Howdy Everyone! It’s your favorite MOTU fan, Andy Larson, back for another trip down memory lane with a recap of some of my all time favorite mini comics that used to come out with the He-Man figures I used to own as a kid.
Yes as I approach my 40th birthday in just a few short days, it’s spurred me to turn back the clock a bit and bask in the glory days of my youth. Masters of the Universe wasn’t the only toy line I played with as a kid as there were also brief stints with Star Wars, GI Joe, Transformers, TMNT, and Thundercats. But it was the toy line I definitely had the most toys from, as well as the toy line I still have as an adult in fairly decent working order, so it will always be at the top of my list of favorites.
As an aside, I will say though there were a couple key losses over the years from my collection, like my Eternia playset and Tyranisaurus Rex ride, both of which because they were released late in the series are extremely hard and pricey to replace in today’s Ebay market. But I digress, this article isn’t about which toys were my favorites or which toys I never owned. Those are all articles I wrote before and you can read by clicking on the links I included previously.
Again, this article is about those fantastic little comics that used to help you understand who the characters in the toy line were and how best you could build stories around your play with them. Sure, some would argue the cartoon series did that as well, but I would say it’s really these comics and the wonderful stories included that really were your first window into the wonderfully strange and dramatic planet known as Eternia and it’s inhabitants both good and evil.
The Magic Stealer
Written by: Gary Cohn
Art by: Mark Texeira
Skeletor has succeeded in creating a device that will drain all the magical energy from Eternia once and for all. From his devious pyramid at Eternia’s northern most wastes, Skeletor activates his device and nearly destroys the very life blood of the planet, crippling Castle Grayskull, the Sorceress, and everything else that gains its power from magic.
In a last ditch effort to stop Skeletor before all is lost, He-man boards his Attack-Trak and with Zoar the Falcon has his companion begins his long trek into Skeletor’s heart of darkness. Along the way, he has to battle a variety of threats such as the magically starved four armed giant named Procrustus in order to continue.
However, through sheer force of will and nearly superhuman grit, He-man eventually arrives for his climatic showdown with Skeletor. Although Skeletor may have all the magical might of Eternia on his side, he’s yet to tangle with a truly desperate He-man who finally is able to unleash all of his savage strength in a battle to end all battles at the top of the world!
Why it’s so good:
This is another solid entry from probably the greatest set of MOTU mini comics ever created for this line. I’m talking about the series 2 line which was co-developed with DC Comics and really for a lot of fans is the final iteration of the He-man character as a true barbarian force of nature, free of the Prince Adam/Filmation presence. As this is the version of He-man I love the most (mainly because this is where my 4 year old brain first locked on to MOTU as my toy of choice), of course, I am very bias in my choice of including these stories on my greatest comics of all time list. In fact, I probably would include all of them if I could…
Anyways, regardless of that though, the Magic Stealer is a pretty fantastic little epic which starts with an event that nearly never happens in MOTU…Skeletor winning. Yes for no other reason, this story is great because it starts with the deck already being stacked against He-man as all the magical Macguffins and Deus Ex Machinas in the world can’t save him this time, as they have been removed from the game-board. It’s all about He-man’s will, determination, and strength to endure in his lengthy quest to free the planet from Skeletor’s evil power. As a result, it’s almost like a Frodo style quest ala LotR as He-man travels to his Mount Doom to stop the near apocalyptic situation on Eternia.
Adding even more to the notion of a LotR style fantasy quest is this fantastic little interlude with meeting the giant Procrustus and having to overcome the terrible beast in order to continue with his life or death mission. Adding a little Greek Mythology to boot, Procrustus just wants to stop He-man so he can take over his job of holding the planet together, similar to Atlas and Hercules from the ancient myths. Super great stuff!
All these elements add up to a dark, serious and most importantly dangerous world which He-man inhabits which adds to the charm of these stories. It’s so much better when He-man isn’t just a Superman clone in furry underwear, punching his way out of problems. In these stories, he’s an incredible strong and capable warrior, but he lives in a world which demands so much from him as its champion because the threats are so real. Skeletor is truly an evil abhorrent creature bent on total enslavement and chaos. The monsters are truly deadly forces of nature. Eternia is not a fun, carefree place, but instead an intensely mysterious and interesting place. I like that so much more…
Although Zoar the Falcon was made famous as the alter ego of the Sorceress outside Castle Grayskull thanks to the Filmation cartoon, in this story, Zoar is just another one of He-man’s allies. Sort of a Fighting Falcon version of Battle Cat, it has absolutely nothing to do with either Grayskull or the Sorceress.
Also, like Battle Cat, the Zoar toy itself actually is a carry over recycle of a previous fighting eagle figure that Mattel originally created for its Big Jim line of action figures in the late 70s.
Also speaking of action figures, so memorable was the appearance of the Eternian titan, Procrustus, that Mattel created an oversized figure version of the character for their MOTU classics line. It’s definitely one I regret not getting as it was certainly one bad ass figure!
The Dragon’s Gift
Written by: Michael Halperin
(based on a story by Larry DiTillio)
Art by: Alfredo Alcala
A comic book adaptation of the He-man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon episode of the same name, The Dragon’s Gift is the story of how He-man and Teela have to find a magical cure to save Man-At-Arms’ life after he is turned to crystal by one of Skeletor’s evil spells. This involves visiting Granamyr, the oldest and wisest of all the dragons in all Eternia. However, the cost of Granamyr’s services is not cheap as he quests the pair to cut down and recover wood from Skytree, one of the oldest living sentient beings on the planet.
Although, Skytree offers his life freely to repay a debt he owns Man-At-Arms from a previous time the hero saved it’s life, He-man cannot bring himself to sacrifice the creature to appease Granamyr. Returning empty handed, Granamyr looks at first to be ready to unleash its wrath on the pair in the form of an army of monsters. However, after He-man shows bravery in fighting against the threat, Granamyr reveals that it was all a test.
He had heard stories of He-man’s compassion and forthright, but needed to know if it was true. He-man’s refusal to kill Skytree to save his friend as well as his steadfast commitment to that belief even in the face of punishment, proves to Granamyr that he is truly worthy of the dragon’s help. Thus, Granamyr gives He-man the spell in which to save Man-At-Arms, reverting his friend to normal just in the knick of time.
Why it’s so good:
Well, the obvious reason the comic is one of the best is because it’s an adaptation of one of the best episodes ever written for the original Filmation cartoon series. Originally penned by one of the all time best He-man cartoon writers, Larry DiTillio, who sadly passed away recently, this morality play about the cost of doing what’s right even in the face of sacrificing all that you hold dear is one of the best stories he ever wrote for the series.
Most fans overwhelming agree with the episode garnishing an 8/10 in James Eatock’s Definite Guide to the He-man Cartoon Series citing that Granamyr’s first appearance and characterization is one of the most memorable of the in the entire series.
However, I am one that feels that the comic adaption is actually even better than the cartoon. Mainly because we see the return of one of the all time great MOTU artists in Alfredo Alcala which really does bring with him a return to the “Conan” style high adventure and grandeur to the MOTU universe. As a result, the stakes of the comic version of the story seem much more dire than they ever did on the cartoon show, and the stark weirdness of some of the creatures including Skytree and some of the monsters He-man must fight along is way, bring a sense of alien savagery which fits with this toy line so well.
Plus, it manages to tell the exact same story in nearly half the time, so for a kid that just wants things to cut to the chase more often than not, it’s a perfect example of doing more with less.
The comic adaptation of the Dragon’s Gift was so profound on the MOTU fan base, that after Mattel made a Granamyr beast figure for their MOTU classics line in the Filmation red coloring, they shortly had to release a special limited edition version in the mini comics green just to appease those of us that have fond memories of this story. If I were ever going to get this figure, this is the version I would get…no question!
The Battle of Roboto
Written by: Christy Marx
Art by: Larry Houston
The Eternian royal family gets a surprise when Man-At-Arms reveals his latest technological creation, a robot warrior named Roboto. Although He-man has concerns about how much power it has and whether that could be used for evil purposes, Man-At-Arms assures him that as long as Roboto has this specially created “heart” to guide him, he will be nothing but a heroic inspiration to the kingdom.
However, Skeletor has been eavesdropping on Roboto’s reveal and soon hatches a plan to use Roboto to gain access to Castle Grayskull. Ambushing the naive robot and overpowering him after his attempt to help some poor villagers, Skeletor removes his “heart” and sends him to break down the Castle’s doors. Despite He-man and Teela’s efforts to stop him, he nearly succeeds in his deadly mission. But at the last moment, Man-At-Arms manages to retrieve the heart and return it to Roboto, thus ending his enslavement to Skeletor.
Roboto pleads with the Masters to have him dismantled so he cannot be corrupted by Skeletor’s power again, but the Sorceress has a better idea. She magically fuses the heart to Roboto’s circuitry thus making it impossible to remove his goodness in future.
Why it’s so good:
Well, I’m going to be completely honest here in that the selection of this mini comic for this list was heavily influenced by the fact that Roboto is one of my favorite MOTU figures of all time. So similar to my love of Tri-Klops and his inclusion on my original list of favorite comics, the most powerful robot in the universe is going to get the nod just simply for how bad ass he’s portrayed in that original comic I got with his figure. In particular I remember, even at the tender age of 6, the below display of raw power from our technological titan as he not only stops the Bashasaurus’ club with one hand but then proceeds to chuck what is in essence a tank into the next county! Again with one friggin’ hand! Now, that’s what I’m talking about when I say “he’s got the power!”
However, it’s also important to note that what seems to be a simple tale of a robot that needs a “heart” in order to know right from wrong, is actually an incredibly simple yet powerful study on the role of artificial intelligence and humanity’s quest to ensure those creatures that we create are imbued with the same morality that we would like to feel we possess.
Also, Roboto in the end is a being which like all of us has the propensity for either good or evil. All it needs is a set of guiding principles in order to know the difference between them. This is very effective way of teaching kids why it’s important to listen to wise counsel and practice good judgement. In the absence of his “heart”, he’s easily corrupted by those with an overwhelming wish to do harm, such as Skeletor. However, as He-man and Man-at-Arms struggle to reinstall the heart, it’s almost like an intervention to turn someone away from the dark path they are on, back to one of goodness. This shows that even when you feel like you have made decisions that there is no coming back from, there are those in your life that will continue to help you get you back on the right track.
Although this simple morality lesson is made digestible for kids through it’s bright colors and super human characters, it’s still a pretty great one, and worthy of inclusion on this list.
Like so many of these mini comics, this story was not only the first appearance of Roboto and packaged with that figure, but it was also the first comic appear of the evil warrior, Two-Bad, who also had this comic packaged with him.
This was a common theme in some of the comics released in series 4 of the MOTU line, in which they would couple a good guy and a bad guy release together and make them appear in the same story. They did this with Moss Man & Stinkor, Sy-Klone & Spikor, and again here with Roboto & Two Bad.
As a result, in my mind, these sets of figures will always been forever linked even though they don’t really have anything to do with each other really. Well…other than Moss Man & Stinkor. As the smelly figures, they will always be forever linked as the ones that stunk up by toy box with the weird unholy mixture of Pine-sol and Patchouli oil.