Sunday, August 29, 2010

Better Jack "King" Kirby TV Animation Stuff: Thundarr the Barbarian

I can't leave off my day of Jack Kirby tributes with a slam job on Grantray-Lawrence and some of Marvel's shoddier 1960s offshoots. Let's look at something fun. Something cool. Something nice.

After leaving Marvel a second time in the late 1970s, Kirby did designs for Ruby Spears Productions, contributing secondary characters and villains to their 1980 post-apocalyptic epic Thundarr the Barbarian. Yeah, Thundarr's sword was nothing more than a re-purposed lightsaber and Ookla the Mok was essentially Chewbacca the Wookie, but I loved this show. Come to think of it, perhaps those were major reasons for my fondness for it.

Actually, there was another reason. Although Stever Gerber created the show, and Alex Toth designed the main characters (Princess Ariel is instantly recognizable as Toth's work), Thundarr has a definite Kirby feel to it. The concept is very reminiscent of Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth. Kamandi issue #20 was one of my most-treasured comic books, and there's no way to overestimate its impact on my own storytelling sense and continuing taste for weird, ruined-earth settings; i.e., Planet of the Apes, Ark II, Mad Max and Mark Schultz's brilliant Xenozoic Tales-- the cartoon adaptation of which was reminiscent of both Kamandi and Thundarr, but with dinosaurs instead of Moks.

The stories were pretty exciting, with scripts by comics vets Gerber, Martin Pasko and Mark Evanier. The animation is pretty standard Saturday morning limited stuff, but light years better than The Marvel Superheroes. And Kirby more than likely got paid for his work this time around, so it also has that going for it.

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