Throwback Thursday: Thundarr the Barbarian (1980)

Although kids (and animation loving adults like myself) nowadays can find and watch cartoons just about whenever they want, having to wait until Saturday mornings to see them in bygone decades had its charm. As a child perceives time so much slower, that week in-between a solid morning of cartoons could feel like forever!

But Thundarr the Barbarian was worth the wait.

It had everything a young Jason still in his single digit years of life could ask for. Heroes, monsters, magic, adventures, robots, laser-swords… I loved this show! I still do, really, as I own all of the existing episodes on DVD.

In watching the series as an adult, I’ve found that it’s the roots and fertile soil of many story elements I still enjoy and write about to this day. Thundarr is earnest, straightforward adventure storytelling with basic but endearing characters. And while definitely intended to be a kid’s show, it borrowed enough from the science fiction and fantasy that had trickled down from adult sources (Conan, Star Wars, and Mad Max to name a few) that it kind of serves as a kids primer and gateway to those wider genres as well.

Combined with production and character design from legendary comic book artists Jack Kirby and Alex Toth, Thundarr has a distinctive look and feel that gives it weight. It’s also from a transitional time in American animation, being one of the last Saturday morning cartoons produced where the main focus wasn’t selling an associated toy line… A practice that became rampant only a year or two after the series went off the air in 1982.

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