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Space Ghost is one of the most popular superheroes to come out of Saturday mornings. Unlike comic book heroes Superman, Batman and Spider-Man, Space Ghost originated on television, embodying animation in the ’60s.
Legendary animator Alex Toth’s use of bright colours, sleek lines and an almost sinister costume gave Space Ghost an undefinable hipness that TV watchers immediately clung to.
The hero’s name stemmed from the fact that he was able to make himself invisible through the use of high-tech wizardry.
He could also shoot heat rays, cold rays and plain old power blasts from the bands on his wrists.
Tagging along in his ship, the Phantom Cruiser, were Jan and Jayce, a teenage duo who assisted Space Ghost and could become invisible as well. Rounding out the team was monkey sidekick Blip, who had mastered his own invisibility technology enough to lend a hand wherever he was needed.
Gary Owens, a 60’s mainstay ever since Laugh-In, was the voice of Space Ghost while Jayce was voiced by Tim Matheson, who went on to be a successful movie star in films like Animal House (1978) and Fletch (1985).
Dino Boy followed the adventures of a young man named Tod, who accidentally parachuted into an undiscovered part of the world known as the Lost Valley. The denizens of the valley were throwbacks to prehistoric times, including Neanderthals as well as dinosaurs.
Tod’s guide in this strange, new world was Ugh, a caveman who possessed enough intelligence to speak broken English. Dino Boy’s pet, Bronty, was a small brontosaurus that followed him everywhere regardless of the danger.
NB: the Johnny Carson who provided Dino Boy’s voice was not the talk show host.
In 1976, NBC brought back repeats of Space Ghost to accompany new episodes of Frankenstein Jr. Space Ghost also appeared in new segments of Space Stars in 1981.
In the cartoon industry, Space Ghost is almost single-handedly responsible for the popularity of superhero cartoons in the ’60s. The series was drawn so well and the stories were so imaginative that kids were glued to CBS every Saturday morning.
This success forced the other networks to develop superhero shows like Superman in order to battle the mighty Space Ghost.
Perhaps the greatest evidence of Space Ghost’s popularity came three decades later when the Cartoon Network reinvented the superhero in a hilarious send-up of night-time talk shows, Space Ghost Coast To Coast (1994 – 2004).
The brainchild of producer Mike Lazzo, Coast To Coast recycled and revoiced animation from the original show, setting it against the backdrop of a TV studio in space. Celebrity guests appeared on a screen, initially bemused but increasingly in on the joke as the show’s eight-season run progressed.
The interviews were carried out in advance, with questions and answers edited in the broadcast version to provide maximum surreal humour.