This monthly installment of Scooby-Doo Team-Up promises to be The One You Keep Forever, dropping as it does just two months after the death of 54 year-old Space Ghost Coast to Coast animator and voice artist Clay Martin Croker. Issue #20 teams the members of Mystery, Inc. with Space Ghost and his trusty companions, Jan, Jayce, and pet monkey Blip. Space Ghost and his friends take Fred, Velma, Daphne, Shaggy, and Scooby on an out-of-this-world* adventure, to thwart two of Space Ghost’s most determined nemeses (when not sidekicks), Moltar and Zorak.
(*I really could not resist. Groaners are a big part of the reason why Scooby-Doo is so much fun.)
Rated E for Everyone, this is all-ages entertainment that will delight the children while ensuring plenty of inside jokes to entertain the adult reader. (There is even a wry, now tender slap at Space Ghost Coast to Coast). The poignancy of the timing of Team-Up #20 will lead many adult readers, this one included, to read once again with the eyes of that inner child, the one from long ago that first saw Scooby-Doo and discovered a beloved friend, one that has lasted a lifetime.
What’s Happening: Emergency! The Department of Astrophysical Research needs Mystery, Inc.! The kids rush from the beach to answer the call, not even stopping to change clothes on the way. Shaggy still has his beach ball!
Why the rush? The situation is tense. Every astrophysics lab on Earth has received the same message. An extraterrestrial attack is imminent! Some sort of phantom is coming!
Daphne suggests, with Occam’s razor-like precision, that the message could be a hoax. But just as she makes this point, the phantom arrives. It’s Space Ghost!
Scooby and the kids don’t know Space Ghost, of course, but that’s as it should be. Mistaken identity means a comedy of errors, provided here by great physical comedy from Shaggy and Scoob. Eventually, Space Ghost successfully establishes common ground with the humans, everyone calms down, and a plan is made.
The Writing: Sholly Fisch has an ear for the patterns and banter of the original series. The dialogue is light-hearted. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. The 1960s modernism of the originals is intact. Fisch is the “straight man” of the team, telling the story in a simple style, using plain, clean sentences. The mystery, and the strategy the heroes use to defeat the villains, is mostly transparent to the adult reader, but it will surprise and delight the children.
Yet Fisch isn’t shy of using a little dollop of postmodern sensibility to poke sly fun at each series’ repetitive tropes. Jan and Jayce admit, without bitterness, that they get taken hostage a lot. Shaggy has an anxiety attack over every plot development. There is a surplus of meddling kids. Yes! This is what we do! Every time! And we love it.
This nostalgic wink-and-a-nod is what gives the characters their authenticity. It casts longtime fans as insiders. We say, “I know, right?” We roll our eyes. And it’s with a smile.
The Artwork: Dario Brizuela and Franco Riesco faithfully recreate the original Hanna Barbara characters, without forgetting that their readership has HD-trained eyes. The lines are sharp and clear, the colors, vivid. The whole thing has the feel of a coloring book called to action.
Where Fisch is the straight man, Dario Brizuela and Franco Riesco (artist and colorist) are the comedians. The physical comedy gets the biggest laughs, and that is to Brizuela’s and Riesco’s credit, because physical comedy is purely visual. It can be enhanced with a sound effect or a well-placed comment, but here, all of the falling, flying, running, tumbling, and cringing earns a lot of unassisted laughs.
The Verdict: Scooby-Doo Team-Up #20 is dedicated to the memories of Don Messick and C. Martin Croker. Messick (1926-1997) was a prolific voice artist who originated Zorak and Moltar in Space Ghost (1966-1968), and was the original Scooby-Doo, voicing our old buddy, old pal from 1969-1994.
Croker (1962-2016) was an animator and voice artist who voiced Zorak and Moltar on Space Ghost Coast to Coast (1994-2008), for which he was also principal animator. Croker was only 54 when he died two months ago. It is a tragic loss. I do not know if this issue was planned before his death, but as a tribute, it could not be lovelier. Well done, DC, for so many reasons, and thank you.