Wednesday, January 30, 2013

MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE #7 (Star, 1987)


Masters of the Universe #7, “Long Live the King,” is by Carlin, Wilson, and Bulanadi. Here, Skeletor conjures up a band of new minions to try to capture the Royal Palace.

Wow – that’s actually a very solid plan by you, Skeletor: good planning, intelligent deployment of minions, a clever ruse – all in all, nicely done. Carlin also does us the courtesy of giving us a plausible explanation for Faker successfully impersonating He-Man (he also gives us another “holy swamoli,” though, so I’m not letting him off the hook just yet).

In this issue, Carlin turns his double-barreled character development cannon onto King Randor: Randor is feeling washed up, and is trying to recapture his glory days as a warrior (Carlin also sets up a potential parallel of Randor’s confidence issues with Skeletor’s, but does nothing with it). That’s a potentially very interesting topic for exploration, but Carlin’s Randor is a low-self esteem buffoon, moping around the castle, letting his wife and his bodyguard tell him where to go and what to do, and not taking charge of anything. Naturally, inexplicably knocking out Faker (a robot) with one hit swings his pendulum to the other extreme, and the issue climaxes with him taking names and, somehow, shooting magic out of his hands (insert the Eternian Viagra joke of your choice here). It doesn’t help matters that other characters, most notably Clamp Champ, are overtly one-dimensional. One can get away with these sorts of things fairly easily in cartoon format; here, they’re quite a bit more glaring (these comics are geared toward a young audience, not a brain damaged audience).

By necessity (the necessity of plugging as many different toys in this comic as possible, that is), Blast-Attak is given a completely new origin – he’s no longer a Snake Man, and he may not even be a robot. Here, too, we’re back to the Sorceress being unable to leave Grayskull in human form, a device the mini-comics did away with when she got her own action figurethe Three Towers appeared.

Nothing new to say about the art; overall, it’s pretty good.

There’s a good story here trying to get out, but the characters are handled too clumsily to get the reader to invest in it.

TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT

Read it HERE

Monday, January 28, 2013

HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE MAGAZINE #9



He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Magazine #9 is the Winter 1987 issue.

There’s a peculiar Tang contest ad, which states that the first prize is ten VCRs, the second prize is 500 chairs, and the third prize is 5,000 t-shirts. After a bit of puzzling, one is forced to conclude that this is just poor writing and that they are, for example, giving a VCR to each of ten kids, rather than ten VCRs to one kid. While we’re on the subject, there’s another super-dated Kool-Aid Koolers ad here with a garishly-dressed kid who’s wearing at least three shirts (this ad at least makes it explicit that they’re awarding just one VCR and one chair to contest winners).

There’s a plug for the 1987 Rumplestiltskin film; there’s no mention of the fact that Cannon Films, which produced it, was also doing the He-Man movie, or that Billy Barty, who played the title character, had been cast in it (this latter tidbit, however, does appear on another page with information on the film’s casting and plugs for the re-run of the Christmas Special and the Power Tour).

We have a full-page feature on martial artist/actor Ernie Reyes, Jr., who will be better known to many of you as either “that little kid from The Last Dragon” or “the guy from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze,” depending on how old you are and where your interests lie.  

This issue’s comic story, “Raid on Snake Mountain,” features a remarkably coherent plot and a relative lack of silliness (emphasis on relative; it’s inexplicable that Skeletor’s left his brand new ray gun unattended while He-Man and company stroll in through the front door). The story does a good job, though, of showing that Ninjor can actually be a pretty awesome henchman.

The activities here are the usual fare. The only Earl Norem poster included is the cover (although there’s another piece of his work inside); also included is He-Man-themed gift wrap “to make your holiday presents look super powerful,” although good luck wrapping more than one thing with it.

Read it HERE

Saturday, January 26, 2013

MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE #6 (Star, 1987)



Masters of the Universe #6, “From Here to Eternia,” is written by Mike Carlin and illustrated by Ron Wilson and Danny Bulanadi. Here, Skeletor sabotages the monorail around the Three Towers in an attempt to capture Central Tower (which is referred to as “Eternia” here).

This issue begins with the words “Holy swamoli.” I don’t know where Carlin learned words, but he needs to learn some new ones. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get much better, and one of the biggest flaws is the plotting. Skeletor’s stated goal at the outset is to take control of Central Tower. By the middle of the issue, he’s succeeded, but he doesn’t do anything with the opportunity, and by the end, he’s trying to destroy it.

Here’s more disregard by Carlin of established origins. The skyway around the Three Towers is Man-At-Arms’ invention, defying the how and why of building a mass transit system with a stop at Skeletor’s lair. The Heroic Warriors are operating out of Central Tower, which is nowhere near Viper Tower. Man-At-Arms is oblivious to most everything around him. Snout Spout takes great pride in his heroic window washing.

Bulanadi’s inks are fine; they don’t differ from Janke’s enough to be particularly noticeable, and the art is otherwise as usual. However, there is one horrendous error. Throughout the issue, Central Tower is depicted as being in a clearing, as is proper, and next to Grayskull Tower. But in the two-page splash of He-Man and Skeletor’s dogfight, all of a sudden it’s in the middle of the palace grounds.

A lot of toy promotion and a lot of nonsense – it’s not altogether unentertaining (a little Evil Orko goes a long way), but we still aren’t anywhere close to a good comic.

NOT RECOMMENDED

Read it HERE

Friday, January 25, 2013

MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE #5 (Star, 1987)



Masters of the Universe #5, “Monstroid,” is by the regular creative team: Mike Carlin, Ron Wilson, and Dennis Janke. Here, Hordak summons a giant robotic crab monster to destroy He-Man.

Monstroid never got his own mini-comic, so that’s why we get him here, I guess. The three-faction conflict keeps things moving at a nice pace, although things get a little random and out of hand at the end.  

Carlin shows an interest in developing these characters, but he seems to have little regard for them as they’ve been established and developed in the past, and so he frequently takes them in strange and frustrating directions. He changes Extendar’s origin from a voluntary subject to a kidnapping victim. Orko is an irresponsible five-year-old again – he’s not feeding the fish? Seriously? This is like the cartoon at its most juvenile. The entire Horde is doing telepathy here, and Grizzlor seems to be inventing advanced cybernetic equipment. And Skeletor claims to be willing to die if it means taking He-Man with him.

There’s not a great deal to be said about the art that hasn’t been said in reviews of past issues. No major complaints.

This one’s not great, but at least we seem to be on the right track.

TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT

Read it HERE

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

MOTU Marathon: Interlude - The Home Stretch

Thus ends 1986. What better way to start 1987 than with a picture of Kermit the Frog dressed as Dolph Lundgren dressed as He-Man (from Muppet Magazine #19, Summer 1987)?


Obviously, that would have been the greatest movie of all time.

We’re on the home stretch now. We’re all done with books. With the exception of the sad excuse for a mini-comic that was packed with the movie tie-in figures, we’re done with those, too. All we have left of He-Man in the 1980s are the remaining issues of the Star comic book and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Magazine – that was all that got released in 1987 and 1988.

We’ve got about five weeks of 1980s He-Man left. Enjoy.

Monday, January 21, 2013

PRISONER IN THE SLIME PIT by John Braden, Pablo Marcos, and Judith Marcos



Prisoner in the Slime Pit is a 1986 Masters of the Universe children’s book written by John Braden and illustrated by Pablo and Judith Marcos. Here, Hordak schemes to trap He-Man in the Slime Pit.

Braden puts Hordak up to some interesting, confusing friendly tactics. This is a nice touch, given that the only real suspense in a book like this concerns whether Hordak will succeed in getting He-Man brainwashed, as in the mini-comic Escape from the Slime Pit, and, if so, how his friends will get him un-brainwashed.

There are some writing nitpicks: Stonedar and Rokkon are indistinguishable from one another personality-wise, and, after some good build-up, the resolution is a little predictable and underwhelming. But on the whole, it’s an entertaining read.

The Marcoses’ art is generally well done. The characters, action scenes, and backgrounds are all very good, and the color and shading are excellent. However, the pile of toys the artists were working from apparently didn’t include a Horde Trooper: while everyone else looks more or less like their action figure counterparts, Hordak is supported by an army of gray goblins in shiny blue armor.

In the end, though, despite a number of relatively minor issues, Prisoner in the Slime Pit is a solid book.

RECOMMENDED

Read it HERE

Saturday, January 19, 2013

THE POWERS OF GRAYSKULL – THE LEGEND BEGINS! (mini-comic, 1986)



The Powers of Grayskull – The Legend Begins! is a 1986 Masters of the Universe mini-comic written by Phil White and illustrated by Larry Houston and Bruce Timm. Here, He-Man and Skeletor journey to Eternia’s past, where the Snake Men are using bionic dinosaurs to oppress the villagers.

As the cover indicates, this was intended to be the first of a trilogy leading into Mattel’s The Powers of Grayskull spinoff featuring the wizard He-Ro. But parts two and three were never made, and the three dinosaur toys, the vanguards of the Powers of Grayskull line, were the only toys ever produced with that branding. It’s too bad; it would have been great to find out how, exactly, ancient Eternia has all these cyborg dinosaurs, and it’s a lot more appealing than the ponytailed He-Man-in-space we got in 1990.

The story here is noteworthy primarily for the contributions it sets itself up to make to the mythos; otherwise, it’s little more than a big fight scene featuring the three dinosaurs (two of which, interestingly, aren’t named (or spelled) in accordance with their toys). Also of note is that there’s a Cosmic Key reference here to tie in to all the movie shenanigans (the prospect of trying to bring aspects of the live-action film into canon is a dubious one, though).  

The art is a highlight – Timm only provides the inks, but he makes the illustrations his own, as his style is apparent on every page. The dinosaurs are all nicely done.

The Cosmic Key yet remains for us, but this is truly the last real mini-comic. It’s not one of the greats, but it leaves us wanting still more – and really, what else could we ask for?

RECOMMENDED

Read it HERE