The 1980s was a great time to be a kid. The decade gave rise to some of the most memorable cartoons of all time, from Masters of the Universe to Alvin and the Chipmunks to GI Joe. In 1980 a new cartoon hero arrived on the scene with a cast of characters and show that transcended genres to combine science fiction with epic fantasy adventure. Recalling elements of Conan and Thor, the new hero of Saturday morning cartoons was Thundarr the Barbarian.
Thundarr the Barbarian begins in 1994 with an intro set in a distant future to all the kids watching the show when it first aired. A runaway comet passes in close proximity to the Earth and Moon, devastating both orbs. The Moon splits in half but remains in orbit, while the Earth suffers tremendous climate and tidal changes. The result is a veritable apocalypse that leaves the planet shattered by shifted oceans, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes.
2,000 years later, in 3994, a semblance of society has returned to the Earth in the form of separate city-states ruled by rival wizards. The old landmarks are still there with each episode moving to a different area of the wasteland, traveling through New York, London, Las Vegas, and more. Fantastic creatures and monsters now roam the post apocalyptic world, while magic and science both play a part in everyday life. Thundarr literally breaks his chains of oppression to escape with a lightsaber-like Sunsword and to fight against the evil and corruption of his world. He is joined by Princess Ariel, the beautiful daughter of an evil wizard, and Ookla the Mok, a Wookiee-like humanoid who escapes with Thundarr.
The parallels to Star Wars are plenty, which is not surprising given that both seasons of Thundarr aired between the original releases of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Similarities to Conan are abundant as well, with the series even featuring an evil wizard named Crom, and connections can also be made to Planet of the Apes, as Thundarr and his companions encounter Simian and a race of Man Apes. With this blend of original post apocalyptic adventure, futuristic science-fantasy, and allusions to popular sci-fi and fantasy of the times, Thundarr the Barbarian served as a fantastic primer for a new and growing generation of geeks.
Thundarr the Barbarian has seen some VHS releases and various other appearances since it went off the air in 1982, but now it’s finally available as a full series DVD set. The set is exclusive to WBShop.com like a lot of other recent classic TV shows that at last are making their way to digital disc formats. Thundarr was originally created by Steve Gerber (the creator of Howard the Duck) and designed by comic artists Alex Toth and Jack Kirby and was not a Hanna-Barbera show, but it’s included under the Hanna-Barbera Classic Collection banner for this new release.
The DVD set collects the entire series on four DVDs. The show ran for two seasons from 1980 through 1982 with a total of 21 episodes. All 21 are presented here, transferred from original high quality film masters. There hasn’t been any digital retouching or remastering, but it’s not really needed. Everything looks and sounds great on these new DVDs, and the original, untouched feel of the prints lends to the nostalgia. There are no extras included beyond the episodes themselves, but just having the whole series collected is enough incentive to pick up this set.
If you were a fan of Thundarr in the ’80s, you’ll definitely want to grab this DVD set. And even if you’ve never seen or heard of Thundarr the Barbarian, this show is a fantastic piece of ’80s cartoon culture that undoubtedly inspired many kids to jump into fantasy and science fiction fandom.