SPACE NINJA ALIEN BALTAN
Written by Jonathan Wojcik
We're going straight from a heart-wrenchingly tragic figure to one generally only seen as rad and awesome, but not without a twinge of sadness (in my opinion, anyway) and perhaps more eeriness than it's appreciated for. Alien Baltan was actually the first alien to ever do battle with an Ultrahero and has remained the franchise's most famous monster ever since, treated by countless media appearances as the go-to foil of any given Ultra.
In its debut appearance, a single Baltan takes possession of a human being in order to infiltrate a scientific facility and steal various materials. When finally found out and confronted, the entity states that it requires parts to repair its spaceship, actually an escape vessel which had to make an emergency landing on the planet Earth. When the humans offer to help, it says that it no longer needs to fix the ship, because its people have found Earth to be a suitable new home after the destruction of their own world.
Unfortunately, there are two problems with this: first, they are the ones who destroyed their planet through reckless experimentation with atomic weapons. Second, there are over two billion of them aboard the ship in microscopic size. Once on Earth, all 2.3 billion intend to restore their full size and pick up life where they left off, nuclear testing and all. When they're told that this probably isn't a sustainable way for them to share the planet with Earth, Baltan makes very clear that they have no intention of sharing at all, and calls forth more of its species to merge with it into a single giant-sized individual.
It's a rather typical alien invasion story for its time, with a stern warning thrown in about nuclear technology, but the Baltan race burned itself into the memories of young viewers for just how remarkably ominous they were.
Besides their aforementioned abilities to possess human beings and fuse into giants, these "space ninjas" can also create illusionary duplicates of themselves, they can shed their skins to regenerate damage, they can fly, they can teleport instantaneously, they can fire destructive white beams from their claws, they can fire a red beam that freezes people in place, and that's all just in this first appearance alone. In addition to this array of treacherous and phantasmal powers, they are also very well remembered for their signature laugh:
This nightmarish chuckling is actually a recycled sound clip from the Toho horror movie Matango, in which humans slowly transform into giant, laughing mushrooms. It was a creepy as hell laugh from infected fungus people, and it's a creepy as hell laugh from a shadowy alien cyborg.
We won't go over every single reappearance by these aliens, but we will go over a few, just to give you an idea of how their many incarnations go. The second Baltan made heavy use of telepathy to communicate with humans, and in addition to its classic powers, it could emit light from its claws that generated "gravity storms," project an energy shield, and open its chest to deflect enemy beam attacks with a set of mirrored panels.
In another later series, a younger "Baltan Jr." would appear, the son of one of the Baltan Ultraman killed in their original appearance. Though apparently less powerful than a fully grown Baltan, this Baltan could launch small rockets from its pincers, transform into a flying fireball, spray a freezing gas, and generate pools of red fluid that act as portals to an entire "shadow world."
Skipping ahead a couple, Powered Baltan here might be the most frightening looking Baltan design, and appropriately enough added one of their nastier attacks; plain old blinding, poisonous spit!
There are probably a dozen or more additional variants on Baltan, not all of which are even bad guys, but check out this thing from an Ultraman stage show; while many normal Baltan can merge into the giant ones we keep seeing, this outlandish heap of bugs comes from the fusion of multiple giant ones, naturally.
Baltan isn't exactly a "horrifying" or "disturbing" monster, and even its borderline ghost-like abilities are rather typical of Ultra alien villains, but Baltan belongs here for being one of the franchise's most enduring and menacing antagonists.
Please also consider enjoying this Ultraman Kids special in which Baltan is just a spoiled, wealthy kindergarten bully. It's neither dubbed nor subtitled, but the story is easy enough to follow regardless, and you'll get to see Baltan in at least the first five minutes. Don't feel too bad for the bird kid; that's Alien Guts... most famous for killing and then crucifying an Ultra. Haha.
Tomorrow, we start looking at a more obscure selection of much more explicitly gruesome and creepy Ultra foes. Get ready for bloodsucking parasites, cosmic horrors, and skyscraper-sized reanimated corpses for the rest of the month!