Masters of the Universe (comics)

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Masters of the Universe
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
Marvel Comics
London Edition Magazines
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
London Edition Magazines:
1986 - 1990
Image Comics (MV Creations):
November 2002 - December 2004
Number of issues DC Comics:
3 (1982-1983)
34 (2012-ongoing)
Marvel Comics:
14
London Edition Magazines:
103
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, London Edition Magazines 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 thirty years 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, the most powerful wizard in the universe, who would have been the main character in the new toy line.

UK Magazines (1986-1990)[edit]

Published in the UK by London Edition Magazines, this fortnightly comic series lasted for 75 issues, with an additional monthly comic (Masters of the Universe Adventure) running for 28 issues alongside it. Several epic stories occurred within the series, including the battle for control of the Three Towers of Eternia; a team-up of the three villainous factions; and the destruction/rebuilding of the city of Eternos. Origin stories were also told for many of the characters, such as Sy-Klone, Rio Blast and Snout Spout. The series is also notable for the inclusion of the characters Horde Prime and Scrollos.

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 "The New Adventures of 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 mini-comics (2012-15)[edit]

DC took over the Masters of the Universe Classics mini-comics in 2012. Artwork is by Wellinton Alves and Axel Gimenez. So far, there have been three issues. The first told the origin story of Keldor/Skeletor, while the second dealt with He-Man and Skeletor's "final battle" after their intergalactic "New Adventures". The third takes the story into the "Son of He-Man" era.

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 deals 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]

  • He-Man and the Power Sword (1981)
  • King of Castle Grayskull (1981)
  • Battle in the Clouds (1981)
  • The Vengeance of Skeletor (1981)

Second series mini-comics[edit]

  • He-Man Meets Ram-Man (1982)
  • The Ordeal of Man-E-Faces (1982)
  • The Terror of Tri-Klops (1982)
  • The Menace of Trap Jaw (1982)
  • The Tale of Teela (1982)
  • The Magic Stealer! (1982)
  • The Power of...Point Dread! (1982)

Third (Filmation MOTU) series mini-comics[edit]

  • Dragon's Gift (1983) (based on TV episode "The Dragon's Gift")
  • Masks of Power (1983) (based on TV episode "Masks of Power")
  • The Secret Liquid of Life (1983) (based on TV episode "Valley of Power")
  • He-Man and the Insect People (1983)
  • Double-Edged Sword (1983) (based on TV episode "Double Edged Sword")
  • The Temple of Darkness! (1983) (based on TV episode "Temple of The Sun")
  • Slave City (1983) (based on TV episode "A Tale of Two Cities")
  • The Siege of Avion (1983) (based on TV episodes "Reign of the Monster" & "Betrayal of Stratos")
  • The Clash of Arms (1983)

Fourth series mini-comics[edit]

  • The Obelisk (1984)
  • Skeletor's Dragon (1984)
  • The Battle of Roboto (1984)
  • Spikor Strikes (1984)
  • The Stench of Evil! (1984)
  • Grizzlor - The Legend Comes Alive! (1984)
  • Leech: The Master of Power Suction Unleashed! (1984)
  • Mantenna and the Menace of the Evil Horde! (1984)
  • Hordak: The Ruthless Leader's Revenge! (1984)
  • The Treachery of Modulok (1984)

Fifth series mini-comics[edit]

  • The Flying Fists of Power! (1985)
  • Rock People to the Rescue! (1985)
  • King of the Snake Men (1985)
  • The Terror Claws Strike! (1985)
  • Escape from the Slime Pit! (1985)
  • The Menace of Multi-Bot! (1985)
  • The Warrior Machine! (1985)
  • Eye of the Storm (1985)
  • The Fastest Draw in the Universe (1985)
  • The Hordes of Hordak (1985)
  • Between a Rock and a Hard Place! (1985)
  • Snake Attack! (1985)
  • The Ultimate Battleground! (1986)

Sixth series mini-comics[edit]

  • The Search for Keldor (1986)
  • Enter...Buzz-Saw Hordak! (1986)
  • Revenge of the Snake Men! (1986)
  • Energy Zoids (1986)
  • The Cosmic Key (1986)
  • The Powers of Grayskull - The Legend Begins! (1986)

MOTU Classics series mini-comics[edit]

  • The Powers of Grayskull Part One: The Legend Begins! (2011)
  • The Powers of Grayskull Part Two: He-Ro Unleashed! (2011)
  • The Powers of Grayskull Part Three: Battle for the Fate of the Universe! (2011)
  • The Secret Origin of Skeletor! (2012)
  • He-Man vs Skeletor - Their Final Battle! (2013)
  • The Fall of Eternia Part One - Homecoming! (2014)

Collected editions[edit]

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

  • Volume 2: Dark Reflections (collects Masters of the Universe (2003) #1-6, 112 pages, MVCreations, June 2004, ISBN 0-9748008-1-3)[11]
  • 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)[12]
  • 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)[13]
  • 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)[14]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE Comic Book". Mania.com. Retrieved 2009-10-19. 
  2. ^ "Help Save He-Man!". Comics Bulletin. Retrieved 2009-11-05. 
  3. ^ *Please enter your name. (2013-04-16). "The Surprisingly Awesome Comics History of ‘Masters Of The Universe’". Comicsalliance.com. Retrieved 2015-03-21. 
  4. ^ "What is Mineternia?". Dyerworks. Retrieved November 3, 2010. 
  5. ^ http://www.comics.org/story/name/Fate%20Is%20the%20Killer/sort/alpha/
  6. ^ "GCD :: Series :: Masters of the Universe". Comics.org. Retrieved 2015-03-21. 
  7. ^ "CCI EXCLUSIVE: Seeley Scripts New Adventures of He-Man". Comic Book Resources. 2011-07-28. Retrieved 2011-08-05. 
  8. ^ Phillips, Brandy. "New Masters of the Universe Digital Comic Book Debuts Today". DC Comics. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  9. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: DC Comics To Publish Masters Of The Universe Ongoing". MTV. Retrieved 14 January 2013. 
  10. ^ Staples, Val (2003). Masters of the universe :The Shard of Darkness. Oldsmar, Fla.: CrossGen. ISBN 1-59314-017-7. 
  11. ^ Staples, Val (2004). Masters of the Universe :Dark Reflections. Lynchburg, VA: MVCreations. ISBN 0-9748008-1-3. 
  12. ^ Kirkman, Robert (2004). Masters of the Universe: Icons of Evil. [Lynchburg, Va.]: MVCreations. ISBN 0-9748008-0-5. 
  13. ^ "HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE VOL. 1". DC Comics. 2013-07-10. Retrieved 2015-03-21. 
  14. ^ "MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE VOL. 2: ORIGINS OF ETERNIA". DC Comics. 2014-03-19. Retrieved 2015-03-21. 

References[edit]