So, SilverHawks is a bit of a weird one.
If you’re a kid who grew up in the ‘80s (or if you’re a retro lover who came to the cartoons of that era later) you might be familiar with this Rankin-Bass production.
If you haven’t seen it, SilverHawks is about a group of cyborg police, sent from Earth to the faraway galaxy of Limbo and stationed at a floating space-base called Hawk Haven. Their goal? To crack down on Mon*Star and his Mob in order to keep the good citizens of Limbo safe.
I’m old enough to remember it from its original run – I tried to catch it on TV whenever I could, and it was like hitting the jackpot when I finally got myself in front of the TV on the right day and the right time. Their designs were just so damn cool. These people were made of shiny metal, but they each still had some organic elements, and the pop-on facemasks and pop-out wings were amazing. Even today, I think the aesthetics are incredibly on-point.
Also great? The bad guys were just as cool
However, while I have fond memories of it, it’s not nearly as recognized or revered as something like Transformers, He-Man or even its sister series, also from Rankin-Bass — ThunderCats. (They’re set in the same universe.)
Maybe it wasn’t as widely distributed, maybe it ran in a bad time slot, or maybe it was any one of a dozen other reasons, but while I wouldn’t say it’s *obscure*, SilverHawks isn’t usually one that gets name-checked when you ask an ‘80s kid what their favorite shows were.
(That said, it’s not nearly as unknown as TigerSharks, which is also set in the same ThunderCats and SilverHawks universe!)
Ironically, I started re-watching this immediately after I finished my first viewing of The New Adventures of He-Man, and the timing gave me an interesting opportunity to compare and contrast. Both series are sci-fi properties and they both ran at roughly the same time – 1986 for SilverHawks, and 1990 for New Adventures.
Ostensibly they share many common elements such as being heavily involved with space, they frequently incorporated spaceships and space combat, they each have an ensemble of good and evil characters, they both ran for 65 episodes, and more. However, they feel quite different to me, and now that I’ve seen the complete run of both under my belt, it feels as though New Adventures is the older, creakier series – yet it’s actually the newer one.
While I think SilverHawks has the edge in animation quality (in general) it’s not just looks that make it feel fresher – it’s the writing and worldbuilding.
One of my favorite aspects of SilverHawks is that the writers spend a lot of time on their setting — the galaxy of Limbo — in addition to fleshing out many of the characters. Of course, this isn’t War and Peace here, but they do an outstanding job (well, sort of…) for a cartoon of that time period, especially relative to many of its contemporaries.
The people, places and settings of the show recur frequently, and it’s as easy to ‘get to know’ them as it is with the main cast. Did one of the bad guys steal something valuable? You can be sure he’ll go to Fence and try to sell it. Looking to pick up some dirt on the local crooks? Listen in at the Sini*Star Diner. Get stranded near the Light Year Limit and need a ride home? Seymour and Zeek got your back. I don’t know much about the development process behind SilverHawks, but I it feels to me as though there was a series bible somewhere, or at least someone that we would think of as a modern ‘showrunner’ guiding things.
Of course, like many programs of its day, there were a variety of writers hired to produce scripts and it’s clear they weren’t always in close communication with each other, but the show overall feels more cohesive than most despite being an episodic program that does not carry a single, connected storyline forward in a way that we might expect from many modern cartoons such as Steven Universe or Amphibia.
Something else that stands out is how each episode ends. While many cartoons in the ‘80s wrapped with a moral or a life lesson as an attempt to not be blatant toy commercials (see He-Man, G.I. Joe, Bravestarr and more) SilverHawks went in a slightly different direction by offering brief, fact-based lessons on space. Framed as quizzes meant to enhance the Copper Kidd’s knowledge while learning how to pilot the team’s ship, kids of the era would learn real information about gravity, orbits, planets, comets, asteroids, and a host of other things that they could take with them to the playground. It’s a great idea that (as far as I know, anyway) was not copied by any other show in the ‘80s.
It’s not all good, though. While I enjoyed this show as a child and still largely enjoyed it during my rewatch as an adult, I started noticing things that didn’t stick out to me before now that I’ve got a couple of decades behind me.
For example, it never occurred to ten-year-old me that the SilverHawks are basically space cops, this show is a form of copaganda, and to make it just that much worse, the ‘Hawks are not a diverse group.
When the series launched we got a white male commander, a white male team leader, a white male pilot, a white male engineer, a white female engineer and… an alien! That’s right, there was only one woman in the group, and they couldn’t manage even a single person of color! It’s a pretty glaring choice now, especially considering that the alien (the Copper Kidd, from the planet of the Mimes) isn’t really ‘different’ in any way other than that he can’t speak – so the one non-white member is also mute! It’s not a good look.
Then, when we finally do get a person of color, not only is he named Hotwing (a pretty suspect codename since none of his powers have to do with fire) but in his first two episodes, it’s almost as though he’s not even in the same cartoon as the other characters. They barely interact, and it’s not until his third appearance that he begins to feel even remotely like a member of the team. By the time the series ends at episode 65, he never gets his due and rarely feels like more than a cursory, halfhearted nod towards diversity. Adding insult to injury? The team eventually adds three more members before the end of the run — all white males.
Another issue, although far less prominent, is one that surfaces in the episode “The Return of Tallyhawk.”
Tallyhawk, a cyborg hawk who acts as the team mascot, is also shown to frequently be the most effective and formidable member of the SilverHawks. However, he’s not a free animal – he’s controlled and given orders from the wrist device that the team leader, Quicksilver, wears.
In Return, The Mob steals the control apparatus and with just a few button presses, Tallyhawk’s full fury is unleashed upon our heroes, almost taking the entire team apart. What this suggests is that Tallyhawk is not a friendly animal who receives requests or information from the wrist device, but instead that he is fully controlled by it. Dig a little deeper on that and the conclusion is that he’s a captive animal who clearly didn’t volunteer for the cyborg program and is now being manipulated like a pawn. Granted, it’s not as obvious or as egregious as how Hotwing is handled, but it does smack of animal cruelty.
So yeah, that stuff is problematic.
And as I said, I didn’t notice any of this when I was ten, but upon revisiting in 2023, it’s definitely embarrassing and more than a little uncomfortable, and I wish there was a series remake where we could correct these issues. However, while I fully recognize that not everything here holds up to modern standards and I make no excuses for it, there’s still a lot to still like about this cartoon when the bad parts are acknowledged.
But there is one unquestionably great thing about SilverHawks… Maybe the greatest thing?
It’s got — hands-down — one of the best intro sequences to ever grace an ‘80s cartoon. Driving guitar, slick animation, and a hot tempo guaranteed to get you pumped before the show. It totally rocks.
CHARACTER IMPRESSIONS – the SilverHawks
…Speaking of which, I’m not sure if I can say exactly what got me hooked on the SilverHawks, but if I had to pick one thing, it was probably that opening sequence. If you didn’t click that link above, click it! It seems silly to say, but there’s a lot of power in that great intro that encapsulates a tone and a vibe that might take hours to get across otherwise, and when supported by strong audio and a great visual style… well, that’s half the battle won right there. So, when we have what is easily one of the greatest ‘80s cartoon openers, I was already on board. Aesthetics really matter a lot to me as well, and Rankin-Bass absolutely nailed it here. Those gleaming cyborg bodies cutting through the blackness of space is truly striking, and even more so when the team means business by equipping their visors and extending their wings while flying through the void. Every bit of it screams sleekness and speed, and I’m sure that a huge part of the appeal was that this glinting, metallic team looked like they could have been ripped off of the cover of Heavy Metal magazine or taken from Hajime Sorayama’s portfolio. They all just look so fucking cool.
As mentioned earlier, Commander Stargazer (Burt, to his friends) fills the gruff police station chief role, and is essentially analogous to the boss of any given precinct on an average cop show. While generally gruff and grouchy, it seems more like a surface affectation – he’s ultimately likable and certainly displays a sense of humor every now and again. He’s also not just a desk jockey, as he’ll put himself in the field when something needs doing, and he keeps the team on their toes by being alert for all potential dangers. His experience and guidance of the ‘Hawks is a core aspect of the show.
The standard, straight-edge good guy leader. He fits the archetype perfectly! There’s not really much to say about him, other than the fact that if you tried to put together a version of an ideal leader, he’d probably come pretty close. Trustworthy, brave, and also extremelty idealistic and ethical, which is shown several times over the course of the series. He has full faith in due process and justice, and will do whatever it takes to uphold the law, regardless of who is in need.
The team’s pilot, Bluegrass is a cool cat who takes the ‘Hawks into action, saves them when they need a rescue, and he keeps it together with a smile — but he’s also a bit of a puzzle as he doesn’t have a face mask, wings, shoulder lasers or retractable talons like the other. An explanation is never given, but I guess we can make a few guesses? Commander Stargazer is a much older model than the base team (at least 300 years older!) and doesn’t have any of those accoutrements either, so it’s possible that Bluegrass is an older model as well – just not as old as Stargazer. It’s also possible that since his main role is to fly the ship that he does not come equipped with the extra gear a frontline fighter would need. However, those are just guesses, and regardless of why he lacks some of the gadgets, he’s a fun guy that can be counted on in a pinch. It’s also neat to see the team look out for him when he’s in a spot.
A brave go-getter and one half of the “Steel Twins”, but she’s also… fairly generic? She’s smart, trustworthy, a clever engineer, really strong and overall a standard ‘good’ character, but beyond that there’s not much to define her besides the fact that she seems to love sports (specifically American football) just as much as her brother, which is an unusual quality for the time.
The other half of the “Steel Twins.” A massive guy always in good spirits, he’s just as strong as his sister, an equal engineer, and the two of them share a mental link that acts as the saving grace for them a few times over the course of the series. He’s an American football nut, often using sports lingo to get his points across, and he’ll often call a play to communicate a plan of action to Steelheart. He’s such a football fan, in fact, that his combat mask looks like a football helmet. He’s only a fraction more distinct than his sister, though — mostly owing to his speech mannerisms and obvious Love Of The Game.
The Copper Kidd
Kidd has always confused me. He’s an alien and they say he’s mute, but he communicates sometimes by whistling and sometimes by speaking in a vocoder voice. They say he’s from the planet of the Mimes, but we never see that planet at any point during the series, and no one ever discusses what it means. He is accepted as an equal part of the team which is great, but why do we have an “alien” who is functionally identical to a human being (minus normal speech) when we couldn’t manage a second woman or a single person of color until they got 21 episodes in? The only real differences with the Kidd are that his armor is copper in color, and it has pieces that detach. On either hip he’s got discs, but their function is never fully defined. Sometimes they act like boomerangs and sometimes they have an energy component to them, but overall they seem like magical ‘get out of jail free’ cards which are capable of doing whatever the writers need at the moment. Honestly, he feels like a missed opportunity on multiple levels.
It’s tough to write about Hotwing without getting upset at the whole series for handling him so poorly, so I guess, let’s first look at the good. His visual design is awesome? The bright, coppery armor is great, and he’s the only ‘Hawk that has detailed accents (flames) on his suit. He’s also the only human person of color on the team, so… yay, representation? The rest of it is… not great. As far as powers go, surprisingly he uses magic — not heat or fire, which might justify the name. I guess it’s better than electricity, which many black heroes end up getting since it’s not as powerful as abilities white heroes usually get, but like Kidd’s discs, his magic has never been fully defined or locked down. And frankly, magic feels out of step with the rest of the series since SilverHawks is sci-fi and technology, with no presence or suggestion of magic anywhere. Like Hotwing himself, the magic angle feels tossed-in at the last minute. Given that magic can theoretically do anything, it seems like he could be the strongest person on the team, but he rarely uses it in a meaningful way, most of the time employing the power to unlock a door or something simple… He never blinks Mon*Star into a prison cell to save the day. Hotwing deserves much, much better than he got, because as it stands, he’s essentially the spotlight that points out the flaws and biases of the creators.
Like the Copper Kidd, Flashback is another semi-anomaly on the team that doesn’t get explained. His armor is green and he has a permanent face mask that seems unable to be removed or retracted. Not only does it keep his face hidden, his eyes are significantly different than anyone else’s. They don’t even seem to be human eyes — they’re too big and not in the right place on his head, making one wonder whether they’re prosthetic or if he’s genetically modified in some way? Or perhaps like the Kidd, is he another kind of alien and not human at all? His feet are also a different shape than the rest of the ‘Hawks and the claws on his feet never retract, further supporting a possible alien origin… but we never find out. Other than his physical differences, he has the ability to travel back in time (usually just for a minute or two) but in his first appearance he goes far, far back. So, much like the Kidd’s discs, the writers don’t nail his powers down and leave themselves lots of wiggle room.
I find Condor super interesting. He’s another old-school ‘Hawk who is less technologically advanced than the main crew. He’s also on familiar terms with Stargazer, suggesting they’re friends and contemporaries. He’s grizzled and sort of over everything – a real no-nonsense kind of guy. His helmet looks like older tech than the others, and his flight abilities come not from pop-out wings, but from a rocket-powered jetpack. Again, this seems like ancient tech compared to the newer team members. On the other hand, he does seem capable of full flight, and not just gliding the way that most of the current team does. I feel like he’s got a lot of interesting stories to tell, but he comes so late in the series’ run that there just isn’t much time to explore his character.
He was the last SilverHawk to be added to the team before the show ended. He’s also the newest and most technologically advanced, coming after the generation of ‘Hawks the show started with. He has a slightly more “natural” appearance, as the armored parts of his head are molded to look like blonde hair. Instead of pop-out wings, he’s also got a series of propulsion blades in his abdomen that spin to give him fully-powered flight – it’s interesting symmetry that the oldest active team member (Condor) and the newest (Moonstryker) are both capable of real flight, whereas the rest of the team either can’t maneuver in the air at all (Stargazer and Bluegrass) or can only glide (everyone else.) Apart from his tech differences, he’s just sort of upbeat and perky… a textbook rookie new guy, who is also apparently a sharpshooter with his shoulder lasers. Better internal targeting tech, maybe?
CHARACTER IMPRESSIONS – The Mob
What can I say? I really love The Mob. Out of all of the various collections of bad guys and ne’er-do-wells that we saw in the ’80s, they are very, very close to being at the top of the heap for me, probably only beaten out by Skeletor and his crew of evil warriors in Masters of the Universe. I think what I like most about them is that they’re a diverse bunch with an array of archetypes and designs. Not only do you have most of the bases covered for any type of caper, most have distinct personalities and clear gimmicks that make them stand out – things like Mumbo Jumbo’s garbled speech and inflatable attack mode, Melodia’s discordant key hammering, Hardware’s ability to come prepared for just about any situation thanks to his ridicu-huge backpack, and of course, despite being a bad tempered bully, Mon*Star is imposingly fearsome when he enters battle. If villains were scoops of ice cream, you’d be getting a full Baskin-Robbins array of 31 flavors here, and seeing them coursing through the galaxy in their drop-top limos is a fantastic image.
The boss of the Mob, he’s generally human-sized with a wild mane of hair, but he’s also able to transform into a huge armored version of himself when he’s bathed in the light of the Moon*Star, a planet next to his home base of Brim*Star. Apart from being quite large and physically tough, he’s… a real jerk. His portrayal is interesting because he’s just not nice to anyone, including those within his inner circle. He almost never gives credit where credit is due, he doesn’t pay his people what they’re owed, and he’s quick to lay blame and accuse others of having shortfalls, even if it wasn’t something under their control. He’s a generally rotten dude and seems to rule more out of fear than loyalty from most of the crew. Basically, he’s a bully who runs things because no one is tough enough to knock him down.
Mon*Star’s main flunky, Yes-Man is a serpentine alien who mostly hangs out at the headquarters and does whatever the boss wants. His main job is pulling the switch that transforms Mon*Star into his armored state, though he occasionally drives one of their space limos when someone needs a ride. Apart from being half snake, his main defining feature is that he literally says “Yes” in almost every sentence — it almost seems like a pathological compulsion, but because of that consistency, when he says “No”, it’s quite notable.
He’s the backbone of the team in several ways. He comes up with most of the plans, he provides almost all the tech, he’s often the one calling the shots when Mon*Star is not around, and he’s always got something up his sleeve. His visual design is the perfect complement to his character since he always wears a huge backpack roll full of tools, guns and gadgets. He can stick his arm in there and pull out basically anything he wants, which is handy in a pinch. Physically, he’s reminiscent of the monster work Rankin-Bass used for their 1977 production of The Hobbit – a film that I found to be incredibly frightening and grotesque as a child. Hardware isn’t quite as scary as that but I remember seeing SilverHawks for the first time and being shocked that one of the monsters that had been tormenting Bilbo showed up.
This everything-goes-to-11 keytar-wielding lady seems like she would kind of be a throwaway character, but she ended up being a quirky favorite. She often teams up with Poker-Face as someone who’s similarly dissatisfied with the way Mon*Star runs things, and she’s quick to come up with a scheme behind his back. However, something about her that I find both charming and hilarious is that I don’t believe she actually knows how to play her musical instrument. While it shoots musical energy similar to Bluegrass’ guitar, whenever she blasts someone, she’s just hammering on the keys and it always sounds incredibly discordant. I would love to ask the writers if they had agreed behind the scenes that she has no musical skill whatsoever.
This guy is another member of The Mob that shows a heavy visual influence from The Hobbit. For a sci-fi cartoon his basic cloth garb, flowing hair and giant tuning fork seem out-of-step, yet remain quite striking. He uses this tuning fork to summon all sorts of storms — electrical, wind, meteors, and more. Seeing him standing on a chunk of rock in space with his hair blowing and storms whipping around him is the perfect heavy metal album cover. You might think that he would be all about chaos and destruction from that imagery, but whenever he talks, he’s revealed to be one of the more intelligent and level-headed members of Mon*Star’s crew.
This guy is low-key the MVP of the entire Mob, and easily the most versatile. His ability to turn into anything is fearsome when it comes to espionage — he frequently turns into random things in order to sneak into Hawk Haven and surveil undetected, and when he’s on the run he can turn into anything to hide. The really interesting part about this is that not only does he look like what he turns into, he actually turns into it. For example, in the final episode, he assume’s Steelwill’s form and gains all of his super strength. He also turns into the ‘Hawks spaceship, the Maraj, and actually is a functional spaceship. It’s an incredible power that easily gets a leg up on the SilverHawks several times over the course of the series. Not only is he capable, but he’s also brave and eager to use his powers, so he’s quite a threat.
Buzz-Saw is a huge, hulking robot with several saw blades mounted on his body. It’s a little unclear what his actual status is, though. In one of the earliest episodes, he’s completely destroyed — this gives the suggestion that he’s a throwaway droid, but that doesn’t happen again, and later he’s treated like an equal member of The Mob. It seems like they hadn’t quite decided what to do with him that early in the run, or maybe they were unclear on what level of violence they were shooting for. It was common for cartoons of the period to reserve a higher level of violence for robots since it was okay to ‘kill’ something that was not a living being, but it apparently they went back on that and instead promoted him. Interestingly, he needs to pull the cords on his chest in order to launch his saw blades, a bit like he’s starting a chainsaw. It’s a hilarious, unexpected design choice. Regardless of al this, he’s basically just brute strength doesn’t show much cleverness or charm. The Mob basically just points him towards a fight and he does his thing.
One of my other favorites from The Mob, this robot (android?) is really slick and smart. He’s clearly one of the sharper members, and expresses his thoughts and feelings through eyes which function as slot machine wheels that can display all sorts of different symbols – it’s kind of like an early version of emoji popping up, which is quite clever. He mostly runs the Starship Casino to generate cash for Mon*Star’s operations, though he’s just like Melodia in that he’s quick to turn on the boss if an opportunity presents itself — not because he is without loyalty, but because Mon*Star treats him (and everyone else) so poorly.
Mumbo Jumbo is a huge bull-like creature, perhaps a synthetic being, who is much like Buzz-Saw in that he’s not particularly clever or adept — mostly just brute strength for the Mob. He starts out as be a fairly large minotaur, but when he’s ready for battle he snorts and his body bulks up to three or four times the size of what it used to be, at which point he runs around on all fours like an actual bull. His design seems like a clear callback to the Red Bull from another Rankin-Bass production, 1982’s The Last Unicorn. Mumbo Jumbo doesn’t get a lot of play over the course of the series, but when he does show up it’s usually funny because he talks in unintelligible snorts, growls and moos, but everyone in The Mob can apparently understand him just fine. It’s a simple gag, but an effective one.
Timestopper is another guy, like Mo-Lec-U-Lar, who is quite powerful but massively underrated. However, he only shows up in a small number of episodes and doesn’t come back, possibly because the writers realized he was too strong? He’s able to freeze time for one Limbo minute. It’s never defined exactly how long that is, but it’s longer than 60 seconds, so any time he wants to swipe some cash or if he needs to make a getaway, he pops his power and everything in his vicinity freezes. This gives him plenty of time to escape or to play some trick on the ‘Hawks. Used correctly, ithink it would make him unstoppable, and the only foil to it is that Flashback’s own time power seems to trump it.
Zero, the Memory Thief
Out of the entire mob, we see this guy the least and it’s not even entirely clear whether he’s even an official member or just a freelancer who shows up to gig once in a while. He’s got oldschool reel-to-reel computer tapes on his chest, and uses them to drain the knowledge and memories from his victims – it’s pretty useful when trying to figure out access codes or operate complicated machinery. I’m honestly kind of surprised that he completely disappears from the show after just two or three appearances. Maybe the power was too cerebral for an ’80s cartoon?
MAJOR SUPPORTING CHARACTERS
Seymour & Zeek the Beak
I really like Seymour the cabbie, and I honestly think he’s the glue that holds SilverHawks together as the most notable and frequent example of ‘normal life’ existing outside of the typical good guy/bad guy battle between the ‘Hawks and The Mob. He’s just a regular guy driving his space cab back and forth while trying to keep his head down, though he’s happy to earn a buck from either side. He’s frequently shown giving rides to just about anyone, and is also a key element in several episodes. Sometimes he’s a courier, sometimes he’s a Trojan horse and sometimes he’s just comic relief. It’s through the lens of Seymour that we see the cops and robbers conflict (which would be the entirety of some programs in the same time period) is just part of the larger Limbo galaxy, cementing the feeling of cohesion and belonging to something that encompasses various walks of life, and not just 22 minutes of lasering bad guys.
Zeek the Beak, a space bird of some type, just shows up out of nowhere and becomes Seymour’s ride along. He talks in a sort of space-Slavic (???) accent and is generally persnickety and irritable. I’m honestly not sure why they added him to the show? I can only assume it’s to give Seymour someone to talk to, but he never had an issue chatting up anybody who happened to be in the back of his cab. To be perfectly frank, I don’t think he adds a lot to the formula.
Bandit, Rhino & Cyclops
These three thugs are usually hanging out at the Sini*Star Diner. The first time we see them, we assume that they’re just background characters in a Star Wars “creature cantina” setting, but they end up having slightly meatier roles. They’re not as central as Seymour is, but they factor into a number of episodes, and like our favorite space cabbie, they’re most often used to show that there are other things happening in the galaxy. Sometimes they pull their own heists and cause some random trouble, or sometimes they’ll squabble with The Mob over turf, or some heist. They’re small-time losers who basically purse snatch and act like ruffians, but like Seymour, their repeated presence adds a verisimilitude that other cartoons of the era are lacking. The Mob aren’t the only crooks in Limbo, and these hoods definitely illustrate the seedier side of things.
WORLDBUILDING & LOCATIONS
As I said earlier, one of the things I like most about SilverHawks is the galaxy of Limbo itself. The recurring locations, the supporting characters, and the feeling that there are things going on that don’t have anything to do with the ‘Hawks or The Mob. Of course they’re the focus of each episode generally, but the extra work put into fleshing out and establishing their world really pays off.
I’m also quite enamored with the idiosyncratic version of space they’ve created. The show never gets into details about life support, radiation, losing atmosphere in damaged ships or anything even remotely like that. Rankin-Bass play fast and loose with being in space (they did the same in ThunderCats) but in a way that I think really works.
An obvious choice is that despite being in the middle of a galaxy, anyone – including Seymour’s cab! — can get around from place to place as quickly as they need. It’s a pretty convenient shortcut, considering the true distances must be light-years apart and it would be a very dull series if we spent 19 episodes traveling from Point A to Point B. But ‘fast travel’ is no big deal compared to some of the other custom rules they create.
For example, when in space, there is always a definite sense of ‘down’ no matter what, meaning that if someone falls out of a vehicle, they will immediately start falling ‘downwards’ towards the bottom of the universe instead of simply floating in place as you would in a zero-G environment. I have to assume this was to support more thrilling scenarios for kids watching. It’s easy for just about anyone, young or old, to understand falling, but things seem significantly less scary when a hero simply hovers calmly after a bad guy blows his ship up.
It’s also quite interesting that no one ever needs to put on a helmet or spacesuit in order to get around safely in in the void. In fact, it doesn’t seem necessary for the ‘Hawks to use their facemasks when between planets, characters frequently open their cockpits en route without any regard, and Mob vehicles don’t even have enclosed cabins! It’s an extremely common occurrence to see Melodia or Windhammer standing up in the back seat of a Mob limo, completely free of any protective gear, and blasting away with (I guess?) solar wind blowing in their hair.
After just a moment or two of viewing it’s clear that the shenanigans happening in Limbo are completely disconnected from the reality of being in space, but once you get past that and just accept their world for what it is – a fast-paced ‘80s cartoon – this peculiar version of space becomes quite charming in its efforts to support fun, stylized stories that deliver tons of cool moments and exciting action.
(The) Artificial Sun
An absolutely fascinating bit of design that gives Limbo a lot of flavor. Apparently the galaxy is without a source of illumination, so an artificial one has been constructed instead. Resembling a large spaceborne radar dish, it factors into many episodes, either as something to be used as a weapon or as something held back for ransom. It’s run by Professor Power, a quirky scientist with a lightbulb for a head.
A bit like Transformers‘ Cybertron in nature, this planet has huge chunks missing and sections have been replaced by metal and machinery. Essentially a large factory world, it’s run by a single artificial intelligence named Monotone, and often serves as something to be exploited by the mob.
The ‘Earth’ of Limbo. it doesn’t factor into many episodes, but we know that it’s the place where most of the residents live and serves as the place where the ‘Hawks go for R&R.
The headquarters for The Mob. It’s red, angry and molten, and has a huge castle spire to serve as their central base of operations. The Moon*Star is right next door, and when it’s time for Mon*Star to transform, the planets align (via Yes-Man’s switch) and power floods into the main chamber.
It’s a huge ‘bank’ world that seems populated only by Lord Cash and his robot assistant, Gotbucks. Once past the three layers of external shielding, the middle of the planet looks like an even larger version of Scrooge McDuck’s money bin. As one would expect, it’s often a target!
A grimy little asteroid where every crook goes to hide from the law, or to sell stolen loot. It’s also home to the Sini*Star Diner.
The headquarters of the SilverHawks, shaped like a hawk on a perch and built into an asteroid. It has a communications array on the underside of it which is tampered with in several episodes.
(The) Penal Planet
An artificial prison satellite built to house the criminals of Limbo. As one might imagine, it’s significantly less secure than it needs to be, whether you’re breaking someone out or escaping on your own.
(The) Sini*Star Diner
Not really a ‘diner’ per se — it’s more of a saloon where The Mob and various small-time hoods hang out. Built on the asteroid Fence, it’s a common location for finding informants or starting some trouble. Everyone orders the Limbo Cooler.
(The) Starship Casino
The casino run by Poker-Face. It’s vaguely blimp-shaped and ‘parked’ in space past the Light-Year Limit, meaning that it’s officially out of the SilverHawks’ jurisdiction.
THE TOP 10 SILVERHAWKS EPISODES (in order of appearance)
#27 No More Mr. Nice Guy – written by Chris Trengrove
In this episode we get a spin on a now-familiar sequence – Mon*Star’s transformation. The twist is that Yes-Man joins him in the chamber and becomes hyper-aggressive and tough. Not only is the new transformation sequence a huge laugh, it spotlights Yes-Man and gives us more time with a character who mostly just agrees with the Big Bad before throwing a switch. We also get another treat – Mon*Star maintaining his hold on the shadier elements of Limbo as he travels to the Sini*Star Diner on Fence and quashes three baddies who’ve got ideas about starting their own Mob. This peek into the general life and vibe in Limbo is superb and does much to add flavor to the galaxy.
#40 Flashback – written by Kimberly Morris
Not only is this the first appearance of the new Silverhawk, Flashback, it’s an extremely interesting script – it begins in the future and announces that the Silverhawks were all killed in a perilous mission, and Commander Stargazer now appears to be an extremely old man! Flashback is an experimental ‘Hawk who idolizes the old team and he uses his powers to travel through time, arriving right before they’re destroyed. There’s no time to explain, so he has to knock them all out of commission and complete the objective himself, thus saving the team and changing the future. Pretty heady stuff for a kids’ cartoon!
#43 The Star of Bedlam – written by Kimberly Morris
In this episode we’re treated to the Copper Kidd’s first time flying the Maraj, although that’s just a small highlight. Several lesser characters get time in the spotlight, which is great, and we see much of the Starship Casino. After he stumbles across a stolen diamond and makes plans to split, we clearly get the sense that Poker-Face (and potentially other members of the mob) are chafing under Mon*Star’s rule, adding texture to the world. This episode is also heavily focused on Bluegrass, as the other ‘Hawks are away on a mission. Because he’s one of the only ‘Hawks with no internal weaponry, wings, or any other combat tech, he’s got to quickly improvise when he gets cornered, giving us a chance to see what he’s made of. Later in the ep, we see Mon*Star take a shot straight to the chest and he doesn’t even flinch, giving us an idea of how strong he is in battle, This one’s got a little bit of everything.
#45 The Bounty Hunter Returns written by Steve Perry
I picked this episode as one of the best since it’s the first (!!!) where Hotwing actually interacts with the rest of the full team in a real way — it’s pretty embarrassing that it took this long before he felt like he was even in the same show as the rest of them. On the plus side, the writers KINDA use this awkward status to their advantage. Since the Bounty Hunter doesn’t know who Hotwing is, he isn’t looking for him when the ‘Hawks show up, allowing him to accomplish the real objective while the rest of the team keeps him busy. As such, Hotwing does indeed save the day here, so kudos for that.
#46 – The Chase written by Bruce Smith
This is a brilliant episode that highlights the underrated power of Mo-Lec-U-Lar, and the opening is a perfect example of why he’s such a force to be reckoned with — he’s undercover in Hawk Haven as a pencil on Commander Stargazer’s desk! Talk about deep cover! He steals the key to the Dolar vault and a series of events ensue which show his versatility and how difficult it is to apprehend him. While he’s on the run he masquerades as the computer Monotone on Automata, and later becomes a freight captain who throws suspicion on Professor Power, the person in charge of the Artificial Sun. The episode does take a bit of a cheap shortcut at the end because they needed a fast way for Steelwill to catch him – the bad guy can’t get away!! – but besides that little cheat, this ep is a stellar ride.
#50 – Gangwar, Part One written by William Overgard
I love this one because it puts a lot of focus on The Mob’s inner turmoil. Melodia and Poker-Face are tired of never getting their fair cut, so they decide to rob Mon*Star and get even with a clever plan. Of course things go sideways and we’re treated to a clear view of Quicksilver’s ethics. When the duo call out for help, Stargazer wants to let their call go unanswered so that Mon*Star can rub them out, but things get tense in Hawk Haven as Quicksilver says that anyone is entitled to the protection of the law, even crooks. It’s rare that a cartoon from this period shows so much serious infighting between the bad guys on top of a genuine moral dilemma from the good guys. Fantastic stuff!
#52 – Sneak Attack, Part One written by Cy Young
Quicksilver and Hotwing team up to arrest Mon*Star by spraying themselves with an invisibility chemical and infiltrating Brim*Star when the Mob is out. The spray is a bit of a joke since it lasts about four seconds, but it kicks things off and it’s a great ride. The bulk of the running time is about the duo wrangling a pre-transformation Mon*Star and using Seymour’s cab to bring him to the Penal Planet, and plenty of hijinks ensue. It ends on a weird note since Stargazer only thanks Quicksilver for the win, even though Hotwing did just as much heavy lifting, plus he was standing RIGHT THERE. Ugh. Even so, it’s still one of Hotwing’s best episodes as he again feels like a genuine and equal part of the team here.
#55 – The Diamond Stickpin written by Peter Lawrence
We get a pretty good amount of time with Zeke and Seymour in this episode. Because they’re having a bad day and being cranky with each other, Hardware sees an opportunity and jumps in with a plan – it’s a clever one that would have done real damage to the SilverHawks if the three hoods that hang out at the Diner hadn’t messed it up. A bomb camouflaged as a pricey stickpin becomes a ‘hot potato’ as it changes hands several times. The chain of custody as it gets stolen back and forth is great, ultimately culminating in a wonderful bit of irony as the bomb ends up with Hardware and Mon*Star rather than the SilverHawks. There’s plenty of fun tension and OMG moments as the person watching the episode knows what’s going on even while the characters don’t. It’s a hoot!
#60 – Stargazer’s Refit written by William Overgard
In this episode, Mon*Star comes up with a new tactic to take out the ‘Hawks after many repeated failures – eliminate their leader. He cooks up a plan to have Mo-Lec-U-Lar melt Stargazer down with a special weapon. The plan doesn’t succeed, but the Commander is injured and needs repairs. He’s sent back to Earth with Condor as a bodyguard, and it becomes the Two Cranky Old Guys Roadshow as they have various misadventures along the way. The episode ends by showing what Stargazer is really made of when he willingly sacrifices himself to stop a bomb from killing innocent people… only to find that the bomb’s timer was set to the wrong time zone. The insight and laughs we get from ‘Gaze and Condor’s shenanigans are great, and Stargazer’s heroic act was brave and selfless.
#65 – Air Show written by Peter Lawrence
This is the final episode of the series, and it seems clear that the writers must have known they weren’t getting renewed for a second season since this is an unusually well-done unofficial sendoff – every character makes an appearance, many of them in comic book style ‘splash page’ poses that give them a moment in the spotlight, and it’s basically wall-to-wall action from start to finish. While nothing happens in the story to definitively close things out or prevent the series from moving forward — nobody ‘dies’, Hawk Haven is not decommissioned, etc. — it really does feel like they were trying to put a bow on the show and end strong. Which they did!
BONUS EPISODE – Zeek Power by Matthew Malach
This one isn’t one of the best episodes, but I had to note it here because at the beginning, Seymour and Zeek are intercepted by a magical ball of energy meant to recharge Hotwing’s spellcasting energy. This sequence of animation is *awesome* and it’s really striking – a washed-out palette, plumes of energy and this utterly strange meeting in space, which is not without humor. That sequence is one of the best sections of animation in the entire series, and certainly worth the few minutes it takes to watch, even if you don’t decide to finish out the otherwise-standard action.
If you’ve read this far, thank you for taking the time!
I got the idea to write this retrospective as a way to mentally ‘put a bow’ on revisiting this series which stuck with me so thoroughly as a kid – I’d actually never seen all of the episodes, and after literal decades had passed, discovering it again for the first time through an older, more experienced lens was a fascinating experience.
If you’ve never seen SilverHawks, I hope this article has inspired you to track it down, whether on DVD or one of the various streaming services. If you have seen it, I hope I’ve inspired you to pay it another visit.
Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts about the SilverHawks, Rankin-Bass, this article, or ‘80s cartoons in general!
Please leave a comment and let me know what you think!