Andy’s Read Pile: Masters of the Universe Mini Comic Collection

GhostAndy

img_5202Greetings to all those that claim to HAVE THE POWER! It’s your old pal, Andy Larson, back for another week to deliver some more Masters of the Universe news and reviews for those out there craving all things He-man!

After taking last week off in terms of my recent series of posts surrounding this historically important toy franchise, I decided to continue this recent round of posts by focusing on a review of comic book omnibus that I’ve alluded to several times in past articles on some of my favorite MOTU mini comics of all time, but actually never really reviewed specifically as a book itself.

However before I begin, I wanted to comment on the fact that since I posted my recent MOTU toy news wrap up article a little less than 2 weeks ago, I have gotten some direct messages not only complimenting me on my excellent custom work in creating Imaginext versions of the Masters of the Universe characters, but also reminding me that Mattel does have legit plans to make these types of figures in future. In response to those messages, let me say that I am fully aware of these plans to release these figures sometime in 2021, but there was a very important reason that I didn’t comment on them when I was discussing Mattel’s release of the MOTU mini figures.

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It’s because these Imaginext figures aren’t really Imaginext figures in the true sense of the word. Despite these figures being crafted in the style of previous Imaginext figures, what they don’t bother to mention is the fact that they are not going to be in the same scale. These MOTU Imaginext figures will be nearly 10 inches tall vs. the standard Imaginext scale of 3 inches. That’s more than 3 times the size and makes these figures more in line with the recent Imaginext XL releases.

That being said the figures do fill a niche in the MOTU scale line up, as they won’t directly compete with the main line of Origins actions figures given their bigger size. However, I still struggle to see how kids will actually play with these figures. I never understood the the larger scale “super big” action figure idea, as they seem more clunky and bulky to serve as true toys.

In fact, I think the biggest purchaser of this line will still be the adult collector who are looking for more stylized “statue” like figures to display on a collection shelf, similar to the “giant sized” versions of the classic MOTU figures Mattycollector was hocking on their website several years back. Especially the Skeletor figure from this line, as that’s a very classic interpretation of the character albeit with an interesting cartoon”y” look that makes him stand out from previous toy versions.

Still though, I feel that the younger kids would have been served better with straight up normal Imaginext versions of these MOTU classics, but perhaps as I mentioned, that would have put the toys in direct competition with the standard MOTU Origins line and Mattel didn’t want that to happen. After all, I remember my younger brother being as young as 2 or 3 years old and playing with the classic He-man figures back in the 80s, so there really shouldn’t be the need to market a line specifically for the young ones when you have MOTU Origins. Then again it didn’t stop Mattel from hedging their bets with these delightful MOTU Little People figures! Adorable with a capital “A”!

Masters of the Universe Little People Collector Figure Set by Fisher-Price (2)

Anyways, enough about the toys for this post! This was supposed to be a review of the Masters of the Universe Mini Comic Collection hardback, and by golly sooner or later I’m going to have to deliver on that!

Now I will say that this upcoming review is different from other Read Piles I’ve done simply because I’m not so much reviewing the content of the book, but the book itself. If you want a review of some of the actual mini comics themselves, check out any number of the links below in which I cover some of my favorite from this collection.

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Favorite Mini Comics Part 1

Favorite Mini Comics Part 2

Favorite Mini Comics Part 3

That being said let’s take a closer look at this 2015 Dark Horse Comics hardback omnibus style collection encompassing sincerely 99% of the mini comics ever released for the historic franchise.

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Heman Omnibus

Weighing in at an insanely large page count of 1,232 pages, it’s really hard to call this book an omnibus as much as it’s a tome! Sincerely, the next closest omnibus in my own personal collection which rivals that ungodly high number of pages  is my complete “Acts of Vengeance” omnibus from Marvel which is only a paltry 742 pages.  So in essence, this collection of the near totality of all the mini comics of the MOTU franchise is like 66% bigger than the most complete omnibus I’ve seem thus far, which is a massive feat in itself.

Now I’m sure most of non MOTU devotees out there might wonder about that page count and ask “How is it possible that there were that many MOTU mini comics?!?” Well, the simple answer is that Mattel published 50 mini comics over the course of the original Masters of the Universe toy line, with on average 10-12 pages a piece. That definitely can add up when you are putting all those stories in one place.

However, this particular collection doesn’t just contain those mini comics that came with the figures, but a wide variety of additional “bonus” content from the various spin offs and other merchandising streams.

First off, the collection contains two “read along” story books that were included with either a record or cassette tape packaged with certain MOTU toys. The first was the more widely seen “The Power of Point Dread/Danger at Castle Grayskull” double act that came with the Talon Fighter/Point Dread vehicle play set back with the second wave in 1983. Those stories featured the beautifully savage artwork of the one of the godfathers of MOTU’s visual design, Alfredo Alcala.

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The second was the much more rare “The Power of the Evil Horde” which came with a Hordak/Grizzlor action figure two pack that barely saw the light of day back in 1985. The cool thing about that comic is it sports Bruce Timm art, which for those of you not in the know was the main creative force behind the famous Batman: The Animated Series show. Plus, if you’ve ever had a chance to listen to the actual read along recording, it sports voice acting by nearly all the folks that did the Filmation cartoon such as John Erwin as He-man and the classic cackling of Alan Oppenheimer as Skeletor…but I digress.

In addition to the read along books, the collection also features the 12 mini comics that were released with the She-Ra, Princess of Power toy line as well as the 4 mini comics that came out for the short lived Space age reboot of Masters of the Universe just entitled “He-man”. Although both of these mini comic lines weren’t as successful as the original MOTU one, it’s awesome that they are include along side the rest in this book.

This is especially true of the first couple She-Ra comics as they contain a style of storytelling that is nearly identical to the MOTU ones, and with some top notch art, they fill in some of the gaps in the overall mythology very well. Plus, the first She-Ra comic is a condensed retelling of the same origin story that we get in the He-man animated movie “Secret of the Sword” which helps bridge the two series and create one cohesive narrative.

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This is similar to the first space He-man mini comic as well as it starts with the confines of the Eternia we already know before quickly shedding its skin as it were and heading out to the stars for this “sequel” series of sorts. You even get one more small skirmish between the classic He-man and Skeletor and old bone head finally finding out He-man’s alter ego.

Speaking of reboots, although the 200x line of He-man figures did not have mini comics packaged with the toys like its predecessor, there was a full length comic made to be sold with the toys which had a similar style to those stories found in the original minis. Not only does this book contain that single issue story, but it also includes a never before released second issue entitled “Smash Blade He-man vs. Spin Blade Skeletor”.

Although that title doesn’t exactly inspire literary confidence in the quality of the story, what is neat is the fact that this particular issue was written by Robert Kirkman, who would go on to create so many incredible indie gems including Invincible and a little book you might have heard of called The Walking Dead.

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Closing out the book, fans are treated to first time reprintings of the 3 mini comics released with some of the Masters of the Universe Classic figures that they used to sell over at the now defunct Mattycollector. At the time, these particular comics were extremely hard to get given they were packaged with subscription exclusive figures, and thus were available for same day purchasers. So the fact that you get some of these comics in collection is really a coup of sorts given for many, this was the first opportunity to read them unless you wanted to get gouged by some greedy figure horder who bought multiple copies of these chase figures just to get a couple more copies of the comic to sell.

These mini comics make up a 3 part story line entitled “The Powers of Grayskull” which promised to tell the story that had been originally teased so many decades earlier in the final issue of the original MOTU mini comic. In that story, He-man goes back in time to Pre-Eternia, a world dominated by King Hssss and his techno organic dinosaurs. After being attacked and forced to fight for his life, He-man is rescued by a mysterious figure that we never get to meet due to the fact the line was cancelled before part 2 could have been released.

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Written in part by Tim Seeley who was the architect of the recently reviewed He-man and the Masters of the Multiverse comic, these newer Powers of Grayskull issues finally introduce the character of He-Ro, a super powerful wizard-like warrior who just happened to be He-man’s ancestor.  In addition, they play heavily into the mythological backstory provided on the figure card backs written by Masters of the Universe Classics chief executive, Scott Neitlich, some of which were pretty controversial among some circles of the fan base (cough…Teela being a magic clone…cough)

Anyways one thing that wasn’t controversial was the decision to wrap up this collection by providing a never before printed “lost” mini comic that was scheduled to be released originally back in the 1980s.

Entitled “Return from Terror Island”, it’s nothing extremely special in that He-man has to undertake a pretty standard rescue mission of his mom, Queen Marlena, who has been magically kidnapped by Skeletor and his cronies. It does feature the Snake Men, Rattlor and Tongue Lasher, as well as the Flying Fists accessory that came out with one the last released He-man variants of the original line. Still though to have it here in its complete form provides a perfect Easter Egg type bookend for fans everywhere.

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And it’s not surprising either, as this collection included tons of wonderful additional Easter Egg type materials in terms of interviews with some of the original artists and writers of these historical little comic gems such as Steven Grant, Gary Cohn, Michael Halperin, Errol McCarthy, Larry Houston, the aforementioned Tim Seeley, and more!

My personal two favorites were the interviews with recent Eisner Hall of Fame inductee Stan Sakai who did the lettering for at least half of all the mini comics ever created as well as Mark Texeira who drew all the mini comics that came out with the “wave 2” figures like Tri-Klops, Ram Man, Man E Faces, Trap Jaw and others. Those mini comics were in my opinion the pinnacle of the series and that’s mostly due to the fantastic art provided by Texeira.

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Sincerely, project adviser, Val Staples did a wonderful job putting together this collection and it really does capture the love and joy that these mini comics have brought fans for years especially with all of the wonderful little foot notes and explanations that are peppered throughout.

And that’s my final word on this. It’s obviously going to be a book I’m going to personally grade very highly as one of the most complete and through collections of reprints out on the market today. Sincerely other than including the Golden story books or the original DC limited series, this book has it all!

And that’s really important for folks that want to reconnect with these stories at a time when hopefully Masters of the Universe is going to start taking off again as a franchise. With kids and parents buying the new figures in the stores, they are going to need family friendly stories that showcase the toys and the wonderful adventures you can have with them. Of course, the new figures might include mini comics, but those aren’t going to be enough. With this collection, you get close to 75+ ready made stories featuring the exact same characters with the exact same basic looks that you’ll get from the new store bought toys. As such, it’s almost as if these stories have become relevant all over again as imagination starters, just as they were when they were originally printed.

And at only 25 bucks currently at most book sellers, this collection is much more affordable than purchasing the mini comics individually off Ebay, where due to the “disposable” nature of them, many have been harder to track down than some of the original figures were.

Seriously, 25 bucks is like the price of 5 standard comic books in a store nowadays so why wouldn’t you pick up a copy of this terrific collection today?!? I guarantee, fan or not, you won’t regret it!

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Andy’s Read Pile Grade: A+++

 

 

 

 

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