“By the power of GraySkull. I have the power,” he cried over and over, raising his little fist high above his pajam-as. Finally, exhausted, he went to our father. “It’s just not working – I don’t know why, I’m doing everything right,” he said in frustration, throwing down his plastic sword of power.
This anecdote of superhero worship is a family favourite. So when we heard about the latest He-Man series, ‘Masters of the Universe: Revelation’, which is touted by creator Kevin Smith as a sequel to our childhood mainstay, we were excited. Across continents – I was travelling – we watched the show and compared notes.
We loved it; there were all our favourite characters; He-man, Teela, Skeletor even. There were the same terrible puns and corny dialogues we had loved over the years. And there was the same beloved catchphrase we both yelled out: “I have the power.”
They even brought back a talking Cringer; in the terrible 2002 Cartoon Network ‘He-Man and the Masters of the Universe’ series both he and Battlecat were mum. (They reportedly never got the rights to have the animals talk.)
We thoroughly agreed with the Rotten Tomatoes critic score of 96 per cent. And then came the whiplash; the rage-like wave from other fans who cried out at the prospect of – SPOLER ALERT – the death of a favourite char-acter in the first episode. (Fans have voted this toon at 36 per cent.) Smith’s defense came strong and swift: He is in every episode and Netflix only has part A so far.
The fans cried of forced woke-ness, of token inclusivity – we have a new Black character – and of a lack of, well, He-Man.
Smith said in a media interview: “I know there’s some people that are like, ‘Hey, man, this show’s woke,’” Smith said. “I’m like, all right, great, then so was the original cartoon we’re sequel-izing. Go watch it again. There are girls in every episode. Deal with it.”
The series has always been woke – the main characters include a butt-kicking warrior (Teela), the strongest magic, i.e. in GraySkull, is defended by the Sorceress, and He-Man’s mother was written as the first woman astronaut NASA launched into space! Even the baddies got their own super powerful – and power hungry – lady, Evil Lyn. (Here’s another spoiler by the way, this story arc offers a deeper, kinder look into her character.)
He-Man’s true origin story
He-Man as we know him today began with an action figure by Mattel and a mini-comic series by Donald Glut. In 1981, two years before the debut of the animated Filmation Studio toon that would become a house-hold name. The comic saw him as a Conan – the Barbarian type of already buff character; there was no Prince Adam. There was a cave of power however, one the Eternian ran into to put the gear he wore as He-Man on before rushing out to defeat his enemies.
Then came the superb Filmation version that ran from 1983-1985, which saw Prince Adam, the son of King Ran-dor and Queen Marlena, transform into He-Man when ‘he held his sword aloft and said, ‘by the power of GraySkull.’
I loved the character so much that when we were finally introduced to the He-Man’s twin sister, Arora, in the 1985 Christmas Special – which debuted on our Indian television channel years later – I wanted to change my name to She-Ra, her alter-ego’s name. (Fortunately, the parents talked me into waiting till I was 18 to consider if I still want-ed the name change – or this article would have been written by her.)
Years on, the fun of the storyline – that good versus evil showdown hasn’t gotten old.
And while Part A does not introduce us to Arora, I for one can’t wait for part B to release. For the magic of nostal-gia to make a return. To cry out, in glee, ‘The power is mine.’
8 things you need to know
Here are 8 things you need to know and episodes you need to watch from the original – now available on YouTube – before you watch the new episodes.
1. He-Man is half human: When Earth’s astronaut Marlena is lost in space (‘Teela’s Quest’, ‘The Rainbow Warri-or’) and hits turbulence, she crash lands her ship on Eternia where she meets her husband to-be, then High King Randor. As she recuperates at his castle, they fall in love. And that, as they say, is that.
2. Orko is actually good at magic: In his home world of Trolla. Oh, and his actual name isn’t Orko. (The makers apparently wanted to name him Gorpo, but when the time came, they realized it was cheaper to use O instead of G on his outfit – the flipped version of a drawing could be used and would read the same). In the Timeless Dimen-sion, where the laws of nature are backward, Orko is actually a powerful sorcerer. (Check out ‘Dawn of Dragoon’).
3. He-Man and Skeletor are related: One theory is that Skeletor is actually Keldor, Randor’s long lost brother who was thought to have gone missing in a different dimension. If this is so, he is unknowingly fighting his own neph-ew.
4. Teela is really more important than He-Man: Fellow fans be calm. If Teela is the daughter of the Sorceress (‘Teela’s Quest’) and destined to replace her, it does in fact make her more important for she shall know all the secrets of Castle GraySkull. Also, with the original Sorceress to guide him, Prince Adam would never have even become He-Man.
5. Adam is a twin: As we found out thanks to Filmation Studio’s Christmas Special – which at the time seemed a forced project to get more girl fans and a bigger He-Man run thanks to an off-shoot (‘She-Ra and The Sword of Power’) that featured He-Man/Prince Adam crossovers.
6. He-Man never killed anyone: He may have killed machines but never people; he would usually just hurl them off platforms. Even when he did throw his sword at something, it would just bounce off.
7. Each story had a moral: At the end of each episode, in the original, there is a ‘today we learned’ module, which taught kids moral science lessons such as listen to your elders and don’t hurt nature.
8. Eternia is home to magic and science: Fictional worlds diverge into two categories usually, science or magic. Eternia was one of the first to showcase the melding of the two; it has futuristic contraptions as well as magical elements.
Who is part of the story?
Famous voices came together for the latest iteration, ‘Masters of the Universe: Revelation’. Here’s look at the stars involved:
1. Teela: ‘Buffy’s Sarah Michelle Gellar makes a reappearance as the voice of Teela, who’s taking centre stage in this new iteration.
2. Prince Adam/He-Man: He’s played by Chris Wood from ‘The Vampire Diaries’ and ‘Supergirl’
3. Skeletor: Mark Hamill, who has famously played Luke Skywalker in the iconic ‘Star Wars’ movies, gets in-to evil gear for the story.
4. Man-At-Arms: ‘Game of Thrones’ alumni Liam Cunningham returns as the voice of the greatest inventor in Eternia.
5. Evil-Lyn: is played by another ‘GOT’ regular, Lena Headey
6. Queen Marlena: Alicia Silverstone, of ‘Clueless’ fame plays the grieving queen Marlena.