Defenders of the Earth
|Defenders of the Earth|
|Created by||Gerry Conway
John Romita, Sr.
|Written by||Lee Falk
|Directed by||Will Meugniot
Peter Mark Richman
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||65|
|Running time||30 mins|
|Production company(s)||Marvel Productions
|Distributor||King Features Entertainment
|Original release||September 8, 1986– May 1, 1987|
Defenders of the Earth is an American animated television series produced in 1986, featuring characters from three comic strips distributed by King Features Syndicate—Flash Gordon, The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, and Mandrake's assistant Lothar—opposing Ming the Merciless in the year 2015. Supporting characters include their children Rick Gordon (son of Flash), Jedda Walker (daughter of the Phantom), Kshin (adopted son of Mandrake), and Lothar's son L.J. The show lasted for 65 episodes; there was also a short-lived comic book series published by Star Comics (an imprint of Marvel Comics), created by Gerry Conway, Ross Andru and John Romita, Sr.. The closing credits credit Rob Walsh and Tony Pastor for the main title music, and Stan Lee for the lyrics. The series was later shown in reruns on the Sci Fi Channel as part of Sci Fi Cartoon Quest.
The plot begins with Flash Gordon and his son Rick escaping from Ming the Merciless, who has exhausted the natural resources of his home planet Mongo and desires to exploit Earth. Ming tries to brainwash Flash's wife Dale Arden, but she resists until death, whereafter her psyche is later included in the Defenders' supercomputer Dynak X. Later, Flash and Mandrake organize the Defenders against Ming.
- Flash Gordon (voiced by Lou Richards)—Leader of the Defenders of the Earth: a space pilot and the father of Rick Gordon.
- The Phantom (voiced by Peter Mark Richman)—Essentially identical to Lee Falk's character, but differing from the original in that by chanting "By jungle law, the Ghost Who Walks calls forth the power of ten tigers", he momentarily receives superhuman strength. His real name is Kit Walker. His horse Hero and wolf Devil make brief appearances.
- Mandrake the Magician (voiced by Peter Renaday)—A hypnotist and mystic capable of manipulating others' perceptions almost at will; often portrayed as a secondary leader of the Defenders, and sometimes the narrator of their decisions.
- Lothar (voiced by Buster Jones)—Mandrake's assistant and bodyguard, depicted as a powerful fighter, an able mechanic, and a master tactician. The action figure's packaging describes Lothar as a "Caribbean Ninja".
- Richard "Rick" Gordon (voiced by Loren Lester)—Richard is an impulsive computer genius and the son of Flash Gordon. Rick, along with many of the other teenagers of the show, attended Central High located in Central City. Rick Gordon was initially intended to be Kit Walker, the son of the Phantom.
- L.J.—Short for 'Lothar Jr.', L.J. is the street-wise martial arts-expert son of Lothar, and Rick's best friend. When in one episode, the Defenders locate a crystal which shows them their greatest desires, L.J.'s is to defeat the antagonist 'Octon'.
- Jedda Walker (voiced by Sara Partridge)—Jedda is the daughter of the Phantom and displays telepathic and limited extrasensory powers; usually expressed by communication with her black panther Kisa. There is little-or-no mention of her mother, though in one episode she is the reluctant stepdaughter of Queen Hadea. Some installments imply a relationship with Rick Gordon. Jedda Walker was initially intended to be Jedda Gordon, daughter of Flash Gordon.
- Kshin (voiced by Adam Carl)—Kshin is an orphaned boy adopted by Mandrake and trained as his apprentice. His origin was never identified in the series. He is usually accompanied by the extraterrestrial "Zuffy", initially found by Rick Gordon on the planet Mongo.
- Dynac X (voiced by Diane Pershing)—Dynac X is the central computer of the Defenders' Headquarters, whose operating system is stated to contain the psyche of Flash Gordon's wife. Though she is never addressed by name in the series, the comic book adaptation of the first two episodes identifies the slain "Mrs. Gordon" as Dale Arden.
- Ming the Merciless (voiced by William Callaway and Ron Feinberg)—A warlord or supervillain bent on exploiting Earth's natural resources, based on 'Ice Station Earth'. This version is made more grotesque than his traditional Mongolian appearance to avoid racial stereotypy; a similar treatment would be used on the Mandarin in the Iron Man animated series and on Dr. No in James Bond Jr., in that all three characters received green skin and pointed ears.
- Prince Kro-Tan (voiced by Hal Rayle)—Ming the Merciless' son.
- Princess Castra—Ming the Merciless' daughter.
- Octon—Octon is an octopus-like artificial intelligence, equivalent to an 'evil version' of Dynac X, which advises Ming the Merciless of methods to conquer the Earth or defeat the Defenders. His name is derived from that of an opponent of Mandrake's in the latter's eponymous comic strip, wherein it identifies a crime lord also known as the 'Cobra'.
- Garax—Garax is the leader of Ming's mechanical soldiers, the Ice Robots. He is the only one of these to recur, and the only given any distinction from the others, who are frequently slain en masse by the Defenders.
- Mongor—Mongor is a giant serpent-like pet of Ming the Merciless.
- Kurt Walker (voiced by William Callaway)—Aliased "N'Dama the Weather Demon", Kurt is the older brother of the Phantom, disinherited by their father after a quarrel. Kurt is specifically created for the series, and has never appeared elsewhere.
- The Sky Band— A coalition of raiders depicted in the Phantom comics; here depicted as space-pirates.
- Queen Hadea—Hadea is the ruler of the subterranean 'Netherworld', where she is the latest in a dynasty of monarchs served by pale, deformed humanoids. In her first appearance, Hadea desires to take the Phantom as a consort. After later offering to heal the injured Jedda Walker, she displays a brief interest in assuming a maternal role in the girl's life. Her great ambition is to capture the powerful 'Necklace of Oros', which confers control of others in the user's presence.
- Graviton— The original owner of the Necklace of Oros, and implied to have dwelt among the Moai of Rapa Nui, Graviton is an extradimensional being of unknown origins, who seeks to recover the Necklace from Earth and establish himself as a dictator.
- "Escape from Mongo"
- "The Creation of Monitor"
- "A Demon in His Pocket"
- "A House Divided"
- "Bits 'n' Chips"
- "Root of Evil"
- "Cold War"
- "The Sleeper Awakes"
- "The Revenge of Astra"
- "Hall of Wisdom"
- "The Mind Warriors, Part 1"
- "The Mind Warriors, Part 2"
- "The Lost Jewels of Tibet"
- "The Evil of Doctor Dark"
- "Diamonds Are a Ming's Best Friend"
- "The Men of Frost"
- "The Panther Peril"
- "Fury of the Deep"
- "Family Reunion"
- "The Defense Never Rests"
- "Like Father, Like Daughter?"
- "The Would-Be Defender"
- "Doorways into Darkness"
- "Deal with the Devil"
- "Terror in Time" (guest starring Prince Valiant)
- "Ming's Household Helpers"
- "The Starboy"
- "The Gods Awake"
- "The Ghost Walks Again"
- "The Book of Mysteries"
- "The Future Comes But Once"
- "Kshin and the Ghost Ship"
- "The Carnival of Doctor Kalihari"
- "The Mystery of the Book"
- "Flash Times Four"
- "The Frozen Heart"
- "Rick Gordon, One-Man Army"
- "The Rites of Zesnan"
- "Audie and Tweak"
- "Return of the Skyband"
- "Dracula's Potion"
- "One of the Guys"
- "100 Proof Highway"
- "The Time Freezer"
- "The Prince Makes His Move"
- "The Prince Triumphant"
- "The Prince Weds"
- "The Prince's Royal Hunt"
- "The Prince Dethroned"
- "Lothar's Homecoming"
- "Suspended Sabotage"
- "Call of the Eternals"
- "The Return of Doctor Dark"
- "The Deadliest Battle"
- "The Necklace of Oros"
- "Torn Space"
- "Ming Winter"
- "The Golden Queen"
- "The Gravity of Ming"
- "Flesh and Blood"
- "The Drowning World"
- "The Adoption of Kshin"
- "Street Smarts"
- "The Thunder Lizards of Ming"
Roughly two decades after production was completed, the series was released around the world on DVD, featuring various episodes and packaging depending on region. The US release includes interviews with story editor Bryce Malek, writer David Wise, and artist Michael Swanigan—each of whom reflect on various points of the creative process, including the origins of the characters, legal issues surrounding the properties, controversial content, and ways in which the production differed from others of its time.
NEW KSM FILM has released the series in Germany:
- Defenders of the Earth (Gesamtedition) ( 1-Blu-ray) – only German language – no extras
- Defenders Of the Earth (Superbox) (4-disc set DVDs ) – only German language – no extras
- Defenders Of the Earth (Volume One) (6-disc set DVDs) – only German language – earlier release, no extras
- Defenders Of the Earth (Volume Two) (6-disc set DVDS) – only German language – earlier release, no extras
Force Entertainment has released the series in Australia:
- Defenders of the Earth (6-disc set)
- Defenders of the Earth (8-disc set), disc 7 features the film "The Story Begins" and disc 8 the film "Prince of Kro-Tan".
The first episode appears on the BCI Eclipse DVD releases for:
- Animated All-Stars collection
- The New Adventures of Flash Gordon: The Complete Series
BCI has also released two 5-Disc sets that cover the entire series:
- Defenders of the Earth—Complete Series Volume 1 (5-Discs) 33 Episodes
- Defenders of the Earth—Complete Series Volume 2 (5-Discs) 32 Episodes (April 3, 2007)
Selected episodes are available in the UK, in compilations including:
Hollywood DVD LTD
- Defenders of the Earth—The Story Begins
Delta Music PLC
- Defenders of the Earth vol 1
- Defenders of the Earth vol 2
- Defenders of the Earth vol 3
- The above volumes include three episodes each, covering the first eight episodes of the series and the series finale, "Ming's Thunder Lizards".
- Defenders of the Earth Movie—"The Book of Mysteries"
- "The Book of Mysteries" combines episodes 31–35
- Defenders of the Earth Movie—"Prince Kro-Tan"
- "Prince of Kro-Tan" combines episodes 46–50
- Defenders of the Earth Movie—"Necklace Of Oros"
- "Necklace of Oros" combines episodes 56–60
The complete series was then released in the UK by Fremantle Media on February 18, 2013.
In 1987, Star Comics (Marvel Comics' children's imprint) published a comic book series which only lasted four issues. It was written by Stan Lee (#1) and Michael Higgins (#2–4) with art by Alex Saviuk. The last issue featured a "next issue" caption but, #5 was never published.
There have been DOE-related books, including The Creation of Monitor, A House Divided, The Sun-Stealers and Computer Checkmate.
A video game for home computers was also made. It featured the various heroes from the series on a quest to defeat Ming.
In June 2013 Dynamite Comics announced the launch of Kings Watch, a new series written by Jeff Parker teaming the Phantom, Mandrake, Lothar, and Flash Gordon, taking on not just Ming, but characters from all over the King Features universe. At the time of announcement it was not known if the characters' children would appear.
- McLean, James (October 4, 2007). "Flash in the Pan: Defenders Fails to Ignite". toonzone.net. Retrieved 2009-12-29.
- "Defenders of the Earth – Volume 1 DVD Information". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
- "Defenders of the Earth DVD news: Volume 2 finishes up series". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
- "Defenders of the Earth – Volume 2 DVD Information". TVShowsOnDVD.com. March 4, 2007. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
- "Defenders of the Earth DVD news: Announcement for Defenders of the Earth – The Complete 65 Episode Series". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
- "Defenders of the Earth". Virtualtoychest.com. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
- van yourgirlfrienddotorg's channel. "Protectors of the Earth". YouTube. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
- Kings Watch article at Newsarama.com
- Don Markstein's Toonopedia: Defenders of the Earth, defenders
- Defenders of the Earth at the Internet Movie Database
- Defenders of the Earth at TV.com
- Official Episode guide