Barbaric News


Warner Archive, which puts out limited-edition DVDs, has recently added complete sets of several cartoon shows, including one I worked on called Thundarr the Barbarian. This is probably bad news for fans of the show since it means the rumored release of a "regular" DVD will not occur for quite a while. The Warner Archives DVDs contain no special features and little if any restoration work is done on the material. Probably none was done on these. I'm betting they just took the same transfers that run from time to time on the Boomerang Network, put them on four DVDs and now they're selling them.

Thundarr was a pretty good show…something I don't say about all or even most of the cartoon shows I worked on back then. My friend Steve Gerber was the story editor and he wrote the pilot with a little help from his friends. (I believe Marty Pasko, who also wrote episodes, named Ookla, Thundarr's hairy pal who was named when they saw a sign that said "U.C.L.A." And I think I named Thundarr, though I stopped claiming that when several other folks who worked on the show — though not Steve — claimed it was their idea and got real, real mad at me.) Others wrote scripts too, including Buzz Dixon and I think Roy Thomas. Alex Toth designed the three main characters and then most of the other design work was done by Jack Kirby.

Jack did some pretty good work on the series though it isn't always evident due to the poor (I thought) animation. A few years ago, an exec at Time-Warner had the idea to have the 21 episodes reanimated by a better studio — same scripts and voice tracks, and they'd salvage as much of the Kirby design work as they could. I actually thought that was a good idea but it was nixed by someone because it would, they thought, create a bad precedent. It was allegedly said that, "if we go back and start fixing all the shows in our library that were done on the cheap, we'll bankrupt the corporation." Well, maybe. But Thundarr was a show that didn't get enough of a chance to live.

It was only on ABC's Saturday morning schedule for two seasons. The ratings would have justified another but that was the year someone at Paramount decided they wanted a Happy Days cartoon series in that lineup. This was during the period when if Garry Marshall had said, "I want all the ABC executives dancing naked on my lawn and I want them there in ten minutes," they'd have all been there in five. Off the schedule went Thundarr and on went the animated Fonz and the Happy Days Gang which, of course, did worse than the barbarian it displaced. There were later a number of attempts to revive the show — Buzz Dixon wrote a terrific script for a feature version that never got made — but nothing happened. There were even a few issues of a Thundarr comic book that were written and drawn for Gold Key but never published. I think it could still be a major property but no one at Time-Warner, which now owns the show, seems that interested…and I guess the DVD release is more proof of that.

Here's a link if you want to order it…and remember that the video quality may not be what you've come to expect from DVD releases. Then again, it might be. If someone buys one, let me know.

The set is, let us note, $29.95. Someone on eBay is taking advantage of the fact that some people don't know about Warner Archive and he's selling them there for $59.95. That may soon be the price at Warner Archive, which has sometimes raised their prices after initial offerings. So if you want one, order it now. I don't make a commission on these links and I don't expect Time-Warner to send me residuals or even a free copy of the DVD with my work on it. But I loved the show and I do like seeing it get some attention, especially because of all the hard work Gerber put into it.