Long before he had his own talk show in the form of Adult Swim's long running Space Ghost: Coast To Coast, Space Ghost was a superhero created by the legendary Alex Toth. Starring in his own television series from September 1966 through September 1968 on CBS, Space Ghost (voiced by Gary Owens) would team up with two kid sidekicks, Jan (Ginny Tyler) and Jace (Tim Matheson), and their monkey friend Blip (Don Messick of Scooby-Doo), to fight evil every week. Different villains would provide different scenarios for our heroes but recurring bad guys like Zorak, Moltar and Brak gave episodes and characters a sense of familiarity. Space Ghost, who yelled out his own name far too often, had the power to become invisible which came in handy while dealing with alien villains day in and day out. When you've got to keep the peace in space, being able to turn invisible is a good thing.
Interestingly enough, the last two episodes of the series make up one length story entitled The Council Of Doom wherein, much like the Super Friends' Legion Of Doom that would follow, Space Ghost's many enemies join forces to take him down once and for all. As campy as the series was, there is some actual legitimate suspense to be found here, as the chapters all end as cliffhangers.
While the characters weren't exactly deep or, to be honest, all the interesting they were at least hyper-stylized and extremely cool to watch. Toth's clean line work made sure that the character designs were sleek and that they looked 'space age' for the time they were created. Add to this the fantastic voice work from the entire cast, Gary Owens in particular, and you've got a slick and entertaining little cartoon that may not teach us anything but which will certainly entertain. Owens' voice would later be recognizable in other endeavors such as Captain Caveman where he served as the narrator and Garfield And Friends where he served as the announcer. He's the perfect voice for Space Ghost, sounding noble and heroic and just a little bit full of himself.
Following the same format as Birdman & The Galaxy Trio, which was also shown on CBS around the same time and also created by Alex Toth, in between Space Ghost episodes there would be a second feature, this time in the form of a short Dino Boy In The Lost Valley cartoon. Dino Boy (voiced by Johnny Caron) was a modern day kid named Todd who jumped out of a plane over the South American jungle to avoid a crash. When he landed, he found himself in a prehistoric world where he would befriend a caveman named Ugh (Mike Road) and a dinosaur named Bronto (Don Messick again).
The episodes all move along quickly - each of the three stories runs roughly eight minutes each - and the characters, as simple as they are, are quite fun. The dialogue is hammy but it suits the material well and the sound effects and music should definitely send out some waves of nostalgia to those who remember the show from either its original run or the various syndicated reruns which have been broadcast over the last four decades. The series stands as a sterling example of the sixties pop art aesthetic and as a testament to Toth's unsung creative talents - it's also a heck of a lot of goofy, interstellar fun.
The episodes in this set are presented as follows:
Disc 1 Side 1:
1 - The Heat Thing / The Worm People / Zorak
2 - Creature King / The Treemen / The Lizard Slavers
3 - The Web / The Sacrifice / Homing Device
4 - The Drone / The Moss Men / The Sandman
Disc 1 Side 2:
5 - The Robot Master / Marooned / The Energy Monster
6 - Hi-Jackers / Giant Ants / The Lure
7 - The Schemer / The Rock Pygmies / The Evil Collector
8 - Lokar - King Of The Killer Locusts / Danger River / Brago
9 - The Cyclopeds / The Fire God / Space Sargasso
10 - The Iceman / The Vampire Men / The Time Machine
11 - The Space Birds / The Wolf People / Attack Of The Saucer Crab
12 - Nightmare Planet / Valley Of The Giants / Space Armada
Disc 2 Side 1:
13 - Ruler Of The Rock Robots / The Bird Riders / The Challenge
14 - Jungle Planet / The Marksman / Revenge Of The Spider Woman
15 - The Space Ark / The Terrible Chase / Glasstor
16 - The Space Piranhas / The Spear Warrirors / The Sorceror
17 - The Ovens Of Moltar / The Ant Warriors / Transor - The Matter Mover
18 - The Looters / The Mighty Snow Creature / The Gargoyloids
19 - The Meeting / Clutches Of The Creature King / The Deadly Trap
20 - The Molten Monsters Of Moltar / Two Faces Of Doom / The Final Encounter
Each and every one of these episodes was originally devised to be shown on television so the 1.33.1 fullframe aspect ratio in which they are presented in this set is as it should be. In terms of image quality, everything looks pretty good here. There is a little bit of grain here and there and if you look for them you'll pick up on some random specks but aside from that, the episodes look quite good. Color reproduction is solid, black levels are strong and quite consistent and for a four decade old cartoon, there's little to complain about here in terms of presentation.
The English language Dolby Digital Mono sound in this set is fine even if it does show its age a little bit. There's not much to these tracks, they're pretty basic, but the DVDs do a fine job of replicating their low-fi feel and sound and you can't really fault them for that. Dialogue is clean and clear and there are no problems to report in regards to hiss or distortion. Everything sounds a bit flat but that's probably to be expected to a certain extent and as such it's forgivable. Optional English closed captioning is provided for each episode.
Aside from some nifty menus, nice packaging and episode selection menus the only extra feature of note is a brief documentary entitled The Life And Art Of Alex Toth (contained on the second side of the second disc) which is an interesting biographical piece on Space Ghost creator Alex Toth. While Toth's output was large enough that a lengthier piece could easily be done on his career, this is at least a well put together segment that at least pays tribute to the man and his legacy even if a bit more depth on the subject would have been very welcome.
Space Ghost And Dino Boy: The Complete Series is obviously a very different show than the Adult Swim series but fans of sixties superheroes and vintage Hanna-Barbera animation or Alex Toth should definitely enjoy this series. It's campy but fun with some interesting and enduring characters. More extras would have helped the package a bit but the presentation is nice, consider this set recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.