He-Man

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He-Man
Masters of the Universe character
He-Man (Alex Ross's art).png
Art by Alex Ross
First appearanceHe-Man and the Power Sword (1981)
Created byRoger Sweet
Portrayed byDolph Lundgren
Voiced by
Real nameAdam[1]
Eye colorBlue
In-universe information
NicknameThe Most Powerful Man in the Universe
SpeciesHuman
GenderMale
TitlePrince
Family

He-Man is a superhero and the main character of the sword and sorcery Masters of the Universe franchise, which includes a toy line, several animated television series, comic books and a feature film. He-Man is characterized by his superhuman strength and in most variations, is the alter ego of Prince Adam.[2] He-Man and his friends attempt to defend the realm of Eternia and the secrets of Castle Grayskull from the evil forces of Skeletor.[3]

The character has been noted for homoeroticism, gay subtext, and perceived homosexuality; particularly in his relationship with Skeletor. Furthermore, He-Man has achieved gay icon status,[4][5] which Mattel is aware of and receptive to.[6]

Origin[edit]

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 up front.[7][8] Following the commercial success of the original Star Wars trilogy and its related merchandise during the next few years, Mattel launched several successful competing toylines which captured the public's imagination and significantly influenced the toy market.[7]

Toy designer Mark Taylor explained that the original design of He-Man in a series of sketches while working for Mattel was inspired by Cro-Magnon men and Vikings. Furthermore, his original design of Beast Man was rejected by Mattel for looking too much like Chewbacca.[9]

In the race to design the next popular 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.[7][8] 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 the marketing department something it could sell, he had won 90 percent of the battle.[7][10]

According to Roger Sweet, "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![7][8]

During the 1980s, rumors claimed that Conan the Barbarian was a source of inspiration for the He-Man character.[11] According to this rumor, Mattel had a licensing agreement to make 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 brutal, graphic 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 film, 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.[12]

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.[12]

Originally, He-Man was presented to Mattel executives not as drawings and wax models, but in the form of the He-Man Trio: three figures of 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 for 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.[12] Additionally, Roger Sweet has also claimed that he was "really impressed" by the paintings of fantasy artist Frank Frazetta when creating He-Man.[8] 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 were both still working on the Savage Sword of Conan comics since the mid-1970s) to create additional characters (along with their back stories), posters, package inlays, box art and mini-comics for distribution with the action figures. According to Roger Sweet:

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.[7][8]

In France[13] and the francophone countries,[14] He-Man is known as Musclor.[15]

Appearances in media[edit]

In comics[edit]

In the illustrated books released with the first series of toys,[16] 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 (Trap Jaw).[17]

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2012)[edit]

In June 2012, DC Comics began publishing a six-issue limited series, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, alongside the weekly digital first series Masters of the Universe.[18][19][20]

The series was followed by three more, lasting a total of just over two years and ending in June 2015.

In television[edit]

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983)[edit]

Prince Adam, from the Filmation cartoon in which John Erwin provided the character's voice

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 would continue, "...I have the power!".[3] He also is able to return to his former form by saying, "Let the power return." This is seen in episode 33, "The Problem With Power". The differences between 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 during one of his transformations 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.[21] 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, an act he keeps up to prevent people from discovering his secret identity.[22]

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 communicated 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 of 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.[23] He-Man made a number of appearances in the She-Ra: Princess of Power television series.[24][25]

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 was also shown to be extremely cunning and intelligent. 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 aided his evil schemes.

He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special (1985)[edit]

At the height of the conjoined popularity of the He-Man and The Masters of The Universe and She-Ra: Princess of Power cartoons, Filmation produced this made for television Christmas movie, and aired it in syndication during the 1985 Christmas Holiday season. The original He-Man and The Masters of The Universe cartoon series had aired its final new episode the prior month, and continued to air in re-run episodes for some time after. Its sister show, She-Ra: Princess of Power was still in its first season. The Christmas special reunited twins He-Man and She-Ra in their biggest joint adventure since the Secret of The Sword. It commences with Queen Marlena reflecting nostalgically about Christmases on Earth, and, after a series of misadventures set in motion by Orko, climaxes with a confrontation that pits He-Man, She-Ra and Skeletor (whose bone-hard heart has been briefly softened by a pair of Earthling children, a peculiar pup, and Christmas Spirit) against Hordak and Horde-Prime.

The New Adventures of He-Man (1990)[edit]

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002)[edit]

Masters of the Universe: Revelation (2021)[edit]

Masters of the Universe (CGI revival, 2021)[edit]

In December 2019, it was announced that in addition to their other series, Netflix will also be developing a new Masters of the Universe series using CGI animation. With Rob David developing the series, producing it alongside Adam Bonnett, Christopher Keenan, Jeff Matsuda and Susan Corbin. Bryan Q. Miller will serve as story editor on the series. Animation services are being provided by House of Cool and CGCG Inc.[26]

In film[edit]

He-Man and She-Ra:The Secret of the Sword (1985 animated film)[edit]

In 1985, Filmation, the studio which produced the He-Man cartoon series, released a full length 91 minute feature film titled The Secret of the Sword also known as He-Man and She-Ra: The Secret of the Sword. The movie transitioned from a focus on He-Man, to an introduction of Adam's/He-Man's twin sister Adora, whom the film reveals to have been abducted, as an infant, by Hordak and Skeletor. Hordak raised Adora to be a warrior and captain for his Evil Horde, and hid her true heritage from her. The film reveals that He-Man's power sword also has a twin, the Sword of Protection, which, when wielded by Adora to summon the power of Grayskull, transforms her into She-Ra, the female counterpart to He-Man. The movie grossed over three times its two-million dollar production budget. It was later divided into several shorter segments, and aired on television as the first several episodes of the He-Man & MOTU spinoff series She-Ra: Princess of Power.

Masters of the Universe (1987 film)[edit]

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.[3] 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!"

Reboot film[edit]

On April 29, 2019, actor Noah Centineo in an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, confirmed that he will be playing He-Man in the Masters of the Universe film that was due to begin production in July 2019 and was set for a 2020 release, but due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic he pulled out of casting two years later. The production's date and crew will be unknown until further notice.[27]

In toys[edit]

The New Adventures of He-Man (1990)[edit]

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.[28] 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...".[29][30]

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002)[edit]

To tie in with a new line of action figures based upon the original toyline, a new He-Man cartoon series was produced in 2002-03 by Mike Young Productions, titled He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and given the marketing subtitle "vs. the Snake Men" in its second season.[31][32] 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.[33] 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).[34] The Adam/He-Man character was redesigned, to make the character's secret identity more credible.[35] The second-season episode "The Power of Grayskull" revealed Adam/He-Man to be a descendant of King Grayskull (a powerful barbarian and a hero from Eternia's ancient past), who sacrificed his life in order 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)[edit]

This action-figure line combined elements from the He-Man universe into a cohesive storyline with biographies on the figures' packaging.[36] 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. His figure still had the blonde hair but featured a more textured fur loincloth, no boots and came with a primitive stone spear), and Wun-Dar (based on the so-called "Wonder Bread" He-Man figure. This figure had brown hair, brown loincloth and wears a black version of Zodac's armor. He came packaged with a black and silver power sword and black pistol) – but Prince Adam was the only one who actually wielded the Power Sword and transformed into the true He-Man.

Actors who have played He-Man[edit]

In the Filmation series He-Man and the Masters of the Universe as well as in She-Ra: Princess of Power, He-Man and Prince Adam were voiced by John Erwin. Erwin alternated between two distinct deliveries, though in the show's intro he spoke with his He-Man voice as both characters. According to executive producer Lou Scheimer, Erwin did not think his own voice was heroic enough which is why a reverb was added to it in sound-editing. After retiring from professional voice-work, Erwin has not done official publicity appearances due to his shy nature.

He-Man also appeared in a Streets commercial advertising branded ice cream of the franchise in Australia with Australian actor Paul Johnstone (best known for his role in Mad Max) voicing him.

In the 1987 live-action feature film, He-Man was played by Dolph Lundgren. He never transforms into Prince Adam but does deliver the franchise catchphrase "I have the power" late in the film.

Garry Chalk provided the voice of He-Man for the 1990 series The New Adventures of He-Man while Prince Adam was voiced by Doug Parker. Chalk voiced Man-at-Arms in the 2002 series.

In the 2002 series, both characters were voiced by Cam Clarke.

He-Man will appear in the upcoming live action film.[37] Mike O'Hearn expressed a desire to play the character, though he denied rumors that he had been cast.[38][39]

Noah Centineo confirmed on April 29, 2019 that he will be playing He-Man in the upcoming Masters of the Universe live action reboot film.[27]

Powers and abilities[edit]

He-Man was characterized as possessing super speed, indestructible skin, and superhuman strength. The extent of his strength was unknown, but on one occasion he was able to hoist Castle Grayskull and throw it through an interdimensional portal. He-Man also demonstrated his strength by lifting mountains and icebergs and hurling them toward a desired target. On one occasion, he welded a broken metal chain together simply by pushing the links together. 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 being 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. In the Episode of the original series "Eternal Darkness",[40] He-Man was shown pushing a moon of Eternia into a specific orbit, and then later returning it to its original position by hand.[41]

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 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 he holds out his power sword, says "Let the power return!", and then He-Man and Battle Cat would change back into 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 that 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 extremely quick and acrobatic. His speed has been demonstrated by running fast enough to escape massive explosions and moving his arms fast enough to counteract the winds of a tornado. He-Man is also shown leaping great heights, usually flipping through the air several times before landing safely on his feet.

It is also suggested that He-Man possesses some form of telepathic powers as well. There were several instances in the original TV series where He-Man was able to communicate and sense the presence of the Sorceress by telepathy. It was also shown that he has the ability to communicate with his sister She-Ra across great distances.

He-Man as a character is largely non-violent, only resorting to combat as a last resort.[1] He used his 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 film 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 the mini-comics, a battle 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 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, because the sword was intended to serve as a plot device that would only be used in order to gain entry into 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).

Academic analysis[edit]

According to a book by Michael G. Cornelius, He-Man is considered a narrow definition of masculinity. Cornelius cited He-Man as the literal "strongest man in the universe" and says that his chief adversary Skeletor's primary weapon is his intellect; mirroring a Superman/Lex Luthor dichotomy.[42]

Queer analysis[edit]

Homosexual reading[edit]

According to Syfy writer Jordan Zakarin, the original cartoon was "the gayest show that has ever been on TV".[43] Anthony Gramuglia of Comic Book Resources points out that because censors often prevented the outright representation of LGBT characters, creators often had to rely on queer coding, giving characters camp qualities to indicate their LGBT status.[44] David Chlopecki argues that Prince Adam's appearance conforms to gay stereotypes, such as his pink spandex, while his He-Man outfit includes a bondage harness,[43] which was considered in the 80s to be homoerotic imagery.[44] Furthermore, Adam transformed into He-Man through "fabulous powers" and his phallic sword,[44] with his pageboy haircut also being noted.[45]

Chlopecki further argues that He-Man and Skeletor's bodies were "indicative of the AIDS epidemic that ravaged the LGBTQ community" at the time of the show's production, with Skeletor's face resembling the facial wasting of gay men succumbing to AIDS.[43] Highsnobiety's Sophia Atkinson notes how the character's double life as Prince Adam and He-Man reflects the "difficulties of living as a gay man", further noting how across various media in the franchise He-Man never shows romantic interest in any woman.[46] British newspaper The Daily Telegraph also acknowledges how the character's dual identity is representative of a man's struggle in coming to terms with his sexuality; Prince Adam being closeted and having a secret, while He-Man is "out-and-proud".[47] Chlopecki believes that, given the time period, the show's gay subtext was either unintentional, or the result of queer coding.[43] According to He-Man and the Masters of the Universe voice actress Erika Scheimer—who is openly lesbian, and the daughter of Filmation co-founder Lou Scheimer—the company was welcoming of gay artists, with many members of the studio "long[ing] to see themselves onscreen" and joking that He-Man is gay.[4]

Entertainment Weekly's Adam B. Vary refers to the original cartoon as containing gay subtext, arguing that the live-action movie Masters of the Universe turned it into explicit text.[48] Writing for BuzzFeed, Vary argues that the gay subtext present in the live-action movie is a "tragic unrequited romance between He-Man and Skeletor",[49] singling out Skeletor's "warped obsession" with He-Man and how, despite being surrounded by attractive women, He-Man never shows an interest in them,[49] echoing Atkinson's statement.[46]

Gay icon[edit]

He-Man's homoeroticism and implied homosexuality resulted in the character and show drawing a queer audience when the cartoon first aired,[44] being now viewed as a gay icon.[4][5] Men's Health revealed that one of the core three groups that made up the consumers of He-Man toys were gay men.[4] When development on a live-action remake of the film was first-announced, LGBT lifestyle magazine Out also described the original series as "one of the gayest [...] cartoons of all time", and that the 1987 film "turn[ed] an entire generation of boys at least a little gay".[50] Noelle Stevenson, the creator, showrunner, and executive producer of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (2018–20) has also stated that He-Man—alongside She-Ra—is a gay icon,[51] and the character's LGBT fanbase has been credited as helping pave the way for the for the reboot to feature openly queer characters.[44] The gay reading of He-Man's character and his relationship was utilized by British company Moneysupermarket.com in 2017, with one of their advertisements being described by Bleeding Cool as "on the homoerotic side".[52]

Response from Mattel and insiders[edit]

According to Mark Morse, Mattel's director of global marketing from 2008 to 2017, the question of He-Man's sexuality and whether a future installment in the franchise should have him be openly gay has not been discussed at the company by the release of the Laughing Prince Adam action figure in 2018.[4] However, Morse did state that Mattel wanted the ensure the figure would not be viewed as offensive to the LGBT community.[4] In an interview with Queerty, gay lifestyle online magazine Rob David and Tim Sheridan, who work on the Masters of the Universe: Revelation (2020–present), discussed the character's homoeroticism and gay fanbase.[6] Sheridan, who is one of the show's writers and a gay man himself, believes that He-Man managed to foster a gay fanbase, despite not being openly gay, because of the original show's themes.[6] He also clarified that He-Man is coded in such a way in Revelation that his character can be interpreted in various ways, which Sheridan believes can bring people together.[6] According to David, who is an executive producer of Revelation and Mattel's Vice President of Creative Content, Mattel is "very comfortable" with He-Man's gay fanbase and his perception as a gay man.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "He-man really a marshmallow superhero". The Milwaukee Journal. April 26, 1985. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
  2. ^ "Video: A He Man for All Seasons". Time. January 7, 1985. Archived from the original on May 19, 2008.
  3. ^ a b c "Panda director 'for He-Man movie". BBC News. January 30, 2009. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Huls, Alexander (September 21, 2020). "Why He-Man Is a Gay Icon". Men's Health. Hearst Communications. Archived from the original on May 15, 2021. Retrieved July 25, 2021.
  5. ^ a b Collins, Hannah (October 10, 2017). "Queer Heroes: 15 Superheroes Who Are Gay Icons". Comic Book Resources. Valnet Inc. Archived from the original on January 25, 2021. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d e Reddish, David (July 23, 2021). "'He-Man' writers on character's enduring homoeroticism in 'Masters of the Universe: Revelation'". Queerty. Q.Digital. Archived from the original on July 25, 2021. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Levisohn, Benjamin (September 25, 2005). "Mastering the Universe: He-Man and the Rise and Fall of a Billion-Dollar Idea by Roger Sweet and David Wecker". Pop Matters. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
  8. ^ a b c d e "The Birth of He-Man". The Sneeze (blog). April 18, 2006. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
  9. ^ Toy Designer Mark Taylor On The Creation of He-Man. RealistikkVideos. 30 September 2015. Retrieved October 15, 2020 – via YouTube.
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