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), L.J. (son of Lothar), Kshin (adopted son of Mandrake), and Jedda Walker (daughter of the Phantom).
|Defenders of the Earth|
|Based on||Mandrake the Magician|
by Lee Falk
by Alex Raymond
|Written by||Bryce Malek|
|Directed by||Will Meugniot|
Peter Mark Richman
|Composer||Robert J. Walsh|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||65|
|Executive producers||Lee Gunther|
Bruce L. Paisner
|Running time||30 mins|
|Production companies||Marvel Productions|
King Features Entertainment
King Features Entertainment
|Original release||September 8, 1986 –|
May 1, 1987
The show lasted for 65 episodes; there was also a short-lived comic book series published by Star Comics (an imprint of Marvel Comics). 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's animation block, Cartoon Quest.
Flash Gordon and his son Rick escape 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 Dynac X. To protect Earth from Ming's invasion, among other threats, Flash joins forces with Mandrake, his assistant Lothar and The Phantom, alongside their children, to form the Defenders.
- 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. The end credits describe this Phantom by saying "This is the 27th Phantom".
- Mandrake the Magician (voiced by Peter Renaday) — A hypnotist and mystic capable of manipulating others' perceptions almost at will. He is 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. (voiced by Dion Williams) — 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 Sarah Partridge) — Jedda is the daughter of the Phantom and displays telepathy 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 origins are revealed in the late season episode "The adoption of Kshin", where it is shown he was a young street orphan found by Mandrake after a gang of boys tried using him as a distraction in a failed pick-pocketing attempt. 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. Diane Pershing is the only performer from the Filmation cartoon who reprised her role.
- Ming the Merciless (voiced by 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 appearance to avoid racial stereotyping; 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 (voiced by Jennifer Darling) — Ming the Merciless' daughter
- Octon (voiced by William Callaway) — 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 (voiced by William Callaway) — the leader of Ming's mechanical soldiers, the Ice Robots. He is the only one of these to recur, and the only one given any distinction from the others, who are frequently slain en masse by the Defenders.
- Mongor — 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. When competing in a trial with Kit for the right to become the next Phantom, Kurt won but was passed-over in favor of Kit due his father knowing that he had lied and cheated, as well as abandoning his brother after causing a rock fall that had injured him. This results in him being disinherited by their father, and the contempt he has for Kit. 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 — 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.
Marvel Productions and King Features Syndicate worked together to develop the show. Marvel Productions had brought in consulting company Q5 Corporation to help develop the show. Q5's consultants consist of psychology PhDs and advertising, marketing and research professionals. The animation for the series were done overseas at Daewon Media and Sei Young Animation (now merged with Dong Woo Animation) and AKOM in Seoul, South Korea, and Toei Animation in Tokyo, Japan.
|No.||Title||Written by||Original air date|
|1||"Escape from Mongo"||Dick Robbins and Bryce Malek||September 8, 1986|
|2||"The Creation of Monitor"||Mel Gilden||September 9, 1986|
|3||"A Demon in His Pocket"||Chuck Lorre||September 10, 1986|
|4||"A House Divided"||Jimmy Griffin and Dave Weathers||September 11, 1986|
|5||"Bits 'n' Chips"||Mark Zaslove,|
Dick Robbins, and Bryce Malek
|September 12, 1986|
|6||"The Root of Evil"||Ken Cinnamon and Karen Wengrod||September 15, 1986|
|7||"Cold War"||Anthony Zalewski||September 16, 1986|
|8||"The Sleeper Awakes"||Arthur Byron Cover||September 17, 1986|
|9||"The Revenge of Astra"||Creighton Barnes||September 18, 1986|
|10||"The Hall of Wisdom"||Larry Parr and Gar Haywood||September 19, 1986|
|11||"The Mind Warriors, Part 1"||Evelyn A.R. Gabai||September 22, 1986|
|12||"The Mind Warriors, Part 2"||Evelyn A.R. Gabai||September 23, 1986|
|13||"The Lost Jewels of Tibet"||Arthur Byron Cover||September 24, 1986|
|14||"The Evil of Doctor Dark"||Alfred A. Pegal||September 25, 1986|
|15||"Diamonds Are a Ming's Best Friend"||Mel Gilden||September 26, 1986|
|16||"The Men of Frost"||Kathryn M. Drennan||September 29, 1986|
|17||"Battleground"||Doug Smith||September 30, 1986|
|18||"The Panther Peril"||Paul Davids||October 1, 1986|
|19||"Fury of the Deep"||David Wise||October 2, 1986|
|20||"Family Reunion"||Jimmy Griffin and Dave Weathers||October 3, 1986|
|21||"The Defense Never Rests"||Francis Moss||October 6, 1986|
|22||"Like Father, Like Daughter"||Francis Moss||October 7, 1986|
|23||"The Would-Be Defender"||Evelyn A.R. Gabai||October 8, 1986|
|24||"Doorways into Darkness"||John Shirley||October 9, 1986|
|25||"Deal with the Devil"||Jim Barmierer and Bob Rosenfarb||October 10, 1986|
|26||"Terror in Time"||Bill DuBay||October 13, 1986|
|Guest-starring Prince Valiant.|
|27||"Ming's Household Helpers"||David Schwartz||October 14, 1986|
|28||"The Starboy"||David Wise||October 15, 1986|
|29||"The Gods Awake"||David Wise||October 16, 1986|
|30||"The Ghost Walks Again"||David Wise||October 17, 1986|
|31||"The Book of Mysteries"||David Wise||October 20, 1986|
|32||"The Future Comes But Once"||Rick Merwin||October 21, 1986|
|33||"Kshin and the Ghost Ship"||Richard Merwin||October 22, 1986|
|34||"The Carnival of Doctor Kalihari"||Allan Cole and Chris Bunch||October 23, 1986|
|35||"The Mystery of the Book"||David Wise||October 24, 1986|
|36||"Flash Times Four"||Chris Bunch and Allan Cole||October 27, 1986|
|37||"The Frozen Heart"||Chuck Lorre||October 28, 1986|
|38||"Rick Gordon, One-Man Army"||Francis Moss||October 29, 1986|
|39||"The Rites of Zesnan"||Kevin Rock||October 30, 1986|
|40||"Audie and Tweak"||David Wise||October 31, 1986|
|41||"Return of the Skyband"||David Wise||November 3, 1986|
|42||"Dracula's Potion"||Chris Bunch and Allan Cole||November 4, 1986|
|43||"One of the Guys"||Chuck Lorre||November 5, 1986|
|44||"100 Proof Highway"||Chris Bunch and Allan Cole||November 6, 1986|
|45||"The Time Freezer"||Paul Davids||November 7, 1986|
|46||"The Prince Makes His Move"||Dick Robbins and Bryce Malek||November 10, 1986|
|47||"The Prince Triumphant"||David Wise||November 11, 1986|
|48||"The Prince Weds"||David Wise||November 12, 1986|
|49||"The Prince's Royal Hunt"||David Wise||November 13, 1986|
|50||"The Prince Dethroned"||David Wise||November 14, 1986|
|51||"Lothar's Homecoming"||Francis Moss||November 17, 1986|
|52||"Suspended Sabotage"||Kevin Rock||November 18, 1986|
|53||"The Call of the Eternals"||Gar Haywood||November 19, 1986|
|54||"The Return of Doctor Dark"||Reed Robbins||November 20, 1986|
|55||"The Deadliest Battle"||Chuck Lorre||November 21, 1986|
|56||"The Necklace of Oros"||Mark Zaslove and Mark Edens||November 24, 1986|
|57||"Torn Space"||Mark Zaslove and Mark Edens||November 25, 1986|
|58||"Ming Winter"||Mark Zaslove and Mark Edens||November 26, 1986|
|59||"The Golden Queen"||Mark Zaslove and Mark Edens||November 27, 1986|
|60||"The Gravity of Ming"||Mark Zaslove and Mark Edens||November 28, 1986|
|61||"Flesh and Blood"||David Wise||December 1, 1986|
|62||"The Drowning World"||Chris Bunch and Allan Cole||December 2, 1986|
|63||"The Adoption of Kshin"||Bill DuBay||December 3, 1986|
|64||"Street Smarts"||Mel Gilden||December 4, 1986|
|65||"Ming's Thunder Lizards"||Allan Cole and Chris Bunch||December 5, 1986|
In 1987, select episodes of the show were released on four VHS cassettes by Family Home Entertainment in North America.
Roughly two decades after production was completed, the series was released around the world on DVD, featuring various episodes and packaging depending on region.
On October 10, 2006 and April 3, 2007 the series were released to DVD by BCI Eclipse Entertainment LLC (under its Ink & Paint classic animation entertainment label) in Region 1, containing all 65 original broadcast episodes in two Complete Series volumes and presented in original storyline continuity order.
These 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 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 Fabulous Films and Fremantle Media on February 18, 2013.
VHS-Select Video (7104/73) Ondskans Makt (1987) incl episodes - Ondskans Makt (?), Bröder (?), Dynak i Fara (?) - Only Swedish voice
In other mediaEdit
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.
In 2013 Dynamite Comics published 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.
There have been DOE-related books, including The Creation of Monitor, A House Divided, The Sun-Stealers and Computer Checkmate.
A line of action figures produced by Galoob included Flash Gordon, Mandrake, Lothar, the Phantom, Ming, and Garax. As part of the show's 35th anniversary, National Entertainment Collectibles Association (NECA) produced variants of its King Features characters in the style and colors of the Defenders of the Earth.
A video game was released by Enigma Variations Software in 1990, for the Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, SAM Coupe and ZX Spectrum systems. It was a side-scrolling action game featuring the heroes Flash Gordon, Lothar, the Phantom and Mandrake from the series on a quest to rescue their children who have been kidnapped by Ming. The player controls Flash, and is able to call on the other characters to assist him in bypassing the defences of Ming's castle.
- Perlmutter, David (2018). The Encyclopedia of American Animated Television Shows. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 150. ISBN 978-1538103739.
- Markstein, Don. "Defenders of the Earth". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Retrieved April 2, 2020.
- Erickson, Hal (2005). Television Cartoon Shows: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, 1949 Through 2003 (2nd ed.). McFarland & Co. pp. 331–333. ISBN 978-1476665993.
- McLean, James (October 4, 2007). "Flash in the Pan: Defenders Fails to Ignite". toonzone.net. Archived from the original on January 19, 2010. Retrieved December 29, 2009.
- Imbesi, Pete (May 5, 2017). "15 CLASSIC Cartoons Marvel SECRETLY Produced". CBR. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
- Haithman, Diane (September 3, 1987). "How Image Makers Shape Kids' TV : Q5 Firm Advises ABC on the Look and Style of Cartoon Shows; Some Writers Call It Intrusion". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
- "Defenders of the Earth - Volume 1". TV Shows on DVD. October 10, 2006. Archived from the original on August 15, 2016. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
- "Defenders of the Earth - Volume 2". TV Shows on DVD. April 3, 2007. Archived from the original on August 15, 2016. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
- David Lambert (March 18, 2010). "Defenders of the Earth - Another Rescue by Mill Creek with 'The Complete 65 Episode Series' DVDs". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Archived from the original on October 11, 2012. Retrieved November 12, 2011.
- "Defenders of the Earth - The Complete 65 Episode Series". TV Shows on DVD. May 18, 2010. Archived from the original on August 15, 2016. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
- "Defenders of the Earth – Volume 1 DVD Information". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Archived from the original on May 25, 2011. Retrieved November 12, 2011.
- "Defenders of the Earth DVD news: Volume 2 finishes up series". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Archived from the original on May 25, 2011. Retrieved November 12, 2011.
- "Defenders of the Earth – Volume 2 DVD Information". TVShowsOnDVD.com. March 4, 2007. Archived from the original on May 25, 2011. Retrieved November 12, 2011.
- Defenders of the Earth
- Kings Watch article at Newsarama.com
- "Defenders of the Earth". Virtualtoychest.com. Retrieved November 12, 2011.
- van yourgirlfrienddotorg's channel. "Protectors of the Earth". YouTube. Retrieved November 12, 2011.