Demon Dogs!


By Shawn Robare

I’ve been getting pretty excited about the impending release of Warner Bros. Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1980s, Vol. 1 as it’ll finally give me a chance to revisit one of the shows I never got a chance to see much of as a kid, Thundarr the Barbarian.   Granted, it’s only a taste with one episode on this two-disc set, but it’ll be better quality than the various youtube videos that have been satiating my hunger in the interim.  Besides, if this set is successful it might lead to more Thundarr on DVD.

Regardless, I’ve been thinking about the series lately and in a moment of kismet I stumbled upon a couple of Thundarr-centric articles while doing some magazine back-issue research on another project.  These articles are pretty cool considering they largely feature Jack Kirby’s production artwork, not to mention a few Alex Toth model sheets.  I thought it would be fun to share one of them today; written by Buzz Dixon (of Sunbow animation fame) this article was originally featured in issue number 9 of Fangoria magazine back in November of 1980 (when the horror magazine felt a whole heck of a lot more like its sister publication Starlog.)

Since I haven’t really seen a full episode of Thundarr since I was a kid, reading this article puts me right back into that mindset of speculation and hoping the cartoon will be as cool as it potentially can be based on this artwork and Dixon’s enthusiasm for the project…

  

Like Blackstar, Thundarr unfortunately debuted right before the landscape of network and syndicated television was drastically changed in 1982-83.   Because of strict regulations and pressure from parent activist groups there were some crucial missing ingredients that kept most cartoons from reaching their true potential in the 70s and very early 80s.  In particular there was a ban on fully merchandising cartoon series, in particular releasing toys of popular shows, and I think this lack of product awareness hurt that instant recognition a good toy line has on kids.  When He-Man and the Masters of the Universe came on the scene it shattered all expectations of just how popular the combination of a well-designed toy line and thought out cartoon series could be.  Had Thundarr gestated in the minds of Steve Gerber and Ruby Spears just a little longer I think it had the potential to depose He-Man from the throne it seized in the early 80s. 

Not only was it similar in style, design and tone, and thus obviously a successful to the audience, Thundarr pushed the envelope of action animation much further as it was coming from the likes of Gerber and Kirby who were well steeped in comics dynamic storytelling.  The unbridled power that Kirby is well known for can be felt in every second of the animation, even if it’s only a shadow of what he brought to the comics medium.  Add to that Steve Gerber’s wackiness and biting social commentary and you have a powder keg just waiting to explode.   Again, there was so much potential in this series, and I truly believe that a toy line, even a mediocre one, would have ignited it.

  

If I get a chance I’ll scan the second Thundarr article I found this past weekend, though I think it’s filled with the same production artwork.   Now to go back to waiting, though it’s just a couple more weeks before the DVD finally hits store shelves

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