Friday, July 10, 2009

Thundarr the Barbarian and Jack Kirby

"Thundarr the Barbarian" was a saturday morning cartoon that first aired on ABC for two seasons from 1980 to 1982. As I mentioned in a prior post, Thundarr was more or less "Conan The Barbarian," only set on a post-apocalyptic earth rather than in a fantasy world. It also shows the pervasive influence of "Star Wars" in those years. Thundarr's ape-like companion, Ookla, is more or less a Chewbacca clone, and Thundarr's "sun sword" is, essentially, just a light saber, to name just two examples.

But the show was far more than a derivative collection of thinly veiled rip-offs. It remains one of the most highly regarded cartoons from that era (and is still aired on the "Boomerang" channel today). Why? Well, among other reasons, it was created by a number of unusually talented people. It was produced by Ruby Spears, a company founded by two veteran animators who had previously created "Scooby Doo." The inital designs for the three main characters were done by master illustrator Alex Toth. And when he moved on to other projects, legendary comic book artist Jack Kirby was brought in to do the remaining designs. That's a Kirby illustration above. It was one of the preliminary drawings used to sell the show to network executives.
Embedded below is the 1 minute intro to "Thundarr The Barbarian" that ran at the start of each episode. I'v never met anyone who was a child in those years who doesn't immediately remember this after viewing it again.

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