After the well-received but limited runs of the Hanna-Barbera animated shows The Jetsons and Jonny Quest the studio decided to take a rather different approach when it came to creating a new science fiction/adventure show, in this case, it would be a double-combo that would have two completely unrelated titles married together.
Leading things off would be Space Ghost, a space travelling superhero, followed by Dino Boy a show dealing with a young boy who is lost in a prehistoric world. The thought process behind this must have been that if one of those segments didn’t capture the imagination of your typical Saturday morning cartoon viewer hopefully the other would, and one must admit, that isn’t too bad of a business model.
Each episode of Hanna-Barbera’s Space Ghost & Dino Boy consisted of three segments, two of which were adventures starring Space Ghost (Gary Owens) the intergalactic crime-fighter, who along with his teen sidekicks Jan (Ginny Tyler) and Jace (Tim Matheson) and their pet monkey Blip (Don Messick) would take on a variety of space-related villains, while the middle segment of the show was Dino Boy in the Lost Valley, which dealt with a young boy named Todd (John David Carson) who had been forced to parachute from a crashing plane and landing him in a mysterious valley where he was befriended by a caveman named Ugh (Mike Road), and with the help of a pet baby Brontosaurus named they called Bronty (Don Messick), this trio would do their best to survive in a lost world that was populated with a variety prehistoric life as well as strange creatures and various tribes that all seem hellbent on killing poor Todd.
What separates this series from many of its peers was that at the helm was show creator Alex Toth, a legend among comic book artists and it was his work at Hanna-Barbera that really changed what type of shows could be produced for a Saturday morning kids cartoon. His brilliant character designs remain as some of the best examples of science fiction and superhero genre to date and is the sole reason that shows like Space Ghost & Dino Boy are so well remembered. Now, as with many of the Hanna-Barbera cartoons they didn’t bother with a “pilot episode” thus not much was given here in the way of backstory concerning either Space Ghost or Dino Boy, in fact, in the eighteen segments produced we never learn anything of Dino Boy’s parents nor do we find out who exactly Space Ghost and company were supposedly working for. We do hear of an organization called the Galactic Patrol but what affiliation they have with Space Ghost is unclear and as he lives on “Ghost Planet” with Jan and Jace he doesn’t seem to be too worried about any authority other than his own, and it’s also important to note that they all wear masks despite not seeming to have secret identities to hide, which begs the question “Are these guys space vigilantes?”
Unlike many superheroes of the time Space Ghost’s powers were technologically based and not inherent in him, making him more a Tony Stark type hero than a Superman as his abilities stemmed from his power bands that displayed multiple purpose beam-based attacks including heat, cold, magnetism, energy and force among others, basically, anything the plot required at any given time. When watching this cartoon a common phrase to hear from Space Ghost was “I can’t free my arms to reach my energy bands” and this was pretty much the only way that the villains on this show could pose any sort of threat to our hero, either his bands would get stolen or he would be bound securely enough so that he couldn’t reach a button on his gauntlet, and this would often result in Blip sneaking in and pushing a button on one of the bands to free Space Ghost, a chimp deus ex machine if you will. Of course, what made this show truly special was voice actor Gary Owens as only he could deliver lines like “Sandman, still on your brain control bit, eh?” with such coolness and aplomb and it was his work here that elevated Space Ghost above many other heroes as his deadpan and droll delivery was easily one of the more entertaining aspects of the show.
- Space Ghost and his sidekicks have something called “Inviso Power” which allows them to become invisible as well as their spacecraft, and this prevents the silliness we often get in Wonder Woman shows where her plane becomes invisible but she doesn’t.
- The idea of teen sidekicks and a space monkey would later be re-visited in the 1977 rendition of the Super Friends, only in that show, the teens were given a greater ability than simply turning invisible.
- Ugh may look like your stereotypical Neanderthal, and talk with a standard caveman monosyllabic speech pattern, but he was portrayed as being quite intelligent and not only was he a great father figure to Todd he was often the one to devise clever ways in which get him and the boy out of some tough spots.
- In one episode the villainous Zorak places Jan and Jace into a “time bomb” spaceship but it’s a ship that also comes with escape jet packs, which calls into question his ability to properly orchestrate a death trap.
- In both Space Ghost and Dino Boy in the Lost Valley, many of the villains were insectoid in nature because beating up or killing insects was probably considered more acceptable at the time than harming regular human villains.
- In the final two episodes, we got a six-part serial arc which was fairly unusual at the time, up to this point each segment was a stand-alone story but starting with “The Meeting” we were introduced to the Council of Doom a group that consisted of all the top foes of Space Ghost who band together to bring down our hero.
The one truly laughable aspect of the Space Ghost segments is that of teen sidekicks Jan and Jace who are even more inferior to the likes of Marvin and Wendy from 1973’s Super Friends as their sole job in this show was, apparently, to get captured so that Space Ghost could later rescue them, in fact, even their monkey Blip was a more of an effective crime fighter as he’s seen thwarting several villains throughout the run of the show while Jan and Jace simply sat on their collective asses waiting to be rescued. What’s more embarrassing is that when you compare Jan and Jace’s general incompetence to that of Dino Boy, who was just a young boy and not a teen crime-fighter, he’s often shown as the one coming up with clever ideas to solve a particular problem and he even saves Ugh’s life from time to time. The same can not be said of Space Ghost’s sidekicks.
As was the case of Jonny Quest, the adventures of Space Ghost and Dino Boy were quite violent when compared to their contemporaries as each segment pitted our heroes against a variety of nefarious villains who wanted nothing more than to see our heroes dead, but what’s even more impressive here is the fact that in Dino Boy in the Lost Valley it’s a young boy in the crosshairs and seeing a kid tied to a sacrificial altar, while some Aztec looking asshat readies to carve out his heart, this wasn’t something you were used to seeing during a Saturday morning cartoon line-up, not to mention getting cool scenes like people jousting while riding atop a Triceratops, and unlike later Hanna-Barbera superhero shows neither Space Ghost nor Ugh seemed all that concerned about arresting the villains and thus the death toll on display here was surprisingly high for a cartoon.
In the 80s Space Ghost would return in another Hanna-Barbera cartoon called Space Stars, which would include segments featuring Space Ghost, The Herculoids as well as Astro and the Space Mutts and Teen Force, but it was in the 90s with Adult Swim that Space Ghost got his real comeback on the show Space Ghost Coast to Coast, which spoofed late-night talk shows, and it featured former villains Zorak and Moltar now serving as Space Ghost’s sidekicks, sadly, Dino Boy received no such revival and has since been relegated to the forgotten mists of time. Overall, Space Ghost & Dino Boy was an incredibly fun and dynamic animated series and even with its three-segment format limiting any depth in the plot the stories were still quite fun and entertaining, and much of this was due to the creative designs by the brilliant Alex Toth.
Space Ghost & Dino Boy (1966-1968)
Show Rank - 7.5/10
In the annals of Saturday morning cartoons, Space Ghost & Dino Boy holds the unique distinction of being a show that paired adventure fantasy with science fiction in a brilliant and fun fashion that allowed these short adventures to remain timeless and fun.