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Spotlight: Thundercats – Snarf

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I hope no one thought I forgot my promise to revisit the Thundercats universe! Since the series was the subject of my final post in 2019, this blogger wanted to put some new material between that article and this one. Hopefully, you will find it was worth the wait, readers.

As JorgePR correctly guessed last year, the focus of today’s post is none other than Snarf. His full name is Snarf Osbert, but because he despises that name he usually goes by his species’ moniker. If the naming convention seems odd, that is because it is. Snarfs are known as such because of the sound/word they always say (which is, of course, “snarf”). Their species name precedes their given name.

The system is reminiscent to how the Japanese, Chinese, and Koreans address one another. In the Orient, a person’s last name always comes before the one they were given at birth. Only family members or close friends may use someone’s first name in a familiar manner. Strangers, or those who know each other only casually, must always speak to one another using their last names. To do otherwise is considered quite rude.

Going back to the series, Snarfs are a lizard/cat species somehow related to the humanoid Thunderians. We are never told how, and we do not really need to know. After all, if your protagonists are humanoid cats, then why wouldn’t most of the friendly animals and/or sapient species from their homeworld be cat-themed as well?

Snarfs typically act in the capacity of servants to Thunderians. The only known species to be inherently incapable of committing evil (they only perform wicked acts when under mind control), Snarfs are quite happy to serve. Even if they work for a bad master, once he is removed they will search for a new Thunderian whom they can happily wait on, cook for, or for whom they may babysit. Though they eventually become an independent race, this comes about as a matter of circumstance and is not due to a revolt against their Thunderian rulers.

Iron Lords are GO! | The H.A.M.B.

From this overview you might have an idea of how our Snarf fits into the series. Hired on as Lion-O’s nanny, the young prince’s growth spurt in the stasis pod does nothing to dampen Snarf’s affection for him. Acting as a sort of surrogate mother figure, he is hardly ever away from the new Lord’s side for most of the series’ run. Generally, if you see Lion-O, Snarf is somewhere nearby.

The first to awaken from his stasis pod, Snarf immediately goes in search of Lion-O. On finding him, he opens his stasis pod, and the two reunite – though the young man’s pride makes him a bit brusque with his former nurse. It is through his efforts that Lion-O is able to wake the other Thundercats and save them from an attack by the Mutants. Of course, this little fact seems to go unnoticed by the rest of the gang, leading Snarf to mutter some complaints about how he “did nothing at all. Just found the sword. *snarf, snarf*

As you may have guessed, this is a running theme in the narrative. Plus, due to his small size and lack of fighting ability, Snarf tends to retreat from violent situations. In fact, some would say that the yellow streak down his back is appropriate because it hints at his cowardly nature. Overlooked by the enemy and taken for granted by the Thundercats from time to time, Snarf didn’t seem to serve much of a function beyond comic relief.

These may be some of the reasons why fans came to hate him so much. (His repetitive “*snarf, snarf*!” didn’t help, either, I think.) In a series full of warrior cat people, Snarf seemed to be storytelling dead weight. He whined and complained, ran from most fights, and had a rather prissy way of talking to the heroes, as though he was older and more mature than the rest of them…..

….Which he may actually have been. If you study Snarf’s face, general design, and listen to him speak, Snarf does appear to be the oldest member of the cast. Only Jaga may have surpassed him in age. Add to this his skill at housekeeping and knowledge of people – specifically Lion-O, his charge – and this reading gives meaning to a lot of Snarf’s behavior. He is not a warrior or even a housekeeper. He is everyone’s mom, uncle, and aunt all rolled into one.

Mr. Ping and po, kung fu panda, wallpaper, poster

An equivalent character would be Po’s dad, Mr. Ping, the goose from the Kung Fu Panda series. Mr. Ping is not a warrior. He whines and complains about everything, guilt-tripping Po into doing whatever he wants him to do (e.g. spend the Winter Festival with him at the restaurant). Since the entire franchise is comedic, Mr. Ping’s attitude isn’t as annoying to most as it would be if the story were played straight. The reverse applies to Snarf, as his behavior is not meant for comedic effect (most of the time).

One has to look no further than his relationship with Lion-O to see the proof of this. Although he could misread him from time to time, the one member of the group who knew the young Lord best was Snarf. He could usually tell when something was bothering the Prince, why the latter was upset, or when he was worried about something/someone. This was an invaluable skill that came in handy on several occasions. Not being as close to the other Cats, Snarf had to rely on Lion-O to explain why they did certain things or why he was worried about them.

Though he tried his best to help take care of the Thunderkittens as he had Lion-O, the brother-sister act’s notorious nose for mischief usually thwarted him in this area. He never became as close to the twins as he could have, probably because he hadn’t known them long enough. It appears that Snarf knew the future Lord of the Thundercats from the time he could toddle, if not from the time he was born. He only met the twins after or around the time Thundera died, making it harder for him to develop a similarly respectful rapport with them.

Snarf Takes up the Challenge | ThunderCats wiki | FANDOM ...

While he was not a fighter, Snarf did prove to have mettle. In one episode, he had to face Mumm-Ra alone after the ancient monster had captured the other six Thundercats. Snarf, despite his terror, used his small size and wits to sneak into the Living Mummy’s temple. Once there, he freed his friends to do the fighting he couldn’t.

He also utilized an ability which he apparently developed while living on Third Earth. By whistling various notes, Snarf could communicate with almost any animal on the planet, ranging from unicorns and deer to giant bees and bats. Through these twittering notes he was able to ask these animals for help and secure their strengths to aid him or his friends. Although not a flashy power like Cheetara’s speed or Tygra’s invisibility, it was a skill that came in very handy on more than one occasion.

Additionally, he once used his skill at a game called “kick the bucket” to very good effect. How he and Lion-O developed the game is a mystery, but it proves Snarf’s courage. Though he was not and never would be a warrior, Snarf would stand up for his friends and his young charge when they needed him most. He had to be clever and quick, since his size and physical weakness made it easy for bigger opponents to overpower him. But this ability to distract or surprise the bad guys at the right moment often gave the Cats enough time to get back on their feet and finish the battle.

It also demonstrated that his tendency to be overlooked could be more of a blessing than a curse. Since Mumm-Ra and other antagonists wrote him off as insignificant, they barely paid attention to Snarf. This gave him opportunities to act that none of the other Cats would have gotten. In the end, I think Snarf was more valuable to the team than most fans would believe.

Snarf (Character) - Comic Vine

Snarf 2011

Of course, this brings us to the 2011 version of Snarf. As in the original series, Snarf began the story as Lion-O’s nursemaid. Unlike his ‘80s counterpart, however, this new Snarf did not talk. At least, he did not speak in a manner that the audience understood. Lion-O seemed to know what he was saying – or trying to say. Once again, we hardly ever saw the two of them apart. Wherever Lion-O went, Snarf was usually at his heels.

To the best of my hearing, Snarf only said one intelligible word in the entire 2011 reboot. In “The Duelist and the Drifter” he leaned on Lion-O’s leg, shook his head emphatically, and said, “No, no, no, no!” When his king agreed to the Duelist’s terms anyway, Snarf let his ears droop and murmured another, forlorn “No.” And he did so without moving his mouth.

Clearly, this blogger considered the 2011 Snarf to be a disappointment. I understand I am in the minority that actually likes the character, but reducing him to the cute animal sidekick just took something away from the franchise. That is my opinion, anyway.

This concludes the series of Spotlight! posts centering on the main cast of Thundercats. From now on, we will be discussing the secondary or side characters. Until then, readers, I leave you with a hearty “Thunder…Thunder….

Thundercats, HO!

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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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