Western Animation: Defenders of the Earth
Defenders of the Earth
was a 1986 animated television show, jointly produced by Marvel Productions and King Features Syndicate
. Set in the year 2015, it starred characters from three classic
King Features series — Flash Gordon
, The Phantom
, Mandrake The Magician
, and Mandrake's long-time friend Lothar — as they battled the evil machinations of Flash's alien Arch-Enemy
, Ming the Merciless.
Supporting characters included Rick Gordon (son of Flash), Jedda Walker (daughter of the Phantom), Kshin (adopted son of Mandrake), and L.J. (son of Lothar). The show ran for a single syndicated season of 65 episodes, and had a brief four-issue comic-book series published by Marvel Comics
under their "Star Comics" imprint.
The theme song's lyrics were written by Stan Lee
. That is awesome.
- 65-Episode Cartoon
- Ace Pilot: Flash.
- Action Figure File Card: The toys had them.
- Aliens Speaking English
- Ambiguously Gay: True, Mandrake and Lothar were undoubtedly meant to be nothing more than Heterosexual Life-Partners. Still, they had apparently been living in the same mansion for some time with L.J. (whose mother is never shown or mentioned) and Kshin.
- Bald of Evil: Ming, although his headpiece usually hides it.
- Big Bad: Ming.
- Bragging Theme Tune
- By the Power of Grayskull!: The Phantom would activate his super-strength by chanting "By jungle law, the Ghost Who Walks calls forth the power of ten tigers." His transformation sequence would then show tiger heads passing into his body (the number varied but was usually less than ten), this raised the question whether or not this Phantom was a mutant who suppressed his ability through mental prowess.
- Cain and Abel: the Phantom and his brother Kurt.
- Canon Foreigner: Kurt Walker, aka N'Dama the Weather Demon, who was specifically created for this series.
- Clear My Name: Ming framed the heroes in one episode and they had to expose the hoax.
- Convection Schmonvection: The team works in a volcano. Jedda even states that the heat in some places pleasantly reminds her of Africa. What is this girl made of?
- Credits Gag: The credits state in parentheses that this Phantom is the 27th Phantom.
- Crossover: One episode had Prince Valiant as a guest hero.
- Daddy's Girl: Jedda, with the Phantom. The fact she has a Missing Mom doesn't help.
- Danger Room Cold Open
- Dangerously Genre Savvy: Prince Kro-Tan.
- Dead Hat Shot: In "The Ghost Walks Again", where the Phantom falls into a river after being shot. On finding his belt floating in the water, Jedda immediately fears the worst and, when the Phantom is subsequently declared dead (even though his body has not been found) has to decide if she is ready to take over his duties. However, the Phantom has, in fact, survived and is reunited with his daughter by the episode's conclusion.
- Deal with the Devil: Ming was fond of making deals with other powerful beings.
- Dude Magnet: Every other teenage male character got a crush on Jedda at one moment or another, including Ming's own son. Most of the Ship Tease was Rick/Jedda.
- Episode Title Card
- Evil-Detecting Dog: In "Ming's Household Helpers", Zuffy freaks out when he sees one of the titular robots, even before the Defenders discover they're part of Ming's latest Evil Plan.
- Expendable Clone: Ming creates four clones of Flash with different aspects of his personality in "Flash Times Four". They're all killed at the end of the episode.
- Family-Unfriendly Death: A few villains wound up receiving some surprisingly violent death scenes.
- Ming the Merciless is killed off in the beginning of a five-part arc (he got better) and his death scene sees him get vaporized into ash.
- Another villain, Doctor Dark, seems to suffer a Disney Villain Death by falling, but the end of the episode reveals he's still alive and in the fall caused him to lose an eye and get half his face horribly disfigured; when he returns in a later episode he's Killed Off for Real after dissolving into a skeleton.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Rick Gordon. Being raised in space among various advanced alien civilizations helps.
- Genius Bruiser: Lothar is superhumanly strong and portrayed as a mechanical genius and tactician.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: In one episode, Flash is captured and has facets of his personality transplanted into four clones. The romantic one flirts with everything that moves, including Flash himself.
- Hammerspace: Where Zuffy kept things.
- Jungle Princess: Jedda Walker.
- Kangaroo Court: In one episode, the Defenders were put on trial by an alien race whose members claimed to detest violence. The evidence against the Defenders came in the form of "news reports" which appeared to show members of the team engaging in acts of violence and terrorism. But Rick, LJ, and Jedda managed to escape and discovered that the whole thing was a plot by Ming, who was using android duplicates to frame the Defenders.
- Legacy Character: Rick Gordon, Jedda Walker and Lothar Jr. "With our new young heroes, proving their worth/Four become eight, defending the Earth". (Eight, because Stan counted Kshin.)
- Also, Kro-Tan, Ming's son.
- The Phantom is one one of the oldest legacy characters there is.
- Limited Wardrobe: Except for Jedda (as mentioned below) because the animators could never quite decide what she wore (or even looked like).
- Machine Monotone: Ming has a mechanical reverb to his voice; curiously, his son doesn't.
- Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Princess Castra.
- Magical Computer: Powered by a magical crystal. With a dead woman's soul in it. Yup.
- Mecha-Mooks: Ming's ice robots.
- Mind Control: In "Ming's Household Helpers", Ming designs the titular robots to turn their users into his mental slaves with a Hypno Ray.
- Missing Mom: Lots.
- Motherly Scientist (inverted): The crystal powering Dynak X is actually holding the soul of Rick's dead mother.
- The TV show never spells it out, but the short-lived Marvel Comics adaptation specifies that Dynak is, in fact, Dale Arden.
- Non-Human Sidekick: Jedda's panther and for an evil version, Mongor to Ming.
- Mecha-Mooks: Ming's ice robots.
- Massive Multiplayer Crossover: It brought together all of King Features Syndicate's most famous adventure-hero characters: Flash Gordon, The Phantom, and Mandrake The Magician (along with his sidekick, the strongman Lothar).
- Never Say "Die": Averted. In the first episode, Flash states that Ming "murdered" his wife.
- Off Model: Jedda's design was nowhere near consistent for several episodes. She would change outfits, hairstyles, hair colors, and even skintones from episode to episode. Sometimes you had no idea who the hell she was supposed to be until someone said her name.
- In the episode "The Root of Evil", practically everyone is off-model.
- Overlord Jr.: Prince Kro-Tan.
- Panthera Awesome
- Power Trio
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Arguably applies — what common grounds are there for a rocket-flying adventurer, a secretive jungle guardian, and an Eastern-trained illusionist to team up and work together?
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: Zuffy.
- Scary Black Man: Lothar, and possibly Lothar Jr. in the future.
- Small Annoying Creature: Zuffy. No wonder he ended up The Scrappy.
- The Smurfette Principle: Jedda as the only female team member.
- Space Does Not Work That Way: Travelling from one planet to another in a few minutes? Yes...
- Space Pirates
- Speaks Fluent Animal: Jedda's telepathic powers allowed her to communicate with animals.
- It's not made obvious, but it's suggested The Phantom has this power too thus explaining where she got it from.
- Spot of Tea: Mandrake, being a posh English gentleman, naturally drinks tea and offers it as a remedy to someone who's been in a crash.
- Stage Magician: Mandrake, occasionally.
- The Starscream: Prince Kro-Tan.
- The Stoic: The Phantom.
- Story Arc: A couple; the longest was a 5-part arc where Kro-Tan took the throne.
- Teen Genius: Rick Gordon.
- Theme Tune Roll Call
- They Don't Make Them Like They Used To: Ming the Merciless once created robot duplicates of the heroes to frame them. When one of the heroes noticed an arm falling off his robot double, he commented they don't make him like they used to.
- Timmy in a Well: With a panther, nothing less.
- Token Minority: Kshin, who was created for the series.
- Lothar himself is a borderline case, as he was a supporting character in the original newspaper comics but is elevated to a starring role here.
- Twenty Minutes into the Future
- Villainesses Want Heroes: Queen Hadeas.
- We Can Rule Together: An offer Ming makes to Rick at least once. Though it's doubtful that he meant it, especially as he already has a son.
- Writers Cannot Do Math: The Phantom in the show is stated to be the 27th one, while the present-day Phantom at the time the show was made was the 21st. Somehow the mantle was passed six times within 29 years, when it usually goes from father to son.
- Yellow Peril: Ming.