Sep 11, 2013

My Top 5 Toons: Retro Sci-Fi Edition

The September Loot Crate theme was recently announced as "Animate" so we can be sure they'll deliver some cartoon related goodies this month. It might be too much to hope to get a little something from all the franchises on the TV screens above but if it's as good as the
Arcade Crate from April, I'll be a happy camper.

Other members in the community are doing "Top 5 Animated" lists so I thought I'd join in with my own spin. Doing a general Top 5 animated series of all time would be a daunting task to say the least so I narrowed the focus to sci-fi toons from my childhood.

5 - Force Five
I'm cheating a bit here because Force Five was actually an anthology series that ran a different show each weekday. But how can you not include the series that launched the Shogun Warriors toys? This calls for a list within a list, so here's how I rank the individual shows: Grandizer, Spaceketeers, Starvengers, Gaiking, Dangard Ace. These shows had a very limited broadcast when they originally aired in the US and aren't readily available for purchase so you might have to go to YouTube or Ebay to check them out.

4 - Star Blazers
Being a kid in grade school used to American Saturday morning cartoons, Star Blazers blew my mind! Of course at the time I couldn't grasp the mature themes and plot lines but it had lots of space battles, cool characters and ships and a flying battleship with a gun that runs the length of it! What really grabbed me was that it had a continuing story episode to episode. At one point, the network changed the airing schedule and moved my beloved Star Blazers to a time slot where I had to be on my way to school!

VCRs hadn't caught on yet so what did I do to not miss an episode? I setup my cassette recorder every day and hit record on my way out the door! When I got home from school, I'd listen to the episode. That's how much I loved it! I don't recall a lot of it today and some day I'm going to watch the whole series. I did manage to catch a live action movie (Space Battleship Yamato) based on the series and it really felt like what I remember the show being. It's a pretty cool flick even if you're not familiar with the series.

Yeah, there's the whole Coast to Coast thing but we're staying firmly in retro times with the original '66 series and the '81 series Space Stars. Although I did geekgasm when he popped up for a spot on the recent Batman: The Brave & The Bold series. Ol' SG was designed by legendary artist Alex Toth who also created occasional crossover pals, The Herculoids.

Space Ghost has got all kinds of cool going for him: invisibilty, power bands that shoot a variety of energy beams, and a sweet ride that can also turn invisible. But nothing is as cool as having Gary Owens provide your voice! He wouldn't be half the hero he is without that. Oh yeah, he's got a couple of teen sidekicks and their space monkey. But before you go and say Blip is lame, just remember the Wonder Twins' Gleek. Blip would fling him like poo!

2 - Battle of the Planets/Gatchaman (Pinterest)
Man, the '70s/'80s were a great time to be a kid that loved sci-fi, thanks Star Wars! And Battle of the Planets certainly capitalized on that movie's success. This gets the top anime spot on my list because I remember being so into it and getting the Gold Key comics. One of my grade school geek pals and I would watch this after school. We cut out and colored our very own sonic boomerangs from cardboard but they didn't fly that great. No matter what kind of kid you were, you could identify with one of the five heroes: Mark, the straight edged leader; Jason, the bad boy; Princess, the kick butt girl; Tiny, the ironically named husky guy; and Keeyop, the youngest of the group.

It wasn't until much later in life that I'd find out BotP was an edited, Americanized version of an original anime called Gatchaman. What a difference! It was like going from Adam West to Christian Bale. And gone was 7-Zark-7. Although he factored into my playing BotP, I never really liked him. He never seemed like he was taking things too seriously, mostly sequestered in his underwater command center.

To say I'm excited to see what the upcoming live action movie does to modernize the franchise would be an understatement. Check out the trailer.

1 - Thundarr the Barbarian (Pinterest)
Let's face it, the '80s were a golden time for sci-fi, fantasy, and post (non-zombie) apocalypse media. A lot of movies of the time tried to combine at least two of those things and only a few succeeded. As far as I know, internet correct me if I'm wrong, Thundarr was the only cartoon to combine all three of those elements. Adventure Time may be a close second but the sci-fi doesn't factor into it nearly on the same level as Thundarr.

The original character designs were done by Alex Toth and when he left, Jack freakin Kirby took over! You can't ask for much better than that.

It's one of the few cartoons I've revisited from childhood that holds up. They knew they had a great setting for telling stories and they ran with it! Ruby & Spears said they wanted this to be for a young teen audience which is why it lacks a lot of cutesy that was common on Saturday mornings. I'm lookin at you, Trobbits from Blackstar!

When you look at it, the world of Thundarr (Earth 3994 AD) is a not a fun place. This is a fantasy world without many heroes. Most people live in tribal villages or in ruined buildings. Power hungry evil wizards are oppressing, when not enslaving or trying to kill, the population while hunting for ancient technology. The land is populated with all kinds of dangerous mutants, beast men, and amalgamated creatures. But it’s the genre mash-up that makes Thundarr so much fun. It’s just not something you see done well very often.

During its run, Thundarr didn’t have much merchandising: a lunchbox/thermos combo, a coloring book and a board game, which is now hard to find and I must have it!

I'm afraid to ask for a reboot and/or a feature film but seriously, this is one property that hits a whole lot of geek buttons at once! The world is ready!


  1. Your numbers 1 and 2 are my all time favorites hands down with me putting BOTP/Gatachaman as my #1 and Thundarr as my #2.

    1. Just goes to show what excellent taste you have, Jboy!