He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe has had three very different cartoon series since the characters’ launch in the 1980’s. None have been quite as successful as the original, but one of the follow-ups, I believe, was better. Either way, the people of Eternia have a popularity that just won’t die. There was a Masters of the Universe big budget movie in the 80’s, which unfortunately steered too far from the story. The 80’s also saw a spinoff starring He-Man’s twin sister, She-Ra. Her series was recently rebooted in 2018 and is still going on Netflix. He-Man has another movie coming next year supposedly, which if done correctly, I am very excited to see.
He-Man started out as a toy. The toy makers had all sorts of Conan-esque stories in their heads while creating the Masters of the Universe toy line. Mattel wanted to get those stories out to the public in some way so that kids would know who was who and why they should like the characters enough to buy the toys. So, the creative toy makers made small comic books to package with the action figures. This toy line led to a huge success, one of the most successful lines of toys throughout the 80s or since. Naturally, that popularity led to a cartoon.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983-1985)
The first, and most enduring, cartoon of the franchise ran for just two years and 130 episodes, but it was a series that it seemed nearly everyone in the 80s watched in the afternoons after school. Surely, then, everyone is familiar with the story. Set in a world of swords and sorcery, a young prince attains a sword of power that lets him transform into the extremely powerful He-Man so that he can protect Castle Grayskull and all of Eternia from Skeletor and his evil forces. Skeletor is, of course, one of the most iconic animated villains of all time. Alan Oppenheimer’s voice is somehow simultaneously menacing and creepy while also whiny. It was amazing.
It was a great concept and, for the time, a fantastic show. However, the animation is dated, and the dialogue is often very cheesy. Additionally, unlike the newer, updated version in 2002, the story lines weren’t very deep. Apparently, the 80’s didn’t give kids enough credit to comprehend, and keep up with, complex plots.
The New Adventures of He-Man (1990-1991)
Set 10,000 years in the future and in space, this was a much different version of the He-Man everyone was familiar with. Surely this led to the show’s failure. I’m not sure why you’d revamp a story about barbarian-like people and put them in a futuristic space setting. However, it ran for 65 episodes since it still appeared daily.
Masters of the Universe (2002-2004)
This is such an underrated series. It’s a great cartoon in general and, personally, I believe it’s the best He-Man cartoon ever. First, it stayed true to the original concept. That was an iconic series after all, so the premise shouldn’t be altered. Thankfully, this series understood that. All the characters everyone was already familiar with appear in the way they should. However, this show takes those characters and expands on them to make them more three dimensional.
Rather than He-Man versus Skeletor, this series expanded the world of Eternia also. Strathos had his own kingdom as did Buzz-off. In season 2, the snake men appeared. The different factions led to a fuller world, a richer story. It wasn’t such a single story where Skeletor was the omnipresent villain. It made for better, well-written storylines. The animation is a bit darker than the original and, therefore, more suited to the sword and sorcery fantasy genre.
Additionally, some elements of the original that didn’t make sense were improved. In the original, for example, Adam “transforms” into He-Man when he speaks those immortal words, “I have the power!” Only, Adam and He-Man look exactly alike. Yet, no one could figure out he was the same guy. Weird. All he did was change clothes. That’s not even as much of a disguise as Clark Kent. At least he puts on glasses and moves his curl the other direction. The new show addressed that gaffe by making Adam younger and smaller than He-Man. So, when he transforms, he actually does appear different.
Unfortunately, this series ran weekly on Cartoon Network, not daily. Therefore, it didn’t amass episodes quickly like the other series did. So, this excellent show only has 39 episodes.
With a new movie about He-Man coming soon and a current cartoon about She-Ra, can a new Masters of the Universe cartoon be far behind? Let’s hope not. Until then, do yourself a favor and search YouTube for He-Man singing the song, “What’s Going On”. You’re welcome.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Which Series Should Rule Eternia?
- Writing - 8/108/10
- Storyline - 8/108/10
- Acting - 8/108/10
- Music - 8/108/10
- Production - 8/108/10
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