Thursday, September 7

Retro Animation Action

"Demon Dogs!!!"

One of the coolest cartoon shows I enjoyed during my youth was the Ruby-Spears cartoon Thundarr the Barbarian, an action-packed series set in a bleak future. As mentioned in the show's opener, a rogue comet passes between Earth and the Moon, causing worldwide destruction (of course, since this is a US cartoon, death isn't actually shown though obviously BILLIONS surely died). Centuries later, humans exist alongside mutants and other weird creatures in a new, violent and dangerous pre-historic/midieval world built on the bones of our time. Rising to power in this era are men and women calling themselves Wizards, capable of wielding sorcery, super-science (as per the show's literature) or a combination of both. Typically, these Wizards are evil and oppressive, enslaving any humans or innocent sentient beings unlucky enough to fall into their domains.

Emerging from a Wizard's slave pits is the titular Thundarr, a barbarian warrior who for one reason or another pledges himself to ridding the world of Wizards and protecting the remnants of mankind. Accompanied only by two other allies- the Chewbacca-like Ookla the Mok and the knowledgeable and beautiful Princess Ariel, Thundarr is off to fight for the freedom of mankind. It's unavoidable to mention Thundarr's uber-cool weapon of choice- the Sun Sword, a lightsabre-like weapon which allows Thundarr to kick Wizardly butt. The Sun Sword had one of the most awesome sound effects ever, and it's just a pity that there were never any Thundarr toys back then- I would have loved a Sun Sword toy. Darn.

Thundarr himself was your typical barbarian hero- course, rough and fearless and suitably LOUD. Chewie- I mean, Ookla speaks only in his growly language, so most of the articulate lines are said by the culture-savvy Ariel, who seems pretty well-versed in ancient customs and technology (modern-day stuff to us). A lot of the show's scant humor is taken from the ignorance of the main heroes to stuff we take for granted today. But then, Thundarr isn't a gag show- it's all about heroes battling monsters and magical villains in a post-apocalyptic earth.
Every episode saw Thundarr and friends battle a Wizard-of-the-Week. There is, in my recollection, only one actual recurring villain, the Wizard Gemini, who is actually one of the freakiest character designs in the show (and there were a TON of freaky designs for both characters and monsters in this show). For the most part, the animation of Thundarr were of high quality for the time. Comic fans will note that Thundarr's art and character designs bring to mind the art of comics legend Jack Kirby, and is similar in tone, mood and setting as Kirby's Kamandi, Last Boy on Earth. This is because Kirby DID actually work on the series, taking over with production design on Thundarr after the original artist, Alex Toth, left the project. Comic fans will then notice that the Wizard Gemini has a distinct resemblance to Darkseid, one of Kirby's creations.

Sadly, Thundarr lasted only for about a couple of seasons, with the second season being a bit shorter than the first. There was never really any closure. All we can assume is that Thundarr continues on his Wizardfighting days indefinitely... at least, until the time that he became a King by his own Hand. Perhaps someday, this tale will also be told. Hmm...

I'm glad to be able to find episodes online thanks to Bittorrent, so now I am able to rewatch Thundarr's adventures. Truly a cool relic of my youth that I should store and cherish even in these days of anime and CG-epics. Sometimes, it's just good to kick back and watch something from the good ol' days. Now, if only I could find episodes of Super Seven and Mighty Man and Yukk...

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