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FLASHBACK REVIEW: SPACE GHOST ACTION FIGURES
By Thomas Wheeler

In the 1960's, Hanna-Barbera developed a sci-fi super-hero character for the Saturday morning crowd. Dubbed "Space Ghost", this muscle-bound straight man was joined in his adventures by two teenage-sidekicks, named Jan and Jayce, and a pet monkey.

There was a short-lived revival in the 1980's, as part of a number of 1960's animated series from Hanna-Barbera that were part of this, including The Herculoids and several others, but for the most part, the less said about this, the better.

Space Ghost returned to the limelight in the 1990's, now as the host of a parody talk show on the Cartoon Network. Former villains Zorak, Brak, and Moltar were enlisted as sidekicks and production crew -- arguably not the most cooperative bunch. Jan and Jayce were nowhere to be found -- probably hiding out in embarassment.

However, the "Space Ghost Coast to Coast" series did accomplish one positive thing -- it gave toy company Toyname a good reason to produce a very nicely done series of Space Ghost action figures.

First up, of course, is Space Ghost himself. The figure stands about 6-1/ 2" in height. Since there was no change from his classic 60's look to his 90's talk show incarnation, the figure is a superb representative of Space Ghost -- period. He comes with "talk show" accessories, including a desk, stool, coffee mug, and index cards, but these are easily ignored by those of us who would prefer to remember the character as an action hero.

The figure has superb articulation, and is poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, and ankles. He's not the least bit pre-posed, except for the rubbery-plastic cape, but even it isn't severely "pre-posed", and with the slight "wave" to it, looks decently heroic.

About the only fault with the figure is that it was molded entirely in white. This would not have been a problem except for the all-black cowl. Sometimes the black paint sticks a bit to the upper torso, and can chip off. Ideally, the head should have been molde din black. But it's a minor point for an otherwise excellent action figure.

There was a special-edition "invisible" Space Ghost figure, in keeping with the character's ability to turn invisible. The figure was molded entirely in transparent plastic, and is really very impressive-looking.

The Space Ghost figures were enough of a hit so that a second series of them was planned for the following year. This would include the three villains that worked on the show -- Zorak, Brak, and Moltar -- plus a fourth which I'll review in a moment.

Of the three, Zorak is probably the best known. Basically, he's a huge, roughly humanoid praying mantis. He was Space Ghost's main sidekick on the talk show, and gave plenty of attitude. The figure is superbly well done, but a little on the fragile side. Zorak is a very skinny character, and it wasn't easy to translate this into an action figure. And mine, at least, has another paint problem. The paint was apparently still tacky on one glove when the figure was assembled, so his wrist won't move.

Memo to toy manufacturers -- would it kill you to let these things DRY properly before you put them together!? This isn't the first company I've had this sort of thing happen with!

Brak and Moltar are also excellent likenesses. The designs are fairly simple, but then so were the characters, back in the 60's. It's interesting, though, seeing these two-dimensional characters rendered in three dimensions. Brak's odd, almost cat-like face can't have been especially easy. The three figures are almost as well articulated as Space Ghost himself.

Finally we come to the final figure in the collection -- SPACE SPECTRE. It took me a while to track down this guy. I certainly didn't remember him from the original animated series in the 60's, and I didn't recall him from the very infrequent times I watched the talk show. Apparently he was a character who turned up in the 80's revival series -- and he was certainly easy enough for Toynami to do a figure for. The character uses, for the most part, the same molds as Space Ghost, but more or less reversed. White cowl (interestingly enough, molded in white), with a dark grey uniform.

Toynami did make one alteration. They gave the figure a light-up wristband, something Space Ghost does not have. Really, the Space Spectre figure was a nice little treat.

These figures were all released in 1999 and 2000. There is no current animation for Space Ghost, although I believe the "Coast to Coast" talk show is being released in DVD. The character did see a very interesting revival in DC Comics recently. DC, of course, is affiliated with Time- Warner, which owns the Hanna-Barbera library.

This Space Ghost was played entirely seriously -- much moreso than ever before. This guy was no talk show host. He wasn't even the "straight-man" adventurer from the 60's. This Space Ghost came from a grim, far more plausible (from a sci-fi standpoint) universe. Nothing cartoony here. The six-issue mini-series, with covers by the famed Alex Ross, was a fully- painted series that gave us the grim origins of Space Ghost, including an invasion by a distinctly "I'm no overgrown grasshopper" Zorak. As I write this, there's talk of a sequel series.

But, the character still looked like the Space Ghost we have come to know and love for decades. The action figures haven't been available in the stores for years, but they still turn up on eBay once in a while. And if you have any fond memories of this Hanna-Barbera super-hero, then I definitely recommend tracking him down!