The ‘80s were a magical time. One of the greatest shows of that decade, or any other if we’re being honest, was ThunderCats. It became the quintessential cartoon of the ‘80s as people would become positively obsessed with the show and ThunderCats’ hero, Lion-O. Featuring a race of tubular sword-wielding cat-people, ThunderCats detailed the adventures of Lion-O and his friends as they battled the evil sorcerer, Mumm-Ra. Created by Tobin Wolf, who also was a World War II veteran and interestingly enough invented the first portable record player for teenagers, his vision of cat-people in bizarre-looking spandex was brought to life. Running for 130 episodes, ThunderCats quickly became a phenomenon that lives on to this day.
Over the course of the show, the central protagonist, Lion-O, and his Sword of Omens, would become one of TV’s most recognizable cartoon heroes ever. His uber masculinity, saving the day and yelling epic battle cries, is still a standard to which audiences hold heroes to, to this day. Many have a childhood memory of Lion-O, but there’s a bunch of things about the character, and his weapons, you might have overlooked or forgotten. Today at CBR we’re looking at 15 things you likely don’t know about both Lion-O and the weapons he uses.
15 HE CAN CONTROL ALL CATS
You may not have noticed it, but Lion-O and the rest of the ThunderCats are not human. Rather, they are Thunderian and come from the planet Thundera. For his part, Lion-O is the son of Claudius, who was the Lord of the ThunderCats before Lion-O. After the ThunderCats escaped the destruction of their homeworld, they landed on Third Earth.
Though Lion-O is next in line to be the ThunderCats’ ruler, he first undergoes the Anointment Trials, where he must face-off against his friends.
Once he overcame the trials, Lion-O was crowned the Lord of the ThunderCats. Interestingly enough, this grants him a particular ability: he can now control all cats. House cats, giant tigers, and even his own people, should he so choose, Lion-O’s control over cat-kind is absolute.
14 HE'S FOUGHT HE-MAN
In the 2016 mini-series He-Man/ThundercCats, the Masters of the Universe teamed up with the ThunderCats. The two ‘80s superhero groups came together thanks to the ThunderCats villain Mumm-Ra trying to steal He-Man’s sword. The mighty weapon rivaled Lion-O’s Sword of Omens, and Mumm-Ra wanted it to kill his archenemy. Tracing the sword to Eternia, he also catches the attention of the evil Skeletor. They immediately hate one another, but team up, as their interests are aligned.
At one point, Mumm-Ra stabs He-Man/Prince Adam through the chest, temporarily killing him. Later, Mumm-Ra resurrects He-Man and uses a spell to make him fight Lion-O. The fight is intense, but after getting a boost of power via the Sword of Omens, Lion-O is eventually able to snap He-Man out of the mind-controlling spell. From there, the two heroes unite.
13 THE SWORD OF OMENS IS A DEUS-EX MACHINA
By that we mean it has a ridiculous array of powers. Like many cartoon weapons, there are moments when the Sword Of Omens can do whatever the script requires. Initially, the sword’s powers were limited and basic: it flashed the ThunderCats signal, gave Lion-O “sight beyond sight” and “power beyond power” and even let him fire off the occasional energy blast. Then the show’s second season rolled around and the Sword of Omens could do nearly anything.
It could shoot lighting, fire, scattered explosive beams, cast force fields, fly, extend immeasurably and even a tractor beam that Lion-O could guide things with.
If that wasn’t enough, Lion-O could fly on it, use it to control the weather, and crazily, the ThunderCats logo could attack bad guys. With a weapon like that, it’s a wonder Lion-O ever struggled to win a fight.
12 HE'S FOUGHT SUPERMAN
Superman, the Man of Steel, is such a popular character that he’s teamed up and met just about every other superhero under the sun. That of course, includes the ThunderCats. Before Lion-O met with He-Man, he encountered the Last Son of Krypton in the one-shot ThunderCats/Superman from 2004. The premise revolves around Mumm-Ra and his band of Mutants getting up to no good and trying to steal a second Eye of Thundera in another dimension over in a museum in Metropolis.
As the Mutants try and steal the gem, the ThunderCats break through the museum’s skylight. Clark Kent and Lois Lane happen to be at the museum. Confused by humanoid cat-people with weapons, Clark switches to Superman and proceeds to fight the ThunderCats. After a bit, they realize they’re on the same side and team-up to save the day.
11 HE'S A CHILD IN A MAN'S BODY
Lion-O is a man’s man, or a man’s tiger…you get the idea. The point being, it might surprise you to learn he’s actually just a little kid, but in a grown-up body. At the start of the series, the ThunderCats head into space to escape the destruction of their home world of Thundera.
At the time, Lion-O, the son of King Claudius, is only 12-years old. He, along with Cheetara, Panthro, Tygra, and everyone else are put into suspended animation while travelling to Third Earth.
When Lion-O wakes up, he discovers his capsule malfunctioned and it let his body age into adulthood while his mind stayed young, younger in fact than that of WilyKit and WilyKat. This informs a lot of Lion-O’s character; he must quickly mature mentally to catch up with his body and to fight evil sorcerers.
10 HE'S THE FASTEST THUNDERCAT
Cats are fast -- there’s no denying that. The fastest cat in the animal kingdom is the cheetah, so it would make total sense to believe that Cheetarah is the fastest out of all the ThunderCats. After all, “cheetah” is literally in her name. A great fighter, Cheetarah uses her speed to evade attacks with ease. In one episode, Tygra clocked her jogging speed at 120 mph, with the implication that she could run even faster if she were so inclined.
At her peak, Cheetarah could keep going at her maximum speed for two miles. Lion-O, probably because he’s the hero of the show, has been demonstrated as being faster. The two heroes actually raced one time and Lion-O came out on top as the victor.
9 THE CLAW SHIELD IS MULTI-VERSATILE
Though Lion-O already wields the mighty Sword of Omens, the cat-man has a habit of getting disarmed in a fight -- it happens a lot more often than you’d think. Even so Lion-O has enough physical abilities to protect him against average-level opponents. Yet luckily, he also carries the Claw Shield on his person. The Claw Shield, which serves as the Sword of Omen’s sheathe, can be used as a glove to punch bad guys; it boosts the strength of Lion-O’s already impressive blows. Though small, it’s proven more then effective at defending against bladed weapons and laser blasts.
Like a feline Swiss army knife, the Claw has many functions and tricks up its sleeve.
Four grappling hooks can shoot out of it, if Lion-O is falling and needs something to latch on to. It can also fire off a smoke screen to temporarily blind an enemy.
8 HE HAS SUPER SMELL
Being the superhero that he is, Lion-O has a nice assortment of powers. The leader of the ThunderCats, Lion-O possesses super-strength and agility; his cat-like heritage also gives him a couple extra perks.
A keen sense of smell might not be someone’s go-to super power, but heroes like Wolverine from the X-Men make it look cool. If you can’t see your opponent, sniff them out. A good sense of smell is helpful for tracking someone. This is all to say that Lion-O takes after cats in more ways than one. You see, while humans have five million odor sensitive cells, a cat’s nose has over two hundred million. Multiplied by the factor of a full-grown human, you’re dealing with an individual who, once he gets your scent, can likely follow you to the ends of the earth.
7 LION-O WASN'T HIS ORIGINAL NAME
The name of an iconic character in any popular form of media, be it literature, TV, etc. is nearly as important as the source material itself. The protagonist, or antagonist as is sometimes the case, is the one who keeps the story going and is one of the central draws for fans and audiences.
With relation to ThunderCats, Lion-O has an awesome name, but there was a time when he was actually going to be called something different.
The show, created by Tobin Wolf, was a success, but it was ThunderCats’ head writer Leonard Starr, who fleshed out Wolf’s ideas. While Wolf wanted to originally call Lion-O “Lion-L”, the producers and Starr didn’t go with the idea. “Lion-L” isn’t awful, but there was another big toy company, Lionel Trains, and nobody wanted confusion between the two.
6 THE SWORD OF OMENS CAN BE A BOOMERANG
The Sword of Omens is an incredibly powerful weapon -- there’s little it can’t do. However, a weapon, no matter how powerful it is, is only as dangerous as the user who wields it. Lion-O is an amazing warrior, but despite his fighting prowess, he’s still learning the ropes of combat. This usually translates into the following: either getting disarmed by an opponent or throwing the Sword of Omens at people.
While throwing a blade at your enemy might seem like an unconventional strategy, and it is, Lion-O can find comfort in the knowledge that the Sword will always return to him. Like Thor’s hammer Mjolinr, the Sword of Omens has a boomerang-like quality, always returning to its master when summoned. It doesn’t matter where the Sword is, like say the center of a black hole (it’s happened, folks), the Sword will come back.
5 THE EYE OF THUNDERA IS THE SOURCE OF THE THUNDERCATS' POWERS
Lion-O might wield the Sword of Omens, but it wouldn’t be the awesome weapon it is if not for the Eye of Thundera. The Eye of Thundera is one of the most important artifacts in the entire ThunderCats arsenal. A jewel with limitless magical power, it can provide Lion-O with fantastic superhuman strength, alert its user of danger, and is the source of ThunderCat life.
Whenever Lion-O calls for the sight-beyond sight, the Eye allows him to survey events across time and space -- said events become visual and audible.
Yet perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the Eye is that it’s a separate living entity that is capable of making decisions. Additionally, it’s the source of life for all ThunderCats, so Lion-O has to be extra careful in making sure no harm comes to it; ironic, considering he brings it into battle all the time.
4 HE CAN SURVIVE THE VACUUM OF SPACE
Generally speaking, most doctors would advise you to not try and breathe in space.. Lion-O and the rest of the ThunderCats don’t care about silly little things like air and how space doesn’t have any of it. Inexplicably, and this isn’t just reserved for Lion-O, but it appears like any of the bipedal warrior cats can not only hang out in space worry-free, but they talk and (somehow) breathe.
Unlike any other living being, they don’t implode or freeze to death. Granted, this is a kids’ cartoon from the ‘80s we’re talking about, so the writers probably weren’t overly concerned about science, but even basic science? Heck, the cartoon put them in a spaceship when traveling from Thundera to Third Earth, so somebody somewhere intentionally made them able to breathe in space.
3 THE SWORD OF OMENS CAN'T BE USED BY EVIL BEINGS
The Sword of Omens is Lion-O’s go-to weapon, and sensibly so. With a wide array of powers, there’s little it cannot do. It often seems like the Sword of Omens has no equal and that it makes its user unbeatable. This is the exact reason why the ThunderCat’s villain Mumm-Ra desperately wants it.
Whether he knows it or not, it wouldn’t matter if he did get it since the Sword wouldn’t work for him.
One of the weapon’s most iconic characteristics is that it cannot be used by anyone who’s evil. It will not respond to the commands of an evildoer, and it will try and prevent anyone who does use it from committing an evil deed. The Sword only fights evil and would be useless in Mumm-Ra’s hands. That hasn’t stopped the villain from trying to possess it and/or destroy it.
2 LION-O HAS SUPER VISION
A superhero doesn’t always need flashy powers to fight evil. Sometimes subtle abilities are just as important. One of the most recognizable power-set revolves around sensory powers. People like Superman get a lot of flack from people, as they gripe about his varying vision-based powers, along with every other awesome power a superhero can have.
Lion-O, while he might not have heat vision, does possess a form of telescopic vision. Of course if he needs to see across a planet, he can use the Sword of Omens to give him sight-beyond-sight, but under normal circumstances, Lion-O, since he is part cat, can literally see you coming a mile away. Cats have a thing called Panoramic Vision, which is proportionally six times stronger than human vision. Lion-O, the size of a full-grown adult, sensibly also has Panoramic Vision, but to an extremely heighted and almost overpowered degree.
1 THE SWORD OF OMENS IS NOT UNBREAKABLE
There are but a few swords in all of fiction that boast the same level of notoriety as Lion-O’s Sword of Omens. A marvel of a weapon, the Sword of Omens can cut through rock and most metals easily. Additionally, the blade itself is quite reflective and has been known to reflect energy attacks, even those unleashed by Mumm-Ra, back at the attacker.
The Sword’s immense power comes from the Eye of Thundera, which is embedded in its hilt.
Though while the Eye might be one of the most power artifacts of all-time, with limitless magical might, the Sword of Omens is not all-powerful. Many people believe, that on account of the Sword’s general awesomeness, that it is unbreakable. False. It’s nearly unbreakable, with emphasis on “nearly”. The Sword of Omens has been broken before, as seen when the villain Tug-Mug snapped it in half with his bare hands.