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.”
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.
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.
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).
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.
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:
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