I’m still in the midst of reporting on WonderCon for CBR, so no full column this week, but I didn’t want to leave you hanging, gentle reader, so consider this video from nostalgia times:
There were a lot of cartoons in the 1980s. Every few months, something new would pop up: cartoons about plants that turn into cars, cartoons about seeking cities of gold, cartoons about really awkward robots trying to conquer the Earth. Then there was this one. In the U.S., it was know as Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea, but was originally known as Les Mondes Engloutis in its native France. It aired on Nickelodeon, back before it got a terminal cause of loudness, and it was out there.
The premise: our Earth is the top layer of different stratified worlds. At the core is the city of Arkadia with it’s amazing inner sun, the Tehra. When it begins to fail, an emissary is sent out in hopes of finding a way to fix the sun. The emissary meets the escaped slave Spartakus and two modern Earth children. Oh, there were also these pirates …
Uh, yeah … anyway, these characters wandered the lands beneath the sea for two season encountering various characters based on historic figures like Albert Einstein and mythical figures such as Nimrod, all the while still looking for an answer to the troublesome sun.
Since it was produced in France, it had a look unlike anything else on the cable channel. The fanciful designs, the oddly muted colors and the generally relaxed pace grabbed my attention. Paired with The Mysterious Cities of Gold, itself a Franco-Japanese co-production, I think it may have given me my first taste of pseudohistory with its reweaving of tales both real and fictional to get to a conclusion that I can only call “inclusive.” Though, I suppose fans can debate what really happened at the end as all of the characters the main group met in their travels make their way to Arkadia and seemingly merge with an artifact that allows them all to leave the Earth or something.
I’m telling you, this show was trippy. But I’m glad Nickelodeon had the space to broadcast it. At the time, the channel was still a few years away from producing its own content and seemingly bought anything and everything they could to fill airtime. This created the eclectic lunacy of its early years with content as varied as gentle life-lesson puppet show Today’s Special and the infamous You Can’t Do That on Television!? They may have already started making Double Dare, but original animation and scripted live action shows were still a ways off and in that early era, they allowed me to see a format I would come to love.
And it ultimately gave root to a passion for history that has stayed with me to this day.