Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ookla! Ariel! We Ride!

I recently picked up the complete Thundarr The Barbarian series on DVD. It's available now at WBShop.com.

I saw the series a few times back when it first aired in 1980, but I was never a regular viewer. I was in college at the time and tended to sleep until noonish most Saturdays, so most of these episodes are brand new to me.

For those not in the know, in the far off year of 1994 a "runaway planet" flies between Earth and the Moon. It breaks the moon in half and wreaks untold havoc on the Earth and human civilization. 2000 years later, Thundarr, Princess Ariel and Chewbacca, er, I mean Ookla the Mok, wander the changed Earth, battling evil wizards and mutants.

It's an enjoyable series, and is pretty well-made for shows of that era. I highly recommend it.

The always amazing Alex Toth, who designed Space Ghost and many other Hanna Barbara super hero characters, created the look of the three main characters. He was unavailable once the series went into production, so the even more amazing Jack Kirby contributed character designs for the rest of the show.

Thundarr's weapon of choice was his "fabulous sun sword," which was basically just a lightsaber with a flaming blade. I naturally assumed that the sun sword was just a ripoff of Star Wars, and it probably was to an extent. The real reason for the sun sword though was that due to the overzealous standards and practices restrictions at the time, cartoons couldn't depict any sort of bladed weapons. Apparently a sword with a blade made of out of freakin' fire was OK though.

The creator of the series, Steve Gerber (who created the Howard the Duck comic for Marvel), originally didn't want the character of Ookla in the show, but bowed to network pressure to include him. For once network interference paid off. I doubt the show would be as beloved today without everyone's favorite Mok. Supposedly the name "Ookla" originated when the writer walked past the front gate of the UCLA campus, saw the sign and read it as a word rather than an acronym.

If you're interested, you won't find it in any brick and mortar stores or even on Amazon. Right now the only place to find this DVD set is at the WBShop (keep that in mind if you're balking at the price-- it's unlikely to ever be cheaper). For a while now they've been quietly selling obscure, non-mainstream titles on their site. They print them on demand, meaning they only produce the discs when they receive an order. I assume this is done to save money and warehouse space.

One caveat: because these are DVD-R discs, they may not play in all players. For example, they won't play in my DVD player or on my computer, but they will play in my old PlayStation 2. Go figure.


  1. Thanks Bob for the "heads-up" on this Thundarr dvd pack from WBShop. I always liked this show. It'll be worth seeking out.

  2. yes i loved this show! funny how they got the name Ookla!


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