I wish I had thought to do this for last month’s installment, when the Snake Men first popped up in the re-imagined comic series. I didn’t realize I was up to that point. That’s the problem with an overly-large collection: you forget what you have and when. But since King Hiss is still causing trouble over there, I can still fit it here.
The longer a toyline goes on the harder it gets to keep the line fresh, but if it’s still selling they’ll take the chance. That’s how you get variant versions of the most popular characters. Some ideas can be really…odd. Wait until we get to the time Man-At-Arms saved a man’s life by turning him into a giant top. I’m not even kidding. Some idea can be good. The Snake Men is one of those good ideas. While the re-imagined series made them into a third column to threaten both of the original sides, with Hordak teased as a fourth faction (the good guys would have been seriously outnumbered had that line continued), in the original Hordak and the Evil Horde came first as a problem for both He-Man and Skeletor. Except on the show where they only bothered the Eternia group while being the primary threat of She-Ra–ignoring how incompatible Mattel foolishly made the Masters Of The Universe and Princess Of Power toylines.
As we’re about to see, however, originally they had a different dynamic, an alliance with Skeletor. And less into eating humans because this was intended for kids.
Masters Of The Universe: King Of The Snake Men
WRITER: Steven Grant
PENCILER: Bruce Timm
INKER: Mike Van Cleave
COLORIST: Charles Simpson
LETTERER: Stan Sakai (Yes, it might be THAT Stan Sakai. No samurai bunnies in this one, though.)
EDITOR: Lee Nordling
ART DIRECTION: Ron Cook
Deep within Snake Mountain (interestingly still looking like the cartoon instead of the toy), Skeletor and Kobra Khan are going into the depths because Skeletor senses a new power. Which we’ll learn has been there for centuries so you have to wonder how Skeletor missed a huge pit of energy in his basement when he can sense magic across the planet. I mean, I rarely have reason to go into the basement but I can’t sense a pile of wood that’s been in the workshop since the house was built. Nor would I need to. Near said pit is some writing in the language of the Snake Men, a language so old that even Kobra Khan’s people has forgotten it. And yet Skeletor has no problem reading it. Don’t worry, KK, you’ll be pretty much useless the rest of the story too.
The inscription reads “He who feeds the pool of power shall know the secret of King Hiss”, which Skeletor tells us (because I’m sure Khan already knows this story) once ruled that part of the universe. So Skeletor blasts the energy pool of death with his Havoc Staff, because that can only end in good. I know Skeletor is evil, but you should be able to see how poorly this could end. However, instead of exploding and taking the whole mountain (and presumably Skeletor, Kobra Khan, and anybody that happens to be upstairs) with it, King Hiss pops out, which Skeletor refers to as a “heroic-looking fool”. Skeletor doesn’t get many guests and you can see why.
Cut to the palace, where Orko is telling a group of kids about a different adventure, when the Sorceress mentally contacts Adam, warning him that something is up in Snake Mountain and that he has the power to save Eternia or destroy it. Maybe I should introduce him to Apollo Z. Hack? He-Man takes off in one of the other toys to be sold in this comic, the Jet Sled, which can be either a flying vehicle or jetpack. Honestly it’s not one of Man-At-Arms more interesting vehicle designs. He built a robotic horse, a dinosaur-shaped tank with a giant mace arm, and this is…is still better than turning a man into a giant top. Duncan needs to stop designing things during bouts of insomnia.
He-Man reaches Snake Mountain and sees Skeletor and Kobra Khan about to push the “heroic-looking” Hiss over the cliff. So he chases them off, noting how easy it was. (“Hey, Skels, it’s me.” “Run away, run away.” (actual line follows) “That’s odd. It’s not like Skeletor to give up this easily. Oh well.”) He’s suspicious for five seconds tops. You’d think he’d at least be skeptical at this. And sure enough King Hiss reveals he’s evil…to He-Man. Any kid who actually read the package and, you know, opened the bubble to get to the comic…I mean the toy already knew he was really a bunch of snakes connected to a man’s torso. I like the re-imagined version better, where Hiss transforms into snakes rather than he’s a bunch of snakes on a torso for some reason. Granted, looking heroic does allow him to fool new enemies at least once. Twice if you’re Ram Man.
Hiss knocks out He-Man with his hypnotic eyes…no, they’re not dreamy. There are furries who just threw up hearing that. It seems He-Man tripped an alarm on his way flying through the air at the top speed of a moped (seriously He-Man, you think that flying Segway has anywhere near the speed of a Wind Raider or Blasterhawk? It apparently fails at being stealthy) and Hiss immediately came up with a plan the target audience probably saw coming, and not just because of the page layouts. Now he’s behind a force field he can’t break out of, although he’ll do it twice in a few pages, as Skeletor and Hiss try to blast the pool some more. Instead they somehow teleport two of Hordak’s snakes, Rattlor and Tongue Lashor. But not before Hiss gives the obligatory origin exposition.
Wait, if Hiss didn’t age because he was in a timeless dimension, why do Tongue Lashor and Rattlor immediately recognize him. talk like they served him instead of just being descendants who happen to avoid the Elder’s game of snake toss, and immediately join his side? Were they kid soldiers? I know on this planet non-humans seem to have lifespans that surpass most trees (especially the actual trees like Evilseed and Moss Man) but there has to be a limit somewhere, right?
He-Man busts through the force field with the Power Sword…and is immediately beaten by the Snake Men and put back in the force field without the sword. Most powerful man in the universe, kids. Hiss recognize that it has the power of the ancients and plunges it into the well, ready to release his fellow Snake Men. He-Man calls on the power of the Flying Fists…somehow, but the artist forgot to draw the actual gear so we just see He-Man punching nothing with normal fists. (Personally I would have used Thunder Punch anyway…it’s beaten stronger force fields in its first use) Causing a cave-in…because that’s always a safe place to be, within a cave-in, He-Man separates Skeletor and Hiss’s men from the well, and pulls out the sword, fighting off the arms of the Snake Men trying to come out. The Well seals itself and traps the other Snake Men (yet somehow more will pop up later). Then He-Man plugs it with a giant stalactite because he isn’t done smashing the basement ceiling today. Hope Skeletor has some dry wall handy. He-Man smashes himself an exit so the walls don’t feel left out and Hiss declares his two remaining Snake Men to be his tool of vengeance. I’d say they didn’t do too well, but Rattlor basically beat He-Man by himself just a few minutes ago, so he might be right. Skeletor convinces Kobra Khan to join them as his spy since he’s technically a snake man himself, and Hiss welcomes him into the “clan of the viper”.
As Skeletor and Hiss plot their next evil scheme (and eventual betrayal of the other…no shock there), Adam tells his story to Orko. Orko wonders if he’ll think twice before saving someone again, but Adam tells him that He-Man doesn’t hesitate to save people (which we’ve seen from his re-imagined counterpart just a few articles ago today) because that’s what heroes do.
While not a full adaptation, this is basically the story the re-imagined series went with, right down to the pool of power within Snake Mountain that keeps them from Eternia. It’s actually a decent origin for King Hiss, the deposed despot of galaxies seeking to reclaim his throne after choosing the wrong planet to mess with. I thought the story was pretty good. I also like that Hiss looks closer to a Heroic Warrior in design than the usual bad guys, a trick that’s lost in the design for the remake line and show. Yeah, it makes him look more vicious but there’s something to be said to being able to fool your enemies and average people into thinking you’re a good guy until it’s time to attack them. Otherwise, I do prefer the remake’s version of the Snake Men. They come off as more of a serious threat and they’re dang creepy. But this version has their merits too and we’ll be seeing the Snake Men again in the future. Next month, however, I think we’ll see what our Cybertronian friends are up to unless I forget that’s what I’m doing next time.