Graphic Novel Review: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Mini-Comic Collection

He-Man mini-comics
iHe-Man mini-comics

As a child in the early 1980’s I remember when the He-Man toys first came out,  They were different from anything else on the shelves at that time, a strange combination of Conan and Star Wars.  At first, though, there wasn’t any cartoon to introduce us to those characters.  To do that, each Masters of the Universe toy came with a mini-comic.  Those first books introduced us to He-man, Teela, Man-At-Arms and others as they fought Skeletor and his minions over the power within the mysterious Castle Grayskull.  These pack-in mini-conics lasts the entire line, even in its sister , Princess of Power and reappears in some form in the later lines.  Now all those classic stories are collected into one book.

This one.
This one.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Mini-Comic Collection is a hardcover graphic novel published by Dark Horse Books, in association with Mattel and DreamWorks Animation.  The book reprints all 51 of the original mini-comics from the original Master of the Universe toy line, plus all the Princess of Power mini-comic and books from subsequent lines.  There are also interviews with various writers and artists that worked on the line.

First of all the reprinted books look amazing.  The original mini-comics were not that big but to see the art in a bigger, almost regular-sized comic format is great.  The art, for the most part, looks good in a bigger size and you can really see the details.  The colours are good too, albeit not a vibrant as comics today with the advent of computer colouring.  As mentioned before, the book is a hardcover and is fairly hefty, due to containing so much material.

The stories hold up well, despite being written for a boy’s toy line 30 years ago.  The earlier stories are an especially interesting read, as it is very different from what be got with the cartoons series.  He-Man was not Prince Adam, but a warrior from a jungle tribe.  There was no Sorceress, but a Goddess, a green skinned (as first) woman that gave He-Man his “techo-vest” with gave him his super strength and invulnerability.  Man-At-Arms was not the King’s armourer, but the caretaker of lost technologies after  a cataclysm wiped out civilization, and Skeletor was a demon from another dimension, seeking the power sword to conquer Castel Grayskill and unleash his kind on the world. The comics slowly build up the mythos of Masters of the Universe, adding details to certain character’s back stories (Teela is the clone/daughter of the Goddess/Sorceress) and introduced elements from other sources like Prince Adam (originally appeared in the DC Comics mini-series) and Oroko (from the FIlmation cartoon.)  Even though some elements were dropped as the series went on to be similar to the cartoon, the mini-comics were its own entity.

The original mini-comics were more like a story book, with different takes on He-Man and the Sorceress
The original mini-comics were more like a story book, with different takes on He-Man and the Sorceress

There are interviews with some of the creative talent involved with the mini-comic, with names that would be recognizable by fans of comics and pop culture.  The first few mini-comics (which were more like mini-story books) had art from Alfredo Alcala, who worked on various DC and Marvel properties, including Conan the Barbarian.  Other names that some might recognize are writers Gary Cohn (various DC Comic books in the 80’s), Christy Marx (Jem), artists Mark Texeira (Wolverine, Punisher) and Bruce Timm (Batman: The Animated Series and the DC Animated Universe) and even lettered Stan Sakai (creator of Usagi Yojimbo.)  The interviews go into their involvement in the MOTU series and their memories of working on the project.

Reading these mini comics gain is definitely a nostalgia trip for me.  I remember some of the stories, especially the early ones but there were some that I did not remember until I read them again.  Most of them I did not read before, as I lost interest in the toys due to the silly Filmation cartoon, but it is clear from this collection the mini-comic followed its own path.  Sure, some stories were blatant 12-panel adds for the new wave of figures or vehicles (Battle Bones really did not need an origin story!) but there are some hidden gems.  Original stories like Slave City and The Secret of the Elixir of Life introduced original characters that were not toys or on the cartoon.  Some were pretty violent, but not gory, with He-Man punching his foes or shooting them with a laser gun.  Nothing over the top, but it raised eyebrows them and would do the same (at least) today.

The book also reprints the Princess of power mini-comic which, like the He-Man ones, don’t follow the cartoon series.  the stories feature She-ra as she and here friends foil the schemes of Catra, Entrapta and others.  Only one story has the Horde in it and then, it is only Horde Troopers. There is also the mini-comics from The New Adventures or He-man (1989-1990) which has He-Man and Skeletor continue their battle in space in the far future and two retailer exclusive comics from the 2002 Master of the Universe reboot.  Finally, the book reprints three mini-comics released in the subscription-exclusive Master of the Universe Classics toy line.

Alongside The Art of He-Man book or by itself, this is a great book for fans of the various incarnations of He-Man.  As a trip down memory lane or as a way of learning more about the series, this is a great book to add to your collection.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Mini-Comic Collection is available online, in comic book stores and book outlets everywhere.  Check the web or your local stores for price and availability.  It is also available as a 2 volume digital edition on Amazon.

Book Review: The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

mastersheman

The 1980’s were a good time for toy companies.  Some of the most memorable boy’s toys were first released in the early to mid 80’s..  Toys like The Transformers, GI Joe and Star Wars filled the shelves and inspired many kids with their plastic figure and play sets.  One of the more memorable ones was the Masters of the Universe line.  I remember characters such as He-Man, Skeletor, Teela, Beast-Man and Man-at-Arms inhabiting a world that was part Star Wars, part Conan the Barbarian.  I remember play set  and vehicles like the Battle Ram and Point Dread.  Like many toys properties, it had its tie ins:  cartoons, lunch boxes, clothing and even a live action movie.  The book, The Art of He-Man and the Master of the Universe looks at the toy lines 30+ year history covering the various toy lines (including Princess of Power) media and tie-ins.

The book is a large full color book with glossy pages and photos.  The book starts with the beginning of the line, reproducing memos, concept art and shows prototypes of what would become He-Man. Skeletor and Beast Man.  It goes into the line, showing early sketches of produced characters (and some that weren’t) and interviews with those who worked on the line.  It also goes into the mini comics, comic book adaptations and the cartoon series from Filmation, both He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and She-Ra: Princess of Power.  it even goes into the movie starring Dolph Lundgren., subsequent revivals (The Adventures of He-Man from 1989-1991 and the revived Masters of the Universe cartoon from 2002-2004) and the current subscription line from Mattycollector.com.

There is really a lot in this book.  There are pages from the mini-comics that I haven’t seen in years  and art work of characters that I have forgotten about or never knew existed.  The authors of this book, Tim and Steve Seely really delve into the history of the franchise, bringing sketches and artwork to light that would have remained forgotten.  Interviews with people who worked on the toys, the various cartoon series and the comic books really go into detail about their experience with the line.

The Art of He-Man and the Maters of the Universe is a great book for anyone that was or is a  fan of the property.  There is so much information about the toy line and  the cartoon, you are bound to learn something new.  The only thing missing is full reprints of the original  mini comics but you will have to get another book for that (and there is no room in this book anyways.)  I highly recommend this book.

As they say on Eternia, “Good Journey”

Movie Review: Spectre (James Bond 007)

Spectre
Spectre

James Bond is back in the twenty-fourth film in the 007 series, Spectre.  Daniel Craig reprises his role as the British super spy and is joined by Ralph Fiennes as M, Lea Seydoux as Dr. Madeline Swann, Christoph Waltz as Franz Oberhauser , Ben Whishaw as Q and Naomie Harris as Monneypenny.  The movie is directed by Sam Mendes, who also directed Skyfall.

In the aftermath of Skyfall, Bond has been  chasing down a shadowy organization that’s orchestration terrorist attacks.  When an incident in Mexico gets him suspended, right when a merger between MI5 and MI6 into a new organisation that threatens to make Double-O agents like himself obsolete, Bond sets out to uncover the organization, with his only clue being a ring with an octopus on it.  With aid from Moneypenny and a reluctant Q, travels to Rome, where he finds the organization and their leader, Oberhauser, a man with links to Bond’s past.  He also finds out the name of the group, Spectre, and that they’ve been watching him for a while.

The Bond movies have always been about huge stakes, car chases, fight scenes and beautiful women and Spectre does not disappoint.  Daniel Craig’s Bond may not be so quick with the one liners, but he has his moments.  The movie also touches on the reality of spycraft today; electronic monitoring, drones and invasion of privacy in the name of national security.  One of the sub-plots is the new organization replacing MI6 would be apart of a worldwide surveillance network.  M argues that although a drone could track down and monitor targets better than a human agent, a human agent can better adjust to changes and even decide not to kill.

The movie is 148 minutes long, but it kept my interest the entire time  The plot moves along at a good pace and the fight scenes (especially the ones with Dave Bautista) are awesome.  Long time Bond fans who know about the Spectre organization from the older movies won’t be disappointed when Oberhauser reveals his true name (there is a white cat),  Wherever or not this is Craig’s last film as Bond, it leaves the franchise at a point where they can continue and use Spectre or have Bond face newer threats.  Who knows, maybe a certain character in this film returns with a metal jaw?

Spectre is rated 14A in Ontario.

4/5