"Thundercats are on the move! Thundercats are loose!"

Growing up in a home with two working parents, television acted as a sort of surrogate--when I had a question about morality or where babies came from, and the books I had access to couldn't provide the answers, there was a good chance that t.v. would try to explain things to me. While it greatly disturbs me to consider the extent of the impact that all of those hours in front of the tube probably had on my personality, I also have some of the fondest memories of television of anyone I know. So much of my time as a kid was spent glued to the beautiful glowing screen alongside my sister watching this show. It was the first time I can recall being sucked into a season finale.

ThunderCats was a cartoon produced in 1983 and first aired in 1985. It ran for four seasons that took place between 1985 and 1987. Ten years later, Cartoon Network started airing reruns of the show. The premise was something like this: Faced with the imminent destruction of their home planet, Thundera, a group of humanoid cats board spacecraft and put themselves into stasis in hopes that they will be able to find a new place to settle. One of these spacecraft is attacked, and forced to land on a planet, Third Earth. These events render their vehicle unusable, and so the Thundercats are forced to settle on the planet. The majority of the show deals with how they adapt to their new environment and its inhabitants.

Here is a list of all of the Thundercats I can remember, along with mini-biographies and links to nodes that discuss them further.

  • Lion-o -- He was the leader of the Thundercats on Third Earth (for some reason), and carried the Sword of Omens. He can be distinguished from the other male Thundercats by his perpetually wind-blown hair (fur?).
  • Panthro* -- The eldest of the original Thundercats and their handyman, Panthro built the Thundertank out of leftover bits of their crashed spaceship. He also designed the Cat's Lair. He wielded a weapon similar to the nunchucks carried by ninjas in comic books. He can be distinguished by sexploitation background music played whenever he is the focus of a scene.
  • Tygra -- Supposedly the most cunning of the Thundercats, although the writing was so bad that it is hard to tell. He carries a bolo whip and can become invisible. He also led the Robear Birbles while they built the Cat's Lair for the Thundercats. Tygra wore a full-body blue and white suit.
  • Cheetara -- Early in the series, the only adult female Thundercat. She used her incredible speed to confuse enemies, and then tripped them up with her staff (which she could conveniently change the length of). She was endowed with some kind of psychic powers which gave her accurate, but limited premonitions. Distinguishable by being female and having long head hair (fur?).
  • Wily Kit and Wily Kat -- Youthful twin siblings whose sole responsibility seemed to be finding out about trouble by going outside more often than the other Thundercats. They were equipped with little, exploding marbles and hoverboards. Distinguishable from the other Thundercats because of their propensity to call each other by name whenever speaking to one another. "{What are you doing}, Wily Kit?" "Nothing much, Wily Kat."
  • Snarf -- Captain in charge of getting into trouble and needing to be saved, Snarf was saved from constant plight only by his own cowardice. Snarf also served as an advisor to Lion-O. Distinguishable from the other Thundercats by his short stature and lizard-like tail.
  • Jaga -- Jaga appeared as an apparition to the other Thundercats in times of duress. He provided advice, and often was in charge of delivering the moral at the end of the episode. Jaga was recognizable by his translucence, and his long, perpetually wind-blown cape.

More Thundercats were introduced later on in the series, but I can't remember much about them except that one was a girl, one was old and blind, and one was drawn to look like a white tiger.

* Little known fact: During the worst part of my Thundercats addiction, I was convinced that I would marry Panthro when I grew up.

The "New Thundercats" were introduced in 1988, as part of the revival of the Thundercats series.
  • Pumyra -- has a wide range of skills, including incredible agility and speed, amazing leaping, accuracy with bow and slingshot (her preferred weapon), and she also has medical knowledge.
  • Ben Gali -- an incredibly talented blacksmith back on Thundera, Ben Gali uses his magical Hammer of Thundera to defend the Thundercats, and reforge the Sword of Omens in times of need.
  • Lynx-o -- The oldest member of the New Thundercats (and older than Panthro), he is blind, but can hear exceptionally well. He also has a "Braille-board" that he uses for various things.

Little trivia fact of my own: until I was 18, I thought Lion-O's name was Lionel. Like my train set. I never read the toy packages...

The Thundercats also existed as a comic book during the 80's. Star Comics produced 24 books before interest in the series was lost. The story lines and art in the books was very similar to the TV series. These books aren't worth much on the market, but are still valued and sought after by fans of the series.

The Thundercats comics have been revived recently by WildStorm comics. A 5 book mini-series has been completed, and new 5 book mini-series (The Return) is being published now. The art and storylines in these books is much more adult-oriented than the original comic or TV series. There's more skin, more graphic violence and the clothing (or lack thereof) has been updated.

However, I think the new comic series suffers somewhat from having its roots in kiddie television of the 80's. For example, the names of the characters are too cute and don't seem to fit the more adult subject matter on occasion.

When Lion-o would call for the power of the Sword of Omens with "Thunder, Thunder, Thundercats, ho!" in the TV show, you knew it was time for Lion-o et al. to throw down. The anticipation, Lion-o's voice and the background music sent a little shot of adrenaline to your 8-year-old heart. But in the comic book, the effect is lost. When I was a kid, I never thought: well, why don't the bad guys just rush him while he's doing that bit with the sword? But as an adult, it was first thing that crossed my mind.

That said, I'm still a fan of Thundercats new and old. The new comic series has enough nostalgia value to remind me of what it was like when I was a kid, but has been updated enough that my adult side is interested.

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