Friday, October 26, 2012

The Red Ghost!

I first beheld the malevolence of Ivan Kragoff and his "indescribable" Super-Apes on the old Hanna-Barbera Fantastic Four cartoon show. Later I was able to read their second comic book apperance in a Marvel Collector's Item Classics reprint of Fantastic Four #29.  It would be many years before I was able to catch a reprint of the Red Ghost's debut in Fantstic our #13, a masterly tale written by Stan Lee and drawn by the Silver Age Super-Team of Jack "King" Kirby and "Sturdy" Steve Ditko.

The Red Ghost and his gang of Apes were just the right blend of creepy and bizarre, a modern spin on Poe's classic "Murders in the Rue Morgue" but with Commies and cosmic radiation and the nation's obsession to reach the Lunar landscape.  

Jack Kirby and Chic Stone

The Red Ghost and his  anthropoid allies didn't rate much cover attention in either of their two early FF appearances, though both covers are pretty nicely dramatic. The Ghost and his minions were the closest the FF ever came to confronting the "Red Menace"  which loomed so large in the early 60's.

George Tuska

Later with Commies becoming less a relevant part of the national texture,  the Red Ghost parts with his original trio of Super-Apes, find a new duo and some new powers to boot. In the pages of Iron Man he changes up his ability to become intangible and instead becomes all misty. I frankly thought the attempt to  juice him up was a fumble and his hip new duds were downright creepy. An old guy sporting that medallion put me in mind of scary old dudes like Timothy Leary and such like, oldsters trying to stay hip at painful costs.

Sal Buscema

Thankfully the look didn't last long in Marvel time. But it did linger long enough for the Red Ghost to be part of the smackingly awesome Avengers-Defenders Clash!

The Red Ghost is one of those Marvel baddies who gets lost in the shuffle, but who I really remember with the appropriate blend of proper villainous disdain and nostalgic warmth.

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  1. Late-60s Love Guru Kragoff is the double of Metamorpho's employer, Simon Stagg.

  2. They both rock the bald head with the frosty fur wings no doubt. I never thought of that. I didn't notice until you mentioned it, that Kragoff's hair tips up in his later renditions as opposed to draping down over his ears. Makes him look more potent...ahem...indeed.

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  3. It's a pity the Hanna-Barbera FF isn't available on DVD/BluRay.
    Alex Toth did a superb job of adapting/simplifying Kirby's designs and the voice work is nothing short of awesome with many dramatic radio-trained performers turning in great performances.
    (The limited animation itself is a little weak, but considering the volume of shows HB was doing for all three networks in 1967, it's remarkable it's as good as it is!)
    My personal favorite was "Galactus" with Ted (Lurch) Cassidy as Galactus and Vic (Outer Limits Narrator) Perrin as the Silver Surfer speeaking Stan Lee dialogue verbatim! Still sends chills down my spine!

  4. The first Red Ghost appearance I remember reading was FF 197. It's a really great issue with an epic battle between Mr. Fantastic and the Red Ghost on a spaceship.

    1. That was a visual feast for both characters--the Red Ghost giving a very good accounting of himself (and using a new ability, the power to make other objects intangible), as well as seeing Mr. Fantastic back in action after a long period of having lost his stretching abilities. Though I think my favorite scene was with an incredulous Dr. Doom, monitoring Reed's flight: "The abysmal fool is actually destroying himself!"

  5. Britt - Those H-B FF cartoons are awesome. I recorded them decades ago off of television and break them every several years or so to enjoy them over again. I'd love to see a DVD.

    Dave - I totally forgot that appearance. Thanks, it is a very cool comic from a period of the FF which often gets overlooked. The art and stories of that time were well above average.

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