Defenders Of The Earth was a half-hour long. This show was produced by Marvel Productions in association with King Features Entertainment. It premiered in syndication in September 1986. The series was based in the year 2015. Ming the Merciless is about to take over the world. Flash Gordon, The Phantom. Lothar, and Mandrake The Magician all team up to stop him. They get some help from Rick Gordon (Flash's son), Jedda Walker (Phantom's daughter), L.J. (Lothar's son), Kshin (an orphan), and Zuffy (a furry alien).
Basically, they succeeded in defending the Earth, even though they seemed to spend most of their time standing around talking, as opposed to making a visible effort to defend the Earth.
During the mid-1980's many animators decided to do shows starring the most prominent characters in their stables. So, like the Justice League of America or Avengers before them, King Features Syndicate assembled the DEFENDERS OF THE EARTH.
You may notice some parallels between the Defenders and other similar features. Flash Gordon is the team's allegory to Superman or Captain America, the fearless leader who takes care of problems as soon as possible. The mysterious Phantom is the Batman of the group. Then there's Mandrake the magician, who is very much like Doctor Strange from Marvel Comics. Lothar (Mandrake's servant in the original comic strip, promoted to full-fledged adventurer here) was the team's strong powerhouse, perhaps a stronger, not-as-ugly varation of The Thing.
So you've got Superman, Batman, Doctor Strange, and the Thing... err, Flash Gordon, Phantom, Mandrake, and Lothar... what do you do for an encore? Set the series in the year 2015 (30 years in the future at the time!) and have the Big Four training their "kids" who are teen titans of their own.
First there's Rick, averagely-named son of Flash Gordon. Did they ever say who his mother was? He tried to be ever so much the ladies' man as his father was. Jedda Walker was the daughter of the Phantom. I believe in one episode she even took over the mantle of the Phantom when her father was believed dead. L.J. was the son of Lothar (again, no word on where the mother went), and Kshin was an Indian boy who hung out with Mandrake(his houseboy?). And finally there was also a computer system that appeared female. What was the name of that?
Lothar's promotion and the addition of offspring weren't the only differences between these characters and their comic strip counterparts. For example, Mandrake's powers were upgraded from mere hypnotic suggestion to real magic. By far, the most immediately noticeable change was in Ming - when first seen, in 1934, he was distinctly Asian, done up to look like Fu Manchu. In this version, to avoid stereotypes, he was colored green.
DEFENDERS OF THE EARTH became a Galoob toy line, a Marvel Comics comic book series, and had several other merchandising tie-ins. It is interesting to note that while several of these characters are popular and have had series of their own, King Features never had quite the success with comic books as Marvel or DC had with similar characters. (The Phantom, for example, has been published by more then 5 different publishers -- including both Marvel and DC).
original airdates: 1986-1987 in syndication
later airdates: 1993-1996 on Sci-Fi Channel
animated by: Marvel Productions, Ltd.
distributed and owned by: King Features Syndicate