Written by Jonathan Wojcik
THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS:
Standing Room Only
Last year, we looked at over a hundred minor "Real Ghostbusters" ghosts across several pages, but I never quite got around to covering some of my favorite episodes in terms of sheer ghost-to-human ratio.
The episode Standing Room Only is from the later, poorly written seasons of the series, but the creature designs, conversely, are of top quality. It all starts with the awakening of a creature called a Meekrah, seen here, which actually eats ghosts, presumably annihilating them. That's an awesome concept in itself, and the creature looks every bit as wild as you would expect something with such an unnatural diet, a sort of giant jellyfish with a bell of crackling, red energy and a bobbing, one-eyed core with teeth! Everything about this design is just killer.
Due to the Meekrah's awakening, terrified ghosts actually seek out the safety of the Ghostbuster's containment unit, and crowd the firehouse by the hundreds - which is where the art direction really kicks into overdrive. We won't be going over every ghost seen, but there are quite a few worthy of mention...
We'll get to some of the other ghosts here in a couple of other scenes, but first, let's talk about that amazing yellow whatsit. It seems to have a blobby, almost featureless body with a toothy mouth, four extremely thin, bony limbs, and a single eyestalk with three sucker-tipped "fingers" emerging from between its legs. This thing's mating ritual has to be bonkers.
Of course there's also something to be said of this being with an amorphous clump of eyes for a head, which is even cuter on a humanoid wearing an ordinary turtleneck sweater. No pants, though. I guess this ghost subscribes to a Cartoon Animal dress code.
Here, we have the first of what would be an inordinate amount of skeletons in this episode, if an inordinate amount of skeletons was even theoretically possible. We also get a good look at one of my other favorites, with the almost platypus-like skull and more teeth than it knows what to do with.
Skeleton #2: toothless man with baseball hat.
The big, blue thing in the foreground is actually a stock ghost that's appeared many times in the show, but never in a prominent role. It even appeared in the short series pilot! I've always loved its strangely high-tech looking goggle eyes, flashlight antennae, bow tie and giant teeth. It's just so outlandishly goofy, but at the same time, pretty damn spooky.
I'm sure what grabs most people's attention here, though, is probably the lipstick-wearing chestburster-dragonfish phantasm on the left.
A lot to take in with this crowd. From left to right, there's a creepy, noseless and toothless ghoul, a preying mantis, a red...robot man?...a ghoulish dodo bird and skeleton #3 and #4, Demonic Horse and Baseball Player!
As the scene pans across the same horde, we get skeletons #5 and 6: French Waiter and Old West Sheriff, but don't miss the unsettlingly large rabbit or Upright Green Fish either, both lovely this time of year.
Skeleton #7: Shark Attack Victim is pretty cool, but so is his messed-up grinch friend with head fingers. It's hard to say which one commands more of your attention.
These two blue ghosts are interesting, since they appear together throughout and differ only very slightly. One has bigger gums, the other has arms. Is that a trade-off? Maybe it is to them, I don't know. Behind the one with the arms is something weird as hell the more I look at it. It almost looks like it has the proboscis of a cicada under a human-like nose.
Look at that thing on the left here. Look at it. A lanky green man with bright orange fur, a pterosaur skull and what I can only describe as malformed Mickey Mouse ears. You can almost see the artist running out of steam as they scribble their way through the rest of these goofballs...or maybe someone else did those?
Skeleton #8: Dead Grandma comes with some fresh looks at a few other favorites, and one of the pinkish, sucker-toed, many-armed "martians" seen more than once in the episode. They're the ones that immediately stood out to me as a kid, joining the ranks of innumerable other series ghosts I'd draw over and over in magic marker.
There's also a red goblin that either loves baseball or loves beating heads in. That bat is translucent, too; it's a GHOST bat!
A nice look at the armless blue ghost here, as well as a yellow critter with an upside-down face and a nerdy dead girl.
And in our last shot, we've got skeleton #10, Cloaked Demon Skeleton, a creepy little mannequin-like guy and....
...and a goddamn HATTIFATTENER from the goddamn Moomins. How's THAT for a cameo!? Most of you don't even know what that is! Most of us back then didn't know what that was, not in America anyway! Though Everett Peck designed most of the show's ghosts early on, this episode was well past the point at which they began letting overseas artists fill a lot of them in, so there's really no telling who decided to slip this in there.
That, I think, is the tragic part of all this. Mountains of clever character designs sometimes go into "background crowds" like these, to be overlooked and forgotten completely by most of the audience, but you still get the sense of someone pouring their heart into these characters, almost any one of which is a strong enough design to have carried a more focal role. In a five-second panorama of skeletons and weirdo crotch monsters, we're catching a glimpse of someone's artistic soul...and we may never even know their name.
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