Jul 19, 2016

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

I disliked He-Man  and the Masters of the Universe (1983-85), the cartoon based on the Mattel toys.

First of all, the term "he-man" roiled me.  Whether you measure it by chromosomes, hormones, a penis, or external affect, a man is a man.  There's no degrees, there's no "he does this, so he's more of a man than you."  Everything men do is what men do, which is everything except give birth.

This particular He-Man is just a run-of-the-mill 1980s sword-and-sorcery hunk, except he has the rather Biblical title Prince Adam of Eternia (Holy Garden of Eden, Batman!).

The Elders of Eternia, who live in Castle Greyskull, decided that they needed a hero, so they chose Prince Adam.  To become a superhero, he raises his penis...um, I mean his sword...and yells "By the Power of Grayskull, I am the Power!"

He then transforms, Shazam-like, into...well, exactly the same person.  He just takes his clothes off and puts a Christian cross on his chest.  

His main nemesis is Skeletor, a hyperbolic skull-faced guy with purple muscles and a bone-cross, who wants to..well, you know.

His main allies are:
1. Battle Cat
2. The Girl, aka Teela the "Warrior Goddess"
3. The Sorceress, who may be Teela, too.  All women are the same woman, the Eternal Feminine.
4. Orko, a weird ghost-thing who acts as comic relief.  If you need any.

But he also fights with the Masters of the Universe -- rather a hyperbolic title, since they really defend only Planet Eternia.  They include characters with bizarre names like Man-E-Faces, Buzz Off, Snout Spout, Sir Laser-Lot, Wun-Dar, and Sy-Klone (I'm not making this up).

Every episode is a morality play, with the moral helpfully provided at the end.

Ileena is drugged by the evil wizard Jarvon.  Moral: Drugs are bad.

He-Man and Skeletor must team up to defeat the evil plant-monster Evilseed.  Moral: Cooperation is good.

A villain named Darkdream blots out Eternia's sun.  Moral: Nightmares can't hurt you.

Often the moral had only a very loose relationship to the story:

Skeletor steals Castle Greyskull.  Moral: Overeating is bad.

He-Man is forced to fight as a gladiator.  Moral: Books are better than tv.

Adam and Teela explore an old castle and awaken its residents from an enchanted sleep.  Moral: You should go to bed at the same time each day.

Seriously, who was watching this?

Somebody was.  In 1985, a spin-off series introduced Prince Adam's twin sister Adora, who was kidnapped as a baby and raised on Etheria.  She becomes She-Ra, Princess of Power (What, no She-Woman?), with comrades named Cowl, Bow, Frosta, Perfuma, Castaspella (really?), and enemies named Catra, Mantenna (I'd like to see his man-tenna), Scorpia, and Entrapta.

In 1990, a new line of toys required a new series: .He-Man moves from Eternia to Primus, where struggles against Skeletor and his army of mutants.

Ready for the list of crazy names?  Quakke, Slush Head, Gross, Butthead, Gleep, and Karatti.

In 2002, yet another series appeared, with another toyline. Back on Eternia, He-Man fights Skeletor and his Snake-People,

There was a live action movie, Masters of the Universe, in 1987.  Dolph Lundgren (top photo) played a He-Man who somehow ends up on Earth and befriends two 1980s teens, Kevin and Julie (Robert Duncan McNeill, later of Star Trek: Voyager, Courtney Cox, later of Friends).  Critics jeered.

A new movie version has been announced several times over the years.  Professional surfer Laird Hamilton and more recently Kellan Lutz have been mentioned as potential future He-Men.