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STUDIO: Turner Home Entertainment
RATED: NOT RATED
RUNNING TIME: 420 Minutes
• Simplicity: The Life and Art of Alex Toth feature-length documentary
It’s like Ghost in space, and instead of sexy pottery, there’s sexy space policing. And he isn’t dead.
Space Ghost, Jan, Jace, Blip, Moltar, Zorak, Brak, Dino Boy, Ug, and a whole slew of monsters and beasts made of materials organic and otherwise.
Don’t ever ask to see his ‘fisting’ ray.
Although audiences will most likely associate the character with the Dadaist Cartoon Network iteration that heralded the coming of the Adult Swim era with Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, Space Ghost originated with the pitch-perfect character design of Alex Toth and the animation of Hanna Barbera as a Saturday morning kids staple, paired with the jungle adventures of Dino Boy and his caveman companion Ug. An interesting time capsule for Space Ghost diehards who wish to see the development of such characters as Brak, Zorak and Moltar before they became his talk show comrades, it’s an exercise in the spare animation of early Hanna Barbera productions, barely compelling but cool looking animation.
I can understand why kids would love Space Ghost: for starters, he looks cool, and er… I guess that’s just about it. But that’s really all it takes to capture the imagination early on. Because when looked at from a (mostly) adult perspective, Space Ghost as a superhero is really quite lame. All of his power can be attributed to his power bands, which host a variety of the rays, the majority of which seem to accomplish smashing or exploding shit real good. Every villain’s evil plans revolve around the capture of Space Ghost and the theft of his power bands. I always wondered why the villains didn’t then just smash them shits with a hammer after they acquired them; they didn’t seem to need to extra power that they supplied, they were doing just fine with their giant robotic monsters or hordes of ghoulish beasts, thank you very much. There are a few exceptions to the use of power bands; one trip back in time results in Space Ghost throwing down in a little bit of hand-to-hand combat. But this guy is Steven Seagal-level invincible; very rarely do you see him take a blow, and he almost always seems more bemused by it than actually hurt or frustrated.
Space Ghost was proudest of the fleshlight donated to him by David Cronenberg.
To say these episodes are formulaic is an understatement. There’s nearly no deviation from the “kidnap, rinse, wash, repeat” structure of each episode and the heavily touted six part finale to the set in which all of Space Ghost’s enemies decide it would be a good idea to team up to take him down really isn’t different from the previous episodes at all, it simply adds a cliffhanger to the end of every episode aping the old movie serial style of storytelling (which should’ve been being done from the start, quite honestly). I do like the continuity of bringing in other Hanna Barbera animated characters in the final arc, as there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of world-building when it comes to animated/comic book universes, but beyond that they were just a slightly tweaked version of what had come before: slightly boring animated adventures with a dull hero that looks kinda cool.
The tell-tale signs were there: the weight gain, the constant wearing of sunglasses at all times of day, his increasingly bizarre entourage: Orko clearly had a meth habit.
I think Dino Boy fares a little bit better in terms of adventure than Space Ghost, despite the fact that the character design is much plainer and the relationship at the center of the series is infinitely creepier than that between Space Ghost and his space kid partners. The stakes seem a bit higher for Dino Boy and Ug (it would seem that people actually die, albeit off-screen) and the quicker pacing (shorter episodes) combined with the lesser amount of episodes help make this one go down a bit more smoothly. This is the most crowded secluded island in the history of television, however, as there seems to be an infinite variety of creatures and humans dispersed throughout the place.
Nothing unsettling to see here. Move along.
Something worthy of praise, although it will probably strike most as obvious, is the inclusion of Jan and Jace as Space Ghost’s partners (and when I say partners I mean people who get kidnapped and saved on an episode-by-episode basis), they provide both the crux of nearly every episode by being stranded or abducted and also an in for the children viewers by giving Space Ghost some sidekicks who are relatable to those who watch the program (even if the relation is carried out in stilted dialogue surrounding homework peppered in every fifth episode). The real saving grace of the show is the fact that Blip, their pet monkey, tends to be the savior in almost every scenario they find themselves in. Nobody game plans around Blip’s involvement in each adventure, and he always manages to escape or sneak into each dangerous locale undetected. He then either distracts or fucks shit up at exactly the right moment to save us everybody’s ass in each episode. He’s the glue that holds them together, proving a Mark Madsen-esque energy boost that makes Space Ghost as formidable a hero as he is. Also, it stays true to the seventies hallmark of using monkeys/gorillas as key pieces of the superhero genre. Monkeys aside, there isn’t a lot to recommend about this set. Perhaps feelings of nostalgia or fans of design in terms of animation will leap for joy at this collection, but there isn’t a whole lot of substance to speak of for everyone else. Not recommended.
The cover art is a little plain for my tastes, but it does highlight the selling point: Space Ghost (nobody’s gonna be on the prowl for Ug’s ugly mug on a DVD cover). The transfers are a bit cleaned up, but these aren’t miracle restorations by any stretch of the imagination, however the colors pop and they aren’t ever less than solid. The discs are both flippers, and the only extra material comes on the backside of disc 2, but it’s quite a doozy. The seventy-odd minute documentary Simplicity: The Life and Art of Alex Toth takes a welcomed in-depth look at the life and times of the somewhat reclusive and more or less forgotten artist who started out in comics and shifted over to the character designs for some of DC’s animated properties (such as Space Ghost and the Super Friends). It’s the best thing about the set quite honestly, as it sheds some light and gives some depth to a person who has influenced numerous artists (some of which provide interviews within the documentary, such as Bruce Timm and Paul Pope) despite still being immersed in relative anonymity. It’s a moving portrait of the man, humanizing him while mythologizing him at the same time. For this featurette alone, I would recommend the set. It’s like delicious frosting atop a stale cake. Unless you grew up with Space Ghost, then it’s like delicious frosting on a stale cake you will yourself into thinking is awesome.
7.0 out of 10