Produced by Lou Scheimer and Norm Prescott for Filmation
Directed by Gwen Wetzler
September 12 to December 5, 1981, then again in the 1983 to 1984 season
“John Blackstar, astronaut, is swept through a black hole, into an ancient alien universe. Trapped on the planet Sagar, Blackstar is rescued by the tiny Trobbit people. In turn, he joins their fight for freedom against the cruel Overlord, who rules by the might of the PowerStar. The PowerStar is split into the PowerSword and the StarSword. And so with StarSword in hand, Blackstar together with his allies, sets out to save the planet Sagar. This is his destiny. I am John Blackstar.”
Characters (With More Than Two Appearances)
- John Blackstar (voiced by George DiCenzo)–an astronaut stranded on Sagar after slipping down a blackhole and inexplicably came into possession of the magical Star Sword which is half of the powerful PowerStar. This sword gives him elevated strength, endurance, and a certain level of invulnerability. He rides around on a dragon-like equine creature called Warlock. The main protagonist of the series. John Blackstar is an astronaut who ends up stranded on the planet Sagar where he takes part in the battles against Overlord.
- Mara (voiced by Linda Gary)–Blackstar’s friend and ally. She is an ancient purple-skinned enchantress.
- Klone (voiced by Patrick Pinney)–an elfin shapeshifter with long white hair that sounds a bit like Katherine Hepburn.
- Trobbits–they are seven pink skinned beings that befriended Blackstar after his arrival on Sagar and live in the imaginatively named Sagar Tree. The known Trobbits are:
- Balkar (voiced by Patrick Pinney)–their leader and an accomplished alchemist.
- Rif (voiced by Frank Welker)–the cranky one as well as the cook.
- Terra (voiced by Patrick Pinney)–their gardener that talks to plants.
- Burble (voiced by Frank Welker)–the swimmer.
- Carpo (voiced by Alan Oppenheimer)–he is a carpenter with his beaver-like teeth.
- Poulo–the youngest and a mute whistler.
- Gossamear (voiced by Frank Welker)–a Trobbit with giant ears that allows him to fly.
- Overlord (voiced by Alan Oppenheimer)–he has the half of the PowerStar called the Power Sword and tries constantly to get the other half which John Blackstar now has.
- Vizier (voiced by Alan Oppenheimer)–Overlord’s blue-skinned right-hand man. He is an expert at conjuring.
This was a very short-lived series with a mere 13 episodes and yet it made an impression on me as a kid. Yes I’m old enough to have watched it in first and second run. This show came at a time when 8am to 11am or even until noon on Saturdays were filled with a vast array of animated series across the three networks. Some have justifiably called this show a precursor to He-Man which might be part of the reason this show sticks in my head to this day.
One thing jumped out at my young eyes right away was that the character of Blackstar was clearly not the usual Caucasian hero. I am not an individual that screams for representation or anything like that. Too often it feels to me like humoring a particular group rather than trying to create something good. I want the characters and so forth to serve the story and not something to be shoehorned in and John Blackstar as a non-white character did not feel shoehorned in.
This was the 80s when networks were clumsily trying to create non-white characters for audiences and John Blackstar was one of them. Word is he was to be African-American since his last name was Blackstar (think the mentality that produced the African-American character Black Vulcan from Super Friends) but this heavy handed idea was dropped without a different name chose. Some have suggested he is instead Native American instead though no ethnicity is clearly stated in the show’s run or any other sources I could find.
Supposedly there is a rebellion against Overlord on the planet Sagar going on but not much occurs in the way of conflict or rebellion in the show. I cannot say even with any certainty if during the events of the show Overlord controlled the planet or was gaining control of the planet or just wanted to gain control of the planet. The narrative lacked consistency there.
The animation was not that good even by the questionable standards of the 70s and 80s. A great many shots were reused during its short run. Not an uncommon practice but given the short run and the number of times it happened it was excessive. He-Man did the same but managed to not use the same so close together. The music did not quite work and honestly some of the music reminded me of lower budget fantasy films from around that time. I even think it was used in one or two live action films that came later.
After I re-watched this I kind of regretted it. I had such fond memories of it. Thinking about it took me back to simpler sugar addled Saturday mornings watching the mindless cartoons of my youth. Re-watching the episodes that are available on YouTube made me realize it did not quite measure up to my memories. I still liked them, and they were still entertaining, but something was missing. Maybe it is the sugary cereal. I am diabetic these days. I miss Apple Raisin Crisp. It came out around the time this show ended its second run but that and old school Cookie Crisp were my Saturday morning jams. Maybe there is a connection…. Now I am hungry.
I still have a soft spot in my heart for this show because even now like then I enjoy fantasy cartoons. And this is an entertaining science-fiction fantasy cartoon. It is not great but it is entertaining. Some have called it a precursor to He-Man and I can definitely see that with elements of She-Ra sprinkled throughout as well.
The show is fun. Despite its flaws it is enjoyable. Overlord is a threatening villain. We have weird and fanciful creatures to battle or that just populate the series. We have magic and super heroics and a cool weapon in the PowerSword and the StarSword that if reunited would form the PowerStar. There was a mixing of science fiction in there as well. A good combination that will bring you back in anticipation of more. The concept and each episode manages to appeal to the kid seeking adventure we all have in us.
Blackstar is not a bad show, but it has the issues of a protype. I think the creators were trying new things (for them) here and feeling things out. I know there is no clamor for one, but it is something that could stand a reboot. I could even see a live action film coming out of it in this day and age of diversity. It is an entertaining cartoon from a simpler time of telling stories of clear differences between good and evil.
Blackstar is not flawless, but it is enjoyable. Not great storytelling but it is satisfying. It is a narrative snack that never got to grow into a full meal. It is worth a watch for fans of action-adventure cartoons and fun animation.