H.P. Lovecraft Week: Ian Rogers on The Real Ghostbusters — The Collect Call of Cathulhu

My first exposure to H.P. Lovecraft didn’t come from his stories, but rather a cartoon that aired back in the 1980s called The Real Ghostbusters. This was, of course, an animated series based on the popular film about a band of ghost-hunters-for-hire operating out of an old firehall in New York City.

In “The Collect Call of Cathulhu,” the Ghostbusters investigate the theft of the Necronomicon from Miskatonic University. It turns out a cult stole the book in order to summon one of the Great Old Ones, a very familiar tentacle-faced behemoth by the name of Cathulhu.

After a battle with the Spawn of Cathulhu in the sewers of New York City, the Ghostbusters head up to Arkham to meet with Alice Derleth. In the basement of Wagner’s Occult Shop, the Ghostbusters interrupt the Cult of Cathulhu who are in the process of using the Necronomicon to perform a ritual. The cult summons a shoggoth and splits with the book while the Ghostbusters are distracted.

Ray remembers an old issue of Weird Tales that described how to defeat Cathulhu, so the Ghostbusters head to the home of Mr. Howard, who used to lend books to Ray when he was a kid. The Ghostbusters spend several hours searching the old man’s collection, but it’s Alice Derleth who finds the story, “The Horror from the Depths.” Egon determines that the best place for the cult to summon Cathulhu would be near Coney Island. Venkman remarks, “Something that looks like Godzilla wearing a giant octopus hat won’t be hard to find.”

The Ghostbusters arrive just as the cult succeeds in raising Cathulhu. Their proton packs prove useless against the powerful entity. Even Alice Derleth’s magic spells aren’t strong enough to affect it. Ray turns to the story in the magazine, which says that Cathulhu was destroyed by a huge blast of electricity. Did it work? Ray doesn’t know, the last page of the story is missing (natch). The Ghostbusters lure Cathulhu to the Coney Island rollercoaster and… well, it’s a children’s cartoon, so don’t expect too much blood and carnage.

Overall it’s a decent episode of a show that was actually very well written (helped in part by writers like J. Michael Straczynski). There are several nods to Lovecraft and his Mythos, and many of the characters are named after Lovecraftian writers, including a pair of librarians named Clark Ashton and Ted Klein. My favourite line goes to Egon when he says Cathulhu  makes Gozer looked like Little Mary Sunshine.

Also, I might be wrong, but I believe The Real Ghostbusters features the only instance of one of Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones showing up on a children’s cartoon.

2 Replies to “H.P. Lovecraft Week: Ian Rogers on The Real Ghostbusters — The Collect Call of Cathulhu”

  1. This episode was most likely the first time I was exposed to Lovecraft, considering The Real Ghostbusters was practically the only show I watched as a child. I watched the episode a few months ago, and had a hell of a flashback.

  2. Mythos gods (though often un-named, or named in a “non-infringing” way) have shown up on many cartoons. In the 90’s we have appearances of Mythos creatures in the cartoons Freakazoid, and the Animated Superman Adventures (Season 2 episode 20 “Hand of Karkull”). Later we have even more mythos creatures and an elder god (looking like the head of Cthulhu himself) show up in Justice League Unlimited (episodes 41 and 42 “The Terror Beyond”). We also have a very mythos creature show up in Ben 10 Ultimate Alien, and though the name is slightly altered, it is making clear references to the Mythos god Dagon. These are just the ones that pop into my head quickly, though I am sure of others as well.

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