Thundarr the Barbarian

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search

"The year: 1994. From out of space comes a runaway planet, hurtling between the Earth and the Moon, unleashing cosmic destruction! Man's civilization is cast in ruin!
Two thousand years later, Earth is reborn...
A strange new world rises from the old: a world of savagery, super science, and sorcery. But one man bursts his bonds to fight for justice! With his companions Ookla the Mok and Princess Ariel, he pits his strength, his courage, and his fabulous Sunsword against the forces of evil.
He is Thundarr, the Barbarian!"


At the end of the last millennium, the Earth was destroyed in a mighty cataclysm. (What? You don't remember that happening?) Some 2,000 years later, and the world is still a pretty big mess, with many of the survivors having mutated into hideous monsters. Those who still remain human live precariously amongst the ruins of the old world, at the mercy of evil sorcerers who've managed to combine the technology of yore with ancient mysticism and create magic-fueled weapons of awesome power.

Into this broken world rides our muscular hero and his sidekicks, the magic-wielding Action Girl Princess Ariel and the Chewbacca-like Ookla the Mok, a catlike, superpowered giant who communicates largely in growls. Together these three heroes ride the length and breadth of the post-apocalyptic world righting wrongs and protecting the shattered remnants of humanity from whatever dangers may threaten.

Created by the production team of Ruby-Spears with the help of comic artist Jack Kirby, this show was one of the better Conan-inspired Heroic Fantasy shows of the early 1980s. The opening sequence alone (which featured the flashy destruction of Earth) was enough to secure its place in the memory of many a kid from that era, who undoubtedly breathed a sigh of relief when 1994 had peacefully come and gone.

Tropes used in Thundarr the Barbarian include:
  • Action Girl: Ariel, whose versatile magic ability sometimes conveniently failed when the time came for her to be taken hostage or rescued (She can't cast spells when her hands aren't free). She managed to keep from slipping into Faux Action Girl territory, though, by her wit, intelligence and the genuine usefulness of her powers when the script allowed her to use them.
  • After the End
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Ariel for Thundarr.
  • Apocalypse Day Planner
  • Apocalypse How: Planetary Societal Collapse
  • Author Appeal: Kirby's character designs for the leads can be easily found online. One of them is of Ariel naked, for sheerly gratuitous reasons.
  • Barbarian Hero
  • Brain In a Jar: One of the villains was originally a scientist who was mortally wounded in the apocalypse; he kept his brain alive through a combination of life-support technology and magic.
  • Catch Phrase: Thundarr's "Demon Dogs!", "Lords of Light!" and his battle cry, "Aaaaaaaahhhhh--ee!" Plus, the catchy and inspiring, "Ariel! Ookla! RIDE!"
  • Convection, Schmonvection: The Power Trio could ride their horses over partially submerged rock sticking out of a pool of lava.
  • Detonation Moon
  • Empathic Weapon: Thundarr's Sun Sword, which could be wielded only by him.
  • The End of the World as We Know It
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Ariel is called one.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Just about any bad guy who isn't a Mad Scientist.
  • Exclusively Evil: The wizards.
  • Family-Friendly Firearms: Thundarr's Sun Sword, which may have been a Shout-Out to -- or a direct rip-off of -- Luke Skywalker's lightsaber[1]. More conventional laserlike Energy Weapons tend to be standard issue for the various Wizards' monstrous mutant Mooks. Another example: the werewolves turned their victims into werewolves by holding their glowy claws kinda near the victim.
    • Thundarr made sure never to use his Sunsword on a living creature. He would only start in with the hack-and-slash after he discovered that his enemies were robots; just to make sure we in the audience understood, he would then bellow "They are machines!"
  • Freudian Trio: Ookla -- Id, Ariel -- Superego, Thundarr -- Leader. Also, Thundarr -- The Hero, Ookla -- The Big Guy, Ariel -- The Chick (she's also something of a Rebellious Princess, and a White Magician Girl.)
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Most of the enemies.
  • Hellish Horse: Ookla's mount (an "equart") is half-horse, half-bug... and 100% awesome.
  • Heroic Fantasy
  • Human Popsicle: One episode centered on a trio of human scientists, cryonically frozen since the 20th century, who are awakened by our heroes. Of course, one of them Monster Faints upon seeing Ookla.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Not only did Mooks seem incapable of hitting Thundarr, they always ran forward while firing, moving into close combat with the barbarian for no apparent reason.
  • Kirby Dots: Since Jack Kirby did the storyboarding artwork.
  • Land in the Saddle: Once an Episode, minimum. In one early episode, he does it from the top floor of a ruined skyscraper without injury.
  • Laser Blade
  • Leotard of Power: Ariel
  • Loin Cloth: Thundarr
  • Lost Technology
  • Magic Knight: Ariel
  • Magitek
  • Mecha-Mooks: Thundarr tore into many a goon before discovering that they were "Ma-chiiiiiines!"
  • Mega Manning: Ariel has the ability to learn an evil wizard's spell simply by watching him cast it.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The non-humanoid monsters are generally of this sort.
  • Never Say "Die": "Destroy" was used in reference to humans and other living beings oftentimes when "kill" was clearly meant.
  • No Indoor Voice: Thundarr speaks in an almost perpetual shout. Ookla's growls aren't exactly quiet either.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Subverted quite hard compared to the standards of its contemporaries. He-Man had Orko, the Thundercats had Snarf, and Thundarr had... Ookla, a 9-foot tall, perpetually enraged sasquatch man whom "cute" and "whimsical" don't quite fit.
    • This might be debatable, considering how often Ookla filled the "comic relief" role.
    • How original!
  • Oblivious to Love: Thundarr towards Ariel's romantic overtures.
  • Poorly-Disguised Pilot: Two, one for a trio of super-powered women and another for a teenage gender-flipped version of Thundarr and Ariel (while poor Ookla is represented by their steed, an annoying mutant vulture-lizard with two tails).
  • Ragnarok Proofing: It's very doubtful that the working machinery and the wrecked cars that everybody tosses around like footballs would be anything but dust in the year 3994, unless the world-ending cataclysm had, as one of its side effects, the stoppage of rust formation.
  • Scavenger World
  • Schizo-Tech
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: It would probably take millions of years -- not the couple of thousand years that it takes in the show -- to create a population of different, apocalypse-adapted species.
    • They are mostly modified by magic. So, A Wizard Did It, literally. Only one (non-robot) monster was explicitly non-magical in origin; a genetically engineered relic from the Science Age.
    • The "two thousand years" mentioned in the opening -- when most of the ruins look like they're less than two hundred years old-- probably qualifies for No Sense Of Scale too.
      • The runaway planet that passed between the Earth and the Moon appears to have stripped away much of the Earth's atmosphere. The resulting damage to the environment probably arrested the deterioration the ruins would have experienced so we don't get the full Life After People effect.
    • Lest we forget, a "runaway planet passed between the Earth and the Moon." The thing that whizzes by is not only going at a ponderous speed for an interstellar body, but also seems to only be about the size of the moon itself. And you thought arguing over Pluto being considered a planet was rough!
      • However, the moon is over five and a half times as massive as Pluto. Anything moon-sized pretty easily qualifies as a planet -- in terms of scale, at least. (Some astronomers actually refer to the Earth and Moon as a "double-planet system".)
    • The "runaway planet" is shown cracking the moon with its passing, and ripping away Earth's atmosphere. "Man's civilization being cast into ruin!" would be the least of the problems for any lifeform still alive after that.
  • Shadow Discretion Shot: Pretty pointless one, too. We see the woman turn into a werewolf onscreen, then we see her shadow changing before she turns to attack a helpless human.
  • Sorcerous Overlord: About half the villain stock as befits the muscle bound hero with the epithet "The Barbarian".
  • Stealth Pun: The leader of the werewolves is named "Zevon".
  • Taken for Granite: The ultimate fate of recurring villain Gemini.
  • Thud and Blunder: A good example of the genre. Thundarr is somewhat more articulate and intelligent than many other Thud And Blunder heroes, though.
  • Time Travel: Via some sort of magic portal, which delivers our heroes to the late 20th century. They receive help in their mission from a 10-year-old girl, whom they leave behind at the end, presumably to die in the cataclysm about a decade later.
  • True-Blue Femininity: Ariel
  • The Unintelligible: Ookla
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Because most of the enemies are mutants and evil disfigured wizards, our heroes are pretty much free to attack them, although dismemberments and mutilations are usually only reserved for robots.
  • X Meets Y: Cartoon Network once called this "Conan the Barbarian meets Planet of the Apes".
  1. Even though this was 1980, America had yet to hear about robots who could use them...