Directly inspired by comic books, with the likes of R.E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian and Flash Gordon, Thundarr the Barbarian is set in a future (3994 AD) post-apocalyptic wasteland divided into kingdoms or territories — the majority of which are ruled by wizards — and whose ruins typically feature recognizable geographical features from the United States, starting in New York City and working itself to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Mount Rushmore, San Francisco or Washington, D.C.
Other episodes with recognizable settings are located in Central America, while one is in London. Another notable feature of this future Earth is that the Moon was broken in two pieces, but the gravity of the pieces drew them back together, orbiting at roughly the same height as the intact Moon once did. The shattered moon and the ruins of the former human civilization were caused by the passage of a runaway planet (more resembling a comet) between the Earth and the Moon in 1994, which, from scenes shown in the opening sequence, caused radical changes in the Earth's climate, geography and tidal effects. However, by the time period in which the series is set (2,000 years later), the Earth and Moon seem to have settled into a new balance. Earth is reborn in a world of savagery, super-science, and sorcery.
The hero Thundarr (voiced by Robert Ridgely), a muscular warrior, was meant to be strongly akin to the comic book characters Thor the God of Thunder and Conan The Barbarian. In this setting, Thundarr and his companions Princess Ariel, a formidable young sorceress, and the Wookiee-like Ookla the Mok traveled the world on horseback, battling evil wizards who combine magical spells with technologies from the pre-catastrophe world.
Other enemies include The Brotherhood of Night (a group of werewolves who could transform others into their werewolves by simple touch), the cosmic Stalker from The Stars (a predatory, malevolent cosmic vampire), humanoid lizards and mutants. Intelligent humanoid-animal races include the rat-like Groundlings, the crocodile-like Carocs, and the cat-like Moks.
Further Star Wars influences can be seen in Thundarr's weapon of choice, the Sunsword, which projects a blade-like beam of energy when activated, and can be deactivated so that it is only a hilt. The Sunsword's energy blade can deflect other energy attacks as well as magical ones, can cut through nearly anything, and can disrupt magical spells and effects. The Sunsword is magically linked to Thundarr and as such, only he can use it; however, this link can be disrupted.
Comic book writer-artist Jack Kirby worked on the production design for the show. While many people believe that Kirby was the primary designer of the show (mainly due to his similarly themed Kamandi: The Last Boy On Earth), the main characters were in fact designed by fellow comic book writer-artist Alex Toth, who also designed the popular character Space Ghost for Saturday morning television. Toth, however, was unavailable to continue working on the show, so most of the wizards and other villains and secondary characters that appear on the show were designed by Kirby. He was brought onto the show at the recommendation of comic writer Steve Gerber and comics and animation veteran Mark Evanier, who realized that the same imagination that produced Kamandi could contribute significantly to the series. Indeed, the evil wizard Gemini, the only repeating villain on the show, resembles Darkseid, an infamous Kirby villain.
The series was the creation of Steve Gerber, creator of Marvel Comics' Howard the Duck. Gerber also created the similarly named 'Wundarr the Aquarian' for Marvel Comics. The name Ookla actually comes from University of California, Los Angeles (commonly known as UCLA). Gerber and friend Martin Pasko were having dinner in the Westwood area one night during the time Gerber was writing the bible for the series. Gerber commented to Pasko that he had not yet decided upon a name for the Wookiee-like character the network insisted be added to the series, over Gerber's objections. As the two walked past the gate to the UCLA campus, Pasko quipped, "Why not call him Oo-clah?" Pasko later became one of several screenwriters also known for their work in comics, such as Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway, to contribute to the show. After writing several scripts, singly and in collaboration with Gerber, Pasko became a story editor on the second season. Other writers included Buzz Dixon and Mark Jones.
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