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Western Animation / Defenders of the Earth

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Suspiciously similar to, yet not the same as, The Defenders.

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, and partners Mandrake the Magician and Lothar — as they teamed up to battle the evil machinations of Flash's alien Arch-Enemy, Ming the Merciless. The Defenders were helped by their teenage children: 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, of all people.

All 65 episodes are available to watch on the official YouTube channel for King Features Syndicate.

Defenders of the Tropes:

  • 65-Episode Cartoon: The series didn't do well enough to rate more episodes.
  • Action Figure File Card: The figures had brief character bios on the packaging.
  • Action-Hogging Opening: Most of the footage in the intro that doesn't appear in the series (Flash flying his jet into the camera, Mandrake using a giant-sized illusion to destroy Ming's fighters then winking at the camera, Lothar crashing through a stone wall, the panning shot of the Defenders confronting Ming, and the end shot of the team superimposed over the Earth) came from the minute-long pilot film that was used to sell the show; a full version isn't known to circulate, but storyboards posted by artist Will Meugniot on his Facebook page can be viewednote 
  • Adaptational Badass: Not that they weren't badass originally, both The Phantom and Mandrake are even more so than they are in the original comics. The Phantom, who is just a Badass Normal in the comic, can gain a temporary burst of Super-Strength by invoking his "Ten Tigers" ability. Mandrake, who was simply a skilled illusionist in the comic strip, can use actual magic here.
  • Affirmative-Action Legacy: "The Ghost Walks Again" revolves around Jedda having to take up her father's identity.
  • Artistic License – Space:
    • Traveling from one planet to another in a few hours at most? While it's possible that the aliens in the series have developed some form of faster-than-light travel, the Defenders appear to be the only human characters with access to this kind of technology.
    • There's an episode where the Defenders' spacecraft gets a wing shot off and instantly loses the ability to fly in space and begins to "fall" in a spin. Despite being clearly in orbit and far outside the atmosphere, it still inexplicably behaves like an aircraft.
  • Bald of Evil: Ming, the show's main antagonist, is completely bald apart from his beard, although his headpiece usually hides it.
  • Batman Gambit: As a hero team, the Defenders often prefer to outsmart their opponents so there are quite a number of these. Some notable ones:
    • When Kro-Tan planted a mind bomb on a friend of Jedda, Jedda had the other defenders distract Kro-Tan while she searched and took the bomb off. Later, Jedda confronts Kro-Tan next to said friend to provoke him into detonating the bomb but it turned out Jedda had thrown it next to the thrusters that were vital to Kro-Tan's plan, blowing them up.
    • Mandrake fought a mecha who could adapt to any attack so Mandrake created an illusion of a blizzard to make it heat itself up to adapt. But since the blizzard wasn't really real, it overheats on its own.
  • Bowdlerise: Instead of punching his ring into people to leave its imprint in their skin, The Phantom instead fires a beam from his ring that leaves a duplicate of the ring's surface on the target.
  • Big Bad: Ming, who's behind pretty much every bad thing that happens in the series.
  • Brainwashed: A frequent plot point used in the series:
    • Used on Jedda in the episode "Mind Warriors II" with an enemy designed to control her mind.
    • On Mandrake and Lothar in "The Lost Jewels of Tibet" where some jewels that are actually dragon eggs hypnotize anyone who looks at it to deliver them to its mother at the crater.
    • On a whole bunch of people in "Like Father, Like Daughter" courtesy of Ming's mind control device including Rick and LJ.
    • Another mind control device case in "Ming's Household Helpers" when Rick was again momentarily mind controlled.
    • On LJ again in "Lothar's Homecoming" through a drug that also gives him super strength.
    • On Jedda again in "The Necklace of Oros" when Graviton made her pick out the necklace but then the necklace blocked his mind control.
  • Bragging Theme Tune/Theme Tune Roll Call: Each adult Defender gets a verse that touts his accomplishments. (For example, here's Lothar's verse: "His strength is a legend, his skills conquer all! Armed with his power, we never will fall!") The teen Defenders get a throwaway verse at the end (see Legacy Character below).
  • Brits Love Tea: Mandrake, being a Quintessential British Gentleman, naturally drinks tea and offers it as a remedy to someone who's been in a crash.
  • 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: There's no love lost between the Phantom and his brother Kurt. The latter has never forgiven the Phantom for, as he sees it, usurping the title he believes should have been his by right and makes a deal with Ming, who gives him the powers he needs to destroy his brother. In the end, however, Kurt is killed when he absorbs too much energy.
  • Canon Foreigner: Kurt Walker, aka N'Dama the Weather Demon, who was specifically created for this series.
  • Chaste Toons: Averted, not only with the heroes, but the villain. (Although Ming is clearly not a good father, as his son double-crossed him.)
  • Children Are Innocent: Pre-teen Kshin can be rather naive, especially in the early episodes, and often gets into trouble because he doesn't fully understand the dangers of the situations he is getting into. Also, when the sight of Jedda in a long white gown elicits a "wow" from both Rick and LJ, Kshin doesn't see what all the fuss is about.
  • Clear My Name: Ming framed the heroes in one episode and they had to expose the hoax.
  • Comically Serious: When his base got trashed by a a kid hero wannabe who left a message on his wall, Ming responds by commanding his men to track him down and eliminate him then proceeds to ask "What are cooties?"
  • 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?note 
  • Credits Gag: The credits state in parentheses that this Phantom is the 27th Phantom, which would make this quite far into the 21st century.
  • 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.
  • Dead Hat Shot: In "The Ghost Walks Again", 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: Each episode has its own unique design.
  • 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.
  • Extreme Omnisexual: In "Flash Times Four", Flash is captured and has facets of his personality transplanted into four clones. The romantic one flirts with everything that moves, including Flash himself.
  • 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.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Obligatory when your team of heroes includes a space warrior, a jungle protector, a magician and a Badass Normal. The Defenders encounter a wide variety of villains and sci-fi/fantasy situations throughout the series.
  • Fatal Flaw: Jedda has a weakness for cute boys and loses all her intelligence when seduced. Krotan takes advantage of this in his plan to moleculize Ming.
  • Friend to All Children: Mandrake seems to get along well with kids, which is mostly shown via his interactions with Kshin. In "The Starboy", he realises that the titular character (a genetically engineered alien child who has gone on a rampage through the galaxy) simply needs to learn how to use his powers in a constructive (as opposed to a destructive) way, and disguises himself as Starboy's creator in order to pass on this advice.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Rick Gordon. Being raised in space among various advanced alien civilizations helps.
  • Gambit Pileup: The whole 5-part Prince Kro-Tan arc. Ming and Kro-Tan plan to use then betray one another, which Kro-Tan succeeded by getting powers from an evil witch Zorelda then use the Defender's molecularizer to vaporize Ming. But it turned out Zorelda was just using Kro-Tan to get Ming's essence which Kro-Tan refused to hand over so Zorelda counted on the Defenders to overthrow Kro-Tan so he'd come back begging and hand over Ming's essence in desperation. With Ming's essence, Zorelda was able to bring back the true Evil Overlord of Mongo, Suramong, but the Defenders defeat him by reviving Ming, which extracts the essence from Suramong.
  • Genius Bruiser: Lothar is superhumanly strong and portrayed as a mechanical genius and tactician.
  • Gentleman Snarker: Mandrake never loses his cool and is always well mannered even when making sarcastic remarks at his enemies. One legendary moment when approaching an ice robot guarding a prison.
Mandrake: Inn keeper? Do you have lodgings for two more guests?
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Mandrake and Lothar had apparently been living in the same mansion for some time with L.J. (whose mother is never shown or mentioned) and Kshin.
  • Kangaroo Court: In "The Defense Never Rests", the Defenders are put on trial by an alien race whose members claim to detest violence. The evidence against the Defenders comes in the form of "news reports" which appears to show members of the team engaging in acts of violence and terrorism. But Rick, LJ, and Jedda manage to escape and discover that the whole thing was a plot by Ming, who's using android duplicates to frame the Defenders.
  • Kid-Appeal Character: Presumably, this is what the Defenders' children were intended to be.
  • 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 (the credits establish that the series' Phantom is the 27th). Jedda even briefly became the Phantom in "The Ghost Walks Again" when her dad was assumed to be dead.
  • 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: Literally. Dynak X is powered by a magical crystal with a dead woman's soul in it. Yup.
  • Mecha-Mooks: Ming's ice robots.
  • McNinja: Lothar was changed from a tribal warrior-king into ...according to his Action Figure File Card... a ninja from the Caribbean.
  • Mind-Control Device: In "Ming's Household Helpers", Ming programs the titular robots to turn their users into his mental slaves with a Hypno Ray.
  • Minor Living Alone: Audie Barrett from "Audie and Tweak" is a pre-teen genius who lives alone except for the collection of robots he has built. Audie regards one of these robots, Tweak, as his best friend, but Tweak has been trying (and failing) to persuade him to make friends with humans.
  • Panthera Awesome: As noted above, Jedda had a panther named Kisa.
    • In the episode "Dracula's Potion", Jedda is actually transformed into a black (or maybe white) panther, as is L.J.
  • Power Trio: Subverted Trope. Lothar is treated equally with Flash, the Phantom and Mandrake.
  • Psycho Rangers: In "The Mind Warriors: Part II", Ming uses Kshin's imagination to create a Psycho Ranger team, with each member designed to counter a specific defender: Radiarm (Flash), Zalzar (Mandrake), Bi-ninja (Lothar and L.J.), Ripper (Phantom), Jammer Head (Jedda) and Neutron Man (Rick).
  • 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?
  • The Smart Guy: It's strangely hard to pin down just who exactly is the smart one in this series as each Defender has their own part they shine in. Lothar is known as a master tactician, Mandrake and Jedda are resourceful with their abilities, LJ is good at leading his friends for a plan that utilizes each of their strengths and even Rick is a computer genius, even if he's not very bright outside his field.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Jedda as the only female team member out of eight (human) heroes.
  • Space Pirates: One episode has the Defenders clashing with a gang of female space pirates, whose leader is the granddaughter of a woman the Phantom's grandfather accidentally killed.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Jedda's telepathic powers allow 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.
  • Spoiler Title: Averted, the last episode of the Prince Krotan arc was "The Prince Dethroned". However, Krotan had already been defeated the previous episode and his dethroning was already a given by the time the title screen showed. The final episode instead focuses on the ex-overlord of Mongo retaking his rulership.
  • Stage Magician: Mandrake is occasionally shown performing magic on stage. This is first seen in Episode 3, though the performance is cut short when he senses the presence of the demon Shogoth, at which point he suffers what appears to be a blackout. (There's nothing physically wrong with him, but it's enough to bring Lothar running onto the stage.)
  • The Starscream: Prince Kro-Tan wants to overthrow his father and take over the kingdom. He actually succeeds in a five-part arc.
  • Story Arc: A couple; the longest was a 5-part arc where Kro-Tan took the throne.
  • Taken for Granite: All the Defenders except for Mandrake and Kshin are turned into stone by Kronos at Stonehenge. Later, it happens to Jedda again when Ming dips her in a liquid that turned her into some plastic, statue, doll thing. Then to Jedda yet again in "Street Smarts" when ice robots fire a beam that turns her into a statue to be taken away.
  • They Don't Make Them Like They Used To: In one episode, Ming the Merciless creates robot duplicates of the heroes to frame them. When LJ notices an arm falling off his robot double, he comments they don't make him like they used to.
  • Timmy in a Well: In the first episode, Kisa, having been sent to follow Ming's men after they kidnapped Rick and LJ to lure Flash and the others into a trap, manages to escape from the abandoned prison (where Ming is about to kill Flash, Mandrake, the Phantom and Lothar) and, using their telepathic connection, tells Jedda that "there's trouble inside."
  • Weak, but Skilled: Mandrake and Jedda are nowhere as physically strong as some other Defenders and their abilities revolve around illusions, animal telepathy and limited telekinesis. Not something that can allow them to pummel their way through problems, which means they have to use their wits to overcome obstacles and do so many times. Indeed, when Mandrake punches someone in one episode, he flinches visibly, suggesting that he is not used to physical combat.
  • 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.
  • Would Hurt a Child: When it comes to his various attempts to wipe out the Defenders, Ming never makes any effort to spare Kshin, even though Kshin is a kid. Indeed, there are times when Ming attacks Kshin directly, at one point coming close to killing him.
  • 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. Although it's possible they were counting in real time from 1936 (which would see at least the next four Phantoms age out by 2015 anyway) which would still be a slightly high turnover for a job that usually changes hands five times a century.
    • "A House Divided" has the Phantom's estranged brother, Kurt, say it has been "twenty years" since the two of them last met. The episode features a flashback to the event which led to the Walker brothers parting ways, in which Kurt appears to be in his early teens and Kit (as the Phantom was known in his youth) looks to be around the same age Kshin is when the Defenders are formed. However, since Jedda is well into her teens, this means the Phantom would have been barely pubescent when she was born, so the "twenty years" claim doesn't make sense. Thirty years would be nearer the mark.
  • The X of Y: Several episode titles. List 
  • Yellow Peril: Ming, originally an example of this trope, is given green skin and a distinctly non-Asian accent to circumvent it.


Video Example(s):


Rock Beats Spaceship

Good luck taking Ming's robofighters seriously after this scene in episode 2.

How well does it match the trope?

4.83 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / RockBeatsLaser

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