Yesterday, Vic Sage of Pop Culture Retrorama and I celebrated Masters of the Universe. Today, Chris Bailey (AKA Charlton Hero) from The Superhero Satellite and I are celebrating the ThunderCats
This stunning ThunderCats Cake was made by Silvana Ribeiro Cake Designer. This is a two tier cake. The top tier is a gorgeous image of Lion-O holding the Sword of Omen. The bottom tier features amazing images of Tygra and Cheetara.
Silvana does something really cool with these two tiers. Both tiers are squares. Since the top tier only has an image on one side, that square faces us. Since the bottom tier has an image on two sides, it is turned so that you can see both sides.
Here is Silvana with her lovely cake.
The detail on Tygra is amazing.
Look at the amount of detail in Cheetara’s face, hair and the spots on her neck and shoulders.
Here are Tygra and Cheetara after being hand drawn and painted.
My dear friend, Chris Bailey (AKA Charlton Hero) is best known as the creator and leader of Super Blog Team Up. About once ever quarter, a group of bloggers and podcasters team up to present their unique takes on a single topic. Our last team up focused on Expanded Universes. Chris is a wonderful guy and great team leader.
When he isn’t riding heard on Super Blog Team Up, Chris runs the wonderful blog The Superhero Satellite. WARNING: Before visiting Superhero Satellite make sure you have a large mug of your favorite beverage, because Chris writes the longest and most gorgeous blog posts you’ve ever seen.
Chris also podcasts regularly with Chris Sheehan. Last week, they launched a new podcasts Questerdays spotlight ElfQuest. They also host Morituri Mondays which covers Marvel’s forgotten science fiction comic book Strikeforce Morituri. Lastly, Chris is part of the team behind the world’s long podcast – From Claremont to Claremont: An X-Men Podcast.
Here is Chris Bailey writing about The ThunderCats In Canada
My body would instantly awaken on Saturday Mornings which was odd as every weekday my parents ran through the same morning ritual of dragging myself and my brother out of our beds for school. Saturdays were different. You see if you were a living breathing child in the 80’s Saturday Morning meant one thing…Saturday Morning Cartoons! Every network had their line up and the Saturday Morning Wars were a real thing. I know it’s hard for someone who didn’t live through that era to understand how cartoons were something special. Today we have dedicated networks, on-demand streaming services and the internet to find ANYTHING you always wanted to see and maybe much more.
For myself specifically I HAD to be up at 7:30am which was 6am Network time to catch the very beginning of the Saturday Morning Cartoon blocks. There were so many favorites in our household including Dungeons And Dragons, Smurfs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Looney Toons, The Real Ghostbusters and so many more. We were born in Canada and our experience was a little different then folks south of the Canadian border. Cartoon line-ups on Canadian networks were radically different. Many of our home grown stations had to push a percentage of Canadian content to viewers thus some of the shows we missed out on in favor of such “Classics” as Rocket Robin Hood, Spider-Man, The Mighty Hercules, Barba Papa and more. Yes..we did get most of the classics just NOT on Saturday Mornings. Transformers, Go-Bots, Bravestarr, Robotech, Jem and The Holograms were all daily after school shows! GI Joe was even difficult to find!! There was one show however that did NOT air in our market at all and I’ll always look at it with curiosity because it was almost mythical in status to my friends and I because we simply digested it far differently than our neighbors. That show was ThunderCats!!
Trips to the grocery store would typically land my brother and I a “treat”. My parents were super-cool when it came to toys and comics and we had plenty of both! Watching cartoons like we did every Saturday we were bombarded by commercials of course. They may have been one of my favorite parts of the Saturday Morning experience! You found out about all the new toys that were coming out, you craved candy after watching ads for Bonkers, and you made lists for your parents of breakfast cereals you just HAD to have!! For our house it was all about the toys!! The day we saw the commercial for Thundercats it was a sure bet that these toys were coming home with us on the next “treat day”. The commercials were sure fire money burners. The figures were larger than the popular lines at the time with Masters Of The Universe and G.I.Joe but they looked great!! Sure enough my brother returned home from consecutive trips to the store with amazing Lion-O and Cheetara figures!! These were great! At this time we had no idea a show existed! We had no idea “How” to use these new characters either! We didn’t know what a “Sword Of Omens” did!! For the first time the Bailey brothers truly were out of their element.
I had seen Thundercats comic books land on our shelves in the mid-80s and I was there for them. By this point after reading magazines and seeing clips of a cartoon on toy commercials, the jig was up…there WAS a full series dedicated to these toys and we were missing out on it! During a trip to Florida as a child I still maintained my Saturday Morning routine and found out that our U.S. brothers and sisters had a vastly different experience than we had in Canada! It was on this trip that I caught 15 minutes of Thundercats. I was amazed and wanted more but we would only have one Saturday down there during our trip but those 15 minutes were etched in my memory! Back at home Thundercats toys and merchandise had come and gone as fast as they debuted but I still had the comic to keep me occupied. Marvel’s new imprint for a younger audience was called STAR comics and was built upon many new characters plus a plethora of exciting toy and cartoon properties such as Inhumanoids, Visionaries, ALF, Masters of The Universe and of course Thundercats!! I even missed the first issue!!? I picked up the series on issue number two and was mad at myself for missing issue number one. It was a “HOT” book at that point and thus began the ritual of acquiring this issue. We did not have comic book stores at the time and ads in comics were selling it for 7 dollars USD!! 7 Bucks!! It may as well have been a million dollars Canadian at the time. Yet, I “Needed: to have it! This mysterious toy property that eluded me on Saturday Mornings would certainly not avoid me at the spinner racks! I grabbed every issue I saw which was probably 10 issues but that number one just gnawed at my soul. I poured through these issues just wrapping my head around the world of Thundercats and finding about their home world of Thundara and the other characters that I would grow to love like Panthero, Tygra, Snarf, Wilykit/Wilykat and others! I marveled at the rogues gallery which included the likes of Vultureman, Slithe and of course their greatest rival Mumm-Ra!! This was a whole new world for me and comics were providing me with that opportunity when TV couldn’t! The STAR Comics Thundercats and Masters Of The Universe comics were super faithful to the Toyline and respective cartoons and the stories were designed to move the toys and views of the shows…which worked on me.. their captive demographic!
I’ll never forget the day I walked into a comic shop in a city two hours away from my hometown and as I was bin diving there it was…That green cover caught my eye and stopped me dead in my tracks. Thundercats number one was IN MY HANDS!! This was not a Fantastic Four or an Uncanny X-Men number one by any stretch…heck this isn’t even a Archie Double Digest at the supermarket..this was a STAR comic by gawd!! The gentleman at the register even raised an eyebrow as I shelled out 3 bucks for that sucker and an extra 15 cents far a bag and board!! He couldn’t hold back his outright mockery when he watched me struggle very carefully as if I was holding a vase from the Ming Dynasty collection and then slid it in the bag with the board!! Everything is relative. Everything, every comic,and every toy I ever bought may not be worth a red cent but to me that memory IS worth something. It’s a memory. It’s a moment in time with family and friends.These were the elusive ThunderCats and despite only seeing 15 minutes of that animated series they were a huge deal to me!!
As a kid all of these moments matter. It’s what I remember as a fan. Its not about “How Much” will I make off of this book because I am selling it on eBay! Its not about a limited cover variant that some company forced your LCS to buy 100s of copies of a certain issue they are pushing to get this “Special” issue. It’s the camping trips, vacations, trips to the “Big City”, sleepovers of just simply spinning a rack in a store that are the REAL value in my collection. It’s the sentimental cache that’s the REAL worth of these books. Thundercats #1 is one of those books that had that resonance for me. Issue one was based directly from the Rankin Bass Original Teleplay written by Leonad Starr and adapted by Marvel Comics. The issue is titles “Survival Run”. This is a basic origin story for Lion-O and a great introduction for kids who did not get a chance to see the original show! The issue starts with a planet called Thundera that is on the verge of self destruction. We see a fleet of ships reluctantly partaking in an exodus away from the planet. Onboard one of these ships we meet a group of Cat like creatures pondering the gravity of the inevitable loss of their home planet as they watch on through the observation deck of the ship as the planet pulsates ready to explode. We meet our crew..Panthero, the grey skinned warrior who looks on with great despair. He questions their leader and elder of the team,Jaga, wondering “When” the big moment will happen as everyone gathers around the video monitors. Next to him stands the younglings Willykit and Wilykat as they think of a life without their homeworld. Next to Jaga is Tygra, the orange striped second in command of the Thundercat warriors. In front of him is Jaga their leader, who was orange skinned and clad in an ancient roman gladiator style headpiece and cape who tells the team that the moment of their planet’s end will soon be upon them! The lone female warrior named Cheetara stands next to their leader noting that she will miss her homeworld and specifically the feather meadows, and the singing rains. Cheetara tells us that Thundara had slipped from orbit and was now swinging towards the sun which is the cause of the planet’s peril. Lion-O is missing from the scene as he is sleeping. The group motions that he should be awakened to see the final moments of their planet’s demise. Jaga orders him to be brought to the observation deck noting that if he is to one day “rule” the Thundercats then he must “Learn to take the bad with the good”.
We switch to Lion-O’s sleeping quarters where a very young Lion-O is soundly sleeping with a teddy bear tucked snuggly under his arm with his companion Snarf. Snarf is sleeping possibly more soundly than Lion-O and in a deep dreamlike state on the floor. Snarf’s senses awaken him as he senses someone entering the sleeping berth chamber. As he gets to his feet, he begins protesting anyone who thinks about putting a hand on his friend! Its here when we see that this is no intruder..it’s Cheetara. She tells Lion-O that he has been summoned to see Jaga on the deck of the ship. Snarf argues that the boy needs his sleep. Snarf as we clearly realize is the sworn protector of Lion-O. He claims to be the one responsible for the teens welfare. Lion-O is not the hulking He-Man like figure we know and love here he is an average teenager average in stature and very lean in build. As Lion-O enters the observation deck of their ship Jaga motions him towards the Telemonitor at the very moment he witnesses the destruction of his home planet right before his eyes. Lion-O is devastated, shocked and overcome with grief. Jaga takes this opportunity to inform a distraught teen that he is indeed the hereditary Lord of the Thundercats and one who will be bestowed the sacred duty of carrying out their peoples ‘Code” of “Justice, Truth, Honor, and Loyalty. He then introduces his team of the aforementioned Thundercats!
Jaga has but one more thing to show the future ruler as he brings the team to a private chamber and bestows upon him the iconic Sword Of Omens! The sword is a mystical blade containing the source of power known as “The Eye of Thundera”. The team looks shocked at its existence as the blade appears alive. It hums and vibrates in Jaga’s hands as an anxious Lion-O cant wait to get his hands on it. He explains to Lion-O that when he looks through an aperture in the hilt of the Sword Of Omens he will have “Sight Beyond Sight” and be able to see dangers that lie in wait BEFORE you face them!! Lion-O attempts one swing of the blade and realizes that he cannot even lift the magical sword. Jaga assures him that in time he will be able to lift and use this powerful weapon. Jaga has one more trick up his sleeve. He tells the team that on their home world of Thundera they didn’t need any clothing or special weapons to protect them but with all precautions considered in this new world Jaga bestows them new gear and weapons! These then magically generate on the bodies of the team with a wave of his hand! The team is shocked by their new look.. but they like it! Remember up until this point the Cats have been “naked” as such so this was a necessary upgrade.
The team does not have time to react as they are suddenly under attack from The Planet Plun-Darr. A fleet of ships attack the Thundercats convoy. It appears it’s a joint assault from these races of Reptilians, Jackal Men AND the Monkians!! All races were previously fighting each other but this looks like a last minute insurrection to claim the Sword Of Omens from our heroes! Onboard one of the enemy ships led by the Reptilians own Slithe noted that the group of Thundarian Pilgrims are caught unprepared and have little in the way of preparation for attacking much less weapons to defend themselves! This is a sneak attack and an effective one! One by one the enemies destroy ALL of the ships in the convoy! The lead ship containing our heroes is unaffected but Jaga points out that their ship contains what the enemies seek…the Sword and that is the sole reason their ship has been spared.
Onboard the enemy command ship Slithe and the reptilian army prepare to board the remaining Thundercats ship to claim the power but they are not alone. They are followed much to their chagrin by the Jackal Men “allies” who know that their alliance will be shattered or ruled by the ones who actually claim the power of Omens and they are having none of the Reptilians boarding the ship alone giving them an advantage! We begin to see cracks in the enemy foundation of infighting and distrust immediately! The hull is breached on the Thundercats command ship and the enemies attack!! The Thundercats are ready!! Cheetara catches them off guard with her speed hitting them before they are ready to attack. Panthero uses his new mace weapon and agility to handle his foes!! Wilykat and WilyKit blind the intruders with smoke pellets and sneeze pallets temporarily slowing the enemy! Tygra eludes the intruders with his camouflage powers and attacks them while out of sight!! Jaga is in the fray as well as he battles the enemies with a sword questioning where their leader Slithe is as he is suspicious by his absence. They inform Jaga he is taking care of a “Special Obstacle”!! Jaga knows this means The Sword Of Omens!! He knows Lion-O is alone and unprotected!!
Meanwhile we see Lion-O and Snarf are in grave danger. Slithe is approaching with a party of henchmen and he demands the sword!! Snarf tries his best to protect Lion-O but is dispatched easily by Slithe! The villains mock Lion-O as he can barely lift the mighty sword but at that moment the sword seemingly comes to life! It begins to hum and vibrate! At the point where Slithe tries to take the sword it grows in length as if it were alive! The eye of Thundera on the hilt of the blade opens and the blade swings wildly at the enemies!! The bad guy’s seeing the might and power of the sword head for the hills and rush back to their ship obviously overmatched. They disengage the Commandship and flee the scene leaving our heroes alone and safe for the moment. The Thundercats however have sustained an overwhelming amount of critical losses as their convoy of Thundarians were annihilated in the attack.. Jaga thanks their hero Lion-O who explains he did little to stop the enemy and says it was the sword who did the job for him!!
Much later we see that Panthero has managed to patch the damage done to their ship and locate a nearby planet with a breathable atmosphere that they can safely land on. Panthero calls the new world Third Earth!! The only way to get to the planet however is through the use of Suspension Capsule pods which will protect our heroes by sealing them in suspended animation to protect them during the leap forward in time required to reach their destination. The group wants no part of it! Panthero is concerned by the fact that Jaga wants to stay behind and manually guide their ship to their new planet. Jaga notes that even with a suspension capsule he is too old and would not survive the journey regardless of which option they choose. It is decided he will captain their ship to Third Earth and the rest of the cats will go via suspension tubes. With the planet light years away even with a suspension tube the team will be subjected to an inevitable aging process through the course of their journey. As all Thundercats prepare themselves for suspension in their tubes, Jaga lets Lion-O know that the Sword Of Omens will be waiting for him when he arrives on their new planet. From there..all Cats go into hibernation in the suspension tubes. We see that much time passes as Jaga navigates the ship to the point where he can no longer continue. He sets the robot auto pilot to the new planet coordinates…and dies!
The ship completes its voyage to Third Earth but malfunctions upon landing and crashes into the new earth’s surface!! Fortunately there are survivors..how many we are not really sure yet! Snarf is the first to awaken and he checks on Lion-O and sure enough he has not only survived but has GROWN!!! Lion-O marvels at how big he has gotten and notes he is basically an adult now. He even tosses away his faithful teddy bear noting he has no more need for toys. Our heroes don’t get a moment’s breath when Lion-O is trailed by a landing party of bad guys led by the reptilian leader Slithe who failed the original attack to claim the sword of omens!! The bad guys scour the wreckage as Lion-O and Snarf scurry to safety in hiding. The enemies note that the rest of the Thundercats are safe and sound and sleeping in their suspension capsules. Lion-O looks on as one of the Jackal Men mount the capsules noting that they are asleep and vulnerable..the perfect time to kill them all!! Lion-O sees his fellow teammates in jeopardy and rushes to their rescue! The villains are amazed at the “Cubs” physical transformation and even more so how easily he is plowing through their attack party! Slithe however is not amused by the kids efforts and subdues him by tossing him to the side like garbage! Snarf knowing exactly what to do and brings Lion-O the Sword of Omens!! This time he has help as he is now under the spectral command of a “Force Ghost” like visage of Jaga!
Lion-O holds the sword under the guidance of ghost Jaga and utters the famous words…”thunder, Thunder, THUNDERCATS….HO!! The Eye of Omens opens on the blade’s hilt and all the sleeping Thundercats spring from their slumber inside the suspension capsules and leap into action alongside a revved up Lion-O!! The Thundercats all work as a unit, easily taking out their foes! The enemies once again decide they are overmatched and retreat… this time on the advice of the Jackal Men!! The Thundercats stand triumphant over their enemies and take a moment to celebrate as Lion-O declares this is their new home and that with the power of the eye and the sword of omens..The THUNDERCATS WILL SURVIVE!!
This is not the end of our story however as we see the fleeing enemies flying around Third Earth exploring in their scout vessel. They are seemingly taking in the scenery of this new world noting that despite its lush vegetation and serene waterfalls that this earth pales in comparison to their home world of Plun-darr!! On their travels they see some strange glowing architecture …a pyramid!! A pyramid with great power that sucks in the enemies ship to its mighty gates. Upon landing the stunned enemies disembark and head inside this mysterious temple to see what special power has summoned them!! Inside the pyramid they are met by a red cloaked mummy-like creature who offers them a proposal of sorts. He notes that he brings great knowledge of their common foe’s the Thundercats and he is the key to their demise. He motions that they should join together as a unified army and take down their common enemy and gain the power of the Eye Of Omens!! Just like that…a rogues gallery for our heroes is born..despite all parties involved are planning on stabbing each other in the back!! This is the debut of Thundercats super-bad…Mumm-Ra!!
As you can see…I was a BIG fan of this series. It was not only faithful to the series but adapted it wonderfully!! I was in awe just discovering this universe that eluded me on Saturday Mornings!! As time went on and we hit the 90s cartoon networks were beginning to appear and the shift from Saturday mornings had begun. Slowly but surely the Saturday Morning Line Ups eroded to make room for cheaper live action produced shows like Saved By The Bell, California Dreams etc. As traditional content disappeared and ratings on the once lucrative animation time slots tanked, the cost of animation drove networks out of the Saturday Morning cartoon game altogether. I was devastated. Despite being a high school graduate and preparing for university life in 93 onwards I still enjoyed the comfort of Saturday Mornings and how special they were to me growing up.
Despite my “Loss” as such, something great DID happen! In 1988 a Television station for kids called YTV debuted and invigorated the cartoon scene for many Canadian folks like myself. Spearheaded by shows like Saban’s Power Rangers and plenty of other content YTV brought the original Thundercats to Canada officially!! I was all in!! Despite being much older I did watch many of the shows and just enjoyed this property that I FIRST discovered in the comics!!
Throughout the years I can say with great certainty that I grew up in a special time in the 70s, 80s and 90’s and got to experience the best of what all kids today still consume. I just hope…maybe…just maybe, that a kid somewhere can “find” their own memories in a cartoon or a comic book and pass it forward. In a digital age we live in there is something magical in an animation cell or a 24 page comic book that this generation may be missing out on! For me that Sword of Omens opened up and showed me a world of joy!! For that I say thank you in the only fitting way possible..Thunder, Thunder, THUNDERCATS HO!!