It’s time again to delve into the old Masters Of The Universe newspaper comic strips. Last time we met Kartan the Terrible, who turned out to not be so terrible. We learned that the only way the Sword Of Power can be destroyed is if the power of Grayskull is used to perform a “dishonorable deed”, and that the royal family has always maintained the power of Grayskull…which makes me wonder if it skipped a generation with Randor. None of this information comes into play in tonight’s tale.
Instead we have another of those obligatory tales, this time the one where a hero travels into a fictional world, and one of the biggest cliché story choices. If you can’t guess which one, just read the title. It’s really kind of obvious. I’m just padding for the homepage at this point. No Sunday strips in color and two pages are missing from the story but the information is filled in so I still know what’s going on. So let’s get this over with and hope it’s better than the cliché would imply.
He-Man In Wonderland
WRITER: Chris Weber | ARTIST/ORIGINAL LETTERER: Gerald Forton | Editor: Karen Willson
As I said, the only color here is the weekday strip I colored myself, so whatever Connie Schurr contributed is lost to the Dark Horse collection. Sorry, Ms. Schurr.
Apparently it’s “library day” on Eternia or something because both Skeletor and Adam are catching up on some reading. Skeletor has Whiplash cleaning his library while Adam tries to look up information on Kartan The Not-So-Terrible. Adam’s book is taken out but Skeletor finds a spell that he plans to use to get rid of He-Man once and yada yada. Adam comes across a set of books Marlena brought back from Earth, and guess what one of them is. Can He-Man escape Skeletor’s Wonderland before Tim Burton tries to “improve” the story?
Before the critic goes over the story I have my own comments as a reader. Traveling to Wonderland or having Wonderland elements invade the “real” world is almost a rite of passage for sci-fi series at this point. It’s been done so often I don’t think there’s anything really new that can be done with it. I haven’t read the books or seen any of the movies…the closest I’ve come was Disney’s Adventures In Wonderland, the loosely based live-action kids show. And yet I know way more about it than anyone who has never been expose to the actual story should because so many references have been made about the books and the Disney animated movie that you can’t help but know what Wonderland, Alice, the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, and the Red Queen are. So I went into this with rather low expectations. So let me shift into critic mode and try to be objective in reviewing this storyline.
It’s…okay. There are some interesting things. When Skeletor sends out his He-Man seeking spell it won’t work until Adam becomes He-Man. The Sorceress warns him about the spell and then tells him to step right into the trap because she’s sure whatever it is he can beat it. I would have almost found it more interesting if Adam had to keep from becoming He-Man until they found a way to destroy the spell, but we’ve already had “can’t become He-Man for good reason” stories in the comics so it would have been overkill. Seeing the Sorceress and Skeletor take up roles at one point might have been more interesting if the spell had turned the whole cast into Wonderland characters (although I think that’s been done a few times too) but that would have turned Skeletor into Mxyzptlk from Super Friends. I mean, I like those stories on that show but it wouldn’t work for Skeletor. There’s also a cute line from Cringer as Adam mentions the “strange talking animals” and Cringer doesn’t see that as strange. Pity it was one of the lost pages.
Oddly the Red Queen is rewritten. I don’t know if this the first appearance of the King or not in the franchise but he rarely if ever makes it out of the original books if he even is there. For whatever reason Weber and Forton re-imagine the Queen as being rather lovely and subdued, but still with her decapitation fetish. It makes her kind of creepy actually and the king doesn’t seem to mind. Weird couple. There is one critic negative I do have to make that requires a spoiler. It’s right after the strip I colored so jump ahead a paragraph after it.
SPOILER!: When He-Man arrives there is a door in a tree (which disappoints He-Man because the tree is still alive…I though Marlena read this book to you as a boy, Adam) that leads to Grayskull but he needs the shrinking potion. He-Man opts not to take it and it becomes the way he stops Skeletor in the end, but why didn’t He-Man take it? Is Skeletor making He-Man that paranoid? We learn it isn’t poison (Skeletor survives it) and that is the door back to Eternia, just outside Castle Grayskull, so this story would have basically not happened if He-Man had just taken the potion. Did Skeletor count on He-Man’s not trusting him? Was that part of his game? :SPOILER OVER
Now a notation about the Dark Horse collection itself. I understand the missing pages. I would say that trying to recreate them (unless they “remastered” the strip from the newspaper itself) wouldn’t have been in keeping with the spirit of the strips so I don’t mind that. I’m kind of split on leaving the Sunday comics in black and white. I get that they may not have the final color versions, but it shouldn’t be that hard to restore. I don’t know if Schurr was alive past the interview they did or if she was able to color it. It might be hard to find out the actual colors used in the final strip, but if they could it should be rather easy to recreate in Clip Studio Paint or some other image editing program (I don’t know what Val Staples uses when he colors a comic). I didn’t bother because this is coloring practice for me (I think this is my best yet but it still needs work) but I would think it would be easy to go through the old strips that they have and create a pallet that would work for the colors they do have. Heck, when Staples, who also runs fansite He-Man.org and was one of the people behind the Dark Horse collection, links to my review a month after I post it he uses colored panels and some of them are from weekday strips like the one above. All I can figure is that they want to only use the original coloring like they did the lineart. Still, I’d be curious to see what colors the “New Adventures” characters ended up with when we finally get there.
Overall the story is nothing spectacular to me because I’ve seen it way to often, but it is a decent story and someone without my hang-up on “Hero In Wonderland” stories might get more out of it than I did, especially if they’re a fan of the originals. Next time we get something closer to normal (or normal as Eternia gets) as the planet is…Shaken To The Core! Will it be California or Krypton time for our heroes? Find out next time!