Oct 10, 2016

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 593: Master of the Universe The Motion Picture #1, 1987

A few weeks back I read through Paul Chadwick's Concrete: Fragile Creature mini-series, in which the title character assists on a film set for Rulers of the Omniverse, a movie based on a children's toy line. I thought it would be amusing, and slightly metatextual, to review the comics adaptation of the movie that Chadwick apes in his story.

I was a huge fan of the Masters of the Universe toy line - my brothers and I had the figures, the castles and playsets, the vehicles. I even collected the comic well after I'd lost interest in the toys and cartoons, and the final couple of issues of the Marvel series, a dystopian possible future story for Eternia, are just excellent. On top of this, I remember fondly the movie coming out, though it only slightly captured the feel and strangeness of the toy. (Also, Courtney Cox, well before Friends, and a little after Misfits of Science, starred, and I've always liked her.)

It's that capturing of the strangeness of the toys that I'd like to focus on. The designs of this comic are much more in line with the toys, cartoons, and comics for MOTU, much more so than the actual movie. Now, partially I'm sure, this is because Dolph Lundgren would have looked ridiculous in He-Man's costume - I'm teaching my students Michael Chabon's "Secret Skin" tomorrow, and in he talks about attempts to realize superhero costumes in our own physical reality, and the failure of such ventures. I think the furry-shorted He-Man might suffer a similar problem. But that the comics adaptation went with the original designs allows it to fit more properly with the stories that were being told in the comics. It's for reasons like this that I continue to wonder where the series would have gone had it been able to continue after the cancellation of the toy line. Today's comic reads much like a finale to the whole He-Man versus Skeletor story, with Skeletor finally victorious, and a few of the last Eternian heroes rallying to defeat him. It's a pity we don't see more of the other heroes, but the three major players are present. The comic also plays down the magical aspect of Eternia significantly, making everything much more science fictional than the source material, and replacing the annoying Orko with the equally annoying Gwildor.

One thing that I find odd is that Beastman, a staple of the toys and cartoons and comics, and one of the more recognizable of the villains, is illustrated in this comic in his film version, rather than his toy version, unlike every other character in the comic. It's an odd choice, especially since Beastman's original clown-meets-bear design is quite strange and intimidating.

So, not a terrible comic, but not a great one. Probably a better story as a comic than it was as a movie, but nostalgia cleanses so many sins from our memories.


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