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Spotlight: Thundercats – Wilykit and Wilykat

Thundercats [Animales fuera de serie] – PixFans

Left to right: Wilykat and his older sister, Wilykit

Earlier this year an article about Tygra, a member of the Thundercats from the series of the same name, appeared here at Thoughts. When asked if more posts on the characters would be forthcoming, this blogger promised to write at least a two before the year was out. She is now endeavoring to follow through on that assurance with this Spotlight! post.

Having covered three of the adult members of the original cast from Thundercats, we now turn to their junior members, the Thunderkittens. Apparently, among the Thunderian race, children are known as cubs and teenagers are called kittens. Wilykit and her younger twin brother, Wilykat, are both in their early teens (they appear to be thirteen or fourteen years old). As such they are usually referred to as the Kittens, though the adults will sometimes call them kids.

The Thunderkittens are thought to be based on wildcats. They have no obvious markings which identify their species of cat, so this is primarily conjecture on the part of the audience. Since it is such a likely classification it has stuck throughout the years.

Born into nobility, Wilykit and Wilykat are technically older than Lion-O, who was around twelve when they left Thundera. When they left their dying homeworld the two were expected to treat him as a younger brother – albeit one who would someday be their king. Upon finding the younger cub had grown to adulthood in his sleeping capsule the Kittens were quick to jump on him for his pride in his newfound strength.

ThunderCats 2x23 Runaways - ShareTV

Although their statements were accurate, they also showed that the Kittens were rather jealous of him. They no longer had someone they could boss around and with whom they could just be kids. Lion-O was physically mature and therefore had to assume his responsibilities faster than anyone had anticipated. Although he never lorded his power over them and became an older brother figure to the two, all three felt the sudden gap between them keenly during their first days on Third Earth.

As their names imply, Kit and Kat were masters of the art of trickery. Each sibling carried a pouch full of colored, cats-eye style magic pellets that would do a variety of things when they struck the ground. The capsules could be the equivalent of flash-bang grenades or they could be bubble gum. Even the Kittens didn’t always know what was in a given tablet before they used it. Although the items inside were hardly ever improper for the situation at hand, on a few occasions they did prove to be a bust.

In addition Kit and Kat carried “trick lassos” that they could use to tie up an opponent or to enter/exit a battle. Since they were teens neither Kitten could match their opponents physically, despite their own naturally increased strength. The lassos were generally a method for swinging into or out of a battle. They were also a temporary measure that enabled them to hold an enemy in place for a brief period of time. During those few precious seconds the twins could pull off a ruse or keep someone pinned in place long enough for one of the adult Cats to arrive.

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Unless they had the opportunity to operate one of the weapons built into Cat’s Lair, the Thundertank, or another vehicle the twins’ fighting style was based entirely on speed, agility, acrobatics, and/or a mischievous ploy. Exceptional climbers even by Thundercat standards, the twins often raced through the trees both to fight and flee as well as to have fun.

Only one twin had a special move similar to the adults’ innate powers. Wilykit had the ability to curl up into a ball and zing around a battlefield, allowing her to knock over, hit, or stun much larger opponents. Her power was useful but could also be detrimental; while fighting animated stone gargoyles, hitting them at speed in her ball form “nearly threw [her] back out.” If she had struck the monsters at a higher velocity, she would have seriously injured herself.

Wilykit did not use this ability too often, preferring to rely on her native wit and skills to fight. She and her brother tended to combine both these traits with their piloting ability. Each Kitten had a special, surfer-style hoverboard specifically designed for them by Panthro. Regularly flying around the environs of Cat’s Lair, the Kittens could provide impromptu air support and reconnaissance. They could also act as advance scouts or even bait.

Conversely, they could also become the catalyst for a conflict by being captured while gallivanting about on the hoverboards. Kids will be kids, after all, and it wouldn’t be healthy for the Cats to keep the twins indoors or within sight of Cat’s Lair all the time. Besides, with no other resources to rely on as they became denizens and then protectors of their new homeworld, the Kittens often had adult responsibilities thrust upon them. They rarely abused the trust the mature members of the party placed in them, willingly accepting the discipline imposed on them when they realized how badly they had erred.

My earlier article on the two Thundercats TV series gives details about how the writers for the comics treated the Kittens. Not only was it illogical, it was downright evil. The 2011 reboot did not touch on that, thankfully, but it was not entirely generous in its depiction of the Kittens, either.

Image - Wileykat and Wileykit.JPG | ThunderCats wiki ...

For one thing, the reboot made the twins much younger than they had been in the original series. They were also given tails and turned into street urchins rather than young nobles. Wilykit’s ball form was replaced with a flute she could use to hypnotize a target, and the Kittens’ ears doubled as their hair. Wilykit became a spiritual adviser to Lion-O in the 2011 series as well. While that was not a bad alteration per se, the role would have had more weight if she were a noble trained to such a position or if she was assuming her hereditary duty. Since she was a former street urchin and a cub rather than a Kitten, it seemed a bit out of place.

The reboot also expanded on the Kittens’ origins, showing them with their parents and twin younger siblings. While this was a fine addition to the original story (we never did find out what became of Kit and Kat’s parents in the ‘80s), what followed was not. After their father was killed in a tornado, the Kittens’ mother apparently began selling herself to make ends meet so she could feed her four children.

Image - Wilies temple jamboree.jpg | ThunderCats wiki ...

Although realistic, this turn of events is both uncharacteristic of the original Thundercats material at the same time it was mishandled terribly. Nothing within the series overtly hints at the position of the Kittens’ mother following the loss of their father, thankfully, but the fact that this was put in a children’s show is more than a bit disturbing. There were other jobs they could have given to the Kittens’ mother which would have been better for viewers young and old to empathize with.

Likewise, the fact that they have the twins run away from home in the middle of the night to find a mythical city of gold strikes a false note. Didn’t their mother worry about them? Didn’t she try to find them? Why are they stealing for themselves just to keep body and soul together until they find El Dara, the city of gold? There were jobs they could have found, even at that young age, which would have helped take care of their mother and siblings rather than leave home in such a way as to add to their troubles.

All of this serves to make the previous point that the reboot, while it has entertaining and good aspects, is far inferior to its predecessor. While it has its enjoyable moments, the places where it falls down on the job make it difficult to completely enjoy. The ‘80s show was not perfect, but it did not need to be. It just had to be good.

Well, readers, that covers all the major characters in the series except one. Oops, actually, there are two left. Lion-O will be next on the list, but after his post will come an article on the hero who received the most hate in the ‘80s. He never bothered me the way that he did others, though, so the post about him will be very interesting indeed.

Until next time, readers: “Thunder…. Thunder….

Thundercats, HO!!!”

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Spotlight: Thundercats – Panthro

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Last year I did a post on one of my favorite television series, Thundercats. A fantasy/sci-fi series for children, Thundercats revolved around a handful of humanoid cats, some of the last survivors of their race. It had magic, science fiction (sort of), and cats. For me, it was irresistable.

One of the seven Thundercats in the series was Panthro, voiced in the ‘80s by the late Earle Hyman. The strongest of the Cats, he was almost unbeatable in hand-to-hand combat. Based on the panther, he had blue skin, was bald, and had ears that immediately put me in mind of a Star Trek Vulcan.

He quickly dispelled whatever illusions I might have had about his sharing the Vulcans’ stoic refusal to show emotion, however. Panthro was one of the most cheerful characters I have ever “met.” He loved to laugh, which I found contagious when I began watching the show. He was a happy warrior; in battle he liked to taunt his enemies, a wide smile on his face. In the first episode he jumped into a formation of Jackalmen, one of whom tried to hit him in the back with a mace.

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Quick as a cat, Panthro turned and caught the weapon’s head, chuckling as he did. “If you were as mean as you are ugly,” he said, “then maybe you’d be trouble!” After this, he promptly crushed the mace and started throwing punches.

The writers for the original Thundercats series stated that Panthro’s character was “based on strength.” This is why he was, physically, the strongest Thundercat in the series. But his might did not show just in his feats of physical power or fighting prowess. It showed in his hearty, barrel-chested laugh and firm commitment to his fellow Thundercats, along with his adherence to the moral Code of his home world, Thundera.

Panthro could be serious and he could be frightened. He could also be angered. But none of these emotions ever made him lose his head. He was strong enough to admit, at least to himself, that he was afraid or angry, and then focus on the task at hand.

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Panthro’s Nunchuck

Of all the Thundercats, Panthro was probably the best fighter, not only with his bare fists but with his signature weapon. This was a nunchuk with a red and blue baton attached at each end. A technological genius, Panthro hid different tricks in both batons that he could activate in certain situations.

His spiked suspenders could also be used offensively, though Panthro did not often activate them as weapons. The spikes could be fired from the suspenders so that they would plunge into a rock wall or some other surface. This would anchor Panthro and halt any tumbles he took, preventing him from falling splat to his doom. It was possible, too, for him to fire these spikes out and have them windmill around his torso, forcing opponents to back off fast.

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The weapon he loved most, though, was his Thundertank. Remember when I said Panthro was a tech genius? After the Thundercats crashed on Third Earth, he salvaged the machinery he could from their wrecked ship and put together the Thundertank. Though he later built other vehicles for the Thundercats, along with most of the machines in Cat’s Lair, the Thundertank was Panthro’s “baby.” Even Lion-O was not allowed to use it without his permission; the one time he did, he almost crashed it.

While he was not my favorite character in the series, I have to say, I loved Panthro a lot. In the 2011 series….I had a few issues with the way the writers re-presented him to modern audiences.

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Panthro 2011

Voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson – an actor whose talent I greatly respect – the writers made the 2011 series’ Panthro a bigger, brawnier, and taller Cat than he had been previously. I think I could have accepted this change, but the fact that they also made him broody and angry upset me a great deal. Gone was the laughing warrior with the wit that cut like ice and the quicksilver smile. In his place stood a glowering sourpuss (pun intended), who was occasionally used for comic relief and made to look the fool.

By this I mean that Panthro had one crippling fear in the original series. It was never explained, but it really did not need to be. Some people are afraid of things for no conceivable reason; you ask them why this or that frightens them, and all they can say is it does.

What could scare the strongest Thundercat, you ask? Bats.

Yes, bats were Panthro’s biggest terror in the original show. He knew fear from other sources, of course, but he could and did master those fears. Bats were the one thing he could not get over. And that was okay; like I said, some people have irrational fears they cannot conquer no matter how hard they try. This one chink in Panthro’s armor did not lessen his strength. It just made him human. (Yes, I know he is technically a humanoid cat, not an actual human. It’s called poetic license. Live with it.)

For the 2011 series, the writers made Panthro afraid of heights. They also made him unable to swim. Previously, every member of the Thundercats could swim. They may not have enjoyed it all the time or to the same degree, but they all knew how to swim. Taking that away from Panthro, making him afraid of water and heights – it made him seem like a big baby who was frightened of anything he could not hit or blow up.

That was and remains a wrong choice on the part of the new show’s writers, since it directly interfered with Panthro’s role in the story. Instead of being the strongest Cat in mind and body, Panthro was reduced to being merely strong on a physical plane. The new show’s writers cut out his real heart and put a mechanism in its place, which upset me quite a bit.

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Another change I found less than pleasant was the scar they put over one of his eyes. Then the new show’s writers cut his arms off above the elbows. That was the last straw. Bad enough they disrespected his strength, to go so far as to make him a double amputee in need of mechanical arms was a bridge too far.

Laughing warriors are in short supply in current fiction, readers, as proved by the 2011 writers’ mistreatment of Panthro. Strong heroes are also going out of style. Nowadays a laughing warrior is portrayed as a bloodthirsty psychopath, while strength usually equals stupidity. Both these depictions are harmful stereotypes which must be abandoned if fiction is to continue to be a vehicle for truth.

Panthro is not the only strong, laughing warrior in literature, of course, but he was one of the best. New writers could learn a great deal about making tough, hearty heroes by studying him. And I mean studying him for love of their craft, not for love of money. We saw the results of the latter in 2011; the finished 1980s product is far superior to the one the new writers handed us.

So if you are a fiction writer, and you want to know more about Panthro, I recommend you look up the original series. The 2011 show did not do him justice; neither did the comics, in large part. And please remember that a happy warrior is not a psychopath or a maniac who likes killing, destroying, or maiming.

A happy warrior looks and acts like Panthro. So does a strong hero. We need more of both.

Thundercats – HO!

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