Space Ghost: My Hero
Originally, this essay was printed in the San Diego Comic Con '06 souvenir book. They also published a pinup I did for the book. But with this Tuesday's release of the Space Ghost/Dino Boy: The Complete Series DVD, I figured I'd pull this piece from the archives and share a little about one of my favorite animated heroes...
It was probably around the late 80s, when I was nine or ten years old, that I saw my first episode of the 1960s Space Ghost cartoon. Before heading off to school, I’d already formed the bad habit of watching television as I ate breakfast. Fortunately, for me, instead of being forced to watch Sesame Street or Mr. Rogers Neighborhood due to a lack of viewing options, a local station aired reruns of various Hanna-Barbera cartoons. My morning menu? A bowl of cereal and milk with a healthy dose of Dino Boy, Birdman, The Herculoids, and The Galaxy Trio.
And while I grew to love each of these shows, I must admit that Space Ghost was always my favorite.
At the time, I didn’t know who or what Hanna-Barbera was. I didn’t know that the show ran before my time on CBS back in 1966 through 1968. I didn’t know who Alex Toth was. And I didn’t know who the voices behind the characters were. That didn’t mater to me.
But I knew that Space Ghost had two red wristbands with yellow buttons that he used to electroshock/hypnoforce will/stun/sonic vibro the bad guys. I knew he had a button on his belt that made him invisible or created a force field. I knew that he could fly in space on his own or in his Phantom Cruiser. And I knew that by the end of the episode, with the help of Jan, Jace, and Blip, Space Ghost would immerge victorious against the sinister threats of Zorak, Brak, Moltar, and the Sorcerer.
In retrospect, I didn’t know much…but the little I knew has made for great childhood memories. It’s also in retrospect that I write this article. You see, 2006 was Space Ghost’s 40th Anniversary.
You may not have known that…and that’s okay. I’m sure few were even aware of this milestone beyond the few faithful Space Ghost followers in the crowd. But I feel guilty in admitting that while I’ve loved the character for over 20 years, I was completely ignorant of his birthday.
I’ll leave it to other articles and the various fan websites to document the history and particulars of the show. Why? Because this article is personal. Space Ghost isn’t just another superhero to me; he’s the superhero. Before I met Captain America, Spiderman, Batman, or Superman, I knew Space Ghost. He became (what they call in psychology) my hero archetype. To be completely accurate, he became my superhero archetype.
I didn’t collect comics as a kid, so I didn’t know about the adventures going on with the Avengers, the Incredible Hulk, the Legion of Superheroes, or the Justice League of America. Anything happening in comics was on paper. The stories were good enough to keep me entertained, but even the best giant-sized annual couldn’t compare to an 8-minute Space Ghost episode.
Time and time again, I’d seen Space Ghost rocket through the galaxy, marvelously brought to “life” through the power of animation. Sure, Silver Surfer could fly through space, but he would always be stuck in the panel. He may have been the herald of Galactus, but in the end, the Silver Surfer (and any other superhero for that matter) could never compare to Space Ghost. Maybe it’s the difference between reading a book and watching a movie? That’s probably a logical parallel. But if you’ve seen those nature documentaries where the newborn animal patterns their behavior based on the first thing they see, you may have a better understand of what I’m trying to say.
But if you don’t, that’s okay.
Recent incarnations of Space Ghost have seen him going “Coast to Coast” on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim's spoof on late-night television shows. In 2004, DC Comics also released a six-issue miniseries covering his origin and the tragic circumstances that led to his becoming Space Ghost. But if these are the only interpretations of the character that you know, I implore you to watch a single episode of the 1966-1968 series. Just one 8-minute episode. I’ll admit that the animation comes off somewhat dated and the stories are certainly not without a solid measure of camp, but you’ll get to see Space Ghost as the superhero he was originally intended to be. And as the superhero I saw back when I was nine or ten.
Space Ghost is 41, and I’ve been a fan for half that time. I still watch the episodes. I’ve managed to collect some rare Space Ghost merchandise. And I’ve learned who William Hanna, Joseph Barbera, Alex Toth, and Gary Owens are and what they mean to the character.
But it still doesn’t matter that the show ran before my time.
Space Ghost will always be my first superhero.