Defenders of the Earth – The Complete Series, 1986.
Created by Gerry Conway, Ross Andru and John Romita, Sr.
Featuring the voice talents of Lou Richards, Peter Mark Richman, Peter Renaday, Buster Jones, Loren Lester, Diane Pershing, William Callaway and Ron Feinberg.
When the planet comes under threat from the evil Emperor Ming the Merciless, Flash Gordon teams up with fellow heroes The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician and Lothar to form the Defenders of the Earth (DEFENDERS!).
Following the blockbuster success of Marvel’s The Avengers last summer, it seems that superhero teams are all the rage. Warner Bros. is not-so-secretly working on a Justice League adaptation, Fox has the forthcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past and Fantastic Four, and Marvel Studios’ upcoming slate includes Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers 2. So, in an effort to satisfy our cravings for superhero teams, FremantleMedia Enterprises has dug deep into the Marvel vaults to bring us… no, it’s not more Avengers… it’s not the X-Men either… nor is it the Defenders, although that one’s pretty close… okay, give up? It’s none other than the classic 80s animated series Defenders of the Earth.
Okay, so strictly speaking, Defenders of the Earth isn’t a Marvel superhero team, given that it’s based around four of King Features Syndicate’s classic comic strip characters – Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon and Lee Falk’s The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, and Mandrake’s crimefighting companion Lothar. Nevertheless, the show was co-produced by Marvel Animation, developed by Marvel veterans Gerry Conway, Ross Andru and John Romita, Sr., and the lyrics to its theme tune (which we’ll come back to in a minute) were penned by Marvel legend Stan Lee, so that’s about as ‘Marvelous’ as you can get without the property actually stemming from the pages of Marvel Comics itself.
Gary Collinson is a writer and lecturer from the North East of England. He is the editor-in-chief of FlickeringMyth.com and the author of Holy Franchise, Batman! Bringing the Caped Crusader to the Screen.