Well, today’s been…a day I was forced to live. It’s hard to be partial when you’re in a bad mood so we’ll shelve today’s plan for tomorrow. As I’m coming up on the deadline I need to have something to entertain and inform. Luckily I keep a few Filler Videos on hand that doesn’t work as just a quick post.
Masters Of The Universe may be known more as a TV show and some comics but it started as a toyline. This kind of matches up with my defense of cartoons based on/meant to sell toys. The show itself has to be good to sell toys. There’s a reason Star Trek had a ton of toys and Space Rangers didn’t, at least that I’m aware of. Plus the toys outlasted the show. It’s a story about toys for kids based on stories and artwork not for kids, a surprise hit with girls leading to a jealous girls division ruining a good idea, and a franchise that still has fans today.
In the first of a series of videos by Midnight’s Edge, host Andre Einherjar begins his look at the history with the debut of the toyline and minicomics and the debut of a cartoon that opened the door for syndicated animated series apart from the Saturday morning formula.
Catch more from Midnight’s Edge on YouTube
As of this writing the retrospective is only up to the live-action movie, and I’ll be dipping into this when I have need, like today. Hopefully he’ll get to the He-Man toyline and New Adventures show as well as the goal of the Netflix takes on He-Man and She-Ra. However, this site is about my exploration so here’s my thoughts on what was brought up in this video.
Unfortunately the documentary mentioned is on Amazon Prime so also as of this writing I can’t spare the funds (yes, I know it’s like $5 max–I have no income and more important things to spend money on at this time). Here it is if you want to check it out.
Slight correction on the minicomic (well, illustrated booklet if you want to be technical) origin. He-Man did not stumble upon the treasures. He even shows in the video that He-Man rescued the Goddess (which is essentially the Teela figure wearing her snake armor and colored with green skin in these early tales so kids would buy two Teelas to have both characters) and was rewarded with a harness that granted him superstrength and one that made him invulnerable, the latter one being destroyed in a later story. You can see my review of it here. I bring this up because it’s an important factor in this origin. He-Man saved someone, thus proving himself worthy of great gifts and powers, and the Goddess would continue to aid He-Man and friends until the mini-comics were reworked to match the Filmation series. He did so not expecting a reward but because it was the right thing to do, which is a good trait in your hero.
This would continue even during the DC run on the mini-comic side, aka series two and my favorite of the mini-comics as written by Gene Cohn, as no evidence of Prince Adam and Cringer or Marlena’s Earth origins were seen in there. Instead He-Man and Skeletor both had the two halves of the Power Sword that served as the key to Grayskull, which was a play feature of the figures and the playset. I wish I had known that the last time I saw Paul Kupperberg and I hope I can run into him at a convention (if I ever get to go again) to ask him on camera why he added those elements–or possibly why he was told to do it. Either is possible, but while it’s become part of He-Man’s lore and I’ve accepted it if you look back then I don’t see a reason for doing it. Cohn’s take on Eternia and the series one illustrated booklet origin was fine with me. That early Prince Adam was also rough around the edges and tried to add in elements of the previous versions. I reviewed the first issue of the DC newsstand miniseries and hope someday I can get the other two.
I haven’t seen their Conan retrospective, not being a fan of the franchise myself, but there would eventually be a Conan series…in fact three of them. Two were cartoons, the syndicated Conan The Adventurer and the CBS series Conan And The Warriors Three. The two only share Conan’s character model and art style and I think only the former had a toyline. In live-action there was also a syndicated Conan show called…Conan The Adventurer. Way to confuse your audience. I only saw the syndicated cartoon and actually rather enjoyed it.
I don’t understand why it’s wrong to make a show based on an existing toyline but making a toyline based on an existing show is totally okay. Then you have the shows that did both at the same time, with the toyline helping to fund the show. You still need a good story to sell toys no matter which came first so who cares who’s selling what. Nobody complains about all the toys based on Gundam…though I guess it’s okay if you’re selling toys to adults…and that show started out not being a way to push tons of model kits. You’d also be amazed how many “sell toys shows” were shows first and they just got a merchandising deal to fund the show. Yes, even in the 1980s.
I don’t care if pre-Filmation Masters Of The Universe was or wasn’t art. They made a fun set of toys with some good mini-comic stories and the imagination is still there, whether they were cobbled together or original. It’s the end result I care about. I save worrying about art for people who put more stock into the process than the result, which often leads to terrible results and a process that’s only interesting to them rather than good stories and toys that actually make the process interesting to more than just creative types. You have to think about all of it, not just the part that makes you happy. Otherwise you’ll be the only one happy with the results.
If you don’t want to wait for me to have another off day and a looming deadline, head to Midnight’s Edge for the next parts. I will get to them eventually here with my own thoughts though.