Saturday, September 29, 2012

CASTLE GRAYSKULL UNDER ATTACK! by John Grant and Robin Davies

Castle Grayskull under Attack! is a 1984 Masters of the Universe children’s book written by John Grant and illustrated by Robin Davies. Here, Skeletor creates a giant machine to disable the heroes’ machines, vehicles, and weapons, and then attempts to flood Castle Grayskull.

Holy smokes, there’s some crazy nonsense going on here. Teela’s beaming telepathic thoughts to He-Man again, but that’s the least of our problems. Skeletor dams a modest-sized river – which then creates such a flood that the water rises to the top of Castle Grayskull’s battlements (it’s also full of gigantic sea monsters). Even if we accept that Castle Grayskull isn’t situated next to a “bottomless” abyss like it is in the cartoon, this is still completely ridiculous. Furthermore, with all the machines disabled, Man-At-Arms builds a solar cannon – which he then transports to Castle Grayskull in the Wind Raider. And with the Battle Ram out of commission, it never even occurs to He-Man that he might go track down Battle Cat. It’s well and good to say that books like this are for kids, but this kind of thing is insulting to any reasonably intelligent eight-year-old. As in some of the other books in this series, it doesn’t seem like Grant is trying very hard.  

Davies has produced some truly terrible art in some of his previous work on Ladybird’s He-Man books, but this book contains some of his best. The figures still aren’t very good, but his scenery and backgrounds are actually quite solid, and the coloring is a highlight. But wow, what’s going on with the cover? He-Man looks like he’s being played by Klaus Kinski in an inflatable muscle suit.

While Castle Grayskull Under Attack! isn’t the worst He-Man book we’ve ever seen, this clown show doesn’t have any significant merit.


Read it HERE

Friday, September 28, 2012

THE STENCH OF EVIL! (mini-comic, 1984)

The Stench of Evil! is a 1984 Masters of the Universe mini-comic written by Christy Marx and illustrated by Larry Houston and Tom Luth. Here, Skeletor enlists Stinkor to pollute the forest; his heroic pine-fresh counterpart Moss Man is also introduced.

Skeletor’s up to some genuinely small-time antics this time – driving the animals out of the forest to no useful purpose is just rabble-rousing (granted, there’s only so much you can do with a villain with stink powers). The story itself feels cobbled together – there’s a message about not trying to domesticate wild animals tossed in, and a moral that doesn’t logically follow from what’s gone before. And He-Man doesn’t actually do anything – not that there’s anything wrong with that every once in a while.  

Houston’s art is generally solid. Many panels are quite good, but some look extremely rushed (e.g., everything on page 9). The shaded coloring helps quite a bit.

This one does some things well, but the small-scale, slapdash story holds it back.


Read it HERE

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

TIME TROUBLE by Roger McKenzie and Luis Eduardo Barreto

Time Trouble is a 1984 Masters of the Universe children’s book written by Roger McKenzie and illustrated by Luis Eduardo Barreto. Here, Skeletor finds the Cosmic Clock, with which he can control time, and kidnaps the Sorceress.

The plot isn’t anything particularly novel – Skeletor locates an overpowered magical artifact, tries to use it, and He-Man stops him at the last minute – but it’s executed well, and in suitably dramatic fashion. It’s also nice to see Orko legitimately helping and not screwing things up.

Barreto’s art is impressive – he does a fine job with the layouts and action scenes, and his portrayals of the characters in their Filmation styles (except, for some reason, snake-head Teela) is quite good. The only complaint is with the coloring – Man-At-Arms, for example, is drawn with his symmetrical cartoon armor, but only one arm is colored. And bonus points for the great Earl Norem cover.

The story might not be a world-beater, but the art is above average and it’s a fun read.


Read it HERE

Monday, September 24, 2012

SPIKOR STRIKES (mini-comic, 1984)

Spikor Strikes is a 1984 Masters of the Universe mini-comic; no author or artist is credited. Here, Prince Adam gets sent on a diplomatic errand, Skeletor kidnaps Teela (by this point, it seems like maybe they have some kind of weekly arrangement worked out), and Spikor, Sy-Klone, and Spydor get introduced.

The plot is really a mess, and it’s no wonder an author isn’t credited. If Spikor is looking for He-Man, why is he tearing up a random tiny village? Skeletor sends Spikor “as a diversion,” yet Skeletor successfully carries out his plan before Spikor even shows up (he turns out not to have much of a trap in place, either). At the end, the heroes celebrate the merits of teamwork, even though they won the day by splitting up and not actually ever working together on anything.

There are even more problems. In one case, Sy-Klone is referred to as “Tornado,” his pre-production name. And whoever wrote this apparently never watched a single episode of the cartoon, as Prince Adam transforms with “By the power of Castle Greyskull [sic]!”

In other news, the art is pretty decent. But this comic is feeble.


Read it HERE

Saturday, September 22, 2012

WINGS OF DOOM by John Grant and Robin Davies

Wings of Doom is a 1984 Masters of the Universe children’s book written by John Grant and illustrated by Robin Davies. Here, Skeletor sends wyverns to kidnap Stratos’s wife, and He-Man and company have to save her.

I’m not sure whether to award points or deduct them for Grant’s shameless cribbing. At one point, the heroes must traverse an icy mountain range, and so are led through the monster-infested dwarven mines that run through the mountains (spoiler alert: Gandalf dies). Overall, though, this is a readable enough story, and other shenanigans are mostly limited to He-Man shooting beams out of his sword.

While not great, Davies’ art isn’t near as bad as it was on 1983’s A Trap for He-Man, but even so, it’s not a good fit for the book – mostly because his style reminds me slightly of Ed Roth’s illustrations, which aren’t exactly kid-friendly.

Frankly, Wings of Doom is mediocre in every way.


Read it HERE

Thursday, September 20, 2012

THE BATTLE OF ROBOTO (mini-comic, 1984)

The Battle of Roboto is a 1984 Masters of the Universe mini-comic by Christy Marx, Larry Houston, and Michael Lee. Here, Skeletor commandeers Man-At-Arms’ newest invention and marches on Castle Grayskull with it.

This is, on a certain level, Man-E-Faces all over again, but with different characters and vehicles. And yet it’s somehow more compelling; whereas Man-E-Faces was always pretty lame, Roboto is impressively overpowered, and we do get some nice drama and resolution here.

All around, the art is pretty good, although Man-At-Arms’ eyebrows and mustache aren’t ever colored. All the characters are now in full Filmation style except the pink Sorceress. The only other nitpick is that “Grayskull” is misspelled again.

In all, it’s a fun read, and the additional characters help the He-Man world feel a little more populated.


Read it HERE