Give Conan the barbarian a flat bladed lightsaber, team him with a Wookie knockoff and the Sorceress from He-Man and put them on a post-apocalyptic Earth. Congratulations, Jack Kirby , you’ve just made Saturday morning a little more awesome!
Thundarr The Barbarian was just fun and a half. The perfect boys show (which is why that episode that was so obviously a backdoor pilot for a girls show was just odd. Also it was about supermodels brought from the past and given angel powers so…) It’s rare to see a post-apocalyptic show go the fantasy route instead of science fiction or Mad Max but they not only did it but did it well. You know what else they did well? The narrated intro. And this is from Ruby-Spears, the same guys we yelled at yesterday for Plastic Man‘s lame opening. So what did they do right here? Besides putting Jack Kirby on it? (Yes, THAT Jack Kirby, who did other work for Ruby-Spears, including Goldie Gold & Action Jack.)
While Plastic Man‘s intro sounded more like a promotional video than a TV show opening, Thundarr gets it right by having the narrator dramatically tell a story. The intro explains everything important to just fall into the adventure, that the show takes place 2000 years after the Earth is devastated. (Which if you think about it is rather dark for a Saturday morning cartoon. I doubt that city was evacuated.) It introduces the three heroes (Thundarr, Ariel, and Ookla), the plot device (the Sunsword), and the world they all exist in. In the show, wizards control various areas of the country and mistreat the local survivors of the decedents. And each of them are pretty weird, like that guy who changes faces like a modern LEGO minifigure.
The intro isn’t trying to sell you on the episode. That’s its job, sure, but it’s not supposed to be as obvious as Plastic Man had. Even the Filmation shows were explaining things, but they never felt like they were telling a story, just giving us exposition. Do you understand what I mean? Because I’m not sure how to explain the difference between exposition and storytelling except to say that the former doesn’t draw you in nearly as well.
And now look to the comments as my friend Sean talks about how awesome the show was, and he will be totally right. The complete series is available on DVD from Warner Archive and Amazon so look it up. I will when I can afford to.
Yes, Thundarr the Barbarian was an awesome show. I enjoyed it as a kid, the show kept my interest. And you’re right, it is kind of a mix of Star Wars, Conan, and other things. Shows like Thundarr the Barbarian, Blackstar, Masters of the Universe, and Thundercats work out well because they are all a mix of fantasy and science fiction to varying degrees.
Also, Galtar and the Golden Lance cartoon and Pirates of Dark Water need to be added to my list of high quality cartoons that excel at combining elements of fantasy and science fiction. The heat must have fried my brain last night when I forgot to add those two shows to my list from above. Stay cool and hydrated!