Fun fact! Judge David Johnson once crash-landed on an alien world when he was an astronaut. The planet was populated by talking breath mints. It wasn't a fun time in his life.
One day I'm a kickass astronaut…the next I'm running around in furry boots with seven pink dwarves.
As the prime distributor of old-school Filmation animation, BCI Eclipse has made a name for itself with its pristine presentations of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. In my opinion, those discs were some of the finest boxed TV sets I've seen. So how about this short-lived precursor to Prince Adam and Orko's misadventures? Does it get the BCI gold standard? And will you care?
Facts of the Case
Meet John Blackstar, who, when given his name by his parents, was destined to be either the front-man for an '80s hair metal band or a world-famous astronaut. He went for the latter career and ended up sucked into a mysterious black hole. He and his ship are spit out on the alien world Sagar, a realm of fantasy and pastel colors where, thankfully, everyone speaks fluent English.
He immediately hooks up with seven diminutive freedom fighters, called Trobbits (uh…never mind), who have dedicated their skills of cooking and flying with humongous ears to defeating the evil Overlord, a cape-clad maniac who runs around in his underwear and is determined to take over Sagar. To do this he needs to harness the might of the Powerstar, a powerful sword that shoots out crystal Pepsi.
Through circumstances never revealed, John Blackstar manages to split the Powerstar in two, leaving Overlord with the Powersword and the second half, the Starsword, in his dirty NASA paws. Along the way, Blackstar drops his first name and strips down to his underpants.
Two discs, 13 episodes, the entire series run:
I don't remember Blackstar, which probably isn't surprising considering its abbreviated run and the fact that I was four years-old when it hit the airwaves. But after spending some time with The Overlord and the Trobbits, I can say that this fantasy action/adventure series is as crazy-ass as I would expect from Filmation. Crammed sideways with outlandish plot devices, bizarre locales, spandex-clad characters, and even some rotoscoping, Blackstar is trademark Lou Scheimer looniness that should appeal to fans of the old-school action kids shows of the '80s.
The thing about Blackstar was our hero's total lack of superpowers. The guy was just a regular old astronaut (though from his appearance we can assume he lettered in some kind of varsity sport back in college) who ended up in his skivvies, flying around on a dragon. Thankfully, he's got his sword, which really does most of the work for him, and the Trobbits, who likely schooled him in rudimentary counter-terror tactics. Blackstar may not be as strong as He-Man, but he gets the job done.
The Overlord, as Blackstar's prime nemesis, is, unfortunately, a stiff. While we can forgive Blackstar's Boy Scout sensibilities—he is the hero after all and thus must be a responsible advocate for strong moral lessons to the impressionable youth that may tune into his adventures—it lies to the villain to impress us with his over-the-top, evil personality. Unfortunately, The Overlord is no Skeletor. Where the latter not only employed many a crazy scheme to destroy his enemies, he was also the biggest prick ever to grace an animated show, berating even his comrades with taunts and cruelty. The Overlord cooks up his share of cockamamie strategies to defeat his enemies, but fails to inject the same kind of flair for being a bad guy that Skeletor seemed to relish. In short, the dude is just not interesting.
The stories are boilerplate Filmation fare, with off-the-wall plotlines and characters and situations seemingly produced by the after-effects of long-term exposure to mercury. The writers and artists had creativity to spare and it shows in everything from lightning cities to air whales to bizarro Trobbits. It's all quite entertaining, and if you dig this kind of thing (i.e., the "He-Man" kind of thing), Blackstar should satisfy.
The set is great, and typical of the kind that BCI Eclipse and Entertainment Rights put out. For such a short series, Blackstar receives a top-shelf treatment, even if it is a few notches below He-Man's platinum-standard. Colorful packaging gives way to a detailed episode guide, a brief history of the show's mythos and some trivia. The shows themselves look very nice, crisply colored and probably as detailed as you can get from such date materials. For extras: a ton of interviews with the Blackstar creative team, two audio commentaries with the crew, art galleries, DVD-ROM-accessible storyboards and scripts, and "The Magic of Filmation" documentary.
While not quite He-Man, Blackstar delivers in the sword and sorcery department, flush with all the elements necessary to a Filmation series. His sword may be dorky, and the fur might chafe, but Blackstar knows how to bring the pain. And another fantastic set by BCI.
Not guilty. But The Overlord needs a spanking.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BCI Eclipse
• Filmmakers Commentary on Two Episodes
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