So I was wandering around the interwebs last night – as is my wont – and I stumbled across a YouTube video that a friend had posted on his Facebook wall. Normally I’d be relatively dismissive, as, well, it’s Facebook after all, but it turns out that the guy found an old episode of The Real Ghostbusters animated television show from the 1980s that had been posted up. The title of the particular episode? “The Collect Call of Cthulhu.”
Now I don’t know how old my demographic is, but I know for sure that there’s a whole metric fuck ton of my friends that grew up in the 1980s that have fond, fond memories of this particular Saturday morning cartoon. While it may be hard to believe nowadays, Ghostbusters 1 and 2 were fucking huge pop culture sensations in the 80s. The Ghostbusters franchise was a movie tie-in marketing juggernaut, and while some of my favorite moments I spent as a kid have to do with going next door to our neighbors’ place with that plastic proton pack strapped to my back so we could chase each other around the property for hours, the absolute best thing to come out of Columbia Pictures was hands down without a doubt that cartoon. I’m talking the official one, not that bullshit knock-off one that they used to show on WPIX 11 because the title “Ghost Busters” wasn’t copyrighted and it was an existing IP from the 1970s, either.
I was pleasantly surprised to see how well that old episode held up, too. It came out in 1987, and I figured that in hindsight it would be fucking awful, like a lot of things that you watched as a kid are after seeing them again, but the writing was pretty damn tight for a kid’s show. Not only that, but the writers had an absolute field day with the Cthulhu Mythos, as the plot of the particular episode had Ray, Egon, Peter, and Winston chasing down a copy of the Necronomicon that was stolen from the New York Public Library by a bunch of cultists, and the episode had me right from the beginning; the opening scene began with a close-up of one of the stone lions at the steps as thunder and lightning split the sky (and no, before you ask, I don’t know if it was Patience or Fortitude).
Considering how my first published short story was a Cthulhu Mythos story set at Miskatonic University, this was right in my wheelhouse. I ate that episode up like it was crack cocaine, and I was giggling like an idiot every time there was a Mythos allusion. Right at the beginning, one of the pivotal characters in the episode was named Clark Ashton, an obvious nod to Mythos writer Clark Ashton Smith, while another character – a specialist flown in from good ol’ Miskatonic U – was named Alice Derleth, kind of a female version of August Derleth, the first publisher of HP Lovecraft‘s collected writings as well as being a Mythos author in his own right, and it might be a stretch, but a third character, the old kindly Mister Howard that provides the Ghostbusters with the information to stop the cultists before Great Cthulhu eats Coney Island, is most likely a nod to Robert E. Howard, famed creator of Conan and someone who had developed a close epistolary friendship with HP Lovecraft over the years.
So I’m watching this and absolutely enjoying the shit out of it, and once it’s over I’m absolutely convinced that whoever wrote this episode was the biggest goddamn literary genre geek on the planet. This sent me to IMDB to do some investigation in order to track down who wrote it, discovering someone who I’d never heard of – but turns out to be one of the most prolific genre television writers of the 1980s and 1990s, Michael Reaves.
Reaves apparently had his hands in nearly every noteworthy animated cartoon that aired over the span of those two decades, starting with episodes of the Super Friends and ending with Spider-Man Unlimited in 2001, and he’s still working steadily to this day, but I’m talking serious genre-defining shows like Gargoyles, Batman, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, Dungeons and Dragons, Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, not to mention penning one of my favorite Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes, too – mostly because he introduced The Traveler, who got Wesley Fucking Crusher off the show finally (no offense to the awesome Wil Wheaton, of course).
I’ve basically been a fan of this guy for 90 percent of my life, and I never knew it. I feel terrible that it took me this goddamn long to realize it. I’m fucking mortified, to be completely honest. Not only that, but he’s a published author, as he’s written several Star Wars novels either by himself or collaboratively with others. The tragic part is that he’s been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease for nearly twenty years! Sure he’s not as high profile as Michael J. Fox, but to be honest I’m a bigger fan of Reaves than I ever was of Marty McFly, considering how many hours of enjoyment of my life I spent in joyous contemplation of the shows he’s worked on over the years.
So here’s to you, Michael Reaves; you’re an awesome guy, and I’m proud to say that you’re one of my biggest literary influences. More people should know about your seriously impressive body of work. So do yourself a favor and watch something he’s worked on; better yet, check out his own website and enjoy basking in his glory. I know I will.
On a final note: Arsenio Hall played the voice of Winston Zeddmore on the Ghostbusters cartoon for all 91 goddamn episodes. What the fuck.