Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Thundarr the Barbarian

I'm reading: Thundarr the BarbarianTweet this!
Thundarr the Barbarian! In the year 1994 from out of space comes a runaway planet hurtling between the earth and the moon, unleashing cosmic destruction! Man's civilization is cast in ruin! 2000 years later, Earth is reborn. A strange new world rises from the old. A world of savagery, super-science, and sorcery! But one man bursts his bonds to fight for justice! With his companions Ookla the Mok and Princess Ariel, he pits his strength, his courage and his fabulous sun sword against the forces of evil. He is Thundarr! The Barbarian!
Thundarr was a loincloth clad swordsman taken to bellowing outbursts like "Lords of Light! Demon dogs!" and cutting mechanized minions in half with his sun sword. Or the weapons of the bad guys. How I loved this show as a child. This was when you could watch R-rated movies like Conan the Barbarian and Escape from New York on HBO at all hours of the day, and Thundarr was a child-friendly amalgam of two of my favorite films. In the first episode, he fights a group of rat people called groundlings led by the evil sorcerer Gemini in the subway tunnels of "the Ruins of Manhatt," so how could you not be hooked? Sure Thundarr sounds more like a '60s era Indian brave than Snake Plissken or Arnold, but Ookla, his Brak meets Chewbacca sidekick, makes him sound quite eloquent.

He was a lovable character, speaking only in snarls, and about as patient as the Incredible Hulk. In the first episode, Thundarr wants him to fly a helicopter, but he tears the steering wheel out, and kicks the controls out, and crashes it with a rather hilarious growl of triumph. What I liked best was how the show made kid-friendly versions of things like Alien and The Road Warrior, other favorites of mine. In the episode "Stalker from the Stars," a vampiric alien haunts an abandoned themepark and wraps its victims in webs. It looked a lot like the Alien. And several episodes had tribal thugs on Mad Max-esque vehicles. And of course, Thundarr's "sun sword" was a lot like a lightsaber.
The character designs were worked on by legend Jack Kirby and Alex Toth, and they look like fine art compared to many other cartoons of the era. I was watching them on my laptop but it just died, so my long post full of screenshots is just not meant to be! But I'd recommend giving them a second look if you have any nostalgia for them. They kick Orko and He-Man's ass for the somewhat subversive commentary on our civilization, and how many references they manage to cram in.
It's apparently memorable enough that people dress as Ariel for cosplay, and action figures were made.


  1. There was one episode I saw recently on Boomerang where an old crone switched bodies with Ariel. Ariel had to convince Thundarr of who she was. The exchange went something like this:

    Ariel: "Untie me, you mule headed oaf!"

    Thundarr: "Well, you sound like Ariel."

    I was very into Gamma World when this came out, and really loved the show. Ookla always makes me think of Greg Alman for some reason.

  2. Thanks so much for that image, now all I can see is Ookla singing "Tieeeed to tha whippin' poooooooooooost!"


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