Thun, the Lion Man, takes a Vacation
Got the idea for this blog from looking at my bookshelf wall of TPBs, graphic novels, and other assorted comic bricabrac. Right next to my Spiderman collectable statue bank, in front of a run of Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian series, sits my Thun, the Lion Man, from the short run toy series based of the Flash Gordon cartoon series of the late 70s, early 80s.
I got the toy from my buddy, Josh, who I had shown the cartoon series to a year or two ago, in hopes that I would prove to him that despite He-man and the Masters of the Universe being somewhat childish and simple at times, there were Saturday morning cartoons that had some bite to them. He found the toy in a buck bin, and I just had to add it to my display.
I do believe I had these toys back when I was a little kid, or maybe my older brother, Dave, got them and I just played with them. However, I remember we had a Thun, a Flash Gordon, a Dr. Zarkov, a Ming the Merciless, and a Lizard chick. I remember specifically Thun and that Lizard Chick were my favorites.
What I liked about them the most was they were about the same size and shape as our Star Wars figures so often times, Flash Gordon would take trips in our X wing Fighter, or Chewbacca and that Lizard chick would go on some dangerous mission together traversing the creek outside my house in a Popsicle stick raft.
Yeah, I forgot how much I liked these toys. I think I’ll make it a 2018 resolution to see if I can hunt some more of these down on Ebay.
Speaking of the show that spawned these figures, for those of you that have never watched said cartoon series, there are a couple episodes of the show now available on Youtube and I really can’t stress how good the series is.
Other than the original Alex Raymond comic strips, this animated series perfectly captures everything that’s awesome about Flash Gordon. Much better than the campy 80s movie or that ill fated TV show the Sc-fi channel put out years ago. Its even better than the Buster Crabbe serials of the 1930s, although I’ll still say those come in at a close 3rd place.
Filmation really went above and beyond in translating the source material into a smart, colorful cartoon which captured the exotic and deadly wonder which is the landscape of Mongo. Sure, it doesn’t hurt that the cartoon series actually started life as a full length TV movie that Filmation made for NBC in the days following the Star Wars craze of 1977. To that end, the film was made for more adults and as a result contains a lot of sensuality and violence which is a key part of the Flash Gordon story.
It’s true, if there’s one thing that original Flash Gordon comic strips aren’t, it’s childish. Alex Raymond, an obvious fan of the female form, goes out of his way to portray Mongo and it’s inhabitants as doing really two things well: Killing and Humping.
No more striking example of this can be found than with Ming’s own daughter, the Princess Aura, who from the moment she lays her eyes on Flash, wants nothing more than to possess him sexually, in a very strong dominating way. There’s no courting or playing around, it’s very direct and in your face as a reader. Not only that, but she’s willing to kill Dale Arden and even her own father, Ming, to obtain Flash as her trophy.
And if this is how a member of the royal family acts then Mongo must be a very dark barbaric place despite the fact that there are rocket ships and ray guns. And since that happens like within 3 weeks of the strip starting, it sets the tone for everything that comes after. A very savage primal undercurrent wrapped up in a very futuristic package.
As a result, really, all the good Flash Gordon, has to counterbalance the space age with almost the stone age, and paint a picture of a place more similar to Ancient Rome than the Death Star.
Luckily, Filmation was notoriously cheap enough to see that when NBC wanted a Saturday morning cartoon series, they could just cut up the more adult TV movie into episodes, make it episodic with cliff hangers like the 1930 serial, and bang! Ready made magic! So despite them getting rid of a lot of the overtly adult parts for the cartoon series, the show still has some of that awesome sensibility that I mentioned above.
I mean, come on, just look at how Princess Aura is portrayed in a pretty standard stock animation piece from the series:
Yeah, forget Shirt Tales or the Wuzzles, this is how I want to spend my Saturday mornings.
Unfortunately, the Flash Gordon cartoon series only lasted really 1 full 13 episode season. Sure, technically, there was a second season, but I don’t really count that because they changed the whole tone of the show. It definitely became a kiddie’s show with a “cute” pet dragon, getting rid of the cliff hangers, and made the stories self contained. Plus all the implied murdering and hanky panky, gone. In short, the second season is more campy and what people usually think of when they think Flash Gordon.
But enough talk, as I mentioned before, you can watch some episodes of the cartoon on Youtube. So, some time, loyal readers, when you got a free evening and nothing better to do, load up this page and watch the Flash Gordon cartoon below. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much you enjoy it.