Top Ten Old Animated Shows That Would Make Good Movies

A-group-of-cartoons-cartoon-network-76910_714_354Y’know, I been thinkin’. We sure do love ourselves some old cartoons, now don’t we?

Yessir, we sure do. And never has this been more so than recently, as Hollywood has started dipping into our nostalgia for such things in quite a dramatic way. Transformers, G.I Joe, a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles flick on the way, that Thundercats movie they keep talking about – on and on.

While I have little personal stake in the matter (I didn’t have much TV access in my formative years), in principle, I am all for this. It’s not that I wouldn’t like to see some original content once in a while, but if they’re going to keep on making adaptations of every pop cultural artifact under the sun, said artifacts might as well include some cartoons. Cartoons are nifty.

So that being said, here are my Top Ten Old Animated Shows That Would Make Good Movies! (Is it just me, or are my titles getting longer?)

Same rules as always apply – these are in no particular order, and shows that have already been adapted (or will be soon) don’t count. (Also, please remember that I haven’t actually seen all these shows myself – some I have, but not all of them – so if I’m a bit off on some of the details, that’s why. I have, however, learned as much about them via second-hand sources as possible.)

#10: Filmation’s Ghostbusters1184865450_1

What it is: From his base in the Fifth Dimension, the scheming ghost wizard Prime Evil sends his group of ghostly henchmen to Earth on a never-ending mission of world conquest. Only one group can stop him – the Ghostbusters, a second-generation group of spirit fighters comprised of the daring Jake Kong, the bumbling but good-hearted Eddie Spencer, and Tracy, an intelligent gadget-building gorilla. Together with the beautiful Futura, a Ghostbuster from the far future, and an array of anti-ghost gadgets (including the time-traveling Ghost Buggy), they battle Prime Evil’s forces across time and space. Let’s go, Ghostbusters!

Why it’s cool: Oh, I’m makin’ some enemies with this one.

‘Deneb’, I can hear people spluttering, ‘how dare you? How dare you promote a bunch of second-rate cheapo knockoffs when we’ve already got the real Ghostbusters, the genuine, ECTO-1 drivin’, Proton Pack-firin’, Slimer-mascoted Boys In Gray? How dare you, you, you… arrrgghfbblbllch!’

First off, calm down. You’ll either give yourself a heart attack or stain the carpet. And second, they are not the originals. Not quite.

Without going too far into detail, the Ghostbusters that most think of as the one and only are actually the second such team to bear that name. The original one was from a short-lived live action kid’s show from the ‘70’s. When the movie was a hit, Filmation, who owned the rights to said show, decided to revive the franchise as a sequel series, starring the sons of the original Busters (as well as their gorilla).

So OK, why should you be interested in a movie about these guys? I mean, they’re a couple of goofballs and a talking (well, sort of) gorilla; what exactly makes this filmworthy?

Look, here’s what to do – forget the whole Ghostbusters thing. Forget that the leads are kind of silly. Look at the basic concept. The basic concept is awesome.

Think about it. You’ve got these guys who battle all kinds of mythological and supernatural phenomena across the centuries in a time-traveling car (yes, just like in Back to the Future; I’m not sure which came first, but it’s still cool), while simultaneously opposing the efforts of a super-powerful wizard to invade and conquer Earth, all the while wielding a variety of improbable high-tech gadgets. And there’s a gorilla. What about that doesn’t sound cool?Theghosts

Furthermore, for what was basically a cheap little TV cartoon, this show had an awesome design team behind it. Every time the team goes into action, there’s this bizarre sequence where they get suited up in a room full of freaky monster faces hanging in the void, and there’s conveyor belts and mechanical arms and the theme song is playing and oh it’s epic. The places and situations that the Busters encounter are generally not all that innovative, but they look real purty, I’ll give ‘em that. This extended to the character concepts as well – Prime Evil may just be another ‘I’ll get you next time!’ stock villain, but he’s still pretty darn cool. I mean, look at the guy; he’s a cybernetic ghost wizard from another dimension! Is that not awesome? I think it’s awesome.

If done correctly, a Filmation’s Ghostbusters movie would be something like a combination between the original ‘Busters flick and Time Bandits, with a bit of Doctor Who thrown in. There would, I’m sure, be a strong temptation to play things all goofy and for laughs, but I would resist that and allow the humor to come from the basic situation; that almost always works best, and it would allow for some increased character development and the like. So far as the Busters themselves go, Jake could be played by just about any Hollywood pretty boy; he’s a fairly standard ‘leading man’ type, but I actually do have a specific guy in mind for Eddie – Jack Black. I’m not Black’s biggest fan, but he was made for a role like this. See, Eddie is basically the series’ weakest link; he pretty much just bumbled around and got into trouble. That would need to be fixed ASAP if the movie were to work, and Black would be just the guy to do it; he can be both goofy and serious, and I can see him playing Eddie as a wisecracking, out-of-his depth goofball who pulls it together in the end and proves himself a true hero. As for Tracy – gorilla suit. A really good one.

Of course, the main problem with a movie like this is that the Ghostbusters name is tied up at this point; you’d need to either call them something else or tweak the name somehow, and I don’t pretend to know how that would be done. Still, I think it would be worth the effort, as this thing could be truly nifty if a little time and effort were put into it. Let’s go, let’s go!

#9: Jayce and the Wheeled WarriorsJAYCE-AND-THE-WHEELED-WARRIORS1

What it is: Sometime far into an unspecified future, Audric, a genius botanist, was conducting experiments in biotechnology, in an effort to create a food plant that could grow and thrive in any environment – and he’d succeeded. Unfortunately, a burst of cosmic radiation mutated his initial specimens into the evil Monster Minds, a group of intelligent shapeshifting plant creatures bent on the acquisition of power.

Seeking to undo the wrong he’d unleashed upon the world, Audric created a ‘magic root’ that, when completed, would reverse the process, but was forced to flee before the two halves of it could be joined into a whole. Taking one half with him, he sent his servant, Oom, to find his son Jayce and entrust him with the other. Swearing to find his father and rid the universe of the plant creatures’ evil forever, Jayce and his friends – his elderly mentor, wizard/scientist Gillian, the faithful Oom, Flora, a young girl born from a flower as the result of one of Audric’s experiments, and Herc Stormsailor, the cynical mercenary who pilots their spaceship – travel across the galaxy, pursued by the Monster Minds and their leader, Saw Boss. Battling them however they can in a variety of crafts created by Gillian, they are the Wheeled Warriors!

Why it’s cool: Well, I, uh… never said it was an easy to explain show, now did I?

At its most basic, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors hews pretty closely to the same formula that informed a lot of this sort of cartoon – motley group of heroes fighting a formidable-yet-roughly-matched-in-power group of bad guys who they eternally sought to stop. (Also, lots of gadgets that can sell toys.)

So what makes this particular show so worthy of notice? Well, it’s darned interesting, if nothing else.

I didn’t have room in that rather crowded explanation to talk about some of the stranger aspects of Wheeled Warriors. For instance, the Monster Minds don’t just transform, they transform into wheeled vehicles with weapons on ‘em! (Saw Boss is so named because his vehicle form features a large circular saw blade.) Yes, just like the Transformers, except they’re plant-creatures turning into plant-cars. Oh, and they travel across space via a giant space-vine teleport system. And the Warriors actually call themselves the Lightning League, after a legendary group of evil-battlers from some time back, and Jayce wears a magic ring of leadership inherited from them. And I didn’t even mention that Oom is a diminutive suit of animated armor, or that Flora has a pet fish-bird… thing that she can ride on the back of, or… Yeah.oonjaycelook

This does not exactly sound like a cohesive grouping of elements, I’ll grant you, but the overall result is gaudy, yet unified. JatWW is bat**** insane in such a glorious way that I’m sure no one will be surprised that it was a French/US co-production. (Oh French folks and your wild sci-fi, we do love you so.) The set-up may be busy as all get-out, but it works, and the end result is something that is, to say the least, unique. If nothing else, the small but devoted following this ‘toon has retained over the years suggests that it is more than the sum of its parts.

Overall, I’d say that there is enough that’s purely unique about Wheeled Warriors to make for a fascinatingly oddball sci-fi epic. I’m not sure how you could successfully adapt this – you would certainly have to trim a lot of stuff, and some might grumble at the number of thematic elements it shares with Star Wars – but even if it failed, the attempt would be interesting to watch.

#8: SilverHawksTheSilverhawkcrew

What it is: Far in the future, far, far from Earth, lies the Galaxy of Limbo, where the twisted alien criminal MonStar has broken loose from prison and is wreaking havoc with the aid of his gang of monstrous crooks. In an effort to bring this wrongdoing to a halt, volunteers are called for from the law enforcement community – volunteers for entry into a unique group of crimefighters, a group cybernetically altered to fly and battle in the depths of space. Partly metal, partly real, they are the SilverHawks!

Why it’s cool: In stark contrast to the previous entry, here is a situation where the basic premise saves a concept that is otherwise rather annoyingly stripped down.

Case in point – who are the SilverHawks? I mean, who are they really; who were they before they got themselves sealed into cyborg outer space battlesuits? As best I can tell, we’re never told. Personally, I would find this maddening – it’d be like RoboCop if we never found out who Robo was; he just kinda showed up. They had to have good reasons for volunteering; you don’t just toss away your humanity like that on a lark! ‘For justice’ just doesn’t really cut it here, ya know?

And yet, there is that basic concept. Which, let’s face it, is awesome.

What are SilverHawks? SilverHawks are cyborgs that have the ability to propel themselves unaided through the depths of outer space and blow the hell out of bad guys with built-in weapons systems. Let’s take that RoboCop comparison and run with it for a moment – let’s imagine what Robo would be like if his stomping grounds were the airless void, and he’d volunteered for the position instead of being forced into it. Volunteer space RoboCop, got it?

Now imagine that there’s an entire team of them, out there battling nefarious alien crimi-

Waitaminnit…

They’re the SpaceKnights! These are totally the SpaceKnights, as in Rom: SpaceKnight, as in the guy I mentioned in my Top Ten B-List Characters Who Deserve Movies article! Except in law enforcement, and not aliens! (Well, OK, there’s one alien, but the rest are human.)

Oh, this is serendipity, this is. You know what this would mean? This would mean that a SilverHawks movie could be a test-run for a Rom movie! If one outer space cyborg flick did decent box office, that would clear the way for others to do the same – and guess who’d be waiting in the wings to do just that? Rom, my friends, Rom!silverhawks_L32

Whoever owns the SilverHawks, I implore you – make a movie out of ‘em. Make a really good movie out of ‘em. All the seeds for one are there. They’re pretty much blank slates, so fill ‘em in – give them reasons for volunteering, deepen them up. Make them heroes, willing to have sacrificed their humanity for the greater good. Give us a look at the sort of future society that would ask its citizens to make such a decision in the first place. Make them look awesome and do awesome things; give us epic outer space battles with spaceships exploding and the ‘Hawks zipping around like mad on silver wings between the stars, kicking the crap out of evil alien monstrosities! It could be amazing, you know it could! And then maybe, just maybe, Hasbro would see this and be tempted, and they’d partner with Marvel to bring Rom back for the silver screen, and, and… YAAAY!

Wings of silver, nerves of steel – get the hell on with it!

#7: The Pirates of Dark Watertumblr_m2asi4rcB41r5x17lo1_500

What it is: On the alien world of Mer, trouble is brewing. A mysterious black substance known only as Dark Water is spreading across the oceans, devouring all it encounters. On a planet with land masses largely comprised of island chains, this is disastrous, and all Mer faces potential destruction unless the voracious goop is done away with.

Thankfully, there is a possible way to achieve this – the legendary Thirteen Treasures of Rule, mystic artifacts which grant the bearer enormous power. They, and only they, may be enough to bring Dark Water to a halt. Unfortunately, the Treasures are scattered across the globe, and in order to use them, you have to find them – not an easy task.

It is to this end that the young Ren and his allies sail the seas of Mer. Prince of the once-great kingdom of Octopon, he has vowed to bring the Treasures together and save his world. Aided by the roguish Ioz, the mysterious ‘Ecomancer’ Tula and the Monkey-Bird (what he sounds like) Niddler, the Prince will have rough waters ahead, as he is also stalked by the dread pirate lord Bloth, who is obsessed with gaining the treasures for himself. Time for high adventure!

Why it’s cool: OK, in the interest of basic transparency I should mention that I’m far from the first person to make this suggestion. Indeed, there are several different sites on the ‘Net that have articles about this very thing, generally written by people who have, y’know, actually seen the show, which I have to admit I have not. So if you want to get a more in-depth, well-informed look at what a PoDW movie would be like, perhaps you should look somewhere else. Don’t worry, I won’t be offended.

That being said, dude. Swashbuckling adventure on the high seas of an alien planet! Mystical treasures, evil villains, dashing heroes, strange alien creatures, a mysterious force that threatens the world! I don’t have to have actually seen the series to know that this stuff is awesome (although I plan to anyway, at some point).

Moreover, it’s awesome in a very timely way. Pirate movies are hot again, thanks to the Pirates of the Caribbean series, and while fantasy movies ebb and flow in popularity, they are essentially timeless – a good one could strike at any time and revitalize the market for them, so why not Pirates of Dark Water? (Heck, PotC itself is essentially a fantasy series, so the dice would seem to be stacked in its favor.)pirates3

There is, of course, one issue in adapting the series – its basic concept is focused around a lengthy search; indeed, one that was never actually concluded in the series proper (it got cancelled before the story wrapped up). This might prove a problem with a movie’s more limited running time and different narrative demands. How to solve it? Simplicity itself; simply change the Thirteen Treasures into a smaller number, the Three, perhaps, or the Seven (after all, the movie could already begin with some of them gathered together – perhaps Bloth could have found them already, and our heroes nab them from him). Or, if one wishes to take a purist stance on this, plan for a trilogy of films, the first featuring our heroes meeting and learning to work together, the second a quest movie where they go after various Treasures, and the third a race to the finish with Bloth to find the last of them before him. (After all, even if the sequels never got made, at least we wouldn’t be any worse off than fans of the show were.)

Overall, this series could be astoundingly successful on the big screen. Mind you, one would have to be careful that it didn’t end up as merely a PotC rip-off, but its unique setting and high-fantasy flavor should take care of that. We need more fantasy movies, and we can never have enough good pirate movies – I see a bridge! Build it, Hollywood!

#6: Jonny Questjonny-quest-slice

What it is: In a near future strikingly similar to the mid-1960’s (but with cooler gadgets), one of the top scientists in the world is Dr. Benton Quest. With his brilliant mind and proficiency in multiple scientific fields, Dr. Quest is a frequent traveler, journeying to places all over the world that are in need of his expert assistance. But he’s not alone – he is accompanied by his young son Jonny, along with Jonny’s best friend (and adopted brother) Hadji, his dog Bandit, and their bodyguard Race Bannon. Frequently going up against evildoers of various stripes during their travels, including the nefarious Dr. Zin, the Quest family is ever ready for action and excitement!

Why it’s cool: OK, why has no one made this thing yet?

Seriously, Jonny Quest has been around since the ‘60’s. True, it’s been a while since he’s had a new show, but the original has been in reruns since who-knows-when; it’s inspired both a sequel and one of the more successful parodies currently being produced, and it’s overall affected and influenced the entire genre of adventure fiction. Even if you’ve never seen Jonny Quest, you know Jonny Quest – what makes producers think that a JQ movie would be anything less than a whopping success?

There’s all the ingredients for great stuff here. Jonny goes up against spies, monsters, hostile tribesmen, mad scientists, dinosaurs, robots, mummies, lost civilizations, you name it; he hobnobs with badass secret agents and femme fatales, he goes to every exotic location imaginable – there are enough story elements to fill fifty terrific adventure movies, and that’s only in the original series!BentonRaceBELTS

Admittedly, there are one or two things that have not aged as well as they might have – Hadji is a pretty cool character in my opinion, but there’s no denying that with his trademark turban and occasional bouts of random levitation, he’s pretty much the postcard picture of a stereotypical ‘mysterious Indian swami’ type. And then, of course, there’s the fact that their nemesis Dr. Zin is your basic Fu Manchu type. But really, that sort of thing is easily smoothed out. Give us Dr. Quest being smart, Race Bannon kicking ass, Jonny and Hadji saving the day, dramatic scenery and a reasonable assortment of action sequences with some cool gadgets, evil bad guys and a smattering of monsters/unfriendly creatures here and there – a lion, a T-Rex, an other-dimensional terror, I’m not picky – and you will have a darn fine Jonny Quest movie. It’s long past time; get to it, movie people!

#5: Adventures of the Galaxy Rangerskey_art_the_adventures_of_the_galaxy_rangers

What it is: In the year 2086, Earth was visited by extraterrestrials seeking allies against the Crown Empire, ever seeking to expand its borders at the expense of others. In exchange, the ambassadors offered the plans for construction of a hyperdrive device, the key to interstellar travel.

Now, some time later, humanity has spread out among the stars, with colonies in every corner of the galaxy – the last frontier, large enough to go on forever. With growth, however, has come crime, and this necessitated the creation of the Bureau of Extra-Terrestrial Affairs (BETA), along with its Ranger division, which handles things out on the rough edges. One particular group of the latter have distinguished themselves many times against a variety of desperadoes, including the Crown Empire, still seeking to wipe out all opposition. They are the Galaxy Rangers, heroes in the sky!

Why it’s cool: Just to prove to those of you not thoroughly convinced yet that I am completely shallow, this one’s inclusion was initially sparked by me coming across an extended version of the opening theme song on YouTube. (For those of you who haven’t seen it, check it out; it is awesome.) That’s the only actual exposure to the world of Galaxy Rangers that I’ve had; the more I thought about it, however, the more I became convinced that, going by that video and the scant research I’ve done, this show might just have what it takes to make for an awesome movie.

I’ve always had a fondness for the so-called ‘space Western’, and GR seems to have done a better-than-usual job of integrating the two genres. You’ve got gunfights against crooks and hijackers, except said nogoodniks are packing ray guns. You’ve got horse-drawn stagecoaches thundering across the desert, except the desert is on another planet, and the horses are robots! On top of that, you’ve also got large-scale space battles, cyborgs, psychics, cool aliens, all that good stuff – oh, and the fact that the good guys occasionally wield laser-firing electric guitars! I don’t know how that fits in, but it’s still awesome.williams-galaxyrang-splsh1

Moreover, amongst people who have watched the show, it retains a pretty solid cult following, generally considered to be an American version of one of the epic space Animes, and a pretty darn good one at that, with a surprisingly complex set of characters and storylines. Depth and awesomeness; what more needs to be said? Just include that theme song in the end credits, and I’ll be a happy camper! No guts no glory, no pain no gain – take a chance and make a Galaxy Rangers movie!

#4: Spiral Zone5553482430_71bb471023_b

What it is: In the near future, the evil genius James Bent has come up with a scheme for world domination. Not only is it terrible beyond belief, it appears to be working pretty well so far.

The scheme in question? The use of an invention called the Zone Generator, which generates an area of atmospheric contagion known as the Spiral Zone, due to the shape it takes. Inside the specific conditions of the Zone, a type of artificial bacteria thrives, which induces in all exposed to it a yellowing of the eyes, lurid crimson blotches on the skin, and a total loss of one’s ability to think for oneself or, indeed, do just about anything except obey orders. The only people immune to these latter effects are Bent (now calling himself ‘Overlord’) and his minions the Black Widows, who help enforce his commands.

The situation is grave. Overlord has already put enough Generators in place to cover half the planet with the Zone’s mists, and rules uncontested over its population of hapless ‘Zoners’. Direct military intervention is impossible, but there is one defense – Neutron-90, a synthetic material through which the Zone’s effects cannot penetrate. It is sufficiently difficult to create, however, that only a very small amount can be produced, enough to make a set of protective clothing for five commandoes, chosen from Earth’s militaries as a strike force dedicated to taking out the Generators and overthrowing Overlord’s rule. Known informally as the Zone Riders, they are Earth’s last chance against the Spiral Zone!

Why it’s cool: How’s that for a concept, eh?

Seriously, Spiral Zone is one of the darker and more twisted kids’ shows I’ve ever come across. It’s got an almost apocalyptic feel to it – the bad guys have essentially already won, and all that the good guys can do is keep them in check before they conquer the entire planet. Sure, the characters have era-appropriate goofy names and all that sort of thing, but there’s no getting around the fact that the series focuses on a desperate ongoing battle against overwhelming odds, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance – and if the heroes lose, said fate is a grim one indeed; humanity enslaved to an eternity of mindless, shuffling servitude under the thumb of a twisted madman and his servants. That’s pretty darn grim.5574134922_fd15917600_b

With only a small amount of revision, this basic concept could easily make for a moody, gritty military sci-fi movie. Expand the Widows from a handful of backstabbing commandoes to a small army of criminal occupation, thereby giving the Riders more people to fight and emphasizing how very outnumbered they are. Emphasize, too, the international nature of the team – the half of the planet that the Spiral Zone encompasses includes the Americas, so this would be a good chance to not have everything boil down to ‘Americans save the day for America yet again’, but instead treat the threat as something truly earthshaking that humanity in general can only beat by working together as a unified whole. If you expanded the roster to include a few more Riders, say eight instead of five, this would allow the addition of, for example, African, Indian and Chinese members, as opposed to the largely Western Powers-dominated Riders in the cartoon. Finally, make the effects of intensive long-term Zone exposure even more disfiguring, so that when Overlord and his close associates are finally encountered, they are something truly monstrous, warped, twisted mockeries of humanity rendered that way by their own greed and lust for power.

If handled correctly, a Spiral Zone movie could be something truly dark, disturbing and intense, something like Children of Men crossed with Aliens and a bit of 28 Days Later. Does that not sound like a certain species of awesome? Earth’s most powerful soldiers, roll out!

#3: Danger MouseDangerMouse-pic1

What it is: Britain’s top secret agent is not a man – he’s a mouse! Equipped with the latest in high-tech gadgetry, and accompanied by his cowardly hamster assistant Penfold, the daring rodent fights a never-ending battle against the forces of evil, most often personified by the nefarious Baron Silas Greenback and his minions. He’s the greatest, he’s fantastic – he’s Danger Mouse!

Why it’s cool: Now, you all knew I was going to get at least one funny animal show on here, didn’t you? But which one?

The trouble with such shows is that they tend to work best within their own little 20-minute worlds; problems tend to pop up when adapting them. (For a recent example, take the eye-rolling monstrosities of studio cheese that are the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies.) As such, several of my own personal favorites – Darkwing Duck, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, etc. – wound up not making the list for the simple reason that ever-more terrifying examples of how they could go wrong kept popping into my head. (Mind you, I’d be ecstatic if one of them were to be done right, but regardless.) In order to avoid such terrors, I would need to pick a show with a framework, something concrete that a concept could be built around without having to delve into direly deconstructionist self-parody and endless pop culture references.Image40

Hence, Danger Mouse. This show has two major advantages – it is based around a very specific sort of adventure story (the James Bond-style spy thriller) which gives screenwriters a set template to follow, and it comes equipped with its own style of quirky humor, which gives them something to emulate. Also, it’s got good characters and plenty of opportunity for dramatic (if somewhat silly) set-pieces – action sequences, things exploding, diabolical plots, etc. In essence, therefore, a good Danger Mouse movie would be a good old-fashioned spy movie, only with a sense of humor and funny animals; sort of a mouse version of Our Man Flint. Doesn’t sound too impossible, does it?

I’m not pretending that there still aren’t any number of things that could go wrong, but there is a certain amount of optimism that comes with making these lists – one is, after all, basing one’s entries on the notion that things will go right. Therefore, I think ol’ DM would make for a jolly good movie, what-ho! Er, yes. Moving on.

#2: Defenders of the Earthdefenders-of-the-earth

What it is: Having exhausted the resources of his home planet Mongo, the sinister alien despot Ming the Merciless sets his sights elsewhere – to Earth. Finding himself outmatched by the sheer power summoned to achieve this task, Ming’s archenemy Flash Gordon flees to his own home planet to summon aid. He gathers together three of Earth’s mightiest heroes to stand alongside him in this battle – the legendary Phantom, mysterious jungle hero, Mandrake the Magician, magic-worker extraordinaire, and Mandrake’s long-time friend and associate Lothar (here a noted independent adventurer in his own right). Along with their respective teenage offspring at their side, they are the Defenders of the Earth!

Why it’s cool: Flash Gordon, the Phantom, and Mandrake the Magician – three of the most legendary comic strip/book heroes of all time (even if they’ve been overshadowed a bit by DC and Marvel characters in recent years). Individually, they’re cool – put all together, they’d be freakin’ awesome!

And, apparently, they were. I still haven’t caught up on the show myself, but all sources seem to confirm that it was pretty darn good for what was basically just a cash-in by King Features Syndicate on their three best-known properties. The four (with Lothar) heroes had surprisingly good chemistry considering their disparate styles, and formed a competent team against the alien menace of Ming.

Mind you, there would be gaps to fill. After all, some people might not have heard of these characters, because, you know, they’re not Batman or Superman. What to do about it? Avengers this puppy! Make DotE the culmination of a quadrilogy, the first three of which introduce the individual members. True, we’ve already had Flash Gordon and Phantom movies, but they were both a while back, and you can’t depend on the public’s nostalgia to fill in the blanks for this sort of thing. Mandrake and Lothar, in any case, have never gotten any sort of movie, so this would be a good excuse for one.

This is not to say, of course, that it should be done exactly like the Avengers movie. Indeed, I would do it quite differently in some ways. Have the individual movies each feature the hero as a young man, starting out on his career – in the case of the Phantom, emphasize the family legacy that is the core of the character. Have Flash Gordon come first, and emphasize that Mongo is dying, ravaged by Ming’s rule with few resources left. Have Ming be intrigued by the existence of a comparatively lush planet, and have the ending be on a somewhat ambiguous note, where he’s beaten for the moment, but not quite conquered. In the ensuing two movies, have the heroes fight villains connected in some subtle way with Ming – he’s funding them somehow, or his agents are monitoring the situation, establishing a toehold on Earth.tumblr_m5tnj7iLcQ1qdj1wio1_500

Finally the DotE movie arrives, and it is set years later, when the heroes are in their late thirties or early forties, long enough for them all to have fathered offspring. Now Ming attacks, and he is an old enemy, known at least somewhat to all three of them. They have gained confidence and experience; they are beginners no longer, and are more than capable of defending the planet. They won’t be doing it alone, though, as they have their children to help out – now they are not just heroes but teachers, ushering in the next generation, making certain that their legacy will survive. Meanwhile, the world’s being invaded by aliens! Zoinks! Time for great big explosions!

Honestly, this is one of those shows that I’ve had a minor obsession with for quite a while, and I can’t help but think that a well-done movie adaptation would be epic. Defenders of the Earth, everybody!

#1: Thundarr the BarbarianThundarr-the-Barbarian-image-1

What it is: In the near future, a “runaway planet” passes through Earth’s orbit, splitting the Moon in two and causing catastrophic destruction, bringing an end to civilization as we know it. Two thousand years later, mankind has managed to struggle forth from the ashes and begin anew – but in a very different form. Earth is now in an age of barbarism, an age where sorcery is just as viable as science, new species walk alongside humanity, and a man is measured by the swiftness of his sword.

Such a man is Thundarr. Once a slave of the wizard Sabian, he was broken free by the wizard’s stepdaughter Princess Ariel, a powerful sorceress in her own right. Now, alongside the Princess and Ookla, a member of the bestial Mok species and fellow ex-slave, he fights evil in the wastelands of the future as Thundarr the Barbarian!

Why it’s cool: To start with, boy, does this one have a pedigree. Created by Steve Gerber and designed by Alex Toth and Jack “King” Kirby, this thing is practically comic book royalty all on its own. It’s no wonder that it’s remained so famous over the years.

And why shouldn’t it have? I’ve only seen bits of the show, but it’s enough to convince me that this thing was a glorious mish-mash. It’s basically what you’d get if you crossed Conan the Barbarian with Road Warrior, and added just a touch of Star Wars. Evil wizards, mutant monster-men, ray guns, sorcery, chases on horseback – Thundarr has it all!thund09

This isn’t to say that there aren’t a few issues that would need to be ironed out, of course. For one thing, as with Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, there are several elements that could lead people to see it as a Star Wars knockoff – Ookla the Mok, for example, is definitely at least influenced by Chewbacca, and Thundarr’s signature weapon, the Sunsword, is basically a bargain-basement lightsaber. There are ways around this, however; I mean, goodness knows there is room in cinema for more than one unintelligible beast-man sidekick (anyway, he’s really more sympathetic Orc than Wookie), and as for the Sunsword, well… just make it a normal sword that glows or something like that. It’s far from impossible.

Overall, as with Jonny Quest, I’m really kind of amazed that no one has tackled this thing yet. It’s got a huge fan-following – Ookla has a rock band named after him, for goodness sake – it was worked on by some of the most influential people in comics, and it’s got classic fantasy/sci-fi/adventure tropes coming out its ears. Any halfway decent bunch of moviemakers could make a classic movie out of this material. Make it so!

Runner-ups: Mummies Alive!, Darkwing Duck, Fantomcat, Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers, Count Duckula.

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9 Comments

  1. I hope you’ll pardon me for being pedantic, but the correct word is tetralogy, not quadrilogy. I’m not sure the latter is even a real word (I’ve checked two dictionaries and neither of them list it).

    Out of all those, the only ones I have a clear memory of ever watching are Ghostbusters and Silverhawks.

    • You are perfectly justified in being pedantic; however, as Al points out, there is a precedent here. Allow me to quote from the Wikipedia entry on ‘Tetralogy’:

      The term “quadrilogy”, basing the prefix on Latin prefix quadri- instead of the Greek prefix, and first recorded in 1865, has also been used for marketing series of movies, such as the Alien series.

      Given that movies are what we’re talking about here, I think my use of the phrase is acceptable.
      As for me, the only one of these that I ever watched while part of its intended target audience was Ghostbusters – and that wasn’t on TV, it was on VHS from the local video store.

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    • High compliments, thank you! I’m really not all THAT knowledgeable about it – most of it I learned through research and/or cultural osmosis – but if, in your impression, I managed to make a convincing argument for my points regardless, then thanks, that’s what I was trying to do. I don’t have a ‘feed’ per se, but if you’d like to keep following my work here on MRFH, you’re more than welcome to!

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  5. Y’know, I’d completely forgotten about Spiral Zone–it really was a dark show, and every episode had an undertone of the desperate situation the world was in. It really would make a good movie–or even a TV miniseries, come to think of it.
    SilverHawks and Galaxy Rangers both have my vote. I’ve always been a sucker for that ‘space fighters for justice’ stuff.
    Pirates of Dark Water simply deserves a conclusion. It’s been thirty years–why hasn’t Hanna-Barbera revived this yet?
    Great article, excellent arguments, splendid suggestions. I hope someone influential out there read this.

    • Thanks! Glad you liked it!
      Yeah, it would be nice if one of those all-powerful Hollywood producer guys read one of these and went ‘Ye gods, we’ve been doing it ALL WRONG! Thompson! I want a script treatment of this ready to pitch by Monday!’ But then again, I don’t know how much websurfing your average all-powerful Hollywood producer does, so… yeah. Nice fantasy, anyway.

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