Showing posts with label He-Man. Show all posts
Showing posts with label He-Man. Show all posts

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Hoo-Ra for Girl Power!

As Filmation wound down its He-Man and the Masters of the Universe series, a ‘back door’ had magically opened up for the hulky hero’s long-lost twin. Now the torch could be ably carried on with She-Ra: Princess of Power and by 1985, sisters were doin’ it for themselves.

Not a completely sloppy imitation, She-Ra had a style and appeal that was all herself, rather than a Xerox copy of her famous brother wearing a pink bow. She lived in another universe on a unique planet of her own, albeit one decidedly more pink and lavender!

Created by Larry DiTillio and J. Michael Straczynski, the spin-off followed the previous winning formula and introduced new characters and premises clearly modeled on the first series. Mattel Inc. similarly went to work on expanding and marketing this new world aimed at a juvenile female demographic.

On an Oz-like planet called Etheria, Princess Adora wields her ‘Sword of Protection’ to defend her people from a ruler named Hordak; a male villain, interestingly. She transforms as needed into the invincible She-Ra while leading a ‘Great Rebellion’ against evil forces known collectively as the ‘Evil Horde.’

Lasting only two modest seasons, She-Ra perhaps relied too heavily on its parent series, only partially reaching its intended target in the end. Its overall scenarios and characterizations seemed to center between powerful and mystical statuesque women with muscular thighs and absurdly infantile cartoon creatures such as ‘Twiggets’, ‘Bee People’ and even a walking, speaking broomstick with a ridiculous face on it called (wait for it...) “Broom.”

So perhaps originality wasn’t She-Ra’s most prominent asset. The short-lived He-Man companion piece served its purpose nonetheless, filling a missing piece in the Filmation world’s puzzle while simultaneously proving that cartoons could balance out any inherent gender disparities with considerable style. In our own world we often dream of a day when pigs fly and talking rainbow-striped unicorns roam the land. For She-Ra and her princesses of power, that was just a typical walk in the park. Powerful, indeed.

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Christopher Robinson, Writer Extraordinaire (image)
Christopher Robinson, Writer Extraordinaire 

Sunday, October 3, 2021

He Da Man!

Hot on the heels of Thundarr the Barbarian, He-Man emerged
in the early 1980s as a comic series and line of action figures from Mattel, Inc. Eventually burgeoning into a long-running franchise including various films, series, books and video games, it is nonetheless remembered chiefly by those between the ages of 40 and 60 by the Filmation series He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, running from ‘83-‘85.

On a colorful and amorphous Star Trek-like planet named Eternia which uncannily resembles Earth from space, a struggle for power continually rages between Castle Grayskull, a benevolent kingdom of noble warriors and the dark and ominous inhabitants of Snake Mountain ruled by its ever-evil emperor Skeletor and an obsequious slew of grotesque and unique monsters consistently at his employ.

Skeletor’s formidable forces would easily overtake Grayskull were it not for a highly secret weapon in the form of the royal couples’ son Prince Adam. A seemingly lazy and mild-mannered ‘Clark Kent’ type, Prince Adam owns a ‘secret sword’ much like Thundarr and, with it, transforms as needed into He-Man, the strongest man in Eternia. With a magical lightning-like force, he then acquires his supernatural strength in addition to fur briefs, a bronze tan and a darker shade of blonde hair!

The prince’s timid pet tiger gets a makeover as well, morphing from “Cringer” to the mighty “Battle Cat.” Despite the explosive public scene that is created each time he becomes He-Man, Prince Adam’s secret is held only by the Heroic Master of Weapons- Man-At-Arms or “Duncan” to the King, the Sorceress, a ‘good witch’ much like Thundarr’s Princess Ariel and Orko, a ‘friendly ghost’ of indecipherable species who floats around attempting magic tricks and providing unnecessary comic relief.

Backing up both teams of this juvenile Armageddon are a roster of two-dimensional characters with names like Ram-Man, Beast Man, Mer-Man and Trap Jaw. Perhaps a self-fulfilling prophecy, the series that was born out of a lucrative toy line was clearly introducing characters for the sole purpose of selling new action figures.

At each 30-minute episode’s conclusion, He-Man could be expected to restore order to the universe and keep the meanies away long enough to begin the absurd process all over again the following week. To cap it all off, a postscript was presented by one of “our friends” who would summarize the story and explain its ‘lesson.’ These lessons ranged anywhere from setting good examples and learning from mistakes to remembering to brush your teeth!

Though, as a kid, I had collected countless figures of the original two Star Wars films, I considered myself too old for those of the muscle-bound homoerotic He-Man line. That didn’t stop friends and I from enjoying the show, however, as it presented us with amusing characters, entertaining stories, a rocking theme song and even some unintended humor.

“The lost diamond of disappearance! He found it!”

Now co-existing as an obligatory CGI reboot for contemporary audiences and a nostalgic memory for many others, He-Man epitomized a classic trope, however fantastically campy it may have come across, then or now. The clashes of good and evil are every bit as relevant today as they were in 1983. Only, where is our He-Man? If true change comes from within, then perhaps we can all raise our swords of power and someday say:

“By the power of Grayskull... I... HAVE... THE POWER!!!"

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