-barren planet where this massive battle took place becomes The Ghost Planet. One of Space Ghost’s missions has him rescuing Jan, Jace and Blip ( at the behest of their doomed parents) from being sucked into a black hole. Jan and Jace are said to be in training as the first members of the new Space Force under Space Ghost.
Space Ghost set the format standard for virtually all the other successive H-B superhero shows:
- The hero has an opening credits sequence that features him screaming his own name while in combat (SPAAACE GHOOOSSTT!). NOTE: Space Ghost never actually does this during battle, unlike some of the other heroes.
- The show was broken up into 3 segments.
- Space Ghost’s stories would take up the first 1/3rd and last 1/3rd of each episode.
- In the middle, viewers would be treated to an unrelated segment.
The stories were all usually one-time adventures and very much done in classic comic book style, complete with a colorful cast of villains, inescapable death traps and elaborate space battles. The layout for a standard Space Ghost story would be as follows:
- Jan, Jace and Blip are traveling somewhere in their mini space ship. They spot some form of distress and feel obligated to investigate. Either one or all of them end up kidnapped or captured by a henchman or a creature serving the villain of the week.
- They are brought before the villain who divulges his/her evil plan to them.
- Space Ghost is contacted either by Jan or Jace or the villain themselves. The villain is aware of who Space Ghost is, either through his reputation as a crime fighter or from a past encounter the villain had with him.
- Space Ghost arrives and easily mops up the villain’s henchmen. Suddenly, the villain threatens to kill Jan and/or Jace and Space Ghost surrenders.
- Space Ghost is then placed in a death trap. He is then saved only by the timely activation of his power bands (usually by Blip the monkey).
- Space Ghost unleashes a variety of power blasts to free Jan and/or Jace and escape.
- The final battle usually ends with the destruction of the the villain’s lair and/or vessel. Jan and Jace then assumes the villain is dead (“Well, that’s the last they’ve seen of him”). Space Ghost, however, is never certain. He usually ends with a “Yes…. For now….” or ‘ I’m sure we will see them again’. Occasionally, Blip does something funny that makes them all laugh.
Uniform: Space Ghost’s all white body suit that gives him the ability to withstand the cold and vacuum of outer space. It is also able to resist various forms of energy blasts. Space Ghost’s black hood does more than concealment (it seems Space Ghost has no secret identity). It allows him to activate his Viso Penetron vision (a complicated term for X-ray vision). Space Ghost’s clasp for his yellow cape worn at his throat is a communications device capable of galactic distances.
Power Bands: Space Ghost’s main source of power comes from his power bands (a pair of red gauntlets with three yellow buttons on each band). The bands allow Space Ghost to perform a variety of energy-based attacks that vary through different wavelengths. Forms of energy include: freeze ray, heat ray, battering ram ray, force ray, etc. The bands are also able to create a force field. In extreme circumstances, it has a matter transference ray that is capable of time travel. His bands’ highest setting is called ‘5 over 5’ and has the potential to destroy him if used for too long.
Inviso-Belt: Space Ghost has a red belt with a large black button. By pressing the button, it renders Space Ghost completely invisible. For animation purposes, this was achieved by his turning his entire body into a white outline without any color filling.
Flight: The power bands provide Space Ghost the ability to fly and exist in outer space without needing to breathe. In some cases, Space Ghost can even fly at hyperspeed (which make him faster than most starships).
Jan, Jace and Blip: Jace, a brunette boy, and Jan, a blonde girl, are the orphan wards of Space Ghost. They also have a pet monkey, Blip. All three wore matching blue and gold uniforms (which resemble the classic uniforms of the original X-Men) with wraparound domino masks. They also wear jet packs capable of space flight and inviso-belts to render them invisible if need be. Like most sidekicks of the day, they had a tendency to get kidnapped and captured on a regular basis. The smartest one among them seems to be Blip the monkey. Most villains underestimate his size and usefulness, but he proves to be more of an asset than Jan or Jace as he usually provides the lynchpin that saves the day in most cases.
NOTE: The personalities of Jan and Jace were again re-packaged in the 70’s as Zan and Jayna, The Wonder Twins from the Super Friends cartoons. Still orphan sidekicks that got kidnapped often, The Wonder Twins were aliens with shape-shifting abilities. These abilities are utilized when they bump fists and recite in unison “Wonder Twin Powers, Activate!”. Zan took on some form of water while Jayna could become any animal. The pair also had a pet monkey, Gleek.
Space Ghost has a long line of diverse and colorful criminals. The most of them are one-time villains but here are some of the well-known recurring villains:
- Zorak: A giant praying mantis who is a diabolical galactic warlord. He leads a large army of his people on missions of destruction and conquest. Zorak is the most frequent recurring villain in the series and is widely considered to be Space Ghost’s main archenemy.
- Brak: A cat-like humanoid that specializes in piracy and theft. Brak is motivated primarily by greed. His species act like a pack of lions would. Brak speaks in an accent like that of a stereotypical Asian. NOTE: The look and behavior of Brak and his people greatly resemble the Star Trek alien race The Ferengi.
- Black Widow (Also known as The Spider-Woman): a tall, aggressive woman with pale skin who wants revenge on Space Ghost for a past encounter. She is one of the few Space Ghost enemies who came close to defeating him. Her “spider” minions were bipedal with only two legs and two arms and long forked tongues flickered out of their reptilian mouths. Their webs were made of energy that beamed from their thick antennae rather than silk spun threads.
- Metallus: A metallic giant clad from head to toe in formidable armor. He speaks in a deep booming voice and he is in control of a vast armada of robotic drones and missiles.
- Moltar: a renegade scientist once never seen outside of his containment suit. He had made a base on the uninhabited molten planet Moltor and created an army of giant “Magma Men”.
Middle cartoon: Dino Boy: The middle segment of the show was taken by an unrelated segment: Dino Boy in the Lost Valley. This segment followed a young boy named Todd, who escapes a crashing plane only to land in a perfectly preserved prehistoric valley where dinosaurs still exist (like The Savage Land in Marvel Comics). There, he befriends a giant caveman named Ugg and a baby Brontosaurus named Bronty, whom Todd would ride. Their adventures mainly consist of them evading the many dangers around them.
The Council of Doom:
Space Ghost’s original run was cancelled in 1967, However, the series finale would turn out to be the best episodes of the Hanna-Barbera line-up: The Council of Doom storyline. Made up of two episodes split into 6 segments, The Council of Doom was a first for animated television: A connective, multi-episode story arc. To bolster this, it also featured the first crossover of the Hanna-Barbera superheroes as Space Ghost would encounter many of them during this arc.
The storyline has six of Space Ghost’s greatest enemies (Zorak, Creature King, Moltor, Metallus, Black Widow/ Spider Woman, Brak) forming the evil organization known as the “Council of Doom”. Realizing they haven’t been able to defeat their common enemy by themselves, they work together to achieve their mutual goal: The total and utter destruction of Space Ghost.
NOTE: The number of members and the methodology of The Council of Doom is very similar to the Spider-Man hating collective The Sinister Six.
Over the course of six segments, Space Ghost would fight each of his enemies with each segment ending in a cliffhanger with Space Ghost in some form of death trap. The narrator would then give a warning like the 1966 Batman series (“Is this the end for our hero? Stay tuned and find out!”). This continues until Space Ghost faces off against them in one final showdown. This two-part finale is full of cameos from the other Alex Toth created characters appearing on CBS that season. The cameos are as follows:
“Clutches of Creature King“: A time warp (accidentally created by Jace) that sends Space Ghost and a giant ape monster into the prehistoric past where he meets The Mighty Mightor. Mightor saves Space Ghost from an attacking monster and tosses it far away. Space Ghost reverses the time warp by using his power bands and snaps himself back to his present.
“The Molten Monsters of Moltar“: Space Ghost sent by Moltar to the planet Amzot to be executed. Space Ghost is saved by the intervention of The Herculoids.
“Two Faces of Doom“: Jan and Jace meet the Hanna-Barbera version of the Great White Whale, Moby Dick , who saves them from a death trap,
The Final Encounter: Metallus uses an energy ray to banished Space Ghost to another dimension. This other dimension happens to be a version of ancient Arabia where Space Ghost meets the giant genie, Shazzan . Shazzan then uses his power to send Space Ghost back to his dimension.
“Space Stars! A galaxy of heroes teamed together in an interstellar battle against evil! Blast off on adventures as big as the cosmos itself! Race, poised on the edge of time, with Space Ghost and his young friends! Streak through the universe with Space Ace, Astro and the Space Mutts as they spring into action! And somewhere deep in space, super-danger threatens the Teen Force! Join the famed Herculoids in their new battles to preserve peace on the planet Quasar! Now…get set for 60 laser-blasting minutes of action, adventure, fun…on Space Stars!”– Space Stars opening narration.
- In 1981, an hour of television called Space Stars debuted on NBC. It featured brand new episodes of Space Ghost and The Herculoids. Space Ghost ( with Jan and Jace in tow) faces off against a new assortment of villains.
- The most notable would be Space Spectre (an evil alternate universe version of Space Ghost ). One big change is that The Phantom Cruiser gets a new sleeker look from yellow and organic to white and angular. Space Ghost often came to the aid of the Herculoids and vice versa in many crossover episodes. They also frequently crossed paths with a new group call The Teen Force. The Teen Force are a collective of teenage heroes that consist of:
- Kid Comet: The leader of the group who possesses tremendous levels of superhuman speed, enabling him move at speeds exceeding the speed of light ( turning himself into a literal comet!). It also appeared that Jan and Kid Comet were dating .
- Moleculad: A black male who can control his molecular structure for various effects,
- Elektra: The only female member of the group who possesses the abilities of telepathy and telekinesis.
Space Ghost : Coast To Coast:
In 1994, Cartoon Network launched a new show called Space Ghost: Coast To Coast, rebooted Space Ghost in an all new role: a talk show host. Using the original artwork from the 1966 series Space Ghost( now voiced by George Lowe) interviewed various celebrities like Hulk Hogan and Raven Symone in a surreal spoof of a talk show . His bandleader was his archenemy Zorak, and another enemy, Moltar, was his director/producer.
NOTE: Space Ghost Coast To Coast was the first original TV show produced by Cartoon Network and the start of the popular Adult Swim lineup.
Batman: The Brave and The Bold:
Space Ghost teams up with Batman in the episode “Bold Beginnings!”. In an opening segment called “ The Space Safari”, Space Ghost is still out in space using his Power Bands and Inviso-Belt to fight crime in the galaxy. Here, He has to rescue Jan, Jace, and Bli from the clutches of one of their old enemies, the Creature King. Space Ghost’s original voice, Gary Owens, returns to voice Space Ghost after a 20 plus year hiatus. It would be one of Owens’ last acting roles as he would pass away in 2015.
Next time, We’ll go over the next in line for Hanna-Barbera: Birdman!!!