I reviewed the Masters of the Universe Minicomics Collection back in May, after having a tough time getting my hands on a copy. Since then, I have slowly read through every page, and can give you more of a review of the contents rather than just the product.
VINTAGE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE
First thing first. “Miniternia” is definitely a favorite universe of mine now. I was aware of it, and had read a few books from it. When I was a kid, these books just confused me because they were so different from what I was used to (the Filmation cartoon.) But reading these as an adult, there is a definite vibe to those books not found anywhere else. There are comparisons to Conan the Barbarian, but as a Conan fan, I don’t think so. Miniternia is a great comic story…an innocent story in a way, and in a way more pure of a story from a writers standpoint. Mattel gave the writers carte blanche, as long as they depicted the toys. The barbarian He-Man is awesome, and the miniternia Skeletor is more insane than his other versions.
I remember hearing that there were fundamentalist Christians boycotting and protesting He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. I was vaguely aware of this as a child (I AM a Christian, and was raised in a Christian home.) But as an adult, I heard people talk about it on the Roast Gooble Dinner podcasts. I can see how, after reading over half of the book, I’d bet the word “demon” and “devil” were invoked in almost every single story! Watching the Filmation show, this also comes up…I don’t know if that was daring on the part of the writers, or what?
You can clearly see transitional guidance between Miniternia and the comics that more closely resembled Filmation shows. The stories become even flimsier sometimes, and highlighting of the products becomes central, rather than story and character development. Then one day, out of nowhere, the Evil Horde becomes more prominent. As a kid, the Horde annoyed me because to me, Skeletor was supposed to be the ultimate baddy. And Hordak was apparently his teacher. I came to love the Horde as much as anything else in MOTU, but I can see why I felt that way. Mattel began to push the Horde in the mini comics, and there were more Horde figures on the shelves, and the commercials depicted the Horde more. They were supposed to be another faction…which worked well in a house with three kids. Hordes became She-Ra’s main villain, but I didn’t watch She-Ra…(yeah, right!)
I remember the Snake Men story vibrantly from when I was a child…my oldest brother was very interested in them. My mother (and grandmother) are deathly terrified of snakes, so…I never really thought of them as another faction…just as a side team that worked for Skeletor, which is exactly how the mini comics portray them. Throw in that Kobra Kahn and Tongue Lasher appeared on Skeletor’s team on the Filmation show working with Skeletor, and you can see why. It was the Mike Young 200x show that really highlighted them as another team…an even deadlier team that Skeletor’s bunch.
Of all of the things about He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, I rarely ever complain. But now is my chance. The “Three Towers” really annoy me. It is one of the rarest toys to be found, and is therefore a valuable item. But I don’t care. The whole concept is STUPID.
Lets replace Castle Grayskull and Snake mountain with two smaller versions, and put a stupid lion tower in the middle. We can connect the whole universe together with a roller coaster thingy.
There are SOO many reasons why I dislike the three towers. It is billed as “playset Eternia.” So the whole planet of Eternia can fit into one Playset? This was EXACTLY how it was depicted in the minicomics. I heard someone call it “Grayskull 2.0.” Castle Grayskull was supposed to be this ultimate place of power. But the Three Towers were meant to supplant all of that.
Eternia must be about the size of Spartanburg or upstate South Carolina…It seems it takes King Grayskull in the Mike Young cartoon about three days to cross the whole place. Maybe the three towers fit that scheme? There is a map in the He-Man art book, it came with certain characters if you subscribed to the “Club Grayskull” or whatever. That map shows the towers stretched out across a huge central continent. That MIGHT be plausible. But why would they all connect together by a vehicle? And if “Viper Tower” was meant to be Snake Mountain (It DID more closely resemble the cartoon version), and Grayskull tower was supposed to be the base for the good guys…just why? I believe Mattel sensed that the vintage line was coming to an end, and were getting desperate.
SHE-RA, PRINCESS OF POWER
The She-Ra comics were pretty cute. One of the interviews mentions that there were strict guidelines for drawing female characters. That is apparent…the depictions of all those she-ra women are not sexy at all. Sometimes they are child-like and pretty. The She-Ra comics “de-evolve” from Minicomics format into Storybook format. There is an incorrect footnote in the first She-Ra story, that says the Evil Horde is not mentioned in the comics ever again after the first one. But that was inaccurate as the final two She-Ra stories have Catra mentioning the Horde, and also depict Horde troopers.
These books give you less of a sense of “the great rebellion,” and more just sweet little stories. Catra, “the jealous beauty” is the main villain in these stories, but she can’t really do anything worse than children do to each other, it seems. She steals a treasure box, she crashes a party by spraying everyone with water. She spreads a rumor. SERIOUSLY?
I made it through all of the She-Ra books, and rather enjoyed them. But they are far too shallow. I enjoyed the way they usually depicted She-Ra with the mask and Adora with the headband…A device you never saw on the cartoon. And I thought the story of “Crystal Dimension” was interesting, where Swift Wind was transformed into a crystal version of himself.
I never really got a sense that The Crystal Castle was a She-Ra’s place of power? It seemed to be a place where she and her friends lived instead. The enchanted forest was there. But Catra seemed to be homeless.
THE NEW ADVENTURES OF HE-MAN
As a child, I was just getting “too old” for toys as New Adventures came out. My oldest brother wasted no time in getting a few toys, but I don’t think I ever saw a single episode of the cartoon. I DID remember reading the comic, however.
I wasn’t aware that there were only four comics ever produced for that toy-line. I DID know that it was short lived.
Basically, the vintage He-Man and Skeletor characters translated smoothly over to the futuristic versions, with Skeletor getting burned badly while witnessing Adam transform into He-Man, and having to “fix himself” with bionic parts. The only idiotic thing is that He-Man’s sword is already a “techno sword.” They should have been able to draw the classic sword in those few panels. I always thought it was kind of stupid that the power of Grayskull had to be transferred into that starship…Really? The art and the storytelling in these books is good, but different from the earlier ones. As we read through all of these, we really see Bruce Timm’s art style mature up. Once, He-Man even looks like we would see Batman on the nineties cartoon! (Not in a New Adventures book…one of the final vintage comics.)
I almost forgot! The singular “pack-in” comic is included here. With Val Staples and Emiliano Santalucia forming the bond that would become MV Creations, (and eventually break apart into the saddest schism maybe in the whole brand.) There are two comics here, one that never made it to print.
These are similar to the 200x comics that Image and Cross Gen would publish, but shorter and having a lot less content. The art is just about exactly the same. Emiliano is great! (The second book was drawn by someone else, who somewhat emulated Emiliano’s style.)
MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS MINI COMICS
Before the collection, I had no opportunities to read these stories. I heard fans complain about them because they leave out a lot of story details that should be filled in. The first one is a modern retelling of the first vintage Preternia book, and the following two pull together the entire story to include even the New Adventures. An interesting detail, this story portrays He-Ro as the originator of the Power of Grayskull when he passes the Sword of He over to King Grayskull in death. Funny how it ended, with a remark about building a castle and naming it after He-Ro. (It would be named Castle Grayskull!)
I also thought the twist where Skeletor gets the techno virus from Bionatops in order to transform into his New Adventures form was also fun! I was confused about King Grayskull, King He-man (he makes an appearance!) and King Miro. What was that all about?
The art on these books are terrifically modern, and yes, they COULD have gave us more story. I see how these serve the same purpose as the earlier mini comics…justify more toys. They even introduced members of He-Ro’s team that have never been produced, simply to spark interest. Ultimately, mini-comics aren’t the best vehicle for telling a grand story…they are a place to jump off and use your imagination. And since Scott Neitlich was the guy in charge of these, that statement sounds exactly like something he would have said.
The Mini-Comic collection contains lots of interviews…most of them seem to have come directly from Roast Gooble Dinner podcasts. Maybe the DID actually re-interview some of the people…and maybe these are redacted and edited versions of those interviews. I enjoyed reading them all, thought they didn’t teach me much of anything new because I had already heard it from the mouth of the person being interviewed.
So, just when I think James Eatock has astounded me with his intense Fanhood and knowledge of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, he surprises me yet again!
James “Bustatoons” Eatock apparently is the owner of a discarded and never produced mini comic, which is published at the back of this book. It apparently never made it to the coloring stage. I wonder if more stuff like this is out there? And what a find…AND how does someone like him find all this stuff? The comic is apparently the supposed pack-in with Flying Fists He-Man…it has some details issues, which might be why it was scrapped. But it is a terrific read.
And finally we have an outline of a never-produced mini comic, which would have featured Faker prominently. It is cool to read over, and I wonder if any fans who are good artists have made this book as fan art?
I enjoyed reading the Minicomics collection, and recommend it to anyone who is a fan of He-Man…a great value at under $30. Reading this kept me from purchasing other comics for awhile…I always had something new to read, and this will make its way to my office at work to read in my “spare time.”