31 Days of Monsters: #4, Zombie Pirates are 50% nerd gold!

By Shawn Robare

Welcome back to my 31 Days of Monsters Halloween countdown!  I’m counting down 31 of my favorite monsters from the Real Ghostbusters cartoon.   These animation cels are culled from my personal collection, and my wife and I tried our best to put them in a not-so-scary to really-freaking-creepy kind of order with the creepiest falling on All Hallows Eve.  

Today’s monster evokes one-fourth of the nerd hierarchy of the most important creatures/beings on the planet, the pirate (rounded out by monkeys, ninjas, and zombies.)  Actually he’s also a skeletal, un-dead, zombie-pirate to boot.  Considering I posted a very monkey-like Yeti yesterday, I’m well on my way in working in three-fourths of the nerd-approved gold standard into this countdown.  Now, if I could only find a ninja monster/ghost I’d be set…

When I picked this one up there were a few zombie pirate themed cels to choose from, but there was something about this little guy that really jumped out at me.  Though I love his fiendish throttling of the parrot, but I also dig the slightly sardonic smirk that’s creeping into his expression.  I always dig it when animators find ways to make a skeleton’s grin malleable enough to show some emotion, something the Filmation artists did with expert glee when drawing Skeletor for the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon.  This is another example, which is skewed just enough to show how much this guy loves choking that bird, but not so much as to make the jaw bone lose it’s rigid definition.

This is the skeleton of Captain Jack Higgins, the leader of the scurvy crew of zombie pirates in episode #17, Sea Fright, which made it’s debut in 1986.  As you can see from the screen capture below, my cel is missing a couple layers of proton pack blasting energy, as well as the background, but those are both a little tough to come by.  Capt. Jack is a millisecond away from being sucked into a ghost trap, and wants to make sure his parrot comes with.  If nothing else, the above cel is the clearest depiction of this scene because it’s unobstructed…

Also, in the pencil under-drawing below there is a bit of a childhood fascination of mine with the Asian text crammed into the empty spaces between the parrot and Capt. Jack annotating where no color is needed and the cel needs to remain transparent.  There’s a weird regressive wonder at work in my brain when I see other languages in print, particularly the non-romance/Latin based languages like Sanskrit, Cyrillic, or the various Asian characters.  I realize that highlights my un-traveled, slightly isolationist (if only because these written languages take on an almost runic quality to me) attitude towards other cultures, but it’s a fascination I can’t help but wear on my sleeve…

Anyway, make sure to come back tomorrow for another installment of the 31 Days of Monsters here at Branded in the 80s.  Also, you can head on over to the Countdown to Halloween and check out lists of a bunch of other sites participating in this year’s Halloween blogging event.   See you guys tomorrow…