Andy’s Read Pile: 2 Really Weird He-man Mini Comics

GhostAndy

img_5202Hey everyone!  It’s Andy Larson, again, with another exciting read pile based on one of the largest comic book collected trades I have in my library, Dark Horse Comics republishing of the entire run of the Masters of the Universe Mini Comics.

Now I know what you are thinking, Andy really can’t keep doing these types of posts where he lists his favorite He-man minis because sooner or later, he’ll just be listing every single one ever made, which totally defeats the purpose of having a “favorite” list to begin with.

Well, I’ve heard my fans loud and clear, and instead of listing my favorite mini comics on today’s blog, I’m going to go a different route: I’m going to get WEIRD!

Yeah, if there’s definitely something else that the MOTU franchise is know for over the years other than being bad ass, it’s being totally whacked out bizarre. I mean look at some of the figures they came out with: A dude with an metal elephant head, a build your own monster figure who allowed you to attach a head and butt together, and of course a skunk based villain who reeked of patchouli oil! And that was just the tip of the iceberg, as it seemed there were no normal people on Eternia by the end of the toy line, just a bunch of gimmick based freaks of nature!

And as a result of having some of these strange characters in the line, conversely the tie in merchandising materials also skewed more than a little that way. I mean, you try writing a serious, morally grounded piece of fiction when your protagonist is a Beast man repaint covered in fuzzy moss and dipped in pine scented air freshener chemicals.

So with that said, here are a couple Masters of the Universe mini comics which are just down right weird…

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The Obelisk

Written by: Karen Sargentich

Art by: Alfredo Alcala

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The Story:

Every year, a strange ancient Obelisk arises from the barren plains of Eternia. This structure seems to promise to bestow great power, but has thus far confounded both good and evil in regards to an understanding of how to use it. After a brief tussle between He-man and Skeletor’s forces over control of the Obelisk, He-man asks the Sorceress of Castle Grayskull to decode the monolith’s coded language.

It seems the Obelisk will grant its power simply by asking for it in the name of either good or evil. Although, He-man initially harnesses the power for good, Skeletor steps in on behalf of evil and  starts a contest of wills to access the Obelisk’s gifts.

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The result is the creation of several weird creatures willing to battle for either good or evil, before the Obelisk is overloaded by the constant competing demands and crumbles apart. As Skeletor is driven away one final time in the aftermath, He-man hears a whisper on the wind that the Obelisk will return.

Why is it Weird:

Before I begin, I will say of the two stories on today’s blog, this one is somewhat the least weird. It’s also got Alfredo Alcala art who as any He-man fan will tell you is pretty much up there with Earl Norem as the gold standard for what we expect from this franchise.

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However, the issue with this story isn’t so much that it’s weird, as much as it’s pretty poorly written and a lot of things don’t make sense. Now some might give me grief that these stories were only 14 pages long so it’s hard to tell decent stories with only that many pages, but I’ll respond by saying that’s complete horse hockey as many of my “Best Mini Comic articles” will attest that there’s a lot you can do even with that limited space.

Nearly all of first half of the book is just an illustrated skirmish between He-man’s team and Skeletor’s team mostly told in panels that take up nearly the whole page. That leaves only like 7 pages to really explore the power of the Obelisk, which I won’t lie is a pretty neat concept.

Of course we have to deal with Mekaneck giving us weird gibberish baby words as the language on this formidable structure which was a poor story choice.

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But once it’s finally deciphered, and we get a taste of what this bad boy can do in terms of turning the tides of battle for either good or evil, we have only 2 pages left in order to see that unfold. So instead of getting this almighty tower spitting out armies of magically created monsters and seeing them face off against each other, we get a couple goofy panels of generic rejects from Alcala’s sketch book, which appear  briefly only to not be seen again! Like there’s no record after those panels of what happened with them!

Were they reabsorbed into the Oblesk? Did they magically disintegrate? Are they still alive running a chain of Eternian dry cleaning establishments, all the while questioning their existence as pseudo scientific constructs brought into this plane of being by Skeletor shouting “Power to Evil” at a yellow banana shaped pillar?

Worse of all, there was one particular character that even as a kid, I really wanted as an action figure, and because he appeared in the comic, I scoured the toy stores looking for him, despite him being just a throwaway in this book. I even gave him a name Many Hands after characters like Man-E-Faces, and such.

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To this day, this guy makes no sense. Pink Nose/Green Body. No Clothes. 6 arms. Wearing a back mask and monster goatee on his face. And most of all his ability to escape from “horrid situations” (great vocabulary for this guy!) and his ability to rescue others.

These  seem to be admirable traits, yet he fights for “evil”.

Yes, kids, rescuing people is extremely evil. Good lessons to learn.

 

 

Fun Fact:

I believe this comic book was actually the first mini comic appearance of the Heroic Warrior, Mekaneck, although that could be up for debate. He also appears in “He-man & the Insect People” which was released in the same Wave 3 of action figures, so I guess both could lay claim to that honor. I honestly say it was his first appearance though, because it was his first appearance for me, given I received the Obelisk comic before I ever got that Insect People one.

Mekaneck and I have always had a pretty strained relationship. Although I consider him a must have member of the core Masters of the Universe Heroic Warriors, he was never one of my favorites. Mainly it was because I was always turned off by his visual design.

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Something about him just looked sort of dorky. Maybe it was pointy triangle helmet, the goofy yellow upside down “bugle corn chip” mace, or the reflective eyes that made him look like he was permanently wearing glasses, he was often one of the figures I have Tri-Klops wail on before He-man jumped into save his bacon.

Later on, he was also often the hero the Horde would capture and dump into the Slime Pit, mainly because they would catch him spying and that’s what you do with snoops! Plus I had like 6 of him because he was somewhat of a perennial peg warmer in toy stores, and so my Grandma would always see him, always forget I had him, and always buy me another as a “surprise” for good grades!

It wasn’t so bad though. I mean Peg Warmers were prime fodder for the Slime Pit. That’s why Mattel made that toy. To destroy figures so you have to buy new ones!

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However, my rage against the four eyed human telescope are somewhat unfair given he’s had some really good stories told about him over the years.

“Search for the Son” in particular from the second season of the original Filmation cartoon was one of the few episodes to give an actual backstory to one of the heroes featured along side He-man, explaining how he got his robotic neck after an accident as well as the fact that he had children of his own. Series regulars like Ram Man and Stratos didn’t even that kind of character growth or arc, so I guess writers must have seen something special in old pentagon head that I must have missed…

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Fastest Draw in the Universe!

Written by: Steven Grant

Art by: Mike Vosburg

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The Story:

It’s Skeletor Shinaigans at the Ol’ Ranch in this mini comic, as his reptile minion, Kobra Khan, hatches a plan to stampede the herds of cows from the Eternina grasslands directly into the crops, thus crippling the food supply of planet.

Skeletor decides to go along with this as a way to finally delegate some responsibility for terrible schemes, and thus Khan heads to the grasslands with a bunch of Snake men to enact his masterplan.

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Luckily for Eternia, He-man was already heading that way and meets up with his “old” friend Rio Blast, a cyborg cowboy of sorts tasked with keeping the peace “in these here parts”. Together, the rootin’ tootin’ laser gun blazing duo dish out some frontier justice on those ol’ rattlesnakes, and the herd is preserved.

Oh..and there’s a subplot about Barbecue sauce or Chili or something way too spicy for Orko’s delicate palate.

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Why is it Weird:

Look, there’s no denying that I hate with a passion the character of Rio Blast. I listed him on my top 5 worst MOTU figures ever and let me tell you my disdain for the character has only grown. Although I understand that MOTU was somewhat of a hodge podge of different tropes all repackaged to help sell toys, whether that be ninjas, space age, barbarians, monsters, etc.

I feel like the with Rio Blast, that’s the moment the series jumped the shark a bit, and just started throwing everything at the wall to see if it would stick. This was shortly followed by the dinosaur line idea, which I’ll even forgive as most kids look at dinosaurs as dragons anyways. But cowboys and the old west have absolutely nothing to do with a fantasy related property…period.

And so,  an entire story about Kobra Khan hatching a cattle rustling plot is the moment when I said as a kid of only 8 years old “where is this series going?!?” and I really meant it. Some might argue that it’s no worse than some of the hair-brained schemes Skeletor hatched on the Filmation series, but I would strongly beg to differ. None of those involved moo cows as an engine for destruction, and really none of them were as ill conceived as this.

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I mean stampeding cows over some crops might indeed ruin some of the available food surplus, but the cows could be herded again, and the crops replanted. Plus unless we are taking about a herd of cows the size of Texas I doubt they could trample all of the crop fields in Eternia.

That is unless all of Eternia’s food supply comes from like one family farm and one group of cattle, which if that’s the case then King Randor is somewhat of an idiot as a ruler and hasn’t done remotely enough in terms of resource management.

Plus if that was the case, why use the cows at all?!? Skeletor has death machines and super powerful magic. Surely he could wipe out the crops more effectively with a blight spell or just smashing them with his gigantic robot spider. Why all the unnecessary subterfuge? It’s just a weird goofy plot that makes no sense other than the fact that you had a cowboy character so why not rip off a tired plot from Wagon Train/Bonanza/Gunsmoke/Rifleman/Lone Ranger/Death Valley Days/Cheyenne…the list goes on….and on…

But hey luckily we have the good natured fun with Rio Blast’s cooking to give us a breather from all of hard hitting drama. It was so intense what with the “pew pews” and “moo moos” that I just needed this light hearted brevity to keep me from having a stress related seizure.

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Fun Fact:

Rio Blast wasn’t actually the last time Mattel took a stab at making a Cowboy/Cyborg hybrid hero. Around the same time that MOTU was coming to an end, the toy company released Bravestarr, a 8″ tall action figure line about a half robot sherriff from and came in a windowed box with artwork that looked extremely close to the same house style that MOTU had made famous.

And if you thought that I was rough on Rio Blast on being just too damn weird even for the Masters of the Universe line that had a talking pile of moss, then you really don’t want to hear my thoughts on Bravestarr.

I mean there was a robotic horse named Thirty/Thirty in the line that’s primary job was not be a horse per say but a 8 ft tall anthropomorphic killing machine. I mean look at this toy and tell me that doesn’t fill you with terror about the inevitable machine driven holocaust.

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It’s more Terminator than Hi Ho Silver for sure. But it gets even weirder when it was eventually visualized in cartoon form by of course Filmation Studios as the animated series tie in to promote the toy line. In the series, they pretty much completely ditch Thirty/Thirty’s “normal” looking horse legs and instead give him a full on cyborg look with quads that make him look like he could clean & jerk a battleship.

I mean look at this creature! The Horse face, flowing white mane, human hands cradling a massive steel gun?!? It’s like a Equus style wet dream!

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I’m honestly glad that I had moved on to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by the time Bravestarr hit TV screens and toy shelves because I don’t think my puny childhood mind could have taken this level of strangeness.

Yes, I’d take mutated reptiles that learned ancient martial arts from a giant rat while single handedly keeping Pizza Hut in business any day over the type of cowboy nonsense Bravestarr tried to put over on us as a society.

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