Do you remember Thundarr the Barbarian? The often forgotten Ruby-Spears cartoon of the early 1980’s was a great Alex Toth style story of a post apocalyptic world where sword and sorcery once again ruled the day, with strange creatures, monsters and some leftover technology of today. For the time (and even now) it was a pretty grim cartoon, with some fun social commentary and plenty of action that could see everything from dragons to trains.

Even if you haven’t followed Thundarr or don’t remember him, you probably know He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. While MOTU didn’t exactly copy Thundarr, it’s pretty clear that many of the ideas were cribbed from Thundarr which predated MOTU by a few years. It’s more of the early comics that seemed to lift from Thundarr than what eventually became of the MOTU world. However some elements like the power sword, barbarians in a leftover Earth, beast men, etc were very much a tribute to Thundarr.

He-man gets all the credit, but Thundarr really started it all. So why is Thundarr forgotten? Who knows, but the fact that this Saturday Morning Cartoon didn’t get toys till 2004 probably had something to do with it. However, Thundarr was almost brought back to life a few years ago.

Tad Stones, of Darkwing Duck fame (and a ton of other cool stuff) pitched an idea to bring Thundarr back for a new generation. Tad’s idea was to focus more on the element of the post apocalyptic world, but do it in a comedy sort of styling. Whole sects of society left that worshipped boy bands as deity and stuff like that.

Thankfully, it didn’t come to pass. While I am a fan of most of Stones stuff, this humorous direction for Thundarr to me, didn’t feel right. The Disney-esque animation also turned me off, as I really liked the grainy, old school appeal of Thundarr. I understand that he felt that the whole genre is a bit overplayed and no doubt he had to realize that a new Thundarr would probably be pegged a MOTU clone instead of the other way around, but after reading his full treatment for the series pitch… Eh, this is one I’d rather not see.

As luck would have it Stones’ idea was rejected. Not because no one didn’t like it, but because Bruce Timm has already called dibs on Thundarr. As Tad pointed out in his own blog, that doesn’t really mean anything. Chances are Timm hasn’t done a lick of work on Thundarr, but when someone the caliber of Timm gets to call something, it’s locked up for a long time. So while I’m actually glad this one got shot down, I could get behind a Bruce Timm vision of Thundarr.

Still, it’s neat to look at what “almost was”.

Check out Stones pitch here: Thundarr Treatment Pitch

And check out his blog here: Tad Stones Blog

4 Responses to The Thundarr That Almost Was

  • clark says:

    I loved me some Thundarr when I was a kid. What's not to love about a Barbarian with a lightsaber running around crazy mutant earth with a hot woman and Chewbacca?
    I actually really loved the stories and the cartoon, but I remember it was one of those shows that I couldn't just wake up on Saturday and watch it at the same time, I had to catch it sporadically. I thought the first picture you put up was the "thundarr that almost was" and felt that could be pretty cool, but no, I would not be onboard with the Super Hero Squad Thundarr power hour.

  • Thundarr was my favorite Saturday morning cartoon show, bar none. It tapped into every geek meme that was around at the time combining Sci-Fi, Magic and a post-apocalyptic world, all with great character designs by Alex Toth & the great Jack Kirby!

    Oh and Ookla the Mok was named after UCLA, which was salient to me as both my father and I are alums.

  • Good to know that there's some more Thundarr love out there.

  • Lt. Clutch says:

    I'm glad that we didn't get the Disney treatment as well. Thundarr was a product of its era. With both Kirby and Toth on board, I doubt that a new version could have escaped comparisons. It's the same problem I have with Thundercats: Don't try to reinvent the franchise, simply build upon what's worked before.

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