Friends, as I was getting things prepared for the Diary of An Arcade Employee Watch Party, a bit of news crossed my feed that made my head spin – it turns out that it was 40 years ago today that the first episode of Thundarr the Barbarian aired on ABC. A mere four decades since we first sat in front of the television set and were introduced to the likes of Princess Airel, Ookla the Mok, and of course the mighty Thundarr. Providing two seasons worth of epic and post-apocalyptic Saturday morning adventures, a world of sword and sorcery as well as science fantasy!
As many of you might know, Thundarr the Barbarian was the brainchild of both the late and great Joe Ruby as well as Steve Gerber – the latter being the same writer who helped co-create Howard the Duck and had an incredibly memorable run on the Man-Thing comic series – to point out a just few of his achievements.
Produced by Ruby-Spears, Gerber would act as story editor for the series – an incredibly striking animated show for it’s time in regards to the setting. Although as I found out in the October 4th (there is irony for you!) 2013 issue of the exceptional Back Issue! magazine – from an article by none other than Brett Weiss – Gerber as well as the writers for Thundarr the Barbarian had some issues with the Broadcast and Standards division to say the very least. In the article, Gerber is quoted from a 1980 issue of Fantastic Films #20 that:
“we have a number of severe limitations. With all of the mayhem that goes on in our show, the Program Practices will still not allow out main character to throw a punch or to hit anybody. He can do all kinds of acrobatic things, but he can’t even trip anyone.”
Speaking of writers, Thundarr the Barbarian benefited from a pretty remarkable pool of talent. Just a few of those that worked on the animated series include Mark Evanier (Dungeons & Dragons, Groo the Wanderer), Buzz Dixon (G.I. Joe), Martin Pasko (Batman: The Animated Series), Ted Pedersen (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), and Roy Thomas (The Avengers, All-Star Squadron).
Some of those writers that I pointed out are well known for their comic book work – which is fitting as none other than Jack “King” Kirby worked on the production design for Thundarr the Barbarian. As a matter of fact, Kirby was actually working on a Sunday comic strip that would have been published nationally – although sadly the plans were cancelled before it could be completed.
Thundarr the Barbarian managed 21 episodes over the two seasons it aired on ABC – with the series living on in reruns beginning in ’83 over on NBC. While it also appeared on the Boomerang cable network – the great news is that the full series was given a release in 2010 thanks to the Warner Archive’s Manufacture-on-Demand. Allowing all of us fans of the animated series to enjoy the work of such legendary voice talents as Robert Ridgely (The Incredible Hulk), Henry Corden (The Flintstones), and Nellie Bellflower (Finding Neverland).
It might have been 40 years ago today that Thundarr the Barbarian debuted – but his mighty Sunsword shows no signs of dimming anytime soon.