‘Fairlady’ pays tribute to a classic 80s cartoon

Latest issue of the high-fantasy procedural features a fun homage to a Steve Gerber co-creation.

Fairlady, the Image Comics title by Brian Schirmer and Claudia Balboni, promised “a complete 30-page story” every issue when it debuted, and three issues in, it has not disappointed. Issue #3, which came out last week, delivered not only another enjoyable story, but also paid homage to a cartoon with a strong comic book pedigree from the 1980s.

Probably best described as a fantasy detective comic, the “Fairlady” in the title is Jenner Faulds, a specially licensed private investigator who also works security for a local wizard. The “done in one” story in issue #3 revolves around a barbarian who winds up dead on the first page, a barbarian who hired Jenner for a job. It of course gets more complicated from there, and that’s where the fun starts.

(Note: this post contains minor spoilers for issue #3 of Fairlady)

Back when the comic debuted, Schirmer shared some of the influences on the series. “I realized that there wasn’t a fantasy series that focused on a female private detective, and then I realized how much I needed that to be a thing,” said Schirmer in a press release. “I took a love of ’70s and ’80s shows like Magnum, P.I. and The Rockford Files, poured that into a big bowl of Middle Earth, and added dashes of China MiĆ©ville, Michael Moorcock and Mignola, and Barbarians Conan and Thundarr. Then we dropped in a tough outsider in the form of our protagonist, Jenner Faulds, the land’s only female private investigator. Let the limitless stories begin!”

It’s that last influence that gets its due in this most recent issue. As you can see on the cover, the team pays tribute to Thundarr the Barbarian. Not only do we meet “Dunkarr the Barbarian” in the story, but also his former companions, Ari and Oosk — a tip of that hat to Ariel and Ookla, Thundarr’s sidekicks on the show.

Thundarr the Barbarian only ran for two seasons back in 1980-1981, but it left an impression on its viewers (and lived on in syndication and on cable channels after that). It was co-created by Steve Gerber, who also co-created Howard the Duck and Omega the Unknown for Marvel. He also wrote for the show, along with many other comic book creators like Martin Pasko, Mark Evanier and Roy Thomas. Alex Toth designed the main characters, while Jack Kirby worked on many of the other designs for the show. Kirby also did some of the promotional artwork for the series:

Why Thundarr has never been revived in comic book form is beyond me, but it’s certainly ripe for a revamp. For more information on Thundarr, I’d recommend Michael May’s Thundarr Road podcast, which goes deep on each episode of the series.

As for Fairlady, the first three issues can be found on comiXology, and the first trade, collecting issues #1-5, arrives in September. Or just grab whatever issue you see on your retailer’s shelf; the done-in-one format makes it easy to pick up any issue and jump right in.

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