Minicomic Monday > #1: He-Man and the Power Sword

Welcome to a new feature here on PGPoA. For the foreseeable future (or until I run out of minicomics), I’ll be reviewing classic Masters of the Universe minicomics from the 1980s and beyond. As fans know, these comics were included with the action figures back in the old days. Some were great, some not-so-great, and some were downright dreadful.

We begin with the very first minicomic, “He-Man and the Power Sword.”

He-Man and the Power Sword
Writer: Donald F. Glut
Illustrator: Alfredo Alcala

Read the entire comic here.

The earliest minicomics present a very different Eternia than most fans may be familiar with. Several of them were written before Mattel had even finished designing the original toys. They present a starkly different Eternia than the Filmation milieu (which would eventually become the basis of the later minicomics).

This comic was written by Don Glut, who also wrote the novelization of The Empire Strikes Back and a slew of other books and comics. The art is by Filipino comic artist Alfredo Alcala, a favorite of many MOTU fans, who made his name drawing the Viking-themed comic Voltar in the ’60s.

But let’s get to the story, shall we?

This comic opens with He-Man as a member of a tribe of jungle warriors. Stating that “Evil forces exist on our planet Eternia” that “seek to control the legendary Castle Grayskull,” He-Man leaves his people to fight the good fight. Exactly how He-Man knows this is unclear but I suppose the idea was to get right into the action.

He-Man don’t care.

Which we do! He-Man immediately runs into the Goddess (later known as the Sorceress) being mauled by a giant purple dinosaur-sloth-whatsit. He-Man just steps up and breaks its jaw, Kong-style.

“Hmmm. What the hell are ‘Scientists’? Blacksmiths from the mysterious realm of Scient, I’d imagine.”

The comic skips over the two weeks of intense Sky Sled driving instruction (the first week consists primarily of He-Man screaming in mortal terror, having never even seen so much as a wagon during his time in the jungle).

This cliff wall joins the nation’s punched.

We catch up with He-Man as he comes upon a valley and starts punching the rock wall to carve out his new home BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT YOU DO, once again proving there is no problem, not even building a new home, that cannot be solved by punching. It should be pointed out that the comic specifies that his strength comes from his vest.

Meanwhile…

Next, Skeletor is run over by Lorraine Baines’s dad and has to go to the Enchantment Under the Sea dance.

Skeletor defeats Teela, but only after she nearly slices Beast Man’s face off. They take her to Castle Grayskull, where “an eerie voice” warns them, “Go back! The secrets and treasures of Grayskull are for no one to possess! Go away…” Kinda halfhearted, really, which may explain why Skeletor is able to force open the jaw-bridge like it’s nothing, which is amusing considering how much damned trouble he’ll have with it in the future.

Skeletor exults in entering Grayskull, taunting the Spirit of the Castle. Then we get this insanity:

“I mean, I assume the Power Sword can do that. Right?”

This is the first and only time we ever hear of Skeletor coming from a race of “his kind.” An interesting idea, but even if it were true, would they really all look exactly like him? Or is that supposed to be some sort of time-lapse image of Skeletor going through the portal?

Skeletor and Beast Man go looking for the Power Sword. Meanwhile, He-Man’s just putting the finishing touches on his home when Man-At-Arms rolls up:

OK, so not only does Jungle Lord He-Man know who Man-At-Arms is, but he’s so familiar with him he’s already developed some sort of sarcastic antagonism toward him? And once again, we learn that Man-At-Arms comes from a race of people like him, since no one in Eternia is unique, I guess. Point me to the race of Teelas, please – wowza!

Man-At-Arms offers to help He-Man fight Skeletor, but He-Man laughs disdainfully at Man-At-Arms’s “wheels” and immediately teleports away in the Sky Sled (because…they can do that?).

Back at Castle Grayskull, Skeletor and He-Man have been hopelessly trying to break their way into some chamber or other that I guess has the other half of the Power Sword or whatever.

He-Man teleports in a few hundred feet away from the castle, which affords Beast Man the opportunity to blast the living shit out of him. This would be remembered as the last time Beast Man did anything of note.

While He-Man is getting his butt handed to him by Beast Man (Beast Man!), Skeletor scores the Power Sword. Man-At-Arms shows up in his creaky old-fashioned wheeled vehicle and saves He-Man at the last minute with a laser strike that looks like it obliterates Beast Man entirely.

Skeletor finally faces off with He-Man and draws upon the immense magical energies of the Power Sword to…toss some weapons at him. Not, like, blast him into oblivion or anything. This time-wasting attack allows the Sorceress to get the jump on Skeletor, swiping the Power Sword and leaving Skeletor to the not-so-tender mercies of PUNCHING.

Not being fools, Skeletor and Beast Man run off into the distance like Looney Tunes bad guys while He-Man, Man-At-Arms and an awake Teela look on. The Sorceress decides to hide the sword halves in secret places, which seems like something she should have done in the first place but what do I know.

On the last page, the Spirit of Grayskull notes, “You truly are the ‘Masters of the Universe,'” proving that the whole good-guys-as-Masters thing wasn’t an invention of the Millennium cartoon, but goes all the way back to the beginning. I still hate it.

While the story is wafer-thin and the dialogue awful, “He-Man and the Power Sword” is still one of the more fun minicomics. I find the version of Eternia it sets up more interesting than that of Filmation, though He-Man’s jungle-man origin is weak. And of course, it’s really more of a storybook than a comic – we won’t have traditional panel-by-panel comics until the second series.

I don’t know whether Alcala considered these comics as serious projects or not. But while some of the pages, especially any involving Skeletor, are very well done, other pages look rushed.

Things of note in this minicomic:

  • He-Man gets his strength from his vest, plus it generates a force field
  • The Sky Sled can teleport
  • The Spirit of Grayskull is rather chatty
  • Skeletor needs to think bigger next time he gets his hands on the Power Sword
  • Man-At-Arms doesn’t get sarcasm
  • Skeletor and Beast Man are peeping toms
11100

 

Comments now closed (21)

  • I definitely am intrigued by the idea of a whole race of Skeletors. I like the Keldor origin so much more, but it is kind of weird to think of a whole army of Skeletor-like people waiting to invade Eternia. I really do think that is what is being depicted instead of a time-lapse image of Skeletor alone walking through the portal.

    Gotta love the punching power of He-man. Love it. I'm just in awe over the idea of He-Man carving himself a home with his bare fists. I wonder what intention was for the Power Vest? Does it create a forcefield around He-Man's whole body allowing him to do this? Interesting that rarely has the Power/Techno vest ever been explored in more depth.

  • PS: I have a rather extensive collection of minicomics, so if you run out and want/need the hardcopies, just let me know so I can send & lend.

  • great stuff man. say what you will about the paper thin plot, they worked great for a young dayraven, who used the enormous plot holes as spaces into which he could rigorously inject his own stories.

    • Well said, DayRaven, and you're in good company; here's what Pulitzer-winner (and badass geek) Michael Chabon had to say about the Planet of the Apes TV show of the '70s:

      “There’s no doubt that the Planet of the Apes TV show was crap. Yes, the makeup was decent for its time, and the shows tried, in the dutiful manner of early seventies post-Star Trek, pre-Star Wars, TV SF to address weighty issues … But it remained a knockoff of a knockoff, the sequels to sequels, worked up by veteran TV hacks to fill up the spaces between Parkay margarine ads. What’s more, it was crap that flopped, canceled after only three months.

      But it had, crucially to my theory of what makes great mass art, the powerful quality of being open-ended, vague at its borders. In its very incompleteness, born of lack of budget, the loose picaresque structure, even its cancellation . . . it hinted at things beyond its own borders. There was room for you and your imagination in the narrative map of the show.”

  • Poe: You can have the Teelas; just point me to the She-ra Tribe (which I guess would be part of the He-man tribe…).

  • "…punching the rock wall to carve out his new home BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT YOU DO…"

    Well, yes. I mean…wait, are you saying you wouldn't? Huh. How…novel.

  • Well done. It's nice to read you having a little good-natured fun with/at MOTU.

    And He-Man (is that who Ooh-Lar is supposed to be, I forget?) was a real prick in this. Toyguru gets a ton of flack for putting himself into teh lien, but I just now reread a bit of Sweet's book on his concept of He-Man (see the chapter "I Wish I Could Be a He-Man") and it seems to me that this version of the character reflects a ton of Sweet's concepts in him. Much more of the swinging gonads alpha male jock-wannabe that Roger made himself out to be than the saccharine self-righteous grinner who roamed Filmation.

    Take that famous trope of the skinny everyman on the beach with his best girl when the bully shows up to taunt him and kick sand at his face. The Sweet-He-man seems more likely to cripple the sand kicker, and Scheimer's probably wouldn't impart a single bench press tip but encourage the victim to feel comfortable in his pasty skin. And meanwhile neither really solves the problem.

    I have a construction of He-man in my head that I built from many years of playing with the toys, reading the comics, and watching the cartoon, and it's striking to me how little he looks like any of the individual source materials. Am I alone?

    • "The Sweet-He-man seems more likely to cripple the sand kicker…"

      …not seeing the problem…? 😉

  • Let's not forget that Don Glut also wrote soft-core porn screenplays! Let's not forget.

  • Great idea for a series, Poe.

    This comic was influential on me as well. I was there from the start of MOTU. I had this comic, and I read it until the pages disintegrated. Like DR said, it gives you just enough information without being too detailed. A race of Skeletors? A guy strong enough to break rock his his PUNCHES? How could we not be interested in the line after this comic? It's a world completely unlike ours.

    • "It's a world completely unlike ours."

      Yeah. The last time I tried to build something by punching a rock wall it didn't work all that well.

  • Pingback Spotted Online – Poe Ghostal’s “Minicomic Monday” | BattleGrip

  • Pingback Spotted Online – Dragon Blaster Skeletor Review at It’s All True | BattleGrip

IntenseDebate supports the following HTML tags: <a> <b> <i> <u> <em> <p> <blockquote> <br> <strong> <strike> <img>