Tonight's guest review from Jim Alexander doesn't cover just one bust - it
covers three! Okay, so one's a bust and two are statues, but they are
all Space Ghost related. Take it away, Jim!
Jim here, with my second review for Michael’s site. My first review was for Art Asylum’s excellent ‘Wave One’ of the Classic Star Trek action figures. This time, it’s for another 60’s icon: Space Ghost (and “friends”). When I was 7, it would have been impossible to find another two programs that I was crazier about than Star Trek or the old animated Space Ghost series. In my humble opinion, the 1966-1969 era was impossible to beat when it came to creating TV shows that stirred the imagination!
He was “The Guardian of the Galaxies“ and the “Protector of the Spaceways.” For those of you too young to remember (or who haven’t come out of your Space Cave long enough to’ve seen the reruns of “The Space Ghost and Dino Boy Show” on the Boomerang cable network), Space Ghost was a Hanna-Barbera Cartoon that first aired on CBS, September 10th, 1966. Two 8-minute Space Ghost episodes
book ended with another cartoon called “Dinoboy In The Lost Valley.” The original version of Space Ghost saw him as a ‘serious’ intergalactic
crime fighter who had the power of invisibility, a pair of ‘Power Bands’ which projected
force fields, and various rays that the plot called for in any given episode. Accompanied by twins Jan, Jace, and pet monkey Blip, the four battled villains such as Zorak, Metallus, Lokar, Moltar, The Spider-Woman, The Evil Collector, and other fiends. Running for an abbreviated two years, word has it that parental groups complaining of the increasing violence on Saturday Morning TV cut short the run of Space Ghost, and shows of similar ilk. The last episode aired on September 7th, 1968. For those of you eager enough for even MORE info, there’s a nice Space Ghost FAQ at:
Likely, most of you younguns’ now know the character as the late-night talk show host of Space Ghost: Coast to Coast on Cartoon Network, and may’ve never had an inkling that the character has not only been around for 38 years--but is also credited as being designed by renowned artist Alex Toth. Toth is a man with a vast and respected career; spanning comic book work since the early 1940’s, animation work for Hanna-Barbara in the 60’s and 70‘s, and who still remains active in the comics field today--albeit in a more limited fashion. Fans of Toth’s work maintain a
web page devoted to him at www.tothfans.com
Anyone who’s aware of his involvement with the character knows that Toth, self-admittedly a crusty, curmudgeonly, and opinionated old bastard, isn’t keen on people who compliment him on his connection to Space Ghost. To paraphrase Toth, his contribution to the character wasn’t much more than “creation by committee,” and he will only begrudgingly accept his connection to the animated icon. For a bit on what Toth has to say about his involvement with Space Ghost, punch up:
So when I read that a new Space Ghost bust was being released--and that it was signed by Alex Toth--well, you could have knocked me over with a, er... Feather Ray. Knowing a bit about Toth--a man with strong principles--he doesn’t seem the type to “take the money and run.” After years of seeing him disavow much of a connection to the character, I found it hard to believe he was accepting a paycheck to sit inside his studio signing 2,500 Space Ghost busts for Cartoon Network. And yet... the ads said that they were signed. Well, since it was Space Ghost (!), I would have bought the bust anyway, but seeing as it was “Signed by Alex Toth,” I’d have given my eye teeth for one!
The above overview isn’t because I’m being paid by the word; it (well, some of it, anyway) figures prominently in the following review:
Packaging - **1/2
Sealed cardboard boxes. No windows. We aren’t given the opportunity to see the specific statues that we’re buying. Is it broken inside? How’re the individual paint jobs? Did they use ‘gloss’ paints or ‘flats?’ We don’t know without buying and opening up the suckers. The
Styrofoam inserts are secure and hold the figures well. All of mine arrived through different sources and survived their journeys intact. Sturdy, but unrevealing as to what’s inside. The box graphics are colorful, with nice photos of the painted prototypes, line art of the characters, descriptions of what’s inside, and some semi-witty text. The only ‘extra’ that each statue includes is a small, slick, cardboard ‘Certificate of Authenticity’ card that describes each character’s traits (as they are in the Space Ghost: Coast-to-Coast universe), and the statue’s dimensions.
Sculpting - Space Ghost **1/2; Zorak ****; Brak ***
There were two ways that sculptor Ruben Procopio could have been instructed to go with his assignment: the more ‘serious’ 1966 version of Space Ghost, or the ‘idiot’ Coast-to-Coast persona. Yes, the character has the same LOOK in both of the series, but is generally represented as being behind his Talk Show desk in the latter (as with his ToyCom/Art Asylum action figure). I was relieved to find that the sculpt boasts a ‘serious’ Space Ghost. In fact, sculptor Procopio has our hero positively scowling! EXCELLENT! No ‘idiot’ or ‘desk’ HERE! There already exists a Limited-Edition full-figure Space Ghost maquette, so I guess Cartoon Network wanted to go a different route with this; hence this bust. It isn’t very detailed (but then, because of animation limitations, neither was Space Ghost). Interpretations of the character vary slightly as Space Ghost was animated by different artists... but this sculpt is relatively ‘on character’ as they say in animation. Toth’s version may have seen SG’s chin a bit more prominent, but I don’t have a problem with what’s here. Some animation drawings have the cape connecting to the triangular chest insignia with a mere ‘point’, but Procopio has a broader connection to the insignia. The Ghost’s diaphanous cape seems to have an odd flair over the shoulders, and doesn’t look like a gentle slope but more like a hard metal ridge; an odd choice to be sure. My perception is that the eye-slits are somewhat too long, and upsweep a bit too much--like Batman‘s--but it’s not a huge deal. However, I’m NOT keen on the ‘Metal Rivets’ base OR the under-the-chest slope that connects to it. It takes up more than a third of the sculpt. I think that seeing more of the character himself would have been preferred. It doesn‘t detract much, but neither does it add anything. And what’s this ‘Rivet’ thing all about? In checking, it’s possible that Space Ghost’s less-sophisticated villains may have used such an un-technological way of connecting metal-to-metal, but our hero was all about graceful lines and seamless design. I’ll give’ya $5 for every rivet you can find on the Space Ghost’s ship The Phantom Cruiser or inside his secret base on The Ghost Planet! You think I’m being picky about the rivets? No more so that seeing Batman sculpted around some kind’a lizard-skin base, or Superman surrounded by lace and bows. It seems inappropriate for the character to me. A choice was made, and I think there could have been a much better one. The bust measures approximately 8.5 inches high, 7 inches wide, and 6 inches deep.
No doubt about it. Zorak is the stand-out, here. In relation to Procopio‘s Space Ghost, Zorak’s sculptor Tony Cipriano (who sculpted the excellent aforementioned Space Ghost full-figure maquette) makes ALL the right choices. Hunched over in an oh-so-evil stance, Zorak is perfectly reminiscent of his very first appearance on the premiere episode of the 1966 show, appropriately entitled “Zorak.” The huge white eyes and the very small pupils. The three-fingers menacingly dancing across those on his opposite pincer, er... hand. The more-than-pencil-thin arms, legs, ankles and wrists. This much have been a BEAR to sculpt. Frankly, with all of the very slender joints (especially the ankles), I’d be surprised if more of these didn’t arrive to their owners broken. But this one has not. Perhaps there’re good wire supports underneath? Regardless, the Zorak figure is perfect in every way. The stance. The glare. The proportion. The character’s look has been ‘softened’ lately for the Coast-to-Coast show (smaller eyes, larger pupils, and less of a ‘hunch’), but Cipriano’s interpretation is the original 1966 Zorak. Kudos. The addition of two plastic wire antennae are a huge plus, and really ‘make’ the entire figure. A perfect ****. Zorak is 9 and 1/4 inches high, 6 inches wide, and 7 and 1/4 inches deep.
Oh, the ever-popular Brak. Like Space Ghost, he even has his own Cartoon Network show (though not for long--it wasn’t picked up for 2004). No one, but NO one in the Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast universe could possibly more moronic. Voiced by the hilarious Andy Merrill, Brak was originally given voice in 1966 by character actor Keye Luke (Master Po in the ’Kung Fu’ TV Series). While the Brak sculpt isn’t the piece’a perfection that Zorak is, he is good. I don’t care as much for the pose; somehow, it looks to me as if he’s been caught off-guard. Sculptor Cipriano keeps the proportions proper, and the look of the character intact. Described as a “cat-monkey” on the box, Brak is (and always has been) an odd-lookin’ duck. I particularly like the folds that Cipriano has put in opposite the ankles and at the bends in the hips. The sculpt is clean and has nice curves and lines. Brak is 8 and 3/4 inches high, 7 and 1/4 inches wide, and 4 and 1/2 inches deep. Cipriano’s signature is sculpted into the Brak and Zorak figures’ bases, but unlike Procopio, I don’t see credit given to him on the enclosed Certificate of Authenticity cards OR the box exterior. Cipriano has a
site, and it says that Cipriano is an animation artist and sculptor, and his credits include Academy Award™ nominated "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin," "Pocahontas," "Hunchback of Notre Dame," "Mulan," and "Tarzan." Cool!
Paint - Space Ghost **1/2; Zorak ***1/2; Brak ***
A mix of gloss and flat paints have been used on Space Ghost (I‘m referring to them as flat, but they have a bit of a dull sheen to them--so perhaps ‘satin‘ or ‘semi-gloss‘ would be a more appropriate term?). His cowl and chest insignia are gloss, while everything else has been done in flat. Why gloss on the cowl? I dunno. Maybe someone thinks that cowl is made of metal? If so, it must be hell for SG to turn his head. All colors here are solid, except for the lips, which were given the slightest hint of airbrushing in a darker peach color. The line between the black of the cowl and yellow of the cape isn’t terribly smooth, but this is the only paint-application problem I see. Some sources--even in the original show--colored the ‘eyes’ in his chest insignia white, while others were an inconsistent yellow. These are yellow. And just as I dislike the ‘rivets’ treatment, I equally abhor the red color with which the triangular base is painted. Blech.
A great paint application for an incredible sculpt. It would’a been horrible if they’d have ruined it with a poor paintjob. All paints used are flat, except for the yellow on Zorak’s boots and gloves. While that’s a good choice, it’s obvious to me that they should have made Zorak’s eye-whites gloss, too. The yellow used in the boots/gloves veers towards green and away from a warmer yellow, in contrast to the way it was in Zorak’s first animated appearance, but that’s not a huge issue. And the fact that they reversed the black of his belt and the blue of his briefs isn’t either. Only a geek (like me--who watched the original 1966 episode in order to check the authenticity of the colors) would know that. And since the Cartoon Network animators utilize various 1966 show footage in order to cobble together the low-budget Coast-to-Coast cartoons, and the colors of Zorak’s uniform changes all the time anyway (it’s always been a running gag), it kind of adds to the joke. There’s a nice bit of wash used on the textured rock-base on which Zorak’s standing.
Nice color choices are used for Brak. The reds are warmer, the yellow in the helmet/headdress has some orange in it, the green in the eyes have some yellow, and the blues are a bit chalky--none are standard hues, and that adds to the off-kilter appearance of the character. All colors are flat and solid, except for the wash used on the rock-base. All lines are clean, and paint application is even and smooth.
Quality - Space Ghost ***; Zorak and Brak ***1/2
I was pleased with what I received for my money, except for one GLARING problem (see Value, below). Slightly MORE pleased with Zorak and Brak than with Space Ghost. For an old Space Ghost fan like myself, it’s nice to finally own sculpts of my favorite childhood characters. But I suppose for YOUNGER fans of Space Ghost: Coast-to-Coast, these would do quite well, too. I think the value--what you’re getting for your money--is more evident in the full-figure sculpts than in the bust, as I personally enjoy the full-figures more. But with the prevalence of the DC, Marvel and Simpsons busts these days, perhaps a lot of you guys out there, prefer, um... busts, more. ;)
Value - Space Ghost **; Zorak ***1/2; Brak ***
All right. Here’s what I’ve been waiting for; the chance to sound off about what I perceive to be a pretty crappy piece of false advertising. Yup... that’s what I said. False advertising. As you can see from the accompanying pics, the Space Ghost bust is reputed to be “signed and approved” by Alex Toth. Now that’s what it says in the trade ads, on the box, and on the enclosed Certificate of Authenticity cards. Now when you read that, what does that mean to you? Chances are, you’d envision the “signed” part to mean that Toth has signed each of the busts somewhere upon the sculpt or the base. Correct? “Signed by Alex Toth.” It SEEMS pretty clear, doesn’t it? Well apparently, that phrase interprets “signed” as meaning that a 3-D facsimile of Toth’s signature is pressed into the initial sculpture, and therefore reproduced on each of the copies. If Alex Toth has “signed” my Space Ghost bust, then I guess that Bob Kane has “signed” all of the old Batman comics in my collection and Secretary of the Treasury Robert E. Rubin has “signed” all the $20’s in my wallet! When I read in the trade ads that Alex Toth had “signed (and approved)” the Space Ghost busts, I believed--and reasonably so I think--that a Toth signature was part of what I would be purchasing when I bought the bust. And therefore I was satisfied to pay a bit more than what I normally would--because I understood that it was to be “SIGNED and approved” by the character’s creator. And unless Toth chiseled his 3-D signature into each bust... It is NOT signed. And I think that that’s a misrepresentation of what you’re purchasing. False advertising--pure and simple. Now, each Certificate of Authenticity is “signed” by Mike Lazzo--the high-falutin‘ “Senior Vice President of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim”--so I’m blamin’ HIM for the false advertising, personally. If I had an e-mail address for the rat-bastich, then you can be sure I’d put it in this review in the hopes that you’d write him and tell him that he stinks. But I don’t. Crap. I only hope that some of the cash that people are paying for these statues (and ESPECIALLY for the “signed” Space Ghost bust) is going right into his pockets--to feed Missus Lazzo and all the Little Lazzos.
As for the Zorak and Brak statues, I think that they’re DANDY values for the money. ESPECIALLY since they’re “signed” by Tony Cipriano on the back! ;) So they’ve got THAT
EDITOR'S NOTE - I received this note from David Cook from TothFans.com:
"Alex did sign the original for Ruben. Ruben's his best pal and goes to see him at his house regularly. He undoubtedly took the original bust to Alex's house and had him sign them. Alex talks about Ruben all the time and let's me know what's news with him and what he's working on and where -- as long as it isn't secret. Yeah, we know he all hates Space Ghost, but we all know, too, that he'll step outside his skin for his pals. Toth's a man of principle, all right, but his number one principle is that he loves his friends."
Thanks for the info David!
Overall - Space Ghost **; Zorak ***1/2; Brak ***
Okay. You’re perceptive, and you’ve picked up on the fact that I’m kind’a cheesed off at the fact that I paid for a “signed” Toth bust. With counseling, I’ll get over it in time, and be able to look at the Space Ghost bust on my shelf and enjoy it. But while the sunuvagun is heavy, I can buy a brick for a dime. It’s a reasonable likeness of the character, and the paintjob is nice. But they’re retailing around $89. If I’d gotten a real Alex Toth signature--as I thought I was gonna--I’d have been happy with paying $70-$80 or so, as Toth’s signature is quite rare--even in comics circles. But Alex Toth hasn‘t been within 2,000 miles of my Space Ghost bust; never touched it or even laid eyes upon it. And even $70 is waaaay too much to pay without the sig. The slightly smaller DC and Marvel comics busts sell for about $40 less, and they have oodles more detail and artistry than the Space Ghost bust.
The full-figure sculpts of Zorak and Brak actually retail for LESS (around $59). And with the full-figure, I think you’re getting MORE for your money. And less money, more product--means a higher * rating in my review. So there.
Where to Buy:
These are available at some comic shops, and several on-line stores. I purchased mine from both comics shops and off of eBay, paying between $32 shipped (for Zorak, the prize of the lot), to $65 shipped (which rhymes with ‘gypped’) for Space Ghost.
Figures from the collection of