Masters of the Universe (comics)

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Masters of the Universe
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
Marvel Comics
Image Comics
Schedule Monthly / Biweekly (DC Comics's 2012 digital series)
Format Ongoing series
Genre
Publication date DC Comics:
December 1982 - February 1983
July 2012 - ongoing
Marvel Comics:
May 1986 - May 1988
Image Comics (MV Creations):
November 2002 - December 2004
Number of issues DC Comics:
3 (1982-1983)
34 (2012-ongoing)
Marvel Comics:
14
Image Comics (MV Creations):
26
Main character(s) Masters of the Universe Characters
Collected editions
The Shard of Darkness ISBN 1-59314-017-7
Dark Reflections ISBN 0974800813

The Masters of the Universe media franchise has been featured in several comic book series. Most were small publications known as "minicomics" that were included as bonuses in action figure packages. Stand-alone comic book series were also published by DC, Marvel Comics, and Image Comics.[1][2]

Publication history[edit]

Mineternia: the original mini-comics (1981–1983)[edit]

All of the original action figures came with minicomics that told stories involving the characters.[3] In the earliest comics, He-Man is a wandering barbarian on Eternia, a world dealing with the aftermath of a Great War that has devastated the civilizations that once reigned, but has left behind fantastical machinery and weapons. The events of the Great War opened a rift between dimensions, which allows the evil warlord Skeletor to travel to Eternia, and he has now set his sights on the ancient Castle Grayskull, the 'fortress of mystery and power'. Whoever attains control of Grayskull will gain the power to become Master of the Universe. To prevent Skeletor from achieving his goal, He-Man has been given special powers and weapons by The Sorceress (referred to as 'The Goddess' in early stories, except in her debut appearance in which she is shown, the one and only time, to have green skin) and sets out to defend the castle from Skeletor. He-Man is supported by several heroic allies, such as Man-At-Arms, the Eternian master of weapons, and Teela, the adopted daughter of Man-At-Arms. Skeletor manages to find one half of the Power Sword, a great weapon which is itself the key to Castle Grayskull. He-Man has been given the other half by The Sorceress, and must prevent Skeletor from linking the two halves to gain access to the castle. To distinguish these stories from the TV cartoon-influenced minicomics that were released to tie-in with the TV series, fans dubbed this first version of Eternia as 'mini-Eternia', and the two words were fused into 'Mineternia' in 2003, by a minicomics fansite, called Eternia Minor (now, He-Man Tales).[4]

DC Comics limited series (1982)[edit]

DC Comics published a special insert which appeared in several comic books cover dated November 1982.[5] This was followed by a Masters Of The Universe limited series the following month[6] sold separately on newsstands. This series made several adjustments to the story, establishing the existence of the kingdom of Eternia, ruled over by King Randor (called King Miro in early appearances) and Queen Marlena. In this comic series, He-Man now has a secret identity: Prince Adam, the son of Eternia's rulers. Prince Adam is chosen by The Sorceress and she gives him the power to turn into He-Man and he takes on the role of Eternia's defender. His identity is kept secret from all but The Sorceress and Man-At-Arms. The characters of MOTU were introduced in DC Comics Presents #47 in which Superman is transported to Eternia and teams up with He-Man and later returns for a second adventure.

Marvel Star comic series (1986)[edit]

In 1986, Marvel Comics debuted a Masters of the Universe title under their relatively short-lived "Star" imprint, a line aimed at younger children, primarily featuring other licensed properties such as The Muppets. Star's Masters title lasted only 13 issues and opened with a new version of the introduction of Hordak and the Evil Horde.

As the series progressed it generally focused on spotlighting latter-day characters and vehicles which had been released as toys after the completion of the Filmation animated series. In general, the comic had a tendency to follow the characterisation and vague continuity of the Filmation cartoon, whilst visually depicting the characters as more accurate representations of the toys themselves, for example showing Teela in her snake armor, which was never worn in the cartoon, and presenting the Fright Zone and Snake Mountain with their distinctive playset designs, which also bore little resemblance to their onscreen appearances.

Issue #11's "Whose Enemy Am I Anyway?" involves He-Man and Hordak being kidnapped and sent to another world. Due to mutual amnesia, they become comrades, providing a dilemma as to how to deal with this new relationship when their memories are eventually restored.

A particularly noteworthy two-part story "Life-Time" in the final two issues uses a time-travel device and a similar premise to It's a Wonderful Life in which Prince Adam questions the further necessity for He-Man's existence and gets a rude shock when his musings are suddenly put to the test. When his Power Sword is accidentally transported a decade into the future, Adam travels through time to retrieve it, only to find himself in a future in which, deprived of the sword and thus the ability to turn into He-Man, Adam's older self has been unable to stop Skeletor from conquering Eternia. This dystopic near-future story, which contains paraphrases of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, casts an orphaned Teela as the new Sorceress and leader of the resistance. It also depicts the destruction of Castle Grayskull and includes a scene in which Adam finds his desolate and maltreated parents shackled in a dungeon.

The Marvel He-Man comic also includes a double-length one-shot adaptation of the 1987 Masters of the Universe live-action film. Curiously, the comic portrays all the pre-existing characters other than Beast-Man with their traditional toy/cartoon appearances rather than with the film's heavily redesigned ones. Adapted from an earlier draft of the movie script, it also features some departures from the movie such as the final battle between He-Man and Skeletor taking place high atop Grayskull's battlements rather than deep in its bowels. There is also a moment where He-Man offers his hand to his falling nemesis, who had been directly betrayed by Evil-Lyn, who spurns the offer, preferring to plummet to his apparent doom. Most significant of all is a peculiar coda not present in the film, in which the remains of two flags are discovered in the caverns of Grayskull: an American flag and one from NASA which bears the words "Starfinder 5. July 10, 2221." In a wholly unique twist to all other versions of MOTU continuity, this comic adaptation of the film suggests that Eternian humans are descended from the crew of an American space mission from the far future.

Later minicomics (1985–1987)[edit]

Beginning with the introduction of Hordak, the mini-comics began to diverge in some ways from the scenario shown in the He-Man and She-Ra animated series. Whereas in the cartoons many new Masters toys appear as based in an Etheria under the rule of Hordak with a resistance headed by Adora/She-Ra, the mini-comics stayed primarily on Eternia. Etheria only appeared as Hordak's main base of operations.

Many years earlier Hordak had been overthrown by his minion Skeletor and banished from Eternia. He returns, accompanied by his minions the Evil Horde, and seeks to conquer the planet. Occasionally allying with Skeletor, though more commonly seeking to destroy him as well, Hordak meets repeated opposition from He-Man.

An even more dramatic addition to the legends of Eternia comes in the mini-comic King of the Snakemen. In this, Skeletor discovers a pool of energy buried in Snake Mountain which contains the ancient emperor King Hiss. Hiss reveals he had conquered many planets before invading Eternia. Large parts of the planet had fallen to the Snake Men before they were defeated by the "Council of the Elders" and banished to another dimension. Hiss now seeks to recover his fellow Snake Men and bring vengeance to Eternia.

Further details of Eternia's ancient past are revealed in subsequent mini-comics. The most dramatic revelations surround "The Three Towers" - Grayskull Tower, "a symbol of goodness", Viper Tower, "a symbol of all that is evil", and Central Tower, holding the "ultimate power". This giant structure is raised from underground by Hiss and Skeletor and becomes the focal point for further adventures as He-Man seeks to prevent all three villains from acquiring the secrets of the towers. In the process of defending the towers a series of fascinating discoveries are made.

Hordak recognises the towers and claims to have helped build Central Tower, though little further is discovered. The return of the Towers also enhances the Sorceress' magic and she is able to help King Randor in his search to discover what had happened to his long-lost brother Keldor. Skeletor is determined to stop this search, claiming "that knowledge could destroy me". It is strongly hinted, but not confirmed, that Keldor had become Skeletor.

The final batch of mini-comics would set up a new storyline that would have led to a relaunch of the Masters of the Universe line, as He-Man and the Sorceress would travel back in time (to an era known as Pre-Eternia) where they would fight a time traveling Skeletor and a past version of King Hiss. The mini-comics culminated in He-Man being saved by a mysterious individual who Sorceress made cryptic comments about, being one of Eternia's greatest heroes. The figure was planned on being revealed to be He-Man's replacement: He-Ro, a mystic warrior who would have replaced He-Man in a new toy line.

Dark Horse mini-comics (2011)[edit]

Dark Horse Comics will be producing mini-comics to be included in Mattel's Masters of the Universe Classics line of toys, continuing the series of mini-comics first introduced in the original He-Man toys of the 1980s. The mini-comics will be written by Tim Seeley and drawn by Wellinton Alves, with covers by Eric Powell.

According to Seeley, the current mini-comics will finish off the story that was supposed to be the new direction of the original action figure line, before it was cancelled. The story will deal with the The Powers of Grayskull line, which included King Hiss, Tyrantisaurus Rex and He-Ro, tying the toy continuity to the He-Man line, also known as "Preternia He-Man". Seeley also states that the current Mattel line intends to blend the different He-Man continuities and select the best stories and ideas from MOTU history.[7]

DC Comics (2012)[edit]

In June 2012, DC began publishing a weekly digital-first title, Masters of the Universe, with the first chapter written by Geoff Johns, with art by Howard Porter and John Livesay.[8] The title will explore the world of Eternia, and ties directly into DC Comics' print title, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. DC later announced an ongoing print title, it is not clear if the book will tie-in to DC's previous publications.[9]

On April 24, 2013, the second volume came out where it details with the aftermath of the first volume and details Hordak's plans to invade Eternos City.

List of mini-comics[edit]

The following is a list of the mini-comics released with the Masters of the Universe figures:

Original mini-comics[edit]

  1. He-Man and the Power Sword (1981)
  2. King of Castle Grayskull (1981)
  3. Battle in the Clouds (1981)
  4. The Vengeance of Skeletor (1981)
  5. He-Man Meets Ram-Man (1982)
  6. The Ordeal of Man-E-Faces (1982)
  7. The Power of... Point Dread! (1982) Number 7 as stated on the book
  8. The Terror of Tri-Klops (1982)
  9. The Menace of Trap Jaw (1982)
  10. The Tale of Teela (1982)
  11. The Magic Stealer! (1982)

Filmation MOTU series mini-comics[edit]

  1. *Siege of Avion (1983)
  2. *Dragon's Gift (1983)
  3. *Masks of Power (1983)
  4. *He-Man and the Insect People (1983)
  5. *Slave City (1983)
  6. *The Secret Liquid of Life (1983)
  7. *The Temple of Darkness (1983)
  8. Double-Edged Sword (1983)
  9. Spikor Strikes (1983)
  10. The Clash of Arms (1983)
  11. The Obelisk (1984)
  12. The Battle of Roboto (1984)
  13. Leech: The Master of Power Suction Unleashed! (1984)
  14. Grizzlor: The Legend Comes Alive! (1984)
  15. Mantenna and the Menace of the Evil Horde! (1984)
  16. Hordak: The Ruthless Leader's Revenge! (1984)
  17. Skeletor's Dragon (1984)
  18. The Stench of Evil (1984)
  19. The Treachery of Modulok (1985)
  20. The Flying Fists of Power (1985)
  21. The Terror Claws Strike! (1985)
  22. Rock People to the Rescue (1985)
  23. Escape from the Slime Pit! (1985)
  24. King of the Snake Men (1985)
  25. The Fastest Draw in the Universe (1985)
  26. Between a Rock and a Hard Place! (1985)
  27. The Warrior Machine (1985)
  28. Snake Attack! (1985)
  29. The Menace of Multi-Bot (1985)
  30. Eye of the Storm (1985)
  31. The Hordes of Hordak (1985)

Post-Filmation MOTU mini-comics[edit]

  1. The Ultimate Battleground! (1986)
  2. The Search for Keldor (1986)
  3. Revenge of the Snake Men (1986)
  4. Energy Zoids (1986)
  5. Enter: Buzz-saw Hordak! (1986)
  6. The Powers of Grayskull - The Legend Begins! (1986)
  7. The Cosmic Key! (1987)

Collected editions[edit]

Some of the comic books have been collected into trade paperbacks:

  • Volume 1: The Shard of Darkness (collects Masters of the Universe (2002) #1-4, 112 pages, MVCreations, November 2005, ISBN 1-59314-017-7)
  • Volume 2: Dark Reflections (collects Masters of the Universe (2003) #1-6, 112 pages, MVCreations, June 2004, ISBN 0-9748008-1-3)
  • Masters of the Universe: Icons of Evil (collects Tri-Klops, Trapjaw, Mer-Man and Beastman one-shots, 176 pages, April 2004, MVCreations, ISBN 0-9748008-0-5)
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Volume 1 (collects He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (Volume one) #1-6 & Masters of the Universe (digital) #1, 160 pages, DC Comics, July 10, 2013)[10]
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Volume 2 - Origins of Eternia (collects Masters of the Universe: Origin of Skeletor, Masters of the Universe: Origin of He-Man, Masters of the Universe: Origin of Hordak & Masters of the Universe (digital) #2-7, 144 pages, DC Comics, February 26, 2014)[11]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]