Hey Gang! It’s time for a second helping of Andy’s Read Pile for this week! Why you ask? Well, it’s mainly because with summer time winding down, I’ve been spending a ton of time at the pool with the kids as they try to eek out every last drop of fun they can before they head back to the drudgery that is the school day.
So when I’m not playing Marco polo, doing cannonballs, or playing the great “Hey Dad! Throw me as high in the air as you can so I can do a belly flop” game, I’m reading comics and working on my tan. Yes, yes…I know about skin cancer. Yes, I put sun screen on. I just tan easily so I might as well sport that sweet bronze look as much as I can.
Anyways, back to the comics, it’s not just any book I’ll pick up and toss in the old swim bag, mind you, as this is still summer reading, so it’s gotta light and fun. With that in mind, let me break down a book I’ve been meaning to check out for years given my love of everything Masters of the Universe related. That’s the highly touted and long asked for crossover of two of the 80s biggest cartoon franchises.
I’m talking about He-man/Thundercats put out in 2016-17 by DC Comics written by Lloyd Goldfine and Rob David with art by Freddie Williams II.
***I will say this review does have some spoilers, so if you don’t want to read those, STOP NOW!***
The Ancient Spirits of Evil have had enough of Mumm-Ra’s failed plots to rid Third Earth of the Thundercats. So much so that they secretly contact Skeletor on the far off planet of Eternia and offer him the opportunity to do the job instead. Skeletor is happy to oblige as long as he gets He-man’s Power Sword, which he can corrupt with his dark energies to something evil and thus finally take Castle Grayskull with the vast power the sword will provide him.
Of course, Mumm-Ra is dispatched to get the sword from Prince Adam, and in order to do that Third Earth is pulled through the dimensions to Eternia’s universe. Mumm-Ra does succeed in stabbing Prince Adam to death, but he is saved temporarily by the Power of Grayskull. That is until Skeletor does succeed in getting the Sword from Mumm-Ra and steals the power thus reverting He-man back to Prince Adam where he dies.
Eventually though, the Thundercats investigate Skeletor’s evil plans and manage to momentarily stop him before Skeletor and Mumm-Ra join forces to bring giant sized monster versions of the Ancient Spirits of Evil to Eternia to go Godzilla all over the countryside.
With time running out, Lion-O takes a desperate gamble to resurrect Prince Adam’s life within Mumm-Ra’s Black Pyramid so possibly He-man might be able to turn the tides of the war back to the side of good. However, dangerous things can happen when you mess around with Mumm-Ra’s dark magic…
Things I Liked:
There’s no question that I’m a huge fan of both He-man and Thundercats. Of course MOTU is head and shoulders above TC as it’s my favorite toy line of all time, but there was a time in second grade that Thundercats did pass up He-man for a brief moment as the toy franchise that demanded my attention. I will also admit that thanks to the more fluid Japanese animation and consistently good storytelling, the 80s Thundercats cartoon holds up better as something I enjoy rewatching as an adult more than the simple Filmation He-man, but I digress.
The point is I’ve been waiting for this crossover since I was like 8 years old and I first hatched the idea to have my He-man figure punch my Mumm-Ra figure in the face (I would have had Lion-O punch Skeletor in the face, but the TC figures were so much bigger and although it’s okay to have a good guy hit a giant, it’s not okay for a good guy to hit a midget).
And this series what with simplistic story telling and strong action scenes delivers on the promises of that 8 year old boy’s imagined dreams of how this whole thing would go down. Sure, it’s cheesy and campy at parts, like Man At Arms and Panthro exchanging weapons at the end of the the battle, or Orko making Snarf giant sized, but for every moment like that there’s an equally serious one.
Make no mistake about it, the writers definitely drive home the fact that the universe of MOTU and TC are very dangerous places. These are sword swinging barbarians for the most part, and people will get hurt. And the commitment to that idea does play a decent part in balancing everything out in that although you know that ultimately good will overcome evil, there’s going to be sacrifices and pain along the way.
And although this was a “team up” book, we did get a section of the story where we could see He-man and Lion-O fight against each other, which is another check you can cross off on your 80s “to do” list as I’m sure “who could win in a battle? was a hot button question on the lips of tons of grade school kids around the old lunch table.
Plus in the end, you got to see Battle Cat as a truly anthropomorphic cat like the ThunderCats, with legs and hands. That by itself is worth the price of admission.
Things I Didn’t Like:
I honestly didn’t like the art in this book. I mean, don’t get me wrong. It was very well done from a technical perspective, so my fault is not with it’s merits, but with my personal taste. And that’s surprising given I’ve enjoyed Freddie Williams work in the past, such as his Eisner award winning run on Seven Soldiers of Victory.
However, in this book, it seemed overly stylized, almost as if it should have the type of artwork spray-painted on the side of someone’s van in the 70s. Hard to describe in that way, but it seemed in the same breath way heavy on the shading and overly detailed but at the same time washed out, which was very jarring. Like a perfect example of what I’m talking about is the way he draws Heman’s hair, with a blocky almost dread-lock like style complete with beefy defined layers which looked more like a clay sculpture instead of actual real hair.
I don’t want to seem like I’m belittling the art in any way as Freddie does to an excellent job of capturing the essence of so many of these classic and beloved characters from Panthro to Beast Man, as well as the locations such as the Black Pyramid on Third Earth.
But in the same breath I’d be lying if I said I would have preferred it to be a little more by the book in more traditional comic style. Then again, maybe I’ll just never get over the fact that Mark Texeria is my definite artist for MOTU and that everyone will just look like pale comparisons to that. Who knows…
In terms of the storytelling, my only major gripe is that although they spend a lot of time on a lot of the main characters such as He-man, Lion-O, Skeletor etc. giving them strong set pieces and convincing characterization, the writers seem like they want to shoehorn in a lot of the supporting cast in ways that seem like nothing but fan wanky cameos. I understand that the MOTU/Thundercats universe is pretty large, and it’d be impossible to give all those characters an equal spotlight. However, at the same time, if you don’t have the time to really include some of those characters, it’s not necessary to do so.
This was especially true when it came to the villains, as I view characters like Tri Klops or Trap Jaw to be more than just Skeletor’s mindless minions, but members of He-man’s rogues gallery to a certain respect, worthy of being more than greedy mercenaries ready to be He-man or Lion-O’s fist fodder. Slithe is another perfect example as he is the leader of the mutants of Plun-Darr. He’s supposed to be a credible threat in his own right, not just another jabroni that Evil Lyn tosses at the most powerful man in the universe to slow him down for a hot second.
It just didn’t sit right with me. It seemed like a waste of good characters for nothing.
If you’ve been a avid listener of our podcast, you’ve probably heard me talk about Mattel’s fantastic decision to “remake” the original MOTU figures in the classic 1980s style but with updated articulation so they are more in keeping with current collectable action figure lines like Marvel Legends or DC Universe.
Originally, I thought that the MOTU Classics line was going to the definite versions of these characters, and I still do to a certain degree at least from the perspective of the adult toy collector. But what MOTU has been missing for a long time now is a new and definite toy line for kids. One that doesn’t cost 30 bucks a figure and you can only get in some crazy online store where most of the important figures are sold out.
No, you need to have a basic, relatable, and most of all play friendly line in all major toy aisles at Wal-mart, Target, and such so that kids can get hooked on the franchise just like they did when it was huge in the 80s. They did this with Transformers. They did this with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It’s a successful idea, and one that you have to do every like 3 or 4 years through relaunches to get the new kids hooked.
It always bothered me that Mattel, who seemed like they knew what they were doing from a toy perspective, would let this important franchise and money maker just sit in obscurity for so long without a huge relaunch. I understand they had some missteps with MOTU in the past, but that’s because they have moved away from the core selling points of this toy line and tried to do something way to different. But now with the new Movie coming out next year, and this sweet batch of brand new characters hitting hopefully toy shelves, maybe MOTU is ready for a big turnaround.
All they need is to market the hell out of this. New cartoon series. Big promotion signs. Take a page from MOTU from the 80s and go for the gusto, Mattel! You’ll reap the benefits. You’ll see!
This was a very enjoyable read in my opinion. Despite some of my above grumblings on the art style, it was still action packed with enough nostalgic fun to hook anyone who has even a passing interest or knowledge into these two historic toy mega franchises. As I mentioned in the opening, it was perfect summer time reading, with a light and breezy premise and simplistic stakes.
I will say that I was really happy in the end they made the call to use the continuity for the characters pulled directly from the 80s cartoon series. Although I’m not as huge of a fan of the Filmation He-man any more and prefer the one from the classic mini comics, the Filmation cartoon is the main source of information on the characters for the majority of people, so it makes sense to just play in that sandbox so that it’s universally appealing. Plus the fact that some of the other continuity that has been attempted in MOTU has been straight up wonky, just as Teela being the Sorceress’ magical rape clone, so the Filmation story is much more digestible.
I’m also glad that they finally did away with He-man’s secret identity in this story, with everyone finally finding out that He-man and Prince Adam are the same guy. It was always kind of stupid, even more so than the Superman/Clark Kent thing, because at least Clark made an loose attempt to look different with the glasses. All Prince Adam did was put on a pink shirt.
Speaking of which, this notion of a lack of secret identity will play a big part in what’s considered to be a direct sequel to this story, where He-man tussles with another pop culture strong man, the aforementioned Superman, himself, in Injustice vs. Masters of the Universe .
Yep, I’m sure you didn’t know that was in the same continuity as this story. Who wants me to review that book next? Show of hands???