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Cartoons: Blackstar

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Episode Review
History of Blackstar
Quick Facts
Voice Cast

History of BlackstarThis short-lived cartoon series is pretty much an early version of "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe".  In fact, many of the voice actors who appeared on this show appeared as similar characters in the 1983 series of "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" and the 1985 series "She-Ra:  The Princess of Power."  What is even more interesting is the fact that "He-Man" copied the same basic premise and ideas of "Blackstar".

    "Blackstar" was made by Filmation, the same company that made "He-Man", and aired from 1981-1982.  There were only 13 episodes made.  In many ways, I actually like this show better than "He-Man."  I'm not big into TV cartoons, but this series was fun fantasy adventure!

    Buff astronaut John Blackstar, definitely of Native-American lineage, crash-lands on the distant planet of Sagar.  He's stuck here and can't go back to Earth.  Having nothing better to do, he dons barbarian-style duds and fights evil on his new home planet with his magic sword and his flying dragon.  He has friends with special powers and abilities, and most of the time thwarts the ambitious plans of the evil Overlord.  Overlord has a magic sword as well which is actually one-half of a major weapon; Blackstar has the other half and he wants it.  Does this sound familiar?  Blackstar and his buddies also hang out with a troop of forest elves who call themselves "Trobbits."  Perhaps the most interesting of the Trobbits is Gossamer who uses his oversized ears to fly.

    John Blackstar's race was not specified in the series, but it's commonly held that he is Native-American due to his look and certainly his last name.  Some people think he was meant to be African-American, hence the "black" in his name.  This is not true.  The original concept for Blackstar was to make him black, but the CBS network didn't think people were ready for a black cartoon hero.  Thus, a lot of changes had to be made to the character concept to make him a bit more "okay" for their tastes.  Blackstar's look was changed to Native-American, which they must have thought was passable, but his race was never mentioned, and he had a very pronounced white voice.

    George DiCenzo did the voice of John Blackstar.  He has a good voice...a "dude" voice.  Blackstar is a regular super-stud!  In 1985 he became a regular on the "She-Ra: The Princess of Power" series playing the male leads Bow (a stud like Blackstar) and the villain Hordak among other characters.  Linda Gary was the voice of the female lead in this series named Mara.  Her character was a blue-skinned beauty with sorceress skills.  She was definitely Blackstar's main sidekick.  Ms. Gary did tons of voices in cartoons.  Most interesting, she did the voices for the major female characters in "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" including Teela, Evil-Lyn, The Sorceress, and Queen Marlena.  She had a naturally sexy voice that was just perfect for the characters she played.  Alan Oppenheimer did Overlord, the major villain of the series who looks and acts a lot like Skeletor did in "He-Man".  Alan was also the voice of Skeletor, the major He-Man villain, as well as Cringer and Man-at-Arms.  An interesting fact is that Mr. Oppenheimer was the original voice of Mighty Mouse in the classic cartoon shorts.

    With all these similarities, why did "He-Man" go onto long-lasting fame while "Blackstar" quickly burnt out?  Who knows.  One possibility is that maybe the show's producers felt that TV cartoon audiences weren't ready for a Native-American action hero.  I'd hate to think that was the reason, but shows have been cancelled for sillier reasons.  I think Blackstar is an interesting looking character and I enjoy seeing him fight bad guys.  The animation of "Blackstar" was a lot brighter and more vivid than "He-Man", which was primarily dark.  Another reason for its cancellation is that there weren't a whole lot of characters in this series you could make toys of.  A toy series of "Blackstar" was attempted by Galoob, but did not last long.  If you can find any of these toys, I applaud you.  There were few regular heroes and few regular villains.  The Trobbits couldn't do much in the way of action, but were lively characters.  PVC figures of the Trobbits were included with the regular action figures of the main characters.  Meanwhile, "He-Man" had many, many characters to make toys on.  Although both TV series had beautiful backgrounds and fascinating character designs (yes, I like the "He-Man" show, too), "He-Man" featured wilder adventures with many more intricate character concepts.  Plus, the main character was white, which I think the producers of that show probably felt would be more accepted by the predominately white audience that watched "He-Man" and bought "He-Man" toys.  The He-Man character is a good design, but I think the Blackstar character was a lot more colorful and more interesting visually.  I'm not trying to start a controversy or put anybody's ideas down.  These are just some things to think about if you are interested in the "Blackstar" or "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" TV series.  Both shows were well-done and set precedents in 1980s popular culture.

    Blackstar first aired on September 12, 1981.  It was cancelled in 1982.  In 1983-84, to ride the success of the popular "He-Man & the Masters of the Universe" series, the "Blackstar" series was re-run on television.  Despite good ratings, plans for a second season of "Blackstar" were scrapped.  "Blackstar" action figures were also released after the original run of the series, from 1983-1985.  Unlike "Masters of the Universe", "Blackstar" toys were manufactured by Galoob, not Mattel.  There were three series of "Blackstar" toys, and the first series was re-released.  The toys did fairly well, but without a TV series to generate more interest, and with the much greater popularity of He-Man, the toyline was phased out.

Quick Facts:

  • Blackstar was originally conceived as an African-American character, but CBS thought that would have been a bit too radical.  Numerous changes were made to the character to make him Native-American, which CBS apparently believed was a bit more "okay".
  • The pink-skinned Trobbits were originally supposed to be blue, but producers caught wind of the upcoming "Smurfs" series and quickly changed it.
  • Warlock, Blackstar's dragon-horse, made cameo appearances in the later series, "He-Man & the Masters of the Universe".


"Blackstar" (1981-1982)
Studio: Filmation
  1. "Search for the Starsword" (the first episode to air, though it was the second episode produced; it was however, the first scripted episode)
  2. "City of the Ancient Ones"
  3. "The Lord of Time"
  4. "The Mermaid of the Serpent Sea"
  5. "The Quest"
  6. "Spacewrecked"
  7. "Lightning City of the Clouds"
  8. "The Kingdom of Neptul"
  9. "Tree of Evil"
  10. "The Air Whales of Anchar"
  11. "The Overlord's Big Spell"
  12. "The Crown of the Sorceress"
  13. "The Zombie Masters"

Episode Review:

Voice Cast:

George DiCenzo as John Blackstar
Linda Gary as Mara
Alan Oppenheimer as Carpo/The Overlord
Patrick Pinney as Balkar/Klone/Terra
Frank Welker as Burble/Gossamear/Rif