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SYFY WIRE obituary

Scooby-Doo co-creator and Thundarr the Barbarian producer Ken Spears dies at 82

By Adam Pockross
Velma Scooby Doo

Scooby-Doo co-creator and Ruby-Spears Productions co-founder, Ken Spears, died Friday from complications related to Lewy body dementia, according to Spears’ son, Kevin Spears, via Variety. He was 82.

Along with Joe Ruby, whom he wrote teleplays with at Hanna-Barbera Productions and founded Ruby-Spears with in 1977, Spears was partly responsible for a host of beloved animated series. As HB writers, the duo created Dynomutt, Dog Wonder, Jabberjaw, and of course Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, the beloved series that debuted on CBS in 1969, and featured meddling teens Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and the titular (and ever enduring) Great Dane, Scooby, unmasking would-be nefarious foes.

Spears and Ruby also wrote for Sid and Marty Krofft Television Productions and DePatie-Freleng Enterprises (including The Barkleys and The Houndcats).

As producers, the duo gifted us with such animated mainstays as Superman, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Fangface, Mister T, The Plastic Man Comedy-Adventure Hour, Saturday Supercade, and Thundarr the Barbarian (a high-fantasy swords & sorcerers affair that featured character designs by Jack Kirby, among other notables).

Born March 12, 1938 in Los Angeles, California, Spears was hired as a sound editor at Hanna-Barbera Productions in 1959, after befriending William Hanna’s son. That's where Spears met Ruby, who was also working in the editing department at the vaunted animation stalwart. The two soon started a writing partnership that lasted decades. 

In the early ‘70s, Spears and Ruby were hired by Fred Silverman, President of Children’s Programming, to supervise CBS’s Saturday morning cartoons lineup, back when Saturday morning was all about animation. The duo eventually followed Silverman to ABC. 

In 1977, Spears and Ruby broke off on their own and founded Ruby-Spears Productions. They produced several noted animated series before being purchased by Taft Entertainment, the parent company of Hanna-Barbera, in 1981. They’re catalog was eventually sold to Turner Broadcasting in 1991, along Hanna-Barbera’s. 

Ruby passed away earlier this year on Aug. 26. 

“Ken will forever be remembered for his wit, his story-telling, his loyalty to family, and his strong work ethic,” Kevin Spears said in a statement to Variety. “Ken has not only made a lasting impression on his family, but he has touched the lives of many as co-creator of ‘Scooby-Doo.’ Ken has been a role model for us throughout his life and he will continue to live on in our hearts.”

Spears is survived by sons, Kevin and Chris, their wives, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.