Probably the animation property most associated with Kirby in the 1980s is THUNDARR THE BARBARIAN, which had 21 episodes produced by Ruby-Spears from 1980-82. Alex Toth designed the main characters, and Kirby was brought in later to do character design, so many of the villains and vehicles were based on his work, sometimes quite obviously. He also worked on such things as an unsold proposal for a Thundarr newspaper strip. On the writing side, head writer was Steve Gerber, who Kirby worked with on DESTROYER DUCK around this time, and Mark Evanier was also on the writing staff.
The premise of the series is a hodge-podge of fantasy/sci-fi elements. Apparently, and I don’t know if you noticed this, about 10 years in the past (well, it says 1994) a rogue planet zoomed between the Earth and Moon, ripping the moon in half and wrecking havoc on Earth. The series is set 2000 years later, in a land of ruined cities, “savagery, super science, and sorcery”, with a group of three companions, Thundarr, Ookla and Princess Ariel, riding from town to town, righting wrongs.
I have a tape with several-generation-down copies of a bunch of the episodes, so every now and then I’ll just post a few words on them, mostly on what seems to be the Kirbyest aspect.
“Wizard Wars” was the first episode of the second season. Thundarr and company get in the middle of a battle between two wizards, the first of whom, Skullus, pretty much has to be pure Kirby. He’s a head in a glass dome, controlling four-armed magical robots. It’s not so clear in the graphic here, but he even has Kirby squiggles on his head.
That’s the clearest Kirby moment in this episode. The other wizard, Octagon, isn’t as distinctive, although he does have Doctor Octopus style arms, both on himself and on his headquarters, which look neat.
Image lifted from the Thundarr fan website, www.thundarr.com, where you can also find an episode guide with a detailed summary of this episode and more. It also has a petition to get a DVD release of the series, which seems inevitable given almost everything else is getting released on DVD these days. Hopefully if they do one, they’ll find some way to incorporate Kirby’s raw design work (and Toth’s as well), maybe as part of an insert booklet, or a video feature or DVD-ROM extra.
Broadcast circa 1981