Mattel may well be the masters (pun semi-intended) of the pack-in promo comic. They’ve been used throughout their Masters of the Universe and Princess of Power toylines. If you collected the toys as a kid, you’ve read the comics, and the current Classics line will feature brand-new comics that I wish I could get my hands on.
However, how many of you know the first four “comics” were actually illustrated booklets, much like the GoBots’ had. The very first comic has something we wouldn’t see except for a book-&-record I remember my cousin having and the 2000′s re-imagining: an actual origin story for He-Man AND Skeletor. Since the Filmation series wasn’t even a concept and DC Comics wouldn’t start working on it until the second series of MOTU mini-comics, it was all Mattel on this one. Prepare yourself for the “true” origin of one of fiction’s top arch nemeses.
Masters of the Universe #1 of series 1“HE-MAN & THE POWER SWORD” DATE: 1981 WRITER: Don Glut ARTIST: Alfredo Alcala PACKED WITH: He-Man (all information according to fan-site He-Man.org, since it doesn’t appear to be in the booklet)
It should be noted that a later version was released with some pages removed, dialog changed, and Teela’s name spelling fixed (her name is written as “Tee-La”). I’m reviewing the original booklet.
One day He-Man, the mightiest warrior of his tribe, set off to stop evil from finding and controlling the legendary Castle Grayskull. Why he decides to partake of this quest is never told. He just decides “hey, I’m not doing anything today, why don’t I just go and protect this castle, although nobody asked me?” or something.
During his trek he comes upon a green woman in snake armor being attacked by some monsters. He easily takes the creatures down and the Sorceress (remember, it was Filmation that would come up with the bird motif) thanks him by giving him a harness that boosts his power, a shield, and a mighty axe. She also gives him a vehicle, the Battle Ram (well, the flying half of the Battle Ram according to the art), that was “a combination battering ram, catapult, and space-warp device”.
As He-Man uses his new gifts to build a home and headquarters, Skeletor and Beast Man has come across “Tee-La” (whose name I will spell traditionally from here out, although spellcheck apparently prefers the mis-spelling) and Skeletor decides he wants to marry her because she’s all that. Even Beast Man thinks she’s a hottie. However, seeing as she possesses “the spirit of many ancestral champions”–and no, I have no idea how that works, Teela is up to the challenge of Beast Man but after defeating her unicorn charger (or perhaps it is misspelled and that should be “her unicorn, Charger”, but that’s not how its written) Skeletor’s power brings her down and they take her to Castle Grayskull.
At Grayskull, Skeletor (who according to the art but not the text are joined by Mer-Man and it looks like Stratos) forces the drawbridge open thanks to his half of the Power Sword. Have you ever wondered why your He-Man and Skeletor figures (as well as Prince Adam) only had half of a the Power Sword, and that He-Man’s (or Adam’s) half could connect to Skeletor’s to form a full sword? Well, originally the fight was over both halves, which were the key to opening the gates of Grayskull. (You may have seen book-&-records or other books that told that story.) In this story, the second half is hidden within the castle and Skeletor means to find it. He also decides to give his origin.
Yes, Skeletor comes from a race of people with no face and bad fashion sense. Beast Man finds a map that “seemed to be drawn in blood” (you know, for kids!) that leads to a fiery sword. Meanwhile, He-Man finishes building his house when Man-At-Arms approaches in a chariot there is no toy for and tells He-Man about Skeletor and Teela. (It is mentioned that someone was watching them on the one page that Mer-Man and Stratos shows up on.) Again, no reason given for why Man-At-Arms runs to this guy he’s never met, just like He-Man is given no reason to leave and head for Grayskull, a castle that for all we knew he only heard about at a campfire tale the night before.
(We do learn that Man-At-Arms’ people are masters of weapons and that’s it. No indication that Teela was his daughter. It wouldn’t be until the DC Comics-produced stories and the Filmation series that their father/daughter status would be mentioned.)
He-Man says that Man-At-Arms would make a good ally, but he doesn’t have time to wait and uses the Battle Ram (still only drawn with the front half) to warp space right to Grayskull. It’s like a poor-man’s TARDIS.
Back at Grayskull, Skeletor and Beast Man finds the door and defeats the castle’s spirit guards, or rather Skeletor does with the Power Sword half, which is then turned against the door. The villains hear a commotion outside–although I would love to know how, considering how far inside and perhaps down they are. Beast Man finds He-Man trying to use the Battle Ram to ram the door and apparently knows the hero because he calls out his name. Beast Man tries to use the laser cannon but thanks to He-Man’s harness, which can create force fields (thus making the shield useless, I would think), the hero is unfazed. So Beast Man shoots the Battle Ram, which isn’t protected. And we all thought he was stupid.
Back inside, Skeletor merges the two halves of the Power Sword. Outside, Man-At-Arms arrives and distracts Beast Man so He-Man can force the “Jaw-Bridge” open and go after Skeletor, tossing aside his damaged “forcefield costume” (and apparently his axe and shield–not recommended), which leaves him vulnerable to the magic of the Power Sword. Then the Sorceress appears and breaks the sword back into halves before vanishing with them. Rather anti-climatic, really.
Somehow Man-At-Arms got to the roof and Teela broke her bonds. You can probably guess how it goes after that. Skeletor gives up and the trio…just lets them go. No attempt to imprison or kill them. Just…lets them go. I’m sure they won’t live to regret it. The Sorceress appears again and says that now only the swords can open the lock (for some reason) and that she will try to keep the halves separated from now on. Or you could destroy the swords and nobody will get in there. Because in the history of the franchise I have rarely if ever saw the heroes use any of the secrets hidden in there. I know the dangers of misusing it, but if you’re not even going to use them for good–destroy them if you’re that worried about Skeletor getting them! See, these are things I’ve always wondered about pretty much every ancient and otherworldly culture ever!
She also declares that He-Man, Teela (who isn’t just an armorless Sorceress, oh no, although you’ll have to buy the Teela figure twice and you’ll have this extra character), and Man-At-Arms are “masters of the universe”, and a toyline was born.
So there you go. He-Man wasn’t a prince who was chosen to transform into the most powerful man in the universe, he was a powerful guy who left his village to protect a castle for no apparent reason. Skeletor was some guy from a dimension of skull-headed people (unless that has something to do with the downsides of how came to Eternia). How do you think that origin works next to the ones Filmation, DC, and later Mattel (when they took back the comics for “series 3″). would use?
All images for this article came from He-Man.org, a Masters of the Universe fansite where you can read the full “comic” for yourself. There were three more stories in this format which we may or may not explore in the future. Surely we’ll be making plenty of trips to Eternia in this series, but I think I’ll do something else for next time.
I’m not sure BW virtual mentor Jerzy Drozd, if he sees this, could get through a Masters of the Universe story without a PSA.