From Saturday morning superhero to the battle for talk show supremacy, the superhero known as Space Ghost has certainly had an interesting career. The star of four TV shows, a web series and multiple comic books, the Hanna-Barbera character turned counter culture icon has proven to have remarkable staying power, along with his other super abilities.
While his days as a talk show host appear to be firmly behind him, the character’s recent appearances in series published by DC Comics seem to reinforce the notion that Space Ghost isn’t going anywhere. Whether you’re a fan of the 1966 original or you spent countless late nights watching the character harass celebrities, today we’re taking a look at 15 weird facts you probably never knew about Space Ghost.
15. ORIGINALLY A CONVENTIONAL SUPERHERO
Though younger readers will likely recognize Space Ghost for his career as a talk show host, the character made his debut as one half of the 1966 cartoon series “Space Ghost” (now popularly referred to as “Space Ghost and Dino Boy”). Though he technically shared the show with Dino Boy, the characters occupied different segments and Space Ghost was clearly the star. Not only was he the show’s title character, but over its two seasons, 42 “Space Ghost” segments were produced, compared to Dino Boy’s 18.
According to the cartoon’s history, before becoming Space Ghost, Thaddeus Bach was was a member of the Eidolon Elite, an intergalactic police force. After questioning orders from a superior officer who was running a secret underground criminal organization, Thaddeus’ pregnant wife was murdered and he was left for dead on a “Ghost Planet” formerly known as Earth. There he met an old hermit/weapons engineer named Salomon, who equipped Thaddeus with his weapons and ship. After realizing he could do more with his powers than seek revenge, he took on the name Space Ghost and with the help of his sidekicks Jan, Jayce and their monkey Blip, regularly fought intergalactic threats including Moltar and Zorak.
14. HE HAS A TON OF SUPERPOWERS
While he certainly wasn’t afraid to use his powers to keep a villainous co-host in line on “Space Ghost: Coast to Coast,” it may surprise some readers to learn how many powers there are in Space Ghost’s arsenal. As we mentioned above, his powers all come from the suit and gear given to him by Salomon, perhaps most notably the power bands he wears on his wrists.
With his gear, Space Ghost is capable of flight and has the ability to survive both in space and underwater. His belt contains an “invisio” button that allows Space Ghost to create a protective force field or make himself invisible. He also has the ability to fire a penetration beam from his eyes and by harnessing electromagnetic energy, Space Ghost can also fire a wide variety of “rays” from his arm bands, including stun, freeze and hypno rays. His bands also grant him superspeed, the ability to create time warps and teleport by turning himself into pure thought and energy.
13. HE STARRED IN A SECOND SERIES
The original “Space Ghost” show was only produced for two seasons, wrapping in 1968, but it proved popular enough to remain in syndication well into the ’70s. After disappearing for a few years, Space Ghost made his first return to TV in 1981 for the NBC show “Space Stars.” The 60-minute Hanna-Barbera variety show paired Space Ghost with “The Herculoids” (another sci-fi cartoon the company had produced in the ’60s) and two new segments “Teen Force” and a segment starring The Jetson’s dog called “Astro and the Space Mutts.”
Unlike the original 15 minute Space Ghost episodes, each episode of “Space Stars” contained two six minute Space Ghost stories, with 22 new episodes being produced overall. The new series introduced a number of new villains, most notably an evil version of Space Ghost from another universe called Space Spectre. It also saw Space Ghost, Jace, Jan and Blip regularly team up with the Herculoids and the Teen Force.
12. COAST TO COAST BIRTHED ADULT SWIM
Space Ghost got a new lease on life after Ted Turner bought Hanna-Barbera in 1991 and founded the Cartoon Network on the strength of the company’s back catalog. However, it wasn’t until 1994, when Turner tasked Cartoon Network’s then VP of Programming, Mike Lazzo, to create the channel’s first piece of original programming, that Space Ghost really made a splash. Asked to create animation that would appeal to adults, Lazzo and a team of other volunteers from the network set out to make what would become “Space Ghost: Coast to Coast” (SG:C2C).
Excluding a few new cels of animation (like Space Ghost tapping his cue cards on his desk), everything was lifted directly from the original Space Ghost cartoons using a technique called rotoscoping before being re-contextualized into the show’s five-foot miniature set. The show’s cult success led to the creation of several other experimental cartoons inspired by or directly spinning off from SG:C2C, and using its same style of limited animation. These adult-oriented shows went on to make up the original lineup for the now-iconic Adult Swim programming block, which is now run by a majority of SG:C2C’s original creative team.
11. C2C HAD A BACKSTORY
Despite the fact that “Space Ghost: Coast to Coast” was famous for its off the wall and often even avant-garde sense of humor, the show did have a backstory that loosely tied it all together. At the time, network television was in the midst of the infamous “talk show wars” between David Letterman and Jay Leno. Ignoring everything but the “war” in “talk show wars,” Space Ghost elected to start his own show and settle things once and for all.
To prevent interference from any of his old enemies from The Council of Doom, Space Ghost released members Zorak and Moltar from suspended-animation and forced them to work on the show for their freedom. The praying-mantis-like Zorak was placed behind a circular keyboard and acted as Space Ghost’s unwilling sidekick and bandleader, while Moltar the Molten Menace worked behind the scenes as the show’s director. Though he was never a full-fledged cast member, another villain from the Council of Doom, Brak, was a semi-regular guest on the show’s first few seasons until he was spun off for his own series, “The Brak Show,” as part of Adult Swim’s original slate of programming.
10. C2C’S QUESTIONS WERE CHANGED AFTER THE INTERVIEW
As with any talk show, celebrity interviews were a huge part of “Space Ghost: Coast to Coast.” Interviews were conducted at local CNN studios (also owned by Turner) with Space Ghost actor George Lowe’s voice being patched in via phone line. For certain interviews, like with talk show legend Joe Franklin, Cartoon Network would hire an actor to dress as Space Ghost and conduct the interview off-camera.
While the majority of the show’s guests seemed in on the joke, some subjects (especially in the show’s earlier episodes) were clearly confused by the format. Since scripts and voice acting for the show were written and recorded after the interviews had already taken place, the creative team often had a lot of fun with the format. The show’s writing staff would often intentionally change Space Ghost’s questions so guest’s answers wouldn’t match up. They also regularly had Space Ghost pick on his unaware guests after the fact.
9. C2C HAD A SPIN-OFF
“Space Ghost: Coast to Coast” proved so popular that in 1995, only a year after its debut, the show was spun off into a second show called “Cartoon Planet.” In its original incarnation, “Cartoon Planet” was an hour-long variety show hosted by Space Ghost, Zorak and Brak. Each episode contained a mixture of classic cartoons from the Turner library and new segments featuring original songs and ad-libbed skits with the three hosts. The show also intermittently featured segments with its producer Andy Merril wearing a shoddy Space Ghost costume and doing mundane activities like getting a haircut (with his mask on).
The show moved from TBS to Cartoon Network that same year and ran until 1997 when new material for the show stopped being produced. The show’s skits and original music were repackaged into half-hour episodes and aired throughout 1998 before finally wrapping. “Coast to Coast” has been revived twice since then, once by airing reruns in the mid-2000s and again in 2012 when the show returned without Space Ghost (leaving Zorak and Brak to host) and replacing the classic Turner cartoons with Cartoon Network’s original “Cartoon Cartoons” shows from the late ’90s and early ’00s.
8. HE’S RECORDED THREE ALBUMS
As we mentioned above, a major part of the new segments created for “Cartoon Planet” were the original songs written for the show and performed by Space Ghost, Zorak and Brak. These comedy songs proved so popular with fans that the creative team released three albums for the show, each of which contained original songs from “Cartoon Planet” along with dialogue skits and background music not used in the show.
The first of three records, “Modern Music For Swinging Superheroes” was a 17-track promotional record released for free in 1996, and as a result it is the only one of the three albums to have long since been out of print. The next two albums, “Space Ghost’s Musical Bar-B-Que” and “Space Ghost’s Surf & Turf” were released in 1997 and 1998 respectively on Warner’s own Rhino Records. Both records were nearly twice as long as “Modern Music…” with each featuring over 35 tracks performed by the show’s voice cast.
7. BIRDMAN ALMOST BECAME A COMPETITOR
We mentioned earlier how the cult status and low production cost of “Space Ghost: Coast to Coast” spawned the original line-up for Adult Swim. Excluding “Home Movies,” which the network had acquired from UPN, all of Adult Swim’s programming at launch were spin-offs from SG:C2C and initially used the same style of limited animation.
One of the shows, “Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law” featured another retired Hanna-Barbera superhero, Birdman, as an attorney at the Sebben & Sebben law firm. The firm was largely staffed by other superheroes and villains from Birdman’s 1967 show “Birdman and the Galaxy Trio” and depicted Birdman acting as an attorney for other Hanna-Barbera characters who found themselves in surprisingly “adult” legal trouble. However, years before the show’s debut, SG:C2C creator Mike Lazzo had plans to turn Birdman into a late night rival for Space Ghost comparing the two to “Tom Snyder following David Letterman” in a 1998 interview with the New York Times.
6. “SPACE GHOST IS DEAD TO ME”
Of course, “Space Ghost: Coast to Coast” wasn’t just an inspiration to its contemporaries. Its influence can be felt across several of Adult Swim’s newer shows, but none moreso than “The Eric Andre Show,” a live-action talk show parody co-hosted by Andre and fellow comedian Hannibal Buress. In a 2012 interview with The Huffington Post, before the show’s debut, Andre himself described the show as “…basically like ‘Space Ghost’ as a live-action show…” and said before they shot the first season he spent time marathoning old episodes so he could “…absorb as much ‘Space Ghost’ as (he) could.”
One of the more surprising revelations from the interview came from Andre discussing his talks with Lazzo about the show he helped create. Andre explained that when he tried to pick the brain of the now Senior Executive Vice President of Adult Swim’s Williams Street headquarters about his time on “Space Ghost: Coast to Coast” he was more or less told by Lazzo that “Space Ghost is dead to me.”
5. A MUSICAL SEASON FINALE
Given the character’s history as a recording artist, it should come as no surprise that music also played a fairly significant role on “Space Ghost: Coast to Coast.” During the show’s original Cartoon Network run, music was “played” by Zorak and his house band, The Original Way-Outs, but in reality the show’s music was initially recorded by free jazz guitarist Sonny Sharrock. When he died in 1994, a collection of the music recorded for the show was released as the promotional CD “Space Ghost Coast to Coast” and the episode “Sharrock” featured almost 15 minutes of unedited music recorded for the show.
Unlike your typical talk show, musicians almost never performed on the show and co-creators Lazzo and Keith Crofford made it a point to invite on artists they liked to speak even when they didn’t have new music to promote. One rare exception to this standard was planned for the season/series finale in 1998 (the show’s last season on Cartoon Network before coming to Adult Swim in 2001), where the indie rock bands Yo La Tengo and Cornershop were slated to appear for an hour-long musical episode, which sadly never came together.
4. SG:C2C THE WEB SERIES
While the second series of “Space Ghost: Coast to Coast” ended its run on Adult Swim in 2004, the show returned again in 2006 as a web series on TBS’ now defunct GameTap network. Originally conceived as a subscription-based rental service for video games that was intended to compete with companies like GameFly, the GameTap network also offered access to GameTap TV, a service that featured programs from the TBS catalog as well as original programming, including the final official revival of SG:C2C.
Though the GameTap network was ultimately deemed a failure and sold off years later, “Space Ghost: Coast to Coast” remained in production for two years at the network as a five-minute web show. Given the shorter run time and new gaming-centric audience, the final incarnation of the show focused on Space Ghost interviewing celebrities from the video game industry as well as highlighting one “GameTap artist of the month.”
3. HE HAD A DC MINISERIES
Though it’s likely Space Ghost will never completely shed his identity as a comedic character, DC Comics (who control the comic book rights to the character) have experimented with a return to form for Space Ghost as a normal superhero a few times over the years. Though Space Ghost has recently been one of the many Hanna-Barbera characters to make his way to a DC comic, the first attempt at telling stories about the original Space Ghost came in the 2005 six-issue mini-series”Space Ghost.”
The miniseries retold the original Space Ghost’s origin story and had a surprisingly accomplished creative team at the helm. Writer Joe Kelly was at the time already well-known for his work on “Deadpool,” as well as several other books for both Marvel and DC, and would later go on to create “I Kill Giants” for Image as well as co-founding Man of Action Studios, the company behind “Ben 10.” The book’s art was also notable for featuring beautiful painted covers by Eisner-Award Winning artist Alex Ross and interiors by Ariel Olivetti.
2. FUTURE QUEST
In our last entry, we briefly touched on DC’s recent attempts to bring back several of Hanna-Barbera’s characters as part of their “Hanna-Barbera Beyond” publishing initiative. Starting in 2016, the initiative’s aim is to reimagine these classically comedic characters into more mature, but still fun storylines. The first batch of comics in the initiative included post-apocalyptic versions of Scooby Doo and Wacky Races, called “Scooby Apocalypse” and “Wacky Raceland” respectively, along with the incredibly well-received “The Flintstones.”
However, the first book published as part of the initiative was actually “Future Quest,” a crossover book featuring characters from Space Ghost, Johnny Quest, The Herculoids, Birdman and the Galaxy Trio, Frankenstein Jr. and the Mighty Mightor. In “Future Quest,” Space Ghost gets a more “space cop” origin story, with his fellow Space Rangers involved in an epic struggle against a villain we won’t spoil for you here. Before long, a bevy of other Hanna-Barbera action heroes are pulled into the conflict, vowing to help Space Ghost end the intergalactic threat.
1. HE MET GREEN LANTERN
After the incredible success of the first batch of “Hanna-Barbera Beyond” titles, DC announced a new set of ongoing Hanna-Barbera series for 2017, as well as a series of one-shot crossovers with some of the most popular characters from the DC Universe. One of these crossovers was “Green Lantern/Space Ghost Annual” #1 by writers James Tynion IV and Chris Sebela, with art again being handled by Ariel Olivetti.
In the issue, both Space Ghost and Green Lantern find themselves stripped of their weapons and captive on a xenophobic alien world. After overcoming the classic crossover trope of initial distrust and battle before a team up, the two super space cops team up to escape and solve the mystery of a space weapon they’d both been tracking. If the promise of a buddy cop between Space Ghost and Green Lantern isn’t enough to get you excited, the two are also forced to trade weapons briefly, which is worth the price of admission on its own.
What’s your favorite incarnation of Space Ghost? Let us know in the comments!
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