Media 29 Dec 2008 02:44 pm
Space Ghost & Dino Boy is a two-disc collection of the classic 1960s Hanna-Barbera cartoons, airing long before Space Ghost became a joke of sorts on Cartoon Network’s Space Ghost Coast To Coast and before DC Comics attempted to revive the character by making him super serious and relevant.
No, this is the original Space Ghost, who turns invisible, flies around in his Phantom Cruiser, and spends most of his time rescuing youthful companions Jan and Jace and their pet monkey, Blip. The character designs by comic-book legend Alex Toth (whose name rhymes with “both” and not “Roth”) stand the test of time; the character looks cool as hell, sailing about in all his transparent glory and shouting “Spa-a-a-a-ce Gho-o-o-ost” as he swoops down on the bad guys.
But the scripts sink the show. A typical plot has Jan and Jace kidnapped by the villain of the week (make that villains, because each episode of the show featured two SG cartoons with a Dino Boy installment sandwiched between) with Space Ghost forced to rescue them, usually by a convenient deus ex machina from his wristbands. The cartoons offer little or no character development, and SG himself is as stiff as a board. Even when viewed through the rosy glasses of nostalgia, it’s hard to sit through too many of these.
Luckily, the set includes a terrific biography, Simplicity: The LIfe and Art of Alex Toth, that focuses on the designer’s work for DC Comics and Hanna Barbera. It alone is worth the price of admission. I love Toth’s work, but because he never stayed too long on any one character or book (a trait discussed in the biography), he didn’t develop the kind of star power of guys like Kirby, Ditko, and Kubert. Still, he was an amazing artist. One piece I am especially fond of is called “A Dirty Job,” about a group of Roman soldiers who get together for drinks in a tavern after an especially eventful day. Incredible.
One of the people interviewed for the documentary talks at length about a back-up feature in a Super Friends tabloid comic where Toth explains the process of animation; I have that particular book and can remember being enthralled by Toth’s step-by-step instructions for creating cartoons.
The Space Ghost & Dino Boy set crams all 20 original episodes onto two discs. They are the infamous “flipper” discs, which means they have data on both sides, a specification I dislike, but it makes the set cheap (under $20) and a good buy if you need a Space Ghost fix. Which we all do, from time to time.