|Masters of the Universe character|
Prince Adam, from the Filmation cartoon.
|Nickname(s)||The Most Powerful Man in the Universe|
|Family||King Miro (grandfather)
King Randor (father)
Queen Marlena (mother)
Princess Adora/She-Ra (twin sister)
He-Man is the principal character of a series of comic books and several animated television series, characterized by his superhuman strength. In most variations, he is the alter ego of Prince Adam. He-Man and his friends attempt to defend the realm of Eternia and the secrets of Castle Grayskull from the forces of Skeletor.
- 1 Origin
- 2 Appearances in media
- 3 Actors playing He-Man
- 4 Powers and abilities
- 5 Influence
- 6 Academic analysis
- 7 References
- 8 External links
In 1976, Mattel's CEO Ray Wagner declined a deal to produce a toyline of action figures based on the characters from the George Lucas film Star Wars, due to the $750,000 license required upfront. Following the commercial success of the film trilogy and its related merchandise during the next few years, Mattel launched several successful toylines which captured the public's imagination, or significantly influenced the toy market.
In the race to design the next hit action figure, Roger Sweet (a lead designer working for Mattel's Preliminary Design Department during much of the 1970s and 1980s) realized that simplicity was the key to success. According to his 2005 book Mastering the Universe: He-Man and the Rise and Fall of a Billion-Dollar Idea, Sweet knew that if he gave marketing something it could sell, he had won 90 percent of the battle.
The only way I was going to have a chance to sell this [to Wagner] was to make three 3D models - big ones. I glued a Big Jim figure [from another Mattel toy line] into a battle action pose and I added a lot of clay to his body. I then had plaster casts made. These three prototypes, which I presented in late 1980, brought He-Man into existence. I simply explained that this was a powerful figure that could be taken anywhere and dropped into any context because he had a generic name: He-Man!"——Roger Sweet
During the 1980s, rumors claimed that Conan the Barbarian was a source of inspiration for the He-Man character. According to this rumor, Mattel had a licensing agreement to make the Conan action figures associated with the 1982 film of the same name starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Apparently, such an idea had to be modified in order to avoid objections from parents concerned that a toyline for children was promoting a film containing nudity and violence.
Sweet refuted the rumor, saying that he conceptualized and developed the He-Man/Masters of the Universe franchise in late 1980 (two years before the release of the Universal Pictures film). The toyline existed prior to the movie, beginning production in 1981 and marketing in 1982. At that time, Mattel did not have a license with Universal to make toys for the film, which resulted in Conan Properties International suing Mattel over copyright infringement, due to He-Man's similarities to Conan.
From the lawsuit of CPI vs. Mattel:
In 1980, CPI, through its agent, Conan Licensing Company ("CLC"), began negotiations with Mattel regarding the possible licensing to Mattel of certain toy rights in CONAN. During this time, Mattel received a substantial quantity of material on the CONAN character. On July 31, 1981, CPI and Mattel executed a License Agreement whereby Mattel was granted "the right to make and sell certain plastic action figures of CONAN and ancillary characters as depicted in the CONAN movie." Amended Complaint, para. 12. The Agreement provided, however, "that nothing in the License should be construed as an assignment or grant to Mattel of any right, title or interest in or to CONAN, and that all rights relating thereto were reserved by CPI (except only for the licensee to use the property as specifically agreed to)." Amended Complaint, para. 14. It was also agreed that, after the termination of the License Agreement, Mattel would not make or sell any CONAN toys.
In January 1982, Mattel requested that the License Agreement be terminated. On April 14, 1982, CPI and Mattel entered into a termination agreement which provided that "all materials created and or developed by Mattel for use in connection with products under the CONAN License" would be delivered to CPI's agent, CPC, which would have "the exclusive right to use such material." Amended Complaint, para. 17.
In February 1983, Mattel introduced "He-Man,"a fantasy character as part of its new "Masters of the Universe" toy line of action figures. Since that time, Mattel has also featured He-Man and the other Masters of the Universe characters in, inter alia, a television series, comic books, and video tapes. Thereafter, CPI commenced this action asserting that these figures are copies of CONAN, were created under the License, and are CPI's property. Amended Complaint, paras. 20, 21.
Mattel won the lawsuit against Conan Properties, retaining the rights over He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.
Originally, He-Man was presented to Mattel executives not as drawings and wax models, but in the form of the He-Man Trio: three three-dimensional prototype models depicting He-Man as a barbarian, a soldier and a spaceman. Out of the three concepts, the barbarian version was chosen to be the basis of the toyline. Considering that the Conan character was created almost 50 years before the development of the He-Man franchise, it is possible that the Masters of the Universe borrowed many aspects from Conan; however, it was not intended to be a toyline for the film after legal agreements were dissolved. Additionally, Roger Sweet has claimed also to have been "real impressed" by the paintings of fantasy artist Frank Frazetta when creating He-Man. Expanding further on the barbarian theme, Mattel hired comic-book writers and artists such as Donald F. Glut and even Earl Norem and Alfredo Alcala (who both were still working on Savage Sword of Conan comics since the mid 70's) to create additional characters (and their back stories), posters, package inlays, box art and mini-comics for distribution with the action figures.
Of the three original He-Man Trio prototype models, the barbarian themed He-Man was black haired with a deeply tanned eastern European or Middle Eastern appearance. His helmet had no horns. Later, at the direction of Tom Kalinske, then in Mattel's upper management, He-Man was made more clean-cut and changed to a blond... Plus, He-Man's skin was lightened, though definitely still tanned.
Appearances in media
In the illustrated books released with the first series of toys, He-Man was a barbarian from an Eternian tribe. The planet's inhabitants were dealing with the aftermath of the Great Wars, which devastated the civilizations which once ruled supreme. The wars left behind advanced machinery and weaponry, known only to select people. An early incarnation of the Sorceress of Castle Grayskull gave He-Man some of these weapons, and he set out to defend the secrets of Castle Grayskull from the evil Skeletor.
He-Man possessed one-half of the Power Sword; Skeletor had the second half, and used it as his main weapon. When joined, the two halves of the Power Sword will provide the key to Castle Grayskull (this is why the two figures' swords could combine into one, when the action figures were initially released). In one early illustrated story, He-Man and Skeletor united their two Power Sword halves to form the true Power Sword, defeating a common enemy.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983)
By the time the animated series was developed, He-Man's origins had been revised: his true identity was Prince Adam of Eternia, son of King Randor and Queen Marlena (an earthling), who ruled the Kingdom of Eternia on the planet of the same name. The Sorceress of Castle Grayskull endowed Prince Adam with the power to transform into He-Man, which Adam did by raising his Power Sword and proclaiming, "By the power of Grayskull..." Once the transformation was complete, he continued "...I have the power!". He also is able to return to his former form by saying, "Let the power return." This is seen in the episode 110, "The Problem With Power". The differences from Prince Adam and He-Man were minimal; He-Man had a slightly deeper voice, a different wardrobe (soldier armor and boots), and slightly darker skin and hair.
Prince Adam's pet was a cowardly green tiger named Cringer. When Adam became He-Man, he transformed Cringer into a brave armored green tiger named Battle Cat by pointing his sword at him – an ability Adam discovered accidentally the first time he turned into He-Man. Cringer, naturally, cowered in fear at seeing what Adam had become; while reassuring him that nothing had really changed, Adam pointed the sword of power at Cringer, which sent a bolt of energy toward the tiger and transformed him. Battle Cat served as He-Man's steed and fierce fighting companion ever since. Cringer's name is thought to have come from the cat's cowardly nature.
Adam was friendly with the beautiful, strong-willed Teela, who (unbeknownst to her) was the daughter of the Sorceress. Teela was adopted by Prince Adam's mentor, Man-At-Arms (whose proper name was Duncan). Adam and Teela grew up together and now, as Captain of the Guard, she was entrusted to protect the prince. Unaware of his alternate identity as He-Man, she saw Adam as lazy and cowardly.
Man-At-Arms was He-Man's closest companion and the Eternian royal family's innovator of technology and weapons. In many episodes, Man-At-Arms unveiled new and fantastic weapons or devices which helped He-Man and his friends. Castle Grayskull was the source of He-Man's powers. Inside the Castle lived the Sorceress, who granted Prince Adam his transformative abilities and communicates telepathically with He-Man. To protect his family He-Man kept his double identity a secret, sharing it only with Orko, Man-At-Arms, Cringer/Battle Cat and the Sorceress.
The spin-off cartoon series She-Ra: Princess of Power later revealed that Adam had a twin sister: Princess Adora, a leader in the Great Rebellion against Hordak on the planet Etheria. Adora, like Adam, was given the gift of the power of Grayskull and had her own sword which she used to transform into She-Ra, Princess of Power. He-Man made a number of appearances in the She-Ra: Princess of Power television series.
He-Man's archenemy was Skeletor, a blue-skinned sorcerer with a yellow skull for a head (concealed with a cowl). He was skilled in black magic and all forms of combat. He is also proven to be extremely cunning and intelligent. Though his origin was mysterious, and the cartoon described him only as a "demon from another dimension", a tie-in comic implied that Skeletor's true identity was Prince Keldor (older brother of King Randor), thus making him He-Man's uncle. It was revealed in the animated motion picture He-Man and She-Ra: The Secret of the Sword that Skeletor was Hordak's right-hand man until his capture (Hordak referred to Skeletor as "my old pupil" and Skeletor's throne-room in Snake Mountain as "my old throne-room" – to which Skeletor retorts, "my throne-room now") and (supposed) release. Skeletor was accompanied by a group of henchmen who aid with his evil schemes.
Masters of the Universe (1987 film)
In 1987 Cannon Films produced a live-action film directed by Gary Goddard, Masters of the Universe, which featured Dolph Lundgren in the role of He-Man; it was a commercial failure. In this film Prince Adam was not seen at all; only He-Man was shown. This He-Man was much more aggressive than his 1980s TV-series counterpart, attacking with lasers, his sword and bare fists several times throughout the film. The film ended with a spectacular and violent clash with Skeletor, in which Skeletor was flung deep beneath Castle Grayskull into a pit filled with steaming liquid. The film ended with a post-credit scene in which Skeletor emerged from the liquid and proclaimed, "I'll be back!".
The New Adventures of He-Man (1990)
After the end of the Masters of the Universe toy line Mattel attempted to revive interest in He-Man by producing a new toy line, entitled He-Man. The accompanying storyline in the mini-comics packaged with the figures explained that He-Man had left Eternia and pursued Skeletor into the depths of space, where Skeletor had set his sights on conquering the distant world of Primus (a planet with great technological resources). He-Man was shown to have relinquished the identity of Prince Adam altogether, basing himself on Primus where he led a team of defenders known as the Galactic Guardians. He-Man's appearance was retooled for the new toy line, with a space helmet and golden armor added to his attire to give him a more futuristic appearance; his sword was also redesigned.
In the insert comics issued early in the toy line's run, Prince Adam begins to transform – only to be grabbed by Skeletor, who was astonished to see that Prince Adam was casting some kind of strange spell (not realizing he was about to transform into He-Man). Still holding onto Adam, Skeletor was caught in a backwash of power as the comic proclaimed "Prince Adam is no more. Long Live He-Man!" Therefore, He-Man was responsible for the cybernetic breastplate on Skeletor's figurine.
A cartoon series was produced by Jetlag Productions to accompany the toy line, entitled The New Adventures of He-Man. Although generally following the story line from the mini-comics (with certain deviations, such as Skeletor's already having the cybernetic breastplate and never discovering that Prince Adam and He-Man were the same person), this series maintained the double identity of Prince Adam and He-Man. On the planet Primus, Prince Adam posed as a traveling merchant and the nephew of Master Sebrian to disguise his secret identity. His transformation oath was altered slightly, to become "By the power of Eternia...".
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002)
To tie in with a new line of action figures based upon the original toy line, a new He-Man cartoon series was produced in 2002-03 by Mike Young Productions again entitled He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. This series retold the Masters of the Universe story from the beginning. He-Man's origin was told in a 90-minute series premiere, in which the 16-year-old Prince Adam was summoned to Castle Grayskull by the Sorceress to assume the identity of He-Man and his role as Eternia's defender. The portrayal of his character in this series was consistent with Filmation's portrayal, although the character of Prince Adam was brasher and more youthfully energetic than his 1980s counterpart (conveying the image of a teenage boy saddled with the responsibility of defending a planet from evil). The Adam/He-Man character was redesigned, to make the character's secret identity more credible. The Third-season episode "The Power of Grayskull" revealed Adam/He-Man as a descendant of King Grayskull (a powerful barbarian hero from Eternia's ancient past), who sacrificed his life to save Eternia from the Evil Horde and originally wielded the Sword of Power. He was the original owner of Castle Grayskull; his sword was concealed in the castle for centuries before being given to Prince Adam, who inherited his ancestor's own power channeled through the sword (thus giving added meaning to the phrase "By the power of Grayskull...").
Masters of the Universe Classics (2008)
This action-figure line combined elements from the He-Man universe into a cohesive storyline with biographies on the figures' packaging. These biographies suggested that several "He-Men" have come into existence – such as Vikor (based on an early concept design for the vintage He-Man), Oo-Larr (based on the jungle He-Man from the first minicomic), and Wun-Dar (based on the so-called "Wonder Bread" He-Man figure) – but Prince Adam was the only one who actually wielded the Power Sword and transformed into the true He-Man.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2012)
The series starts out with Adam as a woodcutter who has been having strange dreams lately that involved a powerful warrior fighting evil across the land. Adam spends his days cutting wood and caring for his ailing father Fedor. Fedor seems to believe that he once lived in a castle, and when Adam tries to recall what their lives were really like, he can't. He shrugs the troubling feeling off, and returns to his work. For the last few days, Adam has had encounters with a colorful falcon which he names Zoar and would often share some of his meat with it. Following his latest dream, Adam has a kind woman look over Fedor while he heads out to find the answers to his dreams. Not long after his journey, he encounters a hairy monster named Beast Man who somehow knows his name. Adam manages to find a way to fend off Beast Man. After defeating Beast Man, Adam encounters Zoar again and then continues on with his journey still wondering how Beast Man knows his name. Beast Man reports back to Skeletor who has Beast Man spread the word that Adam must be prevented from learning who he really is at all costs.
Beast Man meets with Skeletor at Castle Grayskull where Skeletor is disappointed that Beast Man failed yet discovered that Adam is not without skill. Their attempt to wipe his memory completely failed to erase his instinctive understanding of battle. Skeletor shows Beast Man mercy, but warns that his troublesome nephew must die....if he doesn't stay within the boundaries. Meanwhile, Adam has traveled into the desert with Zoar as his guide. While crossing the desert, Adam is attacked by a gang of riders and is brought before their leader Trap Jaw who had been ordered to capture Adam on Skeletor's orders. Trap Jaw has Adam jailed with the promise that he will have a chance to petition his life on the next day. Later that night, a woman comes to Adam's cell to give water to him on Trap Jaw's orders. Adam quickly deduces that she doesn't work for Trap Jaw and asks for her name. The woman introduces herself as Teela and is hauled away by the suspicious guards before she can say anything else. When morning comes, Trap Jaw tells Adam that he must choose a person whom he will petition for his freedom. If he fails, he must fight to the death.
If he survives, he can petition again until either the petition is granted, he dies in battle, or all the petitioned people are dead. None of Trap Jaw's men would accept the petition and Adam is thrust into a one-against-many battle for his life. Grabbing a sword, Adam fights his way through the combatants in order to get away. Trap Jaw enters the battle planning to finish off Adam himself. During the battle, the ground shakes upon the approach of stampeding creatures. At the head of the charge is Teela, who apparently caused the distraction in order to save Adam's life. Trap Jaw and his men are trampled as the pair escape. When Adam is surprised that Teela knows his name, she doesn't know where she heard his name from. During their talk, Teela mentions that Zoar is not actually a real bird.
At a port town near Sand's End, Adam and Teela are forced to sell their Cyber-Camels and pledged themselves to working off the rest of their fares in exchange for passage on a ship. Teela tells Adam that she is certain that they are under some sort of curse that causes them to forget their past lives. Her evidence is that Zoar is not a real bird but a magical construct created by some sorcerer in order to guide both of them to their destiny. Meanwhile at Castle Grayskull, Skeletor mused at how he had previously worked so hard to capture Adam's sword thinking that it was the source of He-Man's power. Skeletor now knows that the sword is merely a conduit to the powers of Castle Grayskull. His dinner guest is a catatonic Sorceress of Castle Grayskull as he tries to get her to give him the knowledge of accessing the powers of Castle Grayskull. While on a ship, Adam and Teela do some sparring with Teela recurringly besting him and doesn't know where her abilities come from. The captain of the ship sees Teela's prowess and suggests to Teela that she use her abilities to help fight the sea monsters that have been following them.
The captain tells Adam and Teela that the sea monsters belong to Mer-Man who believes that he owns the ocean. Just then, a tentacle emerges from the waters and hits the deck as Mer-Man is seen riding the sea monster. Mer-Man refers to Adam as "Prince" Adam which surprises both Adam and Teela. Mer-Man claims to have met them both many times, but introduces himself nonetheless. He has been tasked by Skeletor with killing Prince Adam and he intends to do so. Teela is grabbed by one of the tentacles of the sea monster as Adam saves her by chopping through it. In response, the sea monster throws Teela into the ocean leaving Adam to fight Mer-Man to no avail. When Mer-Man prepares to crush Adam with a rock, Teela reboards the ship and stabs Mer-Man. This doesn't kill Mer-Man as he escapes while the ship sinks. When Adam and Teela are swallowed by the waves, Mer-Man believes that his work is done. It turns out that Adam and Teela survived and are clinging onto some of the ship's debris.
While marooned at sea, Teela and Adam have an argument where while Adam doesn't know that he was a prince, Teela doesn't even know her past. After Zoar brings them a coconut, Adam and Teela realize that there is an island nearby and fashion some oars to take them there. Upon arrival on the island, they are attacked by a group of warriors led by Man-At-Arms. After Adam and Teela are knocked out, Man-At-Arms finds Teela looking familiar to him and defends her from the other warriors' comments. Upon being brought to the queen of the warriors, some of Adam's memories surface as he somehow knows that the queen is named Evil-Lyn and that Teela swears that Man-At-Arms is her father. Evil-Lyn plans to sacrifice Adam and Teela to the Cauldron of Doom tomorrow morning. At Castle Grayskull, Skeletor is getting annoyed at the fact that none of his allies have successfully killed Adam. He can't leave Castle Grayskull to do the job himself or else he won't get back in. Even with all the torture he has caused the Sorceress of the castle, he worries that she is the key to unlocking the castle's power. Later that night, Man-At-Arms has some trouble sleeping and decides to visit the prisoners. He visits Teela's cell and wants to know why her appearance has been in his dreams.
All she can think to do is to ask him whether he is her father. Man-At-Arms then looks at Teela, says nothing, and then returns to his home. The fact that Man-At-Arms also appears to have suffered some kind of memory loss in connection with them suggests that someone manipulated them into coming there. The next day, Adam and Teela are brought upon a long glass bridge extending over the Cauldron of Doom as Evil-Lyn explains that they must fight and that the one who doesn't fall into the Cauldron of Doom will go free. Adam and Teela are forced into battle yet they don't know how to bring an end to it. Adam admits he would gladly leap into the cauldron to save Teela, but she is sure that Evil-Lyn would have the survivor killed despite what she claimed. As they fight though, Zoar flies down and distracts them causing Adam to fall into the Cauldron of Doom.
Although Adam falls into the Cauldron of Doom and Teela is horrified at this, Evil-Lyn mocks Teela's pain revealing that the flames are merely an illusion. Though the flames are hot, they could not kill instantly. It seems that Evil-Lyn intends them to fall over and over roasting them to death slowly. Upon resuming the fight, Adam comes up with a dangerous plan that involves Adam figuring out that the Cauldron of Doom isn't set right with the cone and hopes that they can fall off without falling into the Cauldron of Doom. With little warning, he shoves Teela off of their narrow walkway and soon leaps after her. Despite Teela's annoyance at being pushed into the unknown, they find themselves in a mysterious series of passages and tunnels scrawled with an unreadable language. Evil-Lyn reports the misplacement of her prisoners to Skeletor. When she points out that the bird Zoar caused Adam to fall and discover the means of escape, Skeletor realizes that the Sorceress of Grayskull has been undermining him. Angrily, he bursts into her cell and demands to know where in his mind she was hiding.
She reveals that she hid in plain sight within a pleasant memory....moments he rarely revisits. Grabbing her by the neck, he explains that he does not need her to get at Grayskull's power and snaps it dropping her limp body to the floor. With the sound of Evil-Lyn's pursuers approaching, Adam and Teela come to a strange door which they are unsure on how to open. When Adam places his hand on it though, it begins to emit a blindingly white light and they hope that this is a good sign. The door opens to reveal a cavern and in the middle of it is a pedestal of stone into which a sword has been set. When Adam approaches it knowing that it holds the answers to their problems, he is attacked by a massive green tiger. While he struggles to survive, Teela is surprised by Man-At-Arms and his men when they have finally caught up to them. Seeing that Adam will likely die here, the captain of Evil-Lyn's guard settles on bringing the girl back alone. Adam desperately scrabbles across the cavern floor to the sword's hilt and pulls it from the stone. In a flash of light, Adam is transformed into He-Man. Across Eternia, He-Man's friends regain their lost memories and his enemies prepare for his wrath.
Evil-Lyn is preparing to abandon her palace, as she knows tha He-Man is on the way. As she opens the door to her quarters, she finds He-Man and Teela waiting for her and demanding information. While Evil-Lyn points out that He-Man has never hit a woman, Teela makes it clear that she has no such problem. At Castle Grayskull, Skeletor has been informed by Beast-Man that He-Man will be coming for him now that he has regained his memories, and wants to prepare Castle Grayskull for a siege. Skeletor tells Beast-Man to do so if it brings him comfort. He then engages in a conversation with a head that has been advising him throughout the series, and eventually throws it through the window in a fit of rage. In a pub elsewhere, the Masters of the Universe have gathered, all of them having remembered who they are. They begin planning how to confront Skeletor. Absent is Orko, who Teela comments cannot betray them this time as he is not there. He-Man also refuses the idea of a full-scale assault against Skeletor, electing to go and fight Skeletor alone. However, Teela is insistent that she will accompany him.
It is revealed by Mekaneck during the battle preparations that Teela is betrothed to Prince Adam, something she has no knowledge of at this point. At Castle Grayskull, the preparations for the expected attack are finally complete. Skeletor, Beast-Man. and Evil-Lyn overlook the battlefield in front of the castle, and await He-Man's arrival. Skeletor magically removes Evil-Lyn's mouth when she continues to speak even after he has ordered her to be silent. He-Man and Teela make their arrival with He-Man riding Battle Cat and Teela riding a unicorn. They defeat Skeletor's forces and He-Man goes to engage Skeletor one-on-one. Skeletor finally comes face-to-face with He-Man and they acknowledge their relationship as uncle and nephew, and agree that this is to be their final conflict. Skeletor creates a canyon around them filled with flames, and the battle begins, with Skeletor using the Havoc Staff and his magic, and He-Man relying on the Sword of Power and his physical abilities. As they fight, Skeletor confronts He-Man with the severed head of the Sorceress, causing He-Man to fight even harder to defeat Skeletor. He-Man also informs Skeletor that he has never understood the truth - He-Man's sword is not a conduit for the Power of Grayskull to enter him, but rather it allows the Power of Grayskull to manifest from within him as He-Man does not have the Power, but is the Power.
He-Man then delivers a crushing blow to Skeletor, knocking him into the flames and throwing his Havoc Staff after him. He-Man tells Teela that he believes Skeletor is dead, then is seen calling himself a liar under his breath. Skeletor is revealed to have survived the fall into the chasm, but his skull is now cracked and broken, with his lower jaw appearing to be absent. Skeletor finds himself faced with the head that he threw out of the castle earlier, and it is revealed that this is the mystical skull of Horde Prime that encourages Skeletor to not accept defeat. The final frames reveal that it is a mysterious villain that wishes Skeletor dead, but he is not yet prepared to see it happen, as he has been manipulating Skeletor throughout the entire saga.
Actors playing He-Man
In the 1980s series, He-Man and Prince Adam were voiced by John Erwin
In the 2002 series, both characters were voiced by Cam Clarke.
Powers and abilities
He-Man was characterized as possessing superhuman strength. The extent of his strength was unknown, but on one occasion he was able to hoist Castle Grayskull and throw it through a dimensional doorway. He-Man also demonstrated his strength by lifting mountains and icebergs and hurling them towards a desired target. In the episode "She-Demon of Phantos", he was shown to be the only person to break Photanium (claimed by Man-At-Arms to be the strongest metal in the universe). In the comics, he was shown as able to go one-on-one with pre-crisis Superman. On the original action figure's packaging and in the introductory sequence of the 1980s cartoon series, He-Man is claimed to be "the most powerful man in the universe". His strength was derived from magical powers within Castle Grayskull.
He can remain as He-Man for as long as he wants but if he takes too much damage or uses too much raw force, he will revert back to his original form of Adam. In the 2002 series, He-Man is shown enduring the brunt of at least two large explosions, which he survives, but reverts to Adam in the process, suggesting that even He-Man has a limit as to how much abuse he can endure before his superhuman strength and stamina are exhausted. For He-Man to change back to Prince Adam all he has to do is hold out his power sword, say "Let the power return!", and then He-Man and Battle Cat would change back in to Prince Adam and Cringer. In the 2002 series, He-Man was shown enduring the brunt of the Ram Stone of Zalasia (a gem whose mystic force could pierce any barrier or topple any obstruction). He survived, but reverted to Adam in the process. In combat against the snake-god Serpos, He-Man was struck by the giant snake's tail and sent crashing into a mountain. When he fell to the ground, he was again in Adam's form; this suggested there was a limit to He-Man's strength and stamina. He-Man's prowess is not limited to strength; he is also depicted as being quick and acrobatic. There were also several instances in the original TV series where He-Man was able to communicate and sense the presence of the Sorceress by telepathy.
He-Man as a character is largely non-violent, only resorting to combat as a last resort. He used his genius-level intellect more often, preferring to outsmart his adversaries; most violent actions typically consisted of body-throws. In accordance with broadcast standards of the period, in the Filmation cartoon, He-Man could not use his sword as an offensive weapon or punch or kick anyone. He was only allowed to destroy robotic enemies. The 1987 film and 2002 series, however, showed him fighting more aggressively. He-Man was depicted as a leader – most noticeably in the movie adaptation, where he is referred to as the "leader" of the resistance. Skeletor intended to force him into submission, rather than killing him – fearing that doing the latter would turn He-Man into a martyr who would inspire others to fight.
He-Man's primary weapon was his sword, but he also used other weapons (such as a laser-gun in the film and mini-comics, an axe, a shield, and other equipment - including vehicles) while battling his foes. His sword, apparently indestructible, could deflect bolts of energy. His sister Adora's Sword of Protection was not entirely indestructible; the stone in the hilt was once damaged, preventing her from transforming. In addition, the sword gave him the ability to transform him from Prince Adam into He-Man (and back) by utilizing the powers of Castle Grayskull. He also uses his sword to transform Cringer into Battle Cat. In the earliest versions of the story (for example, the first four minicomics) He-Man's primary weapon was an axe, as the sword was intended as a plot device to gain entry to Castle Grayskull. The breastplate on his power harness was made of an Eternian mineral (corodite) which helped add to his physical strength. The origin of the power harness was explained in the episode "Evil-Lyn's Plot" (written by Paul Dini).
He-Man is the star of a popular video by animation company Slackcircus called Fabulous Secret Powers. In this video, He-Man and other characters from the 1983 cartoon sing the song "What's Up" by 4 Non Blondes.
According to a book by Michael G. Cornelius, He-Man is considered a narrow definition of masculinity. The author also mistakenly claims that He-Man is a purely physical character, who wins every battle with his brawn. In reality, He-Man is usually depicted as highly intelligent and often outsmarts his foes, or attempts to avoid conflict altogether.
- "Video: A He Man for All Seasons". Time. 1985-01-07. Retrieved 2010-03-08.
- "Panda director 'for He-Man movie". BBC News. 2009-01-30. Retrieved 2009-09-24.
- "Mastering the Universe: He-Man and the Rise and Fall of a Billion-Dollar Idea by Roger Sweet and David Wecker". Pop Matters. Retrieved 2011-05-05.
- "The Birth of He-Man". The Sneeze (blog). Retrieved 2011-05-05.
- Sweet, Roger; David, Wecker Mastering the Universe : He-Man and the Rise and Fall of a Billion-Dollar Idea, Emmis Books July 11, 2005, ISBN 1-57860-223-8
- Interview with Roger Sweet (September 2005), ToyFare, via "Conan" at An International Catalogue of Superheroes
- "Conan The He-Man - The REH Forum". Retrieved 2011-05-05.
- "He-man and the Power Sword". Mattel. 1981. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
- "CCI EXCLUSIVE: Seeley Scripts New Adventures of He-Man". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 2012-03-23.
- "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe - Season One, Volume One". IGN. Retrieved 2009-10-17.
- Hart, Hugh (2002-08-11). "Who da man? 'He-Man'". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2010-03-07.
- Villarreal, Phil (August 4, 2006). "Phil Villarreal's Review: Still a surefire hit with 6-year-olds". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved 2009-10-20.
- "Remembering She-Ra and He-Man: Interview with Lou Scheimer". Animation World Network. Retrieved 2009-10-02.
- "The Best of She-Ra: Princess of Power Review". IGN.com. Retrieved 2009-10-02.
- "Masters Cast - Episode 25". Masters Cast. Retrieved 2010-09-14.
- "DVD Review: The New Adventures of He-Man - Volume 1". The Trades. Retrieved 2009-10-15.
- "DVD Review: The New Adventures of He-Man - Volume 1". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2009-10-15.
- Owen, Rob (2002-08-16). "On the Tube: Cartoon Network brings He-Man, the Masters back for 20th anniversary". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2010-03-05.
- "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: The Complete Series (2002) DVD Review". IGN. Retrieved 2010-07-26.
- Mowatt, Raoul V (2002-08-16). "Improved `He-Man' series heads to Cartoon Network". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-09-06.
- "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Season One, Volume One". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2009-04-04.
- "Masters of the Universe 2002": The Power Returns, In Style". Toon Zone. Retrieved 2009-10-20.
- "There's No Disguising That MOTUC Preternia Disguise He-Man Is A Great Action Figure!". MTV. Retrieved 2011-02-28.
- "EXCLUSIVE! DC Comics Launches Brand New 'He-Man and the Masters of The Universe' Comic From Writer James Robinson". MTV.
- "Philip Tan Calls on Power of Grayskull for New HE-MAN Design". Newsarama. 2012-05-17.
- "HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE #1". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 2012-07-19.
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #1
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #2
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #3
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #4
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #5
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #6
- "Scribes take on "Masters of the Universe"". Reuters. 2010-04-12. Retrieved 2010-08-08.
- Slackcircus Studios | video post fx animation - All Projects - Fabulous Secret Powers at the Wayback Machine (archived October 12, 2013)
- Michael G. Cornelius. Of Muscles and Men: Essays on the Sword and Sandal Film.
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe at the Internet Movie Database (1983–1985 series)
- Masters of the Universe at the Internet Movie Database (1987 live action film)
- The New Adventures of He-Man at the Internet Movie Database (1990–1991 series)
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe at the Internet Movie Database (2002 series)