Defenders of the Earth is an American animated television series produced in 1985, featuring characters from three comic strips distributed by King Features Syndicate – Flash Gordon, The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, and Mandrake’s assistant Lothar – opposing Ming the Merciless in the year 2015. Supporting characters include their children Rick Gordon (son of Flash), L.J. (son of Lothar), Kshin (adopted son of Mandrake), and Jedda Walker (daughter of the Phantom). The show lasted for 65 episodes.
The plot begins with Flash Gordon and his son Rick escaping from Ming the Merciless, who has exhausted the natural resources of his home planet Mongo and desires to exploit Earth. Ming tries to brainwash Flash’s wife Dale Arden, but she resists until death, where after her psyche is later included in the Defenders’ supercomputer Dynac X. Later, Flash and Mandrake organize the Defenders against Ming.
- Flash Gordon (voiced by Lou Richards) — Leader of the Defenders of the Earth: a space pilot and the father of Rick Gordon.
- The Phantom (voiced by Peter Mark Richman) — Essentially identical to Lee Falk’s character, but differing from the original in that by chanting “By jungle law, the Ghost Who Walks calls forth the power of ten tigers”, he momentarily receives superhuman strength. His real name is Kit Walker. His horse Hero and wolf Devil make brief appearances. The end credits describe this Phantom by saying “This is the 27th Phantom.”
- Mandrake the Magician (voiced by Peter Renaday) — A hypnotist and mystic capable of manipulating others’ perceptions almost at will. He is often portrayed as a secondary leader of the Defenders, and sometimes the narrator of their decisions.
- Lothar (voiced by Buster Jones) — Mandrake’s assistant and bodyguard, depicted as a powerful fighter, an able mechanic, and a master tactician. The action figure’s packaging describes Lothar as a “Caribbean Ninja”.
- Richard “Rick” Gordon (voiced by Loren Lester) — Richard is an impulsive computer genius and the son of Flash Gordon. Rick, along with many of the other teenagers of the show, attended Central High located in Central City. Rick Gordon was initially intended to be Kit Walker, the son of the Phantom.
- L.J. (voiced by Dion Williams) — Short for ‘Lothar Jr.’, L.J. is the street-wise martial arts-expert son of Lothar, and Rick’s best friend. When in one episode, the Defenders locate a crystal which shows them their greatest desires, L.J.’s is to defeat the antagonist ‘Octon’.
- Jedda Walker (voiced by Sarah Partridge) — Jedda is the daughter of the Phantom and displays telepathic and limited extrasensory powers, usually expressed by communication with her black panther Kisa. There is little-or-no mention of her mother, though in one episode she is the reluctant stepdaughter of Queen Hadea. Some installments imply a relationship with Rick Gordon. Jedda Walker was initially intended to be Jedda Gordon, daughter of Flash Gordon.
- Kshin (voiced by Adam Carl) — Kshin is an orphaned boy adopted by Mandrake and trained as his apprentice. His origins are revealed in the late season episode “The adoption of Kshin”, where it is shown he was a young street orphan found by Mandrake after a gang of boys tried using him as a distraction in a failed pick-pocketing attempt. He is usually accompanied by the extraterrestrial “Zuffy”, initially found by Rick Gordon on the planet Mongo.
- Dynac X (voiced by Diane Pershing) — Dynac X is the central computer of the Defenders’ Headquarters, whose operating system is stated to contain the psyche of Flash Gordon’s wife. Though she is never addressed by name in the series, the comic book adaptation of the first two episodes identifies the slain “Mrs. Gordon” as Dale Arden. Diane Pershing is the only performer from the Filmation cartoon that reprised her role.
- Ming the Merciless (voiced by Ron Feinberg) — A warlord or supervillain bent on exploiting Earth’s natural resources, based on ‘Ice Station Earth’. This version is made more grotesque than his traditional appearance to avoid racial stereotyping; a similar treatment would be used on the Mandarin in the Iron Man animated series and on Dr. No in James Bond Jr., in that all three characters received green skin and pointed ears.
- Prince Kro-Tan — Ming the Merciless’ son.
- Princess Castra — Ming the Merciless’ daughter.
- Octon (voiced by William Callaway) — Octon is an octopus-like artificial intelligence, equivalent to an ‘evil version’ of Dynac X, which advises Ming the Merciless of methods to conquer the Earth or defeat the Defenders. His name is derived from that of an opponent of Mandrake’s in the latter’s eponymous comic strip, wherein it identifies a crime lord also known as the ‘Cobra’.
- Garax (voiced by William Callaway) — Garax is the leader of Ming’s mechanical soldiers, the Ice Robots. He is the only one of these to recur, and the only given any distinction from the others, who are frequently slain en masse by the Defenders.
- Mongor — Mongor is a giant serpent-like pet of Ming the Merciless.
- Kurt Walker (voiced by William Callaway) — Aliased “N’Dama the Weather Demon”, Kurt is the older brother of the Phantom. When competing in a trial with Kit for the right to become the next Phantom, Kurt won but was passed-over in favor of Kit due his father knowing that he had lied and cheated, as well as abandoning his brother after causing a rock fall that had injured him. This results in him being disinherited by their father, and the contempt he has for Kit. Kurt is specifically created for the series and has never appeared elsewhere.
- The Sky Band — A coalition of raiders depicted in the Phantom comics; here depicted as space-pirates.
- Queen Hadea — Hadea is the ruler of the subterranean ‘Netherworld’, where she is the latest in a dynasty of monarchs served by pale, deformed humanoids. In her first appearance, Hadea desires to take the Phantom as a consort. After later offering to heal the injured Jedda Walker, she displays a brief interest in assuming a maternal role in the girl’s life. Her great ambition is to capture the powerful ‘Necklace of Oros’, which confers control of others in the user’s presence.
- Graviton — The original owner of the Necklace of Oros, and implied to have dwelt among the Moai of Rapa Nui, Graviton is an extradimensional being of unknown origins, who seeks to recover the Necklace from Earth and establish himself as a dictator.
The voice-over actor of the Phantom was by Peter Mark Richman.