In 1986, Rankin-Bass had themselves a sure-fire hit with their flagship animated series, Thundercats. So with all the money rolling in, how does one follow-up such a success? Why, with an exact duplicate, of course. Silverhawks is often called â€œThundercats in spaceâ€ and that description isnâ€™t too far off base. From the voice actors, to the animation, to the plots, to the characters, to the name, Silverhawks draws so many comparisons to its older brother that people canâ€™t help but qualify the show as â€œjust like Thundercatsâ€. Now, if Silverhawks was just like Thundercats only not as good, where does that leave Rankin-Bassâ€™ other animated clone, Tigersharks? In the dumpster, one can only hope.
Well, despite the numerous similarities, Silverhawks had its own charm that set it apart from Thundercats. While Thundercats was a sword & sorcery epic with smatterings of science fiction here and there, Silverhawks was all about the outer space action. In the 25th century, in the far off galaxy of Limbo, Commander Stargazer imprisoned the intergalactic mob boss, Mon*Star on the Penal Planet (get all the giggling over with now) with a life sentence. However, after many years behind bars, Mon*Star managed to escape and reformed his gang of psychos and monsters. Using the Moonstar, Mon*Star can morph himself into an all-powerful robotic scourge. Now an old man, Commander Stargazer sends for help from Earth. Earth sends him back a team of bionic warriors, â€œpartly metal, partly realâ€, called the Silverhawks.
The Silverhawks all have the ability to glide through space (Limbo, despite being outer space, has an atmosphere somehow) on metallic wings, as well as the various enhancements bionic technology can provide. Quicksilver is their leader, who has overall the greatest speed and agility of the group. He is also accompanied by a robotic bird named Tally Hawk. Steelheart and Steelwill are the twin brother and sister of the group. Steelheart (the girl) and Steelwill (the guy) have a Tomax & Xamot-like bond, where they can feel each otherâ€™s pain through bionic steel hearts within their bodies. Steelwill is a sports enthusiast, so his design has a heavy pro football motif going. Bluegrass is the pilot of the group who commands their spacecraft, the Mirage. Heâ€™s a rock & roll cyborg cowboy who can shoot lasers out of his electric guitar. Iâ€™m not making this up. And finally thereâ€™s the youngster of the Silverhawks, the Copper Kid, who hails from the Planet of the Mimes (so thatâ€™s where mimes come from!). He cannot speak but instead relates his emotions through whistles and weird noises. I hate him.
There were also some expansion Silverhawks who came in toward the end of the series (much like the expansion Thundercats). I donâ€™t remember them all too well, to be honest. There was Hotwing, the black guy, who was also a magician (first one to make a joke about a black guy named â€œHotwingâ€ and fried chicken gets to take a time out with Michael Richards). Flashback had this cat-thing going with his appearance and could travel through time. He was green. Condor was Commander Stargazerâ€™s old detective partner who got an upgrade and occasionally helped the Silverhawks out as a hired gun. There was also some dude named Moonstryker, but I genuinely canâ€™t remember a thing about him.
Mon*Star was an exact duplicate of Mumm-Ra, even going so far as having the same voice actor. His transformation sequence was also nearly identical (compare â€œMoonstar of Limbo, give me the might, the muscle, the menace of Mon*Star!â€ with â€œAncient Spirits of Evil, transform this decayed form to Mumm-Ra, the Ever-Living!â€). His transformation was cool, though, since it involved all the skin on his body being peeled off. Holy crap! His gang of hoodlums ranged from â€œcoolâ€ to â€œreeeaaally gayâ€. There was the Yess-Man, a snake freak with no special powers who agreed with everything Mon*Star said. Lame. There was Mumbo Jumbo, the mechanical bull who could breathe fire and increase his size at will. Buzz-Saw, the android with buzzsaws for hands. Pokerface was an android who ran a crooked gambling ring and had slot machine eyes, a tuxedo and a cane. Hardware was the midget with a backpack that held practically every killer weapon known to man inside it. Melodia, the only female of the group, had a keytaur that shot lasers. She was Bluegrassâ€™ arch-nemesis. Her voice was so shrill I wanted to hurl a bowling ball at the TV. Windhammer was really cool; he had a massive cosmic tuning fork that could command celestial maelstroms by banging it really hard against stuff. Mo-Lec-U-Lar was a shapeshifter made up of giant atoms and thatâ€™s about all I remember about him. Then there was Time-Stopper, one of my favorites, despite the terrible name. He could, guess what, stop time with a device on his chest! He was a snot-nosed punk, literally, as his most notable mannerism was that he was constantly wiping his nose with his thumb.
Silverhawks was noticeably more tongue-in-cheek and goofy than Thundercats (yeah, you heard that right) hardly ever taking anything seriously. The villains were sillier than even the ones from Thundercats and the plots could get pretty damn wacky. It managed to run for 65 episodes, but unlike Thundercats, never received a proper series finale. The last episode, although it didnâ€™t wrap up any loose ends, was pretty cool, though. It featured every villain and every Silverhawk in an all-out brawl. At one point in the series, Mon*Star was captured and re-imprisoned for a few episodes, but his thugs eventually sprung him loose.
The animation for Silverhawks was provided by Pacific Studios, the same Japanese studio that produced Thundercats, so the quality is really pretty good. The Japanese staff working on Silverhawks at the time were also working on the anime â€œMegazone 23â€, so if you keep your eyes peeled while watching Megazone, you can occasionally see a Silverhawks pinball machine stuck in there as a reference. Itâ€™s much in the same vein as Panthroâ€™s infamous â€œcameoâ€ in Bubblegum Crisis.
Personally, although it gets a lot of flack for being so goofy and â€œnot as good as Thundercatsâ€, Silverhawks has its moments. Iâ€™m rather fond of it and its colorful cast of characters. Iâ€™d certainly pick it up on DVD, at any rate. Hey, with Thundercats out of the way, maybe Rankin-Bass will feel compelled to give us a Silverhawks set.
Anyhow, if youâ€™re in the mood for some Silverhawks nostalgia, check out the first episode, â€œthe Origin Storyâ€, which is now available on You Tube in two parts.