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Tag Archive: Space Ghost


Review by C.J. Bunce

A new book at last features a throwback many fans of classic TV cartoons may not be aware of.  If you watched Hanna-Barbera animated shows Jonny Quest, Sinbad Jr. and His Magic Belt, Young Samson & Goliath, or Space Ghost before you learned how to read as many kids did, you might never have made the connection that Tim Matheson was the voice of Jonny, Sinbad, Samson, and Jace.  That’s the boy who would grow up to be well-known actor Tim Matheson, who would star in Animal House and Fletch, and have key roles in shows like Magnum Force and 1941, and guest star in several TV series, from Leave it to Beaver to Burn Notice, in addition to directing even more shows, all over the past six decades.

In the new book Jonny Quest Speaks: Jonny, Sinbad Jr. & Me, author Kevin Scott Collier pieces together past interviews with creators from Hanna-Barbera, giving a background for Jonny Quest, which premiered in 1964.  He includes an interesting and informative interview with Matheson as he recounts not only voicing the various cartoon characters, but his direct work with animation legends Joe Barbera, Don Messick, and Mel Blanc.  It all amounts to a good comic-con panel worth of content from Matheson, who recalls his interactions at this time in his life with great clarity.  A big deal for Matheson was his first public appearance, flying first class into Kansas City and staying at the Muehlebach Hotel.  He signed autographs at a department store, yet his series had not yet aired on television.  Matheson illustrates how he learned how the business of Hollywood works (and why the animation pioneers had the biggest houses in town), something he picked up by paying attention to the adults working around him, all always serious about their craft.

Matheson discusses his takes on competing animated series (speaking fondly of animation pioneer Jay Ward) and goes into more detail about working with Blanc and Gary Owens of Laugh-In fame in a chapter on Sinbad Jr. and His Magic Belt, Young Samson & Goliath, and Space Ghost.  The actor has been working long enough and is lucky enough to be able to drop names he worked with including Lucille Ball, Henry Fonda, and Bob Hope.

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space-ghost-coast-to-coast

Originally a Hanna Barbera character that became the impetus for the animated superhero TV genre that took off in the 1960s, Space Ghost got his own reboot in the 1990s as a has-been superhero hosting his own late night talk show Space Ghost: Coast to Coast.  Originally airing on Cartoon Network and later Adult Swim, Space Ghost: Coast to Coast was a series with its very own style of humor, featuring the animated superhero interviewing real-world guests via a television monitor to the right of his desk.

Oddly surreal, Space Ghost often spent more time talking about himself than showing any interest in his guests.  His guests often seriously looked as if they had no idea what the series was about, and seemed genuinely irritated–as if they expected to be interviewed on a real entertainment show.  Cringeworthy moment after moment became the hallmark of the series, yet it all worked for fans of oddball animated TV.  If you want to look at human nature in a different way, and see what celebrities have a sense of humor and who can think on their toes, this may be the series for you.

coast-to-coast-crew

Now you can stream all the episodes here at the Adult Swim website for free.  The Bee Gees, Weird Al Yankovic, Jim Carrey, Alice Cooper, Billy Mumy, Mark Hamill, Lassie, Catherine Bach, Jimmie Walker, Bill Nye, Goldie Hawn, Charlton Heston, Steve Allen, Michael McKean, Tom Arnold, Bob Costas, Conan O’Brien, Tenacious D, Willie Nelson, and William Shatner all appeared in Space Ghost’s interview seat, plus many others.

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Dynamite Art of Alex Ross cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

If you have already checked out Alex Ross’s prior art overview books Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross and Rough Justice: The DC Comics Sketches of Alex Ross (reviewed at borg.com earlier here), you can see a new side of Alex Ross in his third coffee table format book, The Dynamite Art of Alex Ross.  If you only know Alex Ross from his extensive work with the DC Comics superheroes, get ready to be exposed to not just one but many new universes he has explored over the past several years as cover artist for Dynamite Comics.

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By C.J. Bunce

When pondering what I want to see in the movie theater that hasn’t arrived yet I think a lot about several Philip K. Dick short stories, or TV series that I’d love to see continued on the big screen, like a big screen Magnum, P.I., or Simon & Simon or Chuck—although if it is as underwhelming as the last X-Files movie then maybe not.  I’d love to see some early twentieth century biopics of Bix Beiderbecke or Karl King (who, among other things, composed the circus themes for Ringling Brothers and played in Sousa’s band).  And it would be fun to take a bunch of Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass songs from South Of The Border and The Lonely Bull and make them the soundtrack to a modern spaghetti Western, sort of like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with She’s The One A good Green Arrow or Bionic Man movie, or a good sequel to Return of the Jedi would all be fun.  And some things have been done already, but not quite right.  Space Ghost had his own cartton then interview show, but how about an adaptation of the serious origin series by Joe Kelly?  A big budget movie based on Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air could be awesome (the TV version suffered a bit despite a good cast).  The Russian story of Lieutenant Kije was filmed more than half a century ago with music by Prokofiev, but it needs a good updating.  We’ve seen four Tom Clancy novels about Jack Ryan, but the creepiest of the series, Debt of Honor, has yet to be made.

A lot of films have been made, and in coming up with this list one of my ideas–a film featuring Super Grover and the cast of Sesame Street–seemed long overdue.  I figured Sesame Street got bypassed for the Muppets, as shown in a funny scene from The Muppet Movie where Fozzie the Bear offers Big Bird a ride to the west coast to break into movies, and Big Bird says no thanks, he’s trying to break into public television back in New York.  Well, apparently they made that movie back in 1985 and I missed it, Sesame Street Presents: Follow That BirdYou can’t know everything.

For me this list was tough until I moved away from books as source material.  I think the movies I see in my head are better than how some of my ideas would likely turn out produced by the studios.  But let’s get on with it–with a nod to Art Schmidt for his idea with DC Comics and Jason McClain for mentioning Connie Willis.

    

From the comic books:  DC Comics’ Dark Knight Returns and Hard-Traveling Heroes

At lunch in high school my friends and I fantasy-cast Batman: The Dark Knight Returns over and over.  Ultimately we arrived at (the now late) Paul Newman as the ideal retired Batman, in the graphic novel another wealthy race car driver type.  In real life Newman was very much the Bruce Wayne interpreted in Frank Miller’s four-issue series-turned required-reading—as suave guy, well-liked, a wealthy philanthropist.  In a different universe Clint Eastwood would be great fun as a superhero coming out of retirement to have that last hoorah with the Batman cowl.  Probably too late now.  Of all the Batman stories, The Dark Knight Returns is #1–it is so well-established as more than a cult favorite, even beyond Watchmen, you just have to ask DC Comics and the Hollywood machine:  Why can’t someone just put it on the big screen?

I’ve said over and over here at borg.com that the best Green Lantern story ever is his team up with Green Arrow and Black Canary in Neal Adams’ and Dennis O’Neil’s classic Green Lantern Issues #76-87 and 89, the so-called “Hard Traveling Heroes.”  Imagine Black Canary pulling up on her motorcycle.  Imagine Green Arrow defending the kid robbing the slumlord.  Imagine Green Arrow catching Speedy.  Imagine Hal, Ollie and Dinah driving across America in their pick-up truck.  And harpies.  And encountering a religious cult.  And more harpies.

I’ll echo Art Schmidt: DC Comics needs to catch up with Marvel Comics movies, with Iron Man (the first one), Captain America: The First Avenger, and with Fantastic Four’s brilliant realization of Human Torch and The Thing, maybe my favorite heroes to screen so far.  OK, they nailed it with Christopher Reeve’s Superman and Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson in Batman.  Hopefully with The Avengers, Marvel Comics sets a new bar that DC Comics will have to work toward with a multi-hero story, maybe even with the Justice League or Superfriends.  Art’s recommended Cry for Justice, which we have discussed here before, is a great choice for this.

From the sci-fi novel: Remake, by Connie Willis

If you haven’t read Hugo and Nebula award-winning author Connie Willis’s books then you are in for a great ride through one of several fun and varied works.  For me, the concepts and Hollywood prophesies in her novel Remake are too cool to pass up and I have no doubt represent a foreshadowing of the future of film only slightly touched on in the Ralph Fiennes film Strange DaysRemake is science fiction at its best, and was nominated for a Hugo Award in 1996.

In our near future, Hollywood no longer needs to make new productions.  A film technician rearranges classic films via computer manipulation, so that the viewer can select who he wants to watch the next time he watches Raiders of the Lost Ark.  How about John Wayne?  How about Humphrey Bogart?  Why not edit out all the cigarettes so we no longer encourage smoking for future viewers?  What other movies would be fun to manipulate?  This is the world of our future where Viacom and Paramount are now Viamount, where actors are reduced to stand-ins.  OK, so it probably won’t really be our future as totally envisioned by Willis.

The technician falls for a strange woman who wants to dance in a musical and he is continually sidetracked as he pursues her through the novel.  The love story is well done—but it’s the world of our future that would be fun to see, finally, on the big screen.  And you would not need to film an entire movie, simply clips, like the old soda pop ads that blended dead celebrities with living ones, and that allowed Nat King Cole to star in a modern music video with his grown daughter, the singer Natalie Cole.  Hollywood has the technology today—so why not see how far CGI can go?

I’d frankly love to see any Willis book adapted to film, and in addition those mentioned by others in this series, Bellwether and To Say Nothing of the Dog would be great picks.

From the sci-fi novel: Fantastic Voyage 2: Destination Brain, by Isaac Asimov

When the original Fantastic Voyage was in theaters in 1966, Isaac Asimov created the novelization.  He was not happy with it because he was adapting someone else’s work (it was based on a Jerome Bixby story).  The original film reflected Hollywood basically at its infancy with special effects related to the future of medicine.  In its day it was a good effort.  With the 1987 novel Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain, which was not a sequel but an entirely new story, Asimov created the world inside a microscope that only he could envision.  The book is like Dennis Quaid in Innerspace, but with a serious mission and tone.  A group of scientists, such as you would find in the typical multi-disciplined problem solving team from a Michael Crichton novel, shrink themselves down to microscopic size to enter into the brain and try to diagnose the condition of a colleague, Dr. Pyotor Shapirov, the creator of the very technology that finally allows man to transport to such a miniscule size.

In 2001 Imax theaters featured a documentary on its giant-sized screens called The Human Body.  Audiences were able to see (and sometimes be grossed out by) the inner workings of the body.  Filmmakers would hardly need much by way of CGI to show a voyage through the cells.  Maybe this would be fun to attempt for some creative producer, and a project showing yet another frontier of science to science fiction fans.

From the art gallery: the cinematic paintings of Edward Hopper

How about a story for stage or screen where each scene begins or ends as an Edward Hopper painting?  And the focal character is the girl from his Automat, maybe also the same girl from his Chop Suey painting?  New York Movie, First Row Orchestra, Summertime, Cape Cod Evening—they all tell some secret story.  Or at least they all could, in the right filmmaker’s hands.

Hopper’s cinematic compositions and use of light and shadow has caused filmmakers to mimic his style before.  House by the Railroad supposedly influenced the house in the Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and the home in the Terrence Malick film Days of Heaven.  Director Wim Wenders’ film The End of Violence incorporates a tableau vivant of Nighthawks. Surrealist horror film director Dario Argento recreated the diner and the patrons in Nighthawks as part of a set for his 1976 film Deep Red.  Hopper has inspired both Blade Runner and Road to Perdition.

Turner Classic Movies uses animated recreations of Hopper paintings as introductions to classic films and in That ’70s Show the producers recreated the diner from Nighthawks.  But how about a full-scale movie showing us something about these characters we don’t know?  That’s something I’d love to see on the big screen.

From the ancient history books: the world briefly changed by Akhenaten

I could find a non-fiction work for the adaptation, but it’s the story itself I really want to see here.  The pharaoh Akhenaten was the leader of Egypt for about 17 years from circa 1353 B.C. to 1335 B.C.  He was married to Nefertiti and had six or seven daughters and at least one son–Tutankhamen.  In his reign he revamped the religion of his country like never before, moving from a polytheistic pantheon of gods to the worship of a single god, the Aten, or sun-disk.  Following his reign the empire was returned to its prior state and for Akhenaten’s blasphemy his name was chiseled out of a significant part of the written record.  Art during his reign became more expressive and naturalistic.  Images of the pharaoh show a realistic image that hid no flaws, a long face, not the typical glorification and heroic imagery of Egyptian leaders before and after.  Akhenaten is so interesting from a number of levels that it would be a great challenge to reflect his reign in film.  Certainly a rebel and not a traditionalist.  A stunning wife.  How do you show all the Egyptian relationships—including accepted inbreeding as a norm–without coming off as judgmental?  As pharaoh he was “one with the god Aten.”  How do you portray daily life in an interesting way where the ruler is God and what could you show about his family on film?  A great pandemic swept across the Middle East during this period, taking out the Hittite ruler Suppiluliuma, and how did they manage through that?  But even more interesting, with all the stories of the history of conflict in Egypt, what did life look like during the years of Egypt’s own version of Camelot?  This all would be incredible to depict.

From fantasy opera:  Richard Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung

I have only seen one version of The Ring that comes close to clarifying this odd and complex story composed of four epic operas for a general audience: P. Craig Russell’s two volume graphic novel of The Ring of the Nibelung.  A few years ago I discussed The Ring with Russell and he said it was a great effort to produce it and it became a sort of magnum opus for him.  But even an adaptation of Russell’s adaptation would need streamlined for mainstream audiences—yet, it would be a great starting point.  Predating that other famous fantasy ring series (the one by J.R.R. Tolkien) by decades, Wagner’s opera is epic in scope and length, taking four nights or 15 hours to perform the full opera.  We already have a superb soundtrack from Wagner, but can someone make a feature-length, meaningful adaptation in the English language that conveys the energy and power of the original without all the nonlinear bits and pieces?  The reward would be a giant vision of gods, heroes, mythical creatures and magic.

Other operas due for a good movie?  The Magic Flute, The Barber of Seville, The Marriage of Figaro.

More than any of the above I would love to see our own Elizabeth C. Bunce’s retelling of Rumplestiltskin, A Curse Dark As Gold (maybe a classic PBS/BBC series or Hayao Miyazaki anime film would be fun) or her fantasy noir Thief Errant series on-screen.  A Curse Dark As Gold has already been performed superbly in a full-length audio CD version by a Broadway actress so I’ve had a little taste of what it would be like to witness it fully played out.  And speaking of ECB, tomorrow she’ll give us her take on stories that should be adapted for the big screen.

From time to time you hear of references to an artist as THE cover artist, the most sought after, etc., but no artist can touch what Alex Ross has been able to do with his paintbrushes.  His work is instantly recognizable from its sweeping heroic themes, idealistic and optimistic characterization, and an elevation of the human form to not only superhero but from superhero to godlike magnificence.  His use of color, tricks of light, chromes, reflections and high contrast imagery include themes of hope, confidence, power, pride and sometimes even fear.  So with the above pantheon of DC Comics Gods-of-sorts from the cover to the Justice series as #15 and the below Marvel Comics “Avengers Assemble” print sold at San Diego Comic-Con International in 2010 as #14, we introduce a sequence from #15 to #1 of the most striking, stunning, and powerful creations to be featured on comic book covers, posters and marketing materials by Alex Ross–and our “just plain favorites”–created over his standout career so far.

13.  THE WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST.  Ross created this work for the 70th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz and it is currently on display at the Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.  Those monkeys are… still creepy and Margaret Hamilton’s witch is still one of the best villains of all time.

12.  PRINCE NAMOR, THE SUB-MARINER, AND HIS CREATOR, BILL EVERETT.  Ross created this piece for the 60th anniversary of the classic Marvel character and his artist gets equal billing, in black and white and reminiscent of Norman Rockwell’s self portrait work.

11.  FLASH GORDON DVD COVER.  Created by Ross for the 2007 special edition release of the DVD, Ross has said Flash Gordon was his favorite movie.  A photograph of Max Von Sydow as Ming, the nemesis of Flash, couldn’t look any better than this painting.

10.  SUPERMAN, STRENGTH #1 COVER.  This Ross homage to Action Comics #1 features Ross’s most painted superhero, Superman, the man of steel, doing what he does best.  If only filmmakers would get an actor to play Superman that actually looks like Ross’s vision of Superman!

9.  PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA.  A 2008 print and Wizard magazine cover of the 44th president of the United States–an homage to Ross’ own similar Superman design.  An artist that can make even a president look cool.  Obama is known as a comic book fan, and was featured on a cover of Spider-man, among other books.

8.  KRYPTO, COVER FOR SUPERMAN, ISSUE #680.  Ross features heroes of all sorts in his designs, but often elevates the underdog to supreme being, and with Superman’s dog here he is shown atop a marble lion.

7.  CAPTAIN MARVEL FROM ROSS’S GRAPHIC NOVEL “KINGDOM COME.”  I once spoke to a friend of Alex Ross.  A close friend.  Who amazingly looked just like Captain Marvel.  Not a coincidence, as Ross regularly paints heroes using his friends as models.  This page showing Superman kneeling before him, best shows what Ross could do with even a standard catalog hero of the past.  He restored the legendary “Earth’s Mightiest Mortal” to exactly that status.

6.  THE JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA.  This pantheon piece was used individually and as shown below on numerous posters and books.  I love it because, with all the incarnations of the JLA, Ross gets the team exactly right with every member that should be on the team.  From the mightily small Atom to Superman, this is who I also think of as DC’s main fighting force.  Could these guys be more cocky?

5.  THE JOKER AND HARLEY QUINN, FROM GRAPHIC NOVEL “BATMAN: HARLEY QUINN” COVER.  Here we get to see the dark side of Ross–his exquisitely frightening Joker, in a dance with his best gal, the homicidal Ms. Quinn.  What a couple they make, especially as illustrated by Ross.

4.  GATCHAMAN DVD COVER.  Like Ross’s ability to make Captain Marvel and other classic superheroes appear great once again, Ross can take nostalgic series, movies, characters, darned near anything and make us want to revisit these characters.  Whether you saw this Japanese earliest modern incarnation of anime as G-Force or as Battle of the Planets, these kids turned heroes are as familiar as old friends.

3.  SPACE GHOST ISSUE #1.  When I saw this issue hit the stands I had to have it.  The one problem with Ross only working cover art is that you expect the interior pages to be just as good as the cover art, which is why Justice and Marvels are such great treats to the eye.  With Space Ghost, Ross takes an obscure hero that we best know as a TV show host and makes him every bit the counterpart to Superman & Co.

2.  WIZARD COMICS COVER ART, BATMAN’s ENEMIES.  This is one of Ross’s most univerally acclaimed images and rightly so.  Everyone is too close for comfort and Batman goes toward the baddest baddie’s throat first, his #1 foe, The Joker.

1.  SESAME STREET’S SUPER GROVER, PACKAGING ART FOR PALISADES TOYS 2005 ACTION FIGURE.  How can you beat this painting?  If you don’t remember Grover from Sesame Street, dig around You Tube and watch some old episodes.  Before Elmo… there was Grover.  The muppet who loved everyone, meek and mild, he’s the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and more.  And when times are tough, and there’s no one to protect us all, who will rise to meet the challenge?  It is Super Grover.  When I saw this print at a con a few years ago I froze in my tracks and just couldn’t believe it.  It’s not just the art, sometimes it is the choice of subject matter that tells half the story.  Kudos to Ross for thinking of this one.

Well that’s my list.  Please drop us a comment if you think I have any glaring omission or if you just want to chime in with your list.

*All images above Copyright by Alex Ross or his publishers.  Many of these prints and original art are for sale on his website at www.alexrossart.com.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

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