The 1980s saw a wealth of fantastic cartoons and toy lines, allowing kids to essentially bring these cartoons home with them. The renowned Inhumanoids, which debuted in 1986, was one such toy line that was made into a cartoon.
The titular characters of this 1980s children’s show that almost swept over the world by storm are the Inhumanoids. What makes this television show so unique, you might wonder. Normally, action cartoons focused on cool heroes who used high-tech devices to combat the bad guys and were the show’s main interest.
However, in this series, the attention was entirely on these horrific underground monsters who went on rampages and terrified the people of Earth. Yes, there was a gang of heroes known as the Earth Corps who were continuously at odds with them, but the Inhumanoids were unquestionably the show’s stars.
This video is all about the underground creatures who took over Sunday cartoon television!
All about the Inhumanoids series
Sunbow Productions’ Inhumanoids was a 13-episode cartoon series that premiered in 1986. Griffin-Bacal Advertising, which had been founded six years before, was known for its animated advertisements for Hasbro’s G.I. Joe toy line and its companion Marvel comic book.
The ads were such a hit that partners Tom Griffin and Joe Bacal decided to start Sunbow. Griffin and Bacal maintained a close relationship with Hasbro, allowing Sunbow to produce several episodes based on the toy giant’s intellectual property. Many of these shows have devoted fans to this day, and the two most prominent Sunbow shows, G. I. Joe and Transformers, have become DVD and streaming staples. Inhumanoids is considered by fans to be the final great series of the Sunbow “toy commercial” era.
The Inhumanoids series began as a series of six-to-seven-minute shorts that ran with other Marvel/Sunbow series, including Jem and the Holograms, Bigfoot and the Muscle Machines, and Robotix, as part of the collective Super Sunday half-hour block. Inhumanoids and Jem outperformed their fellow “Super Sunday” offerings by spawning their full-length series. The show, however, sadly only lasted for one season and was quickly canceled post it.
The series was produced by Toei Animation in Japan and included several well-known voice performers from the period. D’Compose and Tendril were performed by Chris Latta, the famous voice behind Starscream and Cobra Commander. Auger, a respected archaeologist and Earth Corps’ resident mechanic, was played by Michael Bell, the legendary voice of G. I. Joe’s Duke and even Cyclops in the Pryde of the X-Men pilot. Hooker, the rugged commander of Earth Corps, was played by Neil Ross.
The story opens with Earth Corps, a government-funded geological sciences research team, discovering a monster creature subsequently known as D’Compose trapped in an amber monolith buried in Big Sur national park. When the Earth Corps examines the creature, they unwittingly unleash a great evil. The discovery prompts Blackthorne Shore, a corrupt industrialist, to secretly unearth and release a second beast buried elsewhere—a massive vine-like creature known as Tendril.
Tendril then attacks the amber block during its public reveal in San Francisco to free the grisly titan trapped within, D’Compose. The two titans now freed, jointly wreak havoc on the city streets before retreating into the bay’s murky waters. This sparks scrutiny around these gigantic monsters and a hunt for more information to figure out where they came from begins.
One of the Earth Corps team members, Liquidator subsequently returns to Big Sur in search of more information about the monsters’ origins, where he meets a race of sentient tree-beings known as the Redwoods, who explains to him that they are part of a subterranean non-human creature species known as Mutores, and that their people had sealed the evil Inhumanoids Tendril and D’Compose underneath the Earth ages ago. Metlar, the nefarious Inhumanoid leader, is still imprisoned under the surface, paralyzed by the magnetic field of the Mutore pair Magnokor.
The newly-freed Inhumanoids were not ones to sit quietly for long and Tendril soon wages a nocturnal assault that destroys the Earth Corps base, causing an adrenaline-inducing chase into the Earth’s deep regions. Although, the Earth Corps is forced to flee to the surface even though they had the help of another Mutore species in their mission, the rock-bodied Granite. Things don’t seem to get any better for the Earth Corps as it seems like the Inhumanoids best them each time.
Post this, Senator Masterson enters the picture and further complicates things. Senator Masterson, a sleazy politician in Blackthorne Shore’s murky pocket, slashes the budget of the Earth Corps. Sandra Shore, Blackthorne’s sister, approaches the Earth Corps and discloses that she has learnt of her brother’s nefarious intention to liberate Metlar. Sandra then funds the team’s construction of new vehicles, which they use to trail D’Compose and Tendril, all the way to the city of the Granites, where a subsequent struggle frees Metlar from Magnokor’s grasp – releasing the leader of the Inhumanoids.
After stealing the Earth Corps’ engineering schematics through his ties to Masterson, Blackthorne joins the fight, now with his fighting suit and magnetic powers to use against Metlar, only to be thwarted by Tendril’s meddling, while Sandra succumbs to D’Compose’s mutative touch which has the power to turn any living being into brain dead zombies.
The Granites and the Earth Corps solidify an alliance between them after the Earth Corps manages to flee. Herc joins them in D’Compose’s domain of Skellweb, while Auger and Liquidator travel to Metlar’s kingdom of Infernac, and Bright persuades the Redwoods to assist in the defense of the surface world against the Inhumanoids’ attempts to capture power sources.
D’Compose’s reanimated zombie army is defeated by Herc and the Granites, and Sandra is finally restored to normal. Blackthorne follows Auger and Liquidator to Infernac, where he tries to use his magnetic talents on Metlar once more, but is defeated by Magnokor and kidnapped by Metlar.
The Inhumanoids then storm a Soviet airbase to increase their weapons arsenal, taking a handful of nuclear missiles, based on information obtained from Blackthorne. Earth Corps is warned by a seemingly repentant Blackthorne that the missiles are meant to shatter the divide between the Earth’s crust and mantle, but when the team travels into the Earth to prevent this disaster, they discover that Blackthorne has set them up and that the missiles are intended to blow up the planet’s core.
Earth Corps can persuade D’Compose to let them into Infernac — a bargain made easier by the fact that the Inhumanoid is already fearful for his life in the face of Metlar’s lunatic plan — and they detonate enough missiles to defeat Metlar’s explosive scheme.
D’Compose is re-sealed in the amber case after a final struggle, and Tendril is imprisoned by the Granites. Magnokor finally defeats Metlar, while Blackthorne is apprehended by the Earth Corps. Senator Masterson builds a new headquarters for the Earth Corps team, but a tissue sample taken from Tendril during their initial contact with the monster has suddenly vanished.
This entire story encompasses the happenings of the first five episodes that were released altogether in the form of one epic movie. The next eight episodes were subsequently released to fill up the 13-episodes quota mandated for Sunday tv shows and these chronicle further confrontations between the Inhumanoids and the Earth Corps.
The compelling narrative flow that connected episodes in order with continuing storylines and tense threading of subplots set the series apart from other children’s cartoons of the period. The show was visually unusual for its use of thick darkness, split screens, and occasionally brow-raising graphic imagery, such as grotesque amputations or agonizing deaths by corrosive acid, which would be difficult to find in today’s “children’s hour” programming.
Now the show managed to get away with some harsh stuff since the enemies in the Inhumanoids series were real monsters rather than armed terrorists. This show played on territory rarely seen in Sunbow shows, including everything from gore and amputations to corrosive acid devouring a monster’s flesh alive. It has been dubbed the “weirdest, most aggressive, most mother-unfriendly” of the Sunbow properties by writer Flint Dille.
As far as the toys were concerned, each Earth Corps soldier had an action feature and a “glow in the dark” gimmick in Hasbro’s Inhumanoids toys. The stars, on the other hand, were supposed to be the villains. Metlar, Tendril, and D’Compose were 14-inch-tall figures that have now become valuable collector’s items.
Metlar – the leader of the Inhumanoids
It is clear that while Inhumanoids like Tendril and D’Compose were terrifying, the true evil was Metlar. Metlar was a slave of Slither, who ruled over both Inhumanoids and humans millennia ago, and was forced to construct countless monuments in his master’s honor. Metlar eventually overthrew Sslither by encasing him in lava, which hardened into indestructible rock and trapped him. Metlar then became the Inhumanoids’ new leader after placing his old master’s stone shrine in one of the temples he had built. Metlar led the INhumanoids against the Mutores in a conflict that wrecked the planet, but he was ultimately defeated and imprisoned in the Granites’ city by Magnokor’s magnetic field.
As far as his role in the series goes, he is the main villain and mastermind behind the evil deeds of the Inhumanoids. Even though D’Compose and Tendril came back to life before him, they made it their mission to revive their leader thus showing how much he was revered by them. He ruled the Inhumanoids with an iron fist and often doled out punishment to insubordinate beasts. He was seen as the ‘big bad’ of the series, often depicted either creating chaos or in his throne room in Infernac, the fiery pit in the Earth’s core, plotting how to best create said chaos.
He was shown to be a gigantic titan-esque demon with a decidedly ugly face that had massive jagged fangs sticking out of the mouth. His face, massive muscular arms, and legs were a brick red color and the majority of his chest and body were covered by what seemed to be white or gray scales. He also had horns sticking out from the middle of his head and all in all looked the part of a formidable subterranean monster.
Metlar is extremely strong and his body is durable, owing to his gigantic size. He possesses a plethora of fire-based abilities. He can throw lava balls from his mouth, breathe fire, and, as he proved on one occasion, can spew hot steam out of his ears in rage. Metlar seems unconcerned about being in lava or in extreme heat, and he appears to have a captivating gaze that leaves his foes tame.
He also commands a legion of statue warriors, which he animates with lava from his fortress deep within the Earth’s core. Metlar, on the other hand, is susceptible to magnetic waves, which render him immovable. He also has an aversion to water, according to an Inhumanoids storybook and the bio of his action figure. Metlar’s servants are statues that are brought to life by the Earth’s elemental force, and he is known for being a hothead fountain of rage.
Fun fact, in the series, he was voiced by Ed Gilbert, who interestingly, also voiced Blitzwing from Transformers. As the overarching antagonist of the series, his character does a fantastic job of being evil, scary, and all in all, just a great villain.
Exploring some of the finest episodes of the show
Having explored the plot of the movie already, let’s move on to the eight independent episodes that were created post the movie. These episodes followed the creation of a new Tendril from the lost piece of tissue at the end of the movie and how that further led to Metlar enacting his evil schemes. Out of the later eight episodes, 3 of them sit on top of the episode rating list on the rating website, IMDB.
The highest-rated episode is episode number 7, the Surma Plan. In this episode, Dr. Manglar’s acid-rotted remains are acquired by Blackthorne, who uses D’Compose to revive them into a skeleton grotesquerie dubbed “Nightcrawler.” In other news, the Earth Corps crew defeats the second Tendril creature, but the first escapes. During this time, Soviet forces launch Operation: Surma, a plan to flood Infernac, Metlar’s infernal base deep within the Earth’s core with water to destroy the planet’s “primal core” in a huge explosion that will wipe out all Inhumanoids; nevertheless, the Soviets fail to realize that their plan will likely rip the planet apart in the process.
To defend the planet’s safety, Earth Corps is obliged to join forces with Metlar. When Metlar betrays them, the gang is saved by Anatoly Kiev, a traitorous Soviet military spy whom they joyfully accept into their ranks. Kiev politely declines, deciding that he should continue his mission against Infernac on his own.
The episode with the second-highest rating is none other than the season finale itself – Auger… for President? In this episode, it picks up from three months after the previous Inhumanoid attack. Derek and Stella Bright who got married in earlier episodes are savouring their newfound celebrity status as a couple, even as the rest of Earth Corps—except Auger, who appears to have escaped fate’s call—find themselves increasingly engulfed in the public limelight.
Senator Masterson’s presidential candidacy is met with a harsh public response, forcing Blackthorne and the Inhumanoids to plot to use intimidation techniques to get the other presidential contestants to resign. As a result, Auger resolves to run for office himself, taking on Masterson’s unworthy political record. The Inhumanoids try to boost Masterson’s credibility by staging a series of fake heroic deeds, but when Auger wins the election nevertheless, the outraged Inhumanoids kidnap him, and in a final big encounter, they invite all opponents to try a rescue.
While the Redwood army overwhelms Tendril and Granite fighters flatten Metlar’s statue legion, Earth Corps and a battalion dubbed Delta Force motor to Skellweb, forcing their way through a phalanx of skeletal warriors and disposing of the Langastoid mercenaries. As the Mutores and Earth defense troops finally move to face Metlar’s molten rage, D’Compose makes a hasty getaway.
Magnokor can magnetically restrain him until Blackthorne intrudes, causing Auger’s life to be jeopardized. Tank and Sabre Jet come at the last possible moment to save the day. Auger and the Earth Corps crew reiterate their commitment to stay united in the face of the Inhumanoids’ threat in light of their victory. Metlar and the rest of the beasts retreat and the series comes to an end.
The third highest-rated episode is episode number 10, titled ‘Evil Eye’. The mindless Inhumanoid beast known as Gagoyle, a cyclopean monstrosity with an insatiable appetite, is unearthed by Blackthorne and Nightcrawler from its burrowing chamber inside the subterranean bowels of a radioactive volcano in this exciting episode. After being betrayed by Nightcrawler’s successive deceptions, Blackthorne flees the scene, vowing to avenge himself by unleashing the evillest Inhumanoid of all time, whoever that turns out to be.
Nightcrawler soon visits Skellweb, prompting Gagoyle to launch an attack on Metlar’s realm, although with limited success. Meanwhile, a past research associate from Blackthorne Shore’s early days in archaeological study approaches Earth Corps with a distressing story about Shore’s interest in an old temple on Borneo’s isle. But Blackthorne is one step ahead of the crew, intercepting their mission and seizing their plane before parachuting into the bush to capture his sinister reward in this one.
To truly understand the essence and beauty of this show, one has to watch it. Interestingly, in 1987, Marvel Comics published a one-shot Inhumanoids comic book under its Star Comics banner, based on the premise of “The Evil That Lies Within.” After only four issues, the series came to an end, leaving readers with the cliffhanger of Metlar’s escape from jail and Sandra Shore’s transformation into a D’Compose zombie minion. Earth-87119 is the designation for the Inhumanoids universe in the Marvel Comics multiverse.
Because the show deals with ancient animals and civilizations perhaps from other worlds, as well as wicked scientists who break outside their borders to obtain power or forbidden knowledge, it is said to be inspired by some of H.P. Lovecraft’s novels by many fans. This particular perspective on the series is pretty interesting, especially from the point of view of adult viewers.
One of the things that makes this under-the-radar gem stand out is that this was something we’d never seen before, and still haven’t when it comes to cartoons. It took risks and was ahead of its time, delving into dark territory without demeaning our intelligence or dumbing it down for viewers. It gave audiences what they truly desired, which was to be properly entertained and to see that cartoons can truly be bigger and better and don’t need to rely on snazzy heroes for a fun viewing experience. We surely recommend watching this show if you’re into vintage comics and don’t mind some gore. What do you think about the Inhumanoids? Let us know in the comments section below!