When Mattel first started putting mini-booklets into their Masters Of The Universe action figure packages they didn’t have mini-comics but little illustrated booklets that told the story of He-Man and his friends (and not-so-friends). We learned that originally He-Man was just a guy in a village who was never prince of Eternia, who got up one morning and decided to protect Castle Grayskull without any prompting while Skeletor wanted to bring his fellow skull-headed people to Eternia to invade the planet. In this continuity the Power Sword is split in half along the blade and putting the two halves together will open the jawbridge of Grayskull, where absolute power awaits. Although Skeletor’s only been inside there for maybe five minutes at a time. After the next two stories, one final booklet was produced, and tonight we finish series 1 by checking out this one. It’s Skeletor’s last chance to win. Will he? Of course not, there wouldn’t be much of a toyline if he did.

“I didn’t even order calamari!”

Masters Of The Universe series 1 #4


Mattel (1981)

WRITER: Donald Glut

ARTIST: Alfredo Alcada

credits and images from He-Man.org

Our tale opens with Skeletor on top of a volcano having a sword fight with lightning using his energy blade (the two halves of the Power Sword are scattered to the winds here–it isn’t until the actual comics of season 2 that Skeletor and He-Man carry their toys’ half of the Sword). We all have our hobbies I guess. He starts thinking about how He-Man and his friends have kicked his butt time and again. Oddly Skeletor also focuses on Teela, while Man-At-Arms, the only other ally in the image, is just “his friends”. I guess given what happens in series 2 that’s…still creepy. He summons Beast Man and Mer-Man to Castle Grayskull because nobody ever patrols the place. He orders them to attack He-Man when he doesn’t have his superweapons. That would be the gifts of the Goddess from the first book–a harness that boosts his strength, one that creates a forcefield (and he can only choose one at a time), his axe, and his shield. That’s worked so well in the wishes of Skeletor because it hasn’t in these booklets.

So Beast Man and Mer-Man attack He-Man wearing his strength-boosting harness and riding the sled portion of the Battle Ram the Goddess also gave him. Did the thugs only hear half the message? “Attack He-Man? Okay.” “Make sure he doesn’t have….” “Yeah, yeah, sure, attack He-Man. Got it.” Surprisingly they manage to knock him out. I did not see that coming. Points to the morons, I guess. Teela arrives as she was supposed to meet He-Man. Did they have a date? The book doesn’t really say. Mer-Man takes He-Man to the ocean and tosses him in…and then does the stupid villain bit where he walks off without making sure he’s actually dead. I’m taking his points back, especially since the water actually wakes He-Man up. What’s worse, He-Man gets to the surface, only to be attacked by the sea creature on the cover. Stratos, who Skeletor didn’t think about at all, arrives and saves him.

Stratos is really interested in laughing today. Maybe nobody told him he forgot his shirt and he’s wondering what the snickering is about?

The duo meet up with Teela. He-Man stands the Battle Ram on its wheels (or whatever the sled part has) and switches to his force field harness, which as you may recall looks exactly like his strength boosting harness. It must be embarrassing if he grabs the wrong one. “Okay, I didn’t lift that pile of boulders but it isn’t crushing me.” They figure out that the bad guys are headed to Grayskull so they head over there.

At Grayskull, Skeletor is celebrating his victory. (What victory? Mer-Man did the heavy lifting…literally…while Beast Man distracted him. You didn’t do anything.) Then He-Man shows up having the audacity to not be dead. Skeletor orders his minions to attack the heroes and…how is Teela supposed to be this warrior goddess when she keeps needing help from the others? Glad they fixed that in series 2…not counting the one time she needed rescue because she still ended up fighting a demon and winning alongside He-Man. She doesn’t even get that courtesy here. Stratos and He-Man trick Beast Man and Mer-Man (which is rather easy) into blasting each other. And they didn’t even try.

Enraged, Skeletor blasts Mer-Man for doing the larger share of failing, and the blast starts drying him up. He-Man uses the Battle Ram to run over Skeletor and Mer-Man…threatens He-Man. I’m not sure why, but the thought of Mer-Man blasting himself with his own magic seawater-firing mace to re-hydrate himself is rather amusing. I’m also not sure why Skeletor suddenly believes that Mer-Man and Beast Man will attack him but he blasts at them first to make sure they don’t think it. This gives the heroes the idea of using their own blasts against them and sends them running. Then the spirit of the Castle (yes, the Castle could talk when it felt like it…most of the time it doesn’t) tells them that they’re sure to do more evil but that the heroes, which he calls the “masters of the universe”, will surely be able to stop them. That’s interesting. In the original ideas for the Filmation series, the “Masters” were the name the villains called themselves, hence why the show was called He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe while in the 2000s remake He-Man refers to the Heroic Warriors as “Masters Of The Universe” or usually “Masters” for short. I would think that the villains would be more likely to call themselves that, as fits their egos.

He-Man commits vehicular homicide.

And thus we come to the end of the illustrated booklets. They’re okay. They tell the story well enough though the ending felt a bit rushed, like it could have used an extra page. However, it did set up the world the kids would be playing in and set up the early concepts…most of which would fail to become iconic thanks to DC Comics’ concepts and Filmation’s changes being dominant in the multiversal lore. However, the mini-comics were easily the better way to go. On our next trip to Eternia we’ll get back to series 2 and the remaining four comics I have yet to review for Free Comic Inside before changing how I choose a comic.

Speaking of choosing comics, next time it’s time to go back to the not-Transformers from McDonalds that people don’t remember, the Commandrons. Now that I’ve found the origin (although given the actions against the Internet Archive by Chuck Wendig, who seems to be making enemies on all side of the comic culture divide right now, I only hope it’s still there when it’s time for the next installment) it’s time to finally see how four robots decided to work with four kids to battle evil. It’s action, childhood endangerment, and cheap transforming robots. Thanks, Ronald!

About ShadowWing Tronix

A would be comic writer looking to organize his living space as well as his thoughts. So I have a blog for each goal. :)

2 responses »

  1. Sean says:

    These illustrated Masters of the Universe mini-comics really began setting the stage for Masters of the Universe stories. Obviously, many things have changed in the MOTU story line since 1981. So it is very refreshing to reflect back on the “old skool” days of He-Man and friends and foes.

    The He-Man of 1981’s illustrated mini-comics (along with his fellow villagers) does make an appearance in DC’s recent Masters of the Multi-Verse mini-series. Masters of the Multi-Verse definitely spotlighted the multiple story lines that have existed in the MOTU realm for the past 39 years!


  2. Sean says:

    Sorry, I meant to call them by the proper name of mini-booklets. They’re not mini-comics, they’re mini-booklets. When reading my above post, please think “mini-booklets” whenever you see “mini-comics” written there.


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