Very often, the television shows we remember as great from our childhood aren’t nearly as cool when we re-visit them as adults.  I will point to Land of the Lost, Wonder Woman, and Space: 1999 as my first examples.  I can still clearly remember spending many a Saturday morning eating my bowl of Count Chocula while watching the exploits of Thundarr the Barbarian:

The year 1994: From out of space comes a runaway planet, hurtling between the Earth and the Moon, unleashing cosmic destruction. Man’s civilization is cast in ruin.   Two thousand years later, Earth is reborn… a strange new world rises from the old: a world of savagery, super science, and sorcery. But one man bursts his bonds to fight for justice! With his companions Ookla the Mok and Princess Ariel, he pits his strength, his courage, and his fabulous Sunsword against the forces of evil.  He is Thundarr, the Barbarian!

A weird blend of Star Wars (Sunsword = light saber), Planet of the Apes (the Statue of Liberty even makes an appearance in the first episode), and Conan the Barbarian, Thundarr the Barbarian thrums with a innocent vitality.  Like all great barbarians, either from the past or future, from Imaro to Kamandi, Thundarr lives for the journey, wandering from adventure to adventure.  While he travels with his “tribe”, Ookla (an obvious nod to the non-speaking sidekick made popular by Chewbacca the Wookie) and the wisecracking and powerful Ariel (a woman of color!), Thundarr is about his greater mission to free slaves wherever he encounters them.

“The struggle is useless.” –Gemini

The over-arching story of the Bible is one that specifically resonates with oppressed people. The poor have the Exodus gospel/model to look to. How the Israelites rise up, decry oppressive powers, looking to Yahweh as savior to an oppressed people. As slaves in Egypt, He heard their groaning. We see in the story of Israel the history of our own people – from their Exodus out slavery to their Exile in a land not their own, with their hope of future Exaltation.

“Then we shall all be saved.” –enslaved villager

The Gospel message is one of liberation.  It understands theology as social, shaped to affect our present situation. It understands evil as systemic (not only individual as the American brand of gospel is prone to promulgate). It understands that no matter what binds us—a destroyed civilization, cruel leaders, or the tyranny of magic—can be a means of oppression while reminding us that God is for the oppressed, the marginalized, the forgotten – or, as the book of James puts it, the widows and orphans.

“Now that we know such a force does exist, we’ll search even harder to find the secret.” –freed slave

Though it went off the air in 1982, Thundarr the Barbarian is now available as a full series, four DVD set from the Warner Archive. As with other Archive titles, there are no extras. Each disc has a no frills menu of either “play all” or “episode selection”.  The animation may be crude by today’s standards, but the show holds up well.  Nostalgically at least, as  I was a huge Challenge of the Super Friends kid though, so that the standard by which I judge whether or not Thundarr the Barbarian holds up.  And, like Johnny Quest, it does.  Of course, Thundarr was originally created by Steve Gerber (the creator of Howard the Duck) and designed by comic artists Alex Toth and Jack Kirby, so that stands to reason.  Then again, it was up against Rubik the Amazing Cube and Pac Man, so it was always King Lear by comparison.