From Friendly Ghosts to Gamma Rays: Shazam!, Sonic and Filmation’s Ghostbusters
From the deep dark depths at the core of the planet comes this week’s From Friendly Ghosts to Gamma Rays!!!!!! Aaarrrggghhhhh!!!! Yeah, I’m Hulking out and beating puppies with pillows for amusement, as my finger tips blaze across the keyboard to write this week’s column from… my volcano base! You guessed it correctly, readers! Yes, ComicAttack.net Columnist Drew McCabe has a volcano base complete with, but not limited too, the following: lava, natives, pagan gods and pineapples (eat that fearless editor-in-chief Andy! You may live in LA but I live inside a volcano)! Not only this week will I review for you Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam!, Sonic the Hedgehog Archives and Filmation’s Ghostbusters, but I’ll also let you in on some deep dark secrets of my own (bump-bump-baaa!!!!).
Deep Dark Secret #1 for today’s column: Sometimes here in my volcano base I will loudly play the songs Boys Don’t Cry and Close To Me by the Cure, back to back on a loop, while crying out “Shazam!” repeatedly, in an attempt to summon the magic powers. After this fails I read DC’s Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam!.
In my first column I reviewed a chunk of Billy Batson issues, and click here to check out my original take on how the series was heading. Happily since then, things have started to change again on the run of this comic. The art by Vaughns has done a complete 180. Starting with issue #11, gone are the days of the Tiny Toon-vibe with over exaggerated chins and faces. Vaughns’s art style, although still with a cartoon look, has taken a turn towards a more classic feel for Captain Marvel, which I love (I wasn’t thrilled with his art direction on the previous issues). As the phrase goes, change is good.
The writing by Art Baltazar and Franco (of Tiny Titans fame) is still solid with a fun Captain Marvel story for us and mix well with a new direction by Vaughns on his art. BUT WAIT! Just when I feel this is finally shaping into a great marriage of talents on the title and Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! is back on the right track, it seems with upcoming issue #13 the artist will be changing AGAIN and Mike Norton (who has done Voltron, Runaways, Green Arrow/Black Canary) will become the series’ regular artist! So hang on tight fans and we will check back with Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! in a few columns from now to see how the title has changed once again!
Deep Dark Secret for today’s column #2: One time I made a bet with fearless editor-in-chief Andy, which he lost and then had to cover his skin in blue paint and pretend to be Sonic the Hedgehog. We went out like this to a bar and a jock who hated performance art mistook Andy not for Sonic but a member of the Blue Man Group. A brawl happened. Blood and blue body paint was everywhere. Andy will deny this occurred.
Children of the 90s keep rejoicing. Archie Comics, to make it easier for collectors to read the adventures of your favorite hedgehog, has been republishing the entire series in these little low-priced archive editions (for sometime they’ve been publishing these but if you haven’t checked them out yet, you should do yourself a favor and do so). Each edition reprints 4-5 issues in full color, covers and all, all for about 8 bucks. Archive volume 12 was just released last week, bringing up the reprints of the series to issue #48.
Sonic the Hedgehog is the longest running comic book based off a video game (issue #209 hits stands this month). It is amazing to think its been out that long, but the eternal fan-base for the character and always increasing new fans have kept it going all this time (seems like just the other day I was in my X-Men pajamas playing Sonic 2 on the Sega Genesis, sigh). Like any series that has run this long, we’ve gone through periods of both good and bad, and although these reprints from the early 90s may not seem the best by today’s standard of art or writing, certainly nostalgia value aside, are great with a ton of action and humor (although way more comedic based, like a Harvey Comics book, versus other comics in the Archie Comics Adventure Series, i.e Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Adventures). They are also a great illustration of the 90s with references to pop culture, other video-games, and even comics like Spawn and X-Men, which were huge at the time.
I have always been a Team-Sonic kind of guy (not that I didn’t enjoy Mario, he just didn’t have the coolness factor the world of Sonic had for me. He was a plumber who hung out with John Leguizamo. Sonic ate chilly dogs and had that “Let hell sort them out” kind of thing). So I am giving you a little push to pick up these collections and re-live the Sonic adventures of yesteryear. Many issues which are nearly impossible to find in back issue bins or online, and the Archives are the best price for reprinted collections on the market.
Can You Dig It Out Of The Back Bins: Filmation’s Ghostbusters
Publisher: First Comics
Writers and Artists: Various
Deep Dark Secret#3 for today’s column: I bought a pet turkey and named him/her Mr.Gobbles. Trying to make him/her into a vessel of evil, I put an eye patch on Mr.Gobbles to up the badness-factor. Mr.Gobbles and I enjoy watching re-runs of Lidsville on our volcano-monitor, and when that gets dull, he/she enjoys when I read to him/her issues of First Comic’s run of Filmation’s Ghostbusters.
Let’s goooooooooo Ghostbusters! I’m a First Comics fan and in retrospect feel they had a great line-up going on. The Badger by Mike Barron is one of my all time favorite comics and they published it for years until their demise. First Comics also adventured into more youth-aimed titles by publishing graphic novels based off Baum’s classic Oz books and colorized versions of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics. They also did a comic version of Filmation’s Ghostbusters that I loved (I will clear up the difference between Filmation’s Ghostbusters and The Real Ghostbusters in a little bit).
Running for 6-issues, Filmation’s Ghostbusters was a lot of fun. For starters it was a great adaptation of the animated cartoon. The characters looked and felt like their animated counter-parts. The stories and writing felt at home with the stories being broadcast as well. If you were a fan of the show you couldn’t say anything bad about the comic.
Now what First Comics did, which I found really cool, was at the time when it was common for kids-comics to mix in a few games like mazes or puzzles to do between comics. First Comics went the extra mile and tried to put you more into the comic, tying the games into part of the comic’s plot. For example, Prime Evil (the main Ghostbuster villian) aims a ray to bring a skeleton back to life. The next page was then a connect-the-dots to create the dinosaur he brought back to life. Cool way to mix in puzzles, eh?
So if you are a Filmation’s Ghostbusters fan or just want a more interesting take on a youth-aimed comic, I would go to e-bay or search the back bins where you buy comics and check this series out.
So now that I talked about the comic, lets talk about the cartoon. In 1975, Filmation (who animated The New Adventures of Batman, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and much more) did a live-action TV series called The Ghostbusters. It was a TV comedy with 2 guys, Kong and Spencer (played by Forest Tucker and Larry Storch portraying similar parts to the ones they played on F Troop) along with their pet ape Tracy, running an agency which investigates and gets rid of ghosts. In 1984, Columbia Pictures purchased the rights to use the title for a new unrelated film directed by Ivan Reitman, titled Ghostbusters. With the film from Columbia a hit and Filmation having a hit with pioneering a 65-episode syndicated animated series, with He-Man and The Masters of the Universe (which had never been done before this point), they decided to take their original Ghostbusters concept and turn it into their next big 65-episode animated series. In early 1986, Ghostbusters (or Filmation’s Ghostbusters) began to air in 80 percent of the syndicated market in the United States.
The new cartoon series told the story of Jake and Eddie (sons of the original Ghostbuster from the 1975 show) who reluctantly take over their father’s business and with the help of family pet gorilla Tracy, bust ghosts. The evil Prime Evil and his army of monsters, ghosts and ghouls attempt to take over/ruin Earth throughout all of time (Prime Evil and his minions created to be like Skeletor and his cronies for the same multi-toy marketing machine formula). The Ghostbusters use their talking Ghost Buggy and travel through time to battle evil.
The series is fantastic. The animation is great (and 100 percent done in America which was one of the things Filmation prided itself on). Every episode gave us this fantastic transformation sequence where the Ghostbusters are pulled into a weird pseudo-dimension, with all this Heavy Metal-esque art for backgrounds, as they ride a conveyor-belt made of skeleton bones, to change into their ghostbusting outfits.
The scripts are great. As with any 65-episode series, you hit one or two duds but a majority are just quality (some of the Filmation writers would move onto writing for series like Tailspin or Batman: The Animated Series) and give us not only plenty of horror themed tales in good old 1986, but also adventures with demons and dinosaurs in the stone age, and cyber-ghouls in the far-far future.
Over all this is one of the better animated TV shows of the past and all the episodes are available in 2 DVD sets from Ink and Paint.
That’s it for this time. I’m off with Mr.Gobbles on a submarine ride to incur fun and anarchy, a la Latitude Zero! See you in 2 weeks my friends!