CCI: Comic Character Investigation #14

1 octobre 2011 Non Par Comic Box

[ENGLISH] This month: Space Ghost. Since the inception of The Golden Age of comics in 1938, many heroes, and many villains, have splashed their battles across artistic pages, have endured their struggles in those same pages and have intrigued a readership which has loved their adventures for 72 years. This column celebrates such characters by taking a look each month at one of them. Some you will know and some are more obscure, but all hold a significant place in comics, for the world of stories in any medium is about the characters who populate it. The spectacular citizens of the universe who inhabit the comic book nation might be brave or sinister, bold or fearful, but all are characters who we can never forget. So, The Golden Age becomes the Silver Age, The Silver becomes The Bronze and so on, until today and until tomorrow. . . in The Endless Age of comics, and the beings who live inside them.

Spaaace Ghoooost!

That was the cry of Hanna-Barbera’s key superhero from 1966 to 1968 courtesy of a famous voice provider of that time, Gary Owens. The necessarily white-clad, yellow-caped and black-coweled character was designed by the legendary Alex Toth, an artist who has given us a lot of art for heroic fare such as Zorro. Starting with a great designer and popular voice actor seems like it would be enough. It was just the start. Everything about the CBS show from the opening credits in shifting scenes of deep space to the musical score to those power bands on his forearms made it worth an unmoving sit-down experience in front of the television.

Space Ghost eventually made his way into the comics at DC and may be best known by some for the satirical cable show on Cartoon Network Space Ghost Coast To, but whether honoring the character or recreating him into mindless fodder, nothing can change where his true powers always lied, in his own show. The villains were corny and unlikely, his companions Jan and Jace were less than brilliant and the show’s monkey mascot Blip was enough to make one consider changing the channel, yet always there was Space Ghost. Cool name. Cool armbands which shot cool rays at things. Simple fun for a Saturday morning.

Battling villains with names like Moltar, Creature King, Metallus and Zorac he kept the weekends safe throughout the universe as kids marveled at the particular ability which gave him his name, becoming an invisible outlined “ghost” flying through the galaxy. A show called Dino Boy in The Lost Valley shared the hour with the Ghost but did not quite have the same magic as the wondrous space hero. Proof of this was when Space Ghost was resurrected in 1981 in a show called Space Stars and charged with the task of facing some new supervillains including an anti-Space Ghost named Space Spectre who flew in his own re-stylized version of the Phantom Cruiser. Villains, of course, must always have a little more style. We have to give them their due.

In both the original series and the 1980’s reincarnation Space Ghost sometimes helped out The Herculoids with some of their problems. Another great HB creation, The Herculoids was a family of powerful beings with animal allies with plenty of their own problems. Yet even the existence of this very cool, unique and fun team could not take away the presence of Space Ghost and his importance, a sort of flagship character for the cartoon superhero set, not just at the HB studios but all of the cartoon studios.

All the kids who watched the shows (both of them) are grown up now, many with children of their own watching modern cartoons. Space Ghost is likely distant to their kids and maybe even to them now. Sometimes though, when one remembers the superheroes of their childhood, they can drift for awhile into the memories of what those childhood heroes meant to them. Space Ghost was simple but unique, fun yet emblematic for the idea of what superheroes are all about.

In the same way a child waits for Superman to fly, or Spider-Man to shoot his webbing, he waits for Space Ghost to click one of the buttons on his arm bands and fire an energy beam or turn invisible to his enemies as he makes his way among the stars. Space Ghost calls these images to mind as surely as any other superhero ever created. He may be more of the cartoon universe than the comic universe but heroes are about many universes any way are they not?

His era may be gone. He may be only a ghost of time now as much as one of space. This is only proper. After all, being ghost is what he does best. He’ll not complain. He has done his duty. And maybe one day the Ghost will rise again, because some spirits never rest.

[James Parducci]

James Parducci is the creator of the comic series Nighthunter. He has been published in multiple periodicals and runs his own freelance writing business in San Diego.