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'80s Comics Redux, Part 2

CINESCAPE lists some possible '80s TV-comics properties ripe for revival

By Tony Whitt     June 26, 2002


Will the SILVERHAWKS ever take to the skies again?
© Marvel Characters Inc.
As we saw last time, there aren't that many other TV-to-comic properties from the 1980s that lend themselves as well to a revival as G.I. JOE, TRANSFORMERS, and THUNDERCATS do. While many animated series (and far fewer live action series) were adapted as comics, few of them caught fire the way the first two series did, or they enjoyed only limited success, as the third series did. So, as much as you may appreciate those old episodes of GO-BOTS, JEM, and CAPTAIN POWER AND THE SOLDIERS OF THE FUTURE, don't expect any of them to be the latest hit release from Devil's Due any time soon.

It only makes sense that THUNDERCATS, one of Rankin-Bass's major forays into animation in the '80s, should come back though. THUNDERCATS had a reasonably long run under Marvel's Star Comics imprint: a surprising twenty-four issues from December 1985 to June 1988. Even more impressive when you consider the show ended with its fourth season in 1987. For that matter, THUNDERCATS even outlasted the Star Comics imprint, becoming a full-fledged Marvel title with #22. Perhaps a comic series has to outlast its television counterpart by several issues and a few years at least before it's fair game for a retro-revival series.

A new CAPTAIN POWER series may never see the light of day.

But if THUNDERCATS is such an obvious choice, what about the Rankin-Bass follow-up to that series: SILVERHAWKS? SILVERHAWKS had far more interesting concepts, even if they were poorly executed, and the fact that its comic adaptation never made it past issue six as a Star Comic in 1987 may have no bearing on what a strong creative team could make of it now. If the geniuses behind the latest revival comics could come up with feasible explanations for the things we accepted without question in the '80s - such as why the Hawks were able to fly around in space with their faces exposed, for instance - a SILVERHAWKS comics could sell tons.

HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE is another rife with possibility, and clearly ? just as we complete this article ? someone else agrees, since Image will be reviving the property in November. And why not? Despite the over-all lack of quality in this Filmation series, it was successful enough in its own era to spawn a slightly more interesting spin-off (SHE-RA, PRINCESS OF POWER, yet another possibility for a revival) and to inspire a far less interesting film version. Oh, yeah, they sold a lot of toys, too. The Star Comics series of the same name lasted thirteen issues, from May 1986 to May 1988, long enough to include an adaptation of the movie in 1987. Say what you might about this series - and I'd probably be saying it right along with you - but an updated version of He-Man's struggles against the evil Skeletor (and a workable explanation of why no one noticed how similar He-Man and Prince Adam looked) might just make it. Now that the toys and comics are on the way back, this is less a prediction than a restatement of purpose, but what can you do.

Art from Image Comics' MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE

Or how about VOLTRON? While VOLTRON kept many of us of a certain age spellbound as kids and teenagers, the comic series adaptation by Modern Publishing ran only as a three-issue limited series in 1985. That's not even long enough to feature both the five-lion team based on Arus and the fifteen-module space jockey team. What fan of the series wouldn't want to see the two robots finally fighting side by side - or even against each other? (Now, now, it could happen.) It would be far more entertaining than the abysmal computer-animated VOLTRON IN THE THIRD DIMENSION produced in 1998.

While we're talking about successful Japanese-animated series that reached their peak in the 1980s, how about ROBOTECH? ROBOTECH probably had the most successful TV-to-comic adaptation history of any of the '80s-based shows: Comico alone did three different series in the mid-'80s, one for each "chapter" of the series, as well as a graphic novel and two one-shots, one of which was the phenomenal ROBOTECH IN 3-D. At the same time, DC did its own two issue miniseries called ROBOTECH DEFENDERS in 1985. Even when the '80s ended, the ROBOTECH craze didn't - Antarctic Press, Academy Comics, and Eternity Comics all did versions of the series well into the '90s, with the latest Antarctic Press version coming out (according to my humble resources) in 1998. With the release of the original series on DVD, surely there's every reason to bring this one back one more time? Rumbling suggest it might return, so keep your fingers crossed.

I'm also surprised that no one has seriously considered an updated version of V, the two miniseries about a reptilian race conquering Earth that spawned a one-season dud of a television series and its own eighteen-issue comic series at DC Comics. True, the great concept behind the miniseries fizzled when the network attempted to make it into a weekly series. But surely some earnest creative team could breathe new life into an old and yet still-cherished series?

Will either VOLTRON ever raise his blade in a new comic book series?

Finally, I'm sure there's someone out there desperate for the return of TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES, and they should be sated very soon. I know what you're about to say: one, I really shouldn't include it here, since TMNT began as a comic first and then turned into the toy-TV-feature film juggernaut it later became. And two, it's already been updated once in the '90s by Image Comics, an incarnation which lasted from 1996-1999. Besides, the TV show was really, really bad. But even those of us who simply couldn't stomach watching the antics of a watered-down Donatello, Raphael, Leonardo, and Michaelangelo on TV can't deny the appeal these guys had in their original form. The Turtles remained in print with only a few minor breaks from 1984 all the way to 1999, so obviously they've got the necessary appeal, and perhaps they'll prove it next time.

Here's an even more frightening thought to leave you with: remember last time how I said that, apart from V, THE A-TEAM, and (shudder)ALF, relatively few live-action series ever become comics in the '80s? Well, what would happen if an outfit like Devil's Due or some other creatively gifted group were to do a comic version of a series that never had one before - like KNIGHT RIDER, or MACGYVER for instance? Even a new version of THE A-TEAM might just succeed in this backwards-looking and re-imaginative climate.

The main thing we should keep in mind, though, is that while these series might be huge successes in the same way that the Joes and the Bots have become, they could just as easily tank. While there's definite genius in the ability to take something old and make it new again, taking something old and putting it back out on the shelves without doing anything new with it, just for the sake of being nostalgic, is mere hackwork. Even a new approach doesn't always work. (Remember VOLTRON IN THE THIRD DIMENSION, for instance, or even the 'old show in a new box' version of TRANSFORMERS: GENERATION II.) But if the writers can work their 21st century magic on these 20th century properties the way they have lately, anything's possible. Even ALF might have a new lease on life. God forbid. 'HA! I kill me!'

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