Wednesday, October 31, 2012

HE-MAN SMELLS TROUBLE by Knorr, Quinn, and Holloway

He-Man Smells Trouble is a 1985 Masters of the Universe children’s book written by Bryce Knorr and illustrated by Harry J. Quinn and James Holloway. Here, Roboto and Stinkor, each leaving his respective faction in a huff, encounter a group of robots from Eternia’s ancient past.

These robots, Roboto included, are about as un-robot-like as they come – they get their feelings hurt and they’re kind of stupid and slow on the uptake, especially considering that they purportedly have “all the knowledge in the universe.” If we’re going to do sentient machines, fine (obviously, we don’t expect Asimov here, or Star Trek, or even, heck, Transformers), but this is just bad writing. Along those lines, the story itself isn’t particularly imaginative, and Knorr really writes down to his audience. In all, this is yet another book that a literate six-year-old might well find insulting to his or her intelligence.

The art from Quinn and Holloway features the same problems as the other Golden hardcovers they worked on, including the stiff, hunched, stubby-armed figures copied from the toys and the over-sized, long-armed creepy Orko. Once in a while, we get a very nice page, like the spaceship or the dragon, but on the whole, it’s a subpar performance.

In the end, any merit He-Man Smells Trouble may have is overpowered the stink of the painful stupidity of its writing.


Read it HERE

Monday, October 29, 2012


He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Magazine #1 (Winter 1985) is the first issue of Mattel’s quarterly children’s publication; it includes letters, stories, and activities.

Let’s be frank: there’s not a great deal of substance here. This magazine is targeted to a very young readership, and it’s packed with ads and He-Man-themed fluff. Of the two stories, one is so short as to be almost nonsensical, and neither is particularly imaginative.

That said, I got this magazine when I was a little kid, and I thought it was pretty cool back then. So it has a powerful nostalgia factor working for it. There’s some pretty nice artwork in here, too, and the unequivocal highlights are the three included posters, all of which feature fantastic paintings by Earl Norem.

Sure, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Magazine was a thrown-together money-maker, but if, like me, you remember this from your childhood with even the slightest bit of fondness, it’s worth a look.*

Read it HERE

*Unless maybe you remember it very fondly; I will not be held responsible for shattered childhood memories.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

KING OF THE SNAKE MEN (mini-comic, 1985)

King of the Snake Men is a 1985 Masters of the Universe mini-comic written by Steven Grant and illustrated by Bruce Timm and Mike Van Cleave. Here, Skeletor enlists King Hiss to help him defeat He-Man, and King Hiss recounts his origin story.  

Here’s the third and final faction of He-Man villains, and it’s a welcome one. Hiss, on his worst day a more competent villain than Hordak, is reminiscent of Ricardo Montalban’s Khan from Star Trek, and whether intentionally designed thus or not, the parallel works.  

Grant does a nice job with the story, although here’s yet another instance where they capture He-Man but let him keep his sword (although in fairness, He-Man artists hide it in hammerspace half the time). Grant handles the diplomacy between the villains well, and he gets points for incorporating the flying fists in a non-stupid manner.

This isn’t the best art we’ve seen from Timm, but his pencils are still above average for the mini-comics, and he always does good work with faces and poses. Van Cleave’s inks lend to the atmosphere, but the colors are on the garish side.  

On the whole, this is a pretty good mini-comic, and I, for one, welcome our new ophidian overlords.


Read it HERE

Friday, October 26, 2012

METEOR MONSTERS by Jack C. Harris and Luis Eduardo Barreto

Meteor Monsters is a 1985 Masters of the Universe children’s book written by Jack C. Harris and illustrated by Luis Eduardo Barreto. Here, pieces of a meteor with the power to turn people and animals into giant, angry versions of themselves land on Eternia, and He-Man and Skeletor race to find them.  

It’s a neat idea, and Harris does a good job maintaining some suspense by keeping Skeletor and his minions a step ahead throughout, but otherwise, the writing is shoddy. He-Man’s solutions to some of these problems are pretty arbitrary and, shall we say, pulled out of his furry briefs – but of course they work. The final resolution is a tad anticlimactic – and wait just a minute – the moral and responsible Man-At-Arms goes nuts attacking his friends and family under the effects of the meteor, but the wild snake monster hybrid just stands there?

Barreto’s art is pretty good, although not quite on the level that it was on, say, Time Trouble. His poses and action are very nice, as are his backgrounds, but his figures often look a little sloppy, as though the inks were rushed. Another problem is that Barreto isn’t afraid to draw He-Man’s harness as suspenders tucked into his belt – he’s extremely inconsistent in this regard. There are some nice pages, though, and a particular highlight is the last one.

On the whole, Meteor Monsters does some things well, but the writing is poor in too many ways (plus the suspenders).


Read it HERE

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

ROCK PEOPLE TO THE RESCUE! (mini-comic, 1985)

Rock People to the Rescue! is a 1985 Masters of the Universe mini-comic written by Gayle Gilbard and Larry Houston and illustrated by Houston and Bruce Timm. Here, Stonedar and Rokkon arrive on Eternia, meet He-Man, and are attacked by Webstor, Kobra Khan, and Skeletor.

Oh dear – it’s the old get-hit-in-the-head-and-get-amnesia plot again – second only to the let’s-kidnap-Teela plot in terms of dead-horse-beating. At least here, the remedy isn’t a second blow to the head. Webstor hits his head on a rock, too – does he get amnesia? Of course not (he’s actually pretty sharp immediately afterward). Then amnesiac He-Man has a crisis of conscience, trying to decide whether to save Webstor or Orko – but Webstor is holding Orko, so why not save both and sort it out later (and how would he have gone about saving Webstor but not Orko anyway?)?

At least this old amnesia saw gets resolved midway through the comic so we can move on to a nice little He-Man-Skeletor showdown. Alas, the writers aren’t quite finished with their antics, as there’s a nonsensical moral at the end about trust and finding your true friends – okay, yes, it’s good advice, but He-Man just met these rock people five minutes ago. And while we’re on the subject, I would love to know exactly how the rock people propel themselves when in boulder form.

Fortunately for this comic, the Houston-Timm art is excellent. The layouts on page 3 aren’t well done, but on the whole, the figures and action are excellent, and the fight with Skeletor (culminating with page 12) is a highlight.  

This mini-comic does some tired and stupid things, but the art goes a long way toward redeeming it.


Read it HERE

*This seems one grade too high, but I’m sticking with it. Maybe I’m getting desensitized to bad writing.

Monday, October 22, 2012

I HAVE THE POWER by Knorr, Quinn, and Holloway

I Have the Power is a 1985 Masters of the Universe children’s book written by Bryce Knorr and illustrated by Harry J. Quinn and James Holloway. Here, Skeletor creates a giant mechanical spider, attacks the palace, defeats He-Man, and captures the Power Sword.

Wow, Skeletor’s really got it together here, to a very satisfying degree – that usually means his defeat at the end is going to be super-cheap. And that’s something of the case here, as the story turns on a number of non-canon sword-related plot shenanigans – well, that plus Prince Adam using a guitar to fire an arrow with precision accuracy. In contrast to the Filmation cartoon, here, without the Power Sword, He-Man automatically turns back into Prince Adam after a short while. Here, only Prince Adam can hold the sword without injury. Here, the Sorceress can power and depower the sword at will. It works well enough, though, even if these story elements are just made up on the spot.

We also get non-canon (but perfectly workable) origins for Spydor and Sy-Klone, as well as Prince Adam reminiscing about how he got the Power Sword in the first place (this flashback more or less follows Michael Halperin’s series bible). The whole thing feels like it would have fit in pretty well as a cartoon episode, sword-nanigans aside.  

The art is, overall, adequate, although the quality varies substantially from page to page, as in the other books in this series. There’s no accounting for the cover, though, as the Battle Armor is nowhere to be found anywhere inside, nor is Tri-Klops.

On the whole, the liberties I Have the Power takes are forgivable based on what Knorr does with them, and the book is perfectly entertaining.


Read it HERE

Saturday, October 20, 2012

THE FLYING FISTS OF POWER! (mini-comic, 1985)

The Flying Fists of Power! is a 1985 Masters of the Universe mini-comic written by Tim Kilpin and illustrated by Jim Mitchell and Steve Mitchell. Here, Skeletor abducts Prince Adam and then tries to extort his way into Castle Grayskull.

Ah, the other terrible He-Man variant. At least we’re spared the metal undershirt that the toy wears. There’s no purpose otherwise; these flying fists don’t let him do anything he can’t do ordinarily (there isn’t any actual use of fists here), and he doesn’t hurt anything with that fancy mace except Skeletor’s dignity.

The writing strains credulity at times. They kidnap Prince Adam – not a new plot by any stretch – but let him keep his sword where he can reach it. The henchmen disappear at the same time, letting him escape. And now he doesn’t even have to hold the sword in his hand to become He-Man? Is that what we’re doing now? How convenient – except that he should be able to reach it anyway. There’s also a weird vibe going on between He-Man and the Sorceress at the beginning, almost like she’s playing some kind of deity role.

The art is fair, overall. The artists do a good job with poses (well, usually – but not on page 11) and faces, but that’s about all there is, as this comic suffers from a severe lack of backgrounds, which keeps it from establishing any meaningful kind of atmosphere or setting.

It’s not great, but it’s somewhat more enjoyable than the sum of its parts would suggest.


Read it HERE