Friday, July 20, 2012

The Mammoth Read-Along Masters of the Universe Marathon

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who know that He-Man is awesome and those who missed the train way back round about 1983. He-Man was by far the most influential of my childhood heroes, and now, over 30 years after He-Man first hit the shelves, we’re going to take a walk down memory lane with a survey of He-Man and the Masters of the Universein print media. We’re calling it the Mammoth Read-Along Masters of the UniverseMarathon.

We’re going to take an extensive look at He-Man in books, comics, and mini-comics, from 1981 all the way up to DC Comics’ 2012 mini-series. I’ve never reviewed individual comics on this site before, but for He-Man, we do what we want. I bet we’ll even look at a thing or two that we die-hards missed the first time around.

As best we’re able, we’re going to treat this material with a more “serious” eye than most of this stuff has typically received (or deserves). Yes, a lot of it was little more than shameless toy marketing, but again, He-Man. We’re here for nostalgia, not Shakespeare. Any way it goes, we’re going to have fun with it. We’re going to start right off with the chronological beginning and, while we’ll generally go in order of publication, we may do a little skipping around (the mini-comics, for example, were typically produced well before they were first released; anyway, I’ll do my best on the dates). I will be giving ratings; scores will assume a certain degree of affection for the franchise. I’ll be relatively generous with the RECOMMENDEDs, as most of this material can be read in five to ten minutes.

All the stuff we’re looking at from the ’80s is obviously out of print, but there are scans of a great deal of it online. As we go, I’ll include the links I have available so you can read along. So get excited for that.

Now, a little background: the Masters of the Universe backstory was made up as the creators and marketing people went along, and the result of this is several mythoi, with no real attempt ever being made to reconcile these into a single continuity. As such, it’s nearly impossible to talk about a single He-Man canon, but that’s all right as long as we all know where we’re coming from.

Just about everything we’re going to look at is going to fit into one of three broad categories, each of which has its own take on both He-Man and the Masters of the Universe world (from time to time, the mini-comics also added new story elements, as they had first crack at all new toys; these elements were then adapted or ignored by the other media). It can be confusing, so here’s a little refresher.

The Pre-Filmation Mythos was originally seen in the early mini-comics and DC’s ’80s comics. Here, Eternia is a post-apocalyptic world in which the barbarian He-Man leaves his jungle tribe to protect Castle Grayskull. The Power Sword has two halves, Man-At-Arms doesn’t have a mustache, and, in the early stages, there’s no Prince Adam.

The Filmation Mythos is my favorite version of He-Man. Certainly it’s the one that had the biggest influence on my childhood and the one with the most stories. This originates with the 130-episode Filmation cartoon that began in 1983. He-Man’s true identity is Prince Adam, Man-At-Arms has a mustache, and Orko is a featured character. Just about every post-1983 story includes at least Orko and the Prince Adam identity. Rather than being distinctly separate, the pre-Filmation mythos evolved gradually into this.

The 200X Mythos is based on the cartoon that began in 2002. It is rooted in the Filmation series, extensively incorporates elements from the mini-comics and original toy line, and originates some of its own story elements and character histories.

There are other He-Man mythoi, but these are the three that matter most. And you have my solemn word that you will never throughout the marathon see the words “New Adventures.”

So, here we go on our nostalgic He-Man retrospective/sentimental journey/bonanza-palooza.

Get excited.

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