Occasionally I come up with an article series to get me to read something. Like Chapter By Chapter, or Scanning My Collection. And here’s the newest member of that list:
The official title of this series (for brevity) is The He-Man Comics. Adding “Newspaper” to the banner just further explains what I’m reviewing. I’ve already tackled all the Masters Of The Universe comics in my collection and I already have an article series for mini-comics, which includes our Eternian and Etherian friends. This however is something very different. Dark Horse has been putting together collections of Masters Of The Universe and Princess Of Power materials, including the aforementioned minicomics. Recently they added a new collection, of the newspaper strips.
“There were newspaper strips?” some of you may be asking and yes there were. I didn’t know about them either until Dark Horse announced the collection but I otherwise hadn’t been paying attention due to…other concerns. Then recently my friend Sean surprised me with an early birthday present (very early because my birthday is in July, so the rest of you still have time 😀 ) that he happened to see on sale.
This sucker is huge. It’s a hardcover omnibus that I could probably kill a man with if I more Skeletor than He-Man. (Let’s be honest: I’m more Prince Adam. Okay, Orko, but without the magic.) It’s so big that it would take a long time to read and review, so I’ve chosen this route, a 15+ article series to look over each story arc in the same vein of Chapter By Chapter. But before we begin the trip down this particular rabbit hole I thought a little explanation was in order. This is going to be short, so if you want the full details by all means get this book. It’s amazing just from flipping through it. I can’t wait to see what I get out of the actual review.
I tried researching this online but either I suck at search engines or all I could find on this was a few brief postings on He-Man.org that led to this book and reviews of the book. From what I can gather not many papers carried it; there were about 80 at its peak and 10 when the series finally ended during a four-and-a-half year run. It fared better in other countries where the Filmation TV series was just getting into the second season, but here the show was just ending, the fandom dying down, as kids fandoms usually do, but not quite gone.
Mattel still wanted to have an outlet to promote their toys beyond advertisements and their own packed-in minicomics. So Filmation and Mattel worked together to produce a comic strip, originally distributed by King Syndicate, but I don’t know who took it up after that before Mattel became the distributor themselves. And Filmation’s people worked on it. The first writer was Jim Shull before Chris Weber (with his wife, Karen Willson, serving as editor) took over duties. Gerald Forton was the artist on the series, with Connie Schurr as the colorist for the Sunday strips. (Although there are a few Sunday strips not in color in this collection as well as strips missing near the end. I’ll come back to that.) The series continues the universe from the cartoon, leading up to an alternate take on the He-Man line than the one The New Adventures Of He-Man cartoon took. However, She-Ra and her friends were part of a different license…somehow. Another example of Mattel not getting how Princess Of Power should have been better tied to Masters Of The Universe, even if it was the “girls line” of toys.
The comic’s small showing meant most people didn’t even know the comic existed. It was the work of Danielle Gelehrter that led to this production. She had found some of the strips and posted them to the He-Man.org site, the fan site created by MV Creations co-founder Val Staples, who worked to get the license for the remake series, as you may recall from my other comic reviews. Staples also served as project coordinator on this project while James Eatock, who runs the official He-Man YouTube channel and has also been referenced here, worked with a group of people to restore the artwork they couldn’t get the original art for. (Forton only had the first two years available if I recall correctly.) A lot of strips had gone missing, replaced by using and restoring the foreign version, but even then a handful of strips are as missing as classic Doctor Who episodes. Maybe they’ll turn up someday and maybe they won’t but the search will continue. They found most of them by their deadline with the remaining summarized from the original scripts. I don’t know if they didn’t consider recreations or if they felt it would clash with the goals of the collection.
Flipping through this the art is beautiful. It’s similar to the Filmation designs but not a complete match in that they look like the cels were being used from the original show. Part of the reason could be the limitations of newspapers as they have a smaller pallet to work with. (I swear He-Man’s hair looks red on occasion.) Some character models are closer than others but other Filmation elements, like Skeletor’s Collector ship, show up. I think Adora gets mentioned even if She-Ra can’t appear. The stories look interesting and I’m looking forward to reading a full story, which I’ll do next time when the series proper begins with “Day Of The Comet”!