It’s time for another Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre photo story. The name “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre” was coined by Kevin Beckett at the Whetstone Discord server.
This story was inspired by getting a new toy in the mail, namely the Masters of the Universe Origins He-Skeletor figure. So who is He-Skeletor? Well, best let him tell his story himself.
“I am Keldor, Prince of Eternia and defender of the secrets of Castle Grayskull…”
“…and this is Panthor, my fearless friend.”
“And yes, I know you think you know how this story goes, but trust me, you don’t.”
“Fabulous secret powers were revealed to me the day I held aloft my magic sword and said…”
“By the Power of Grayskull…”
“…I can have the Power.”
“Panthor became the mighty Battle Panther…”
“…and I became He-Skeletor, the most powerful Keldor in the Multiverse.”
“Only two others share the secret. Our friends Lyn and Red Beast.”
“You didn’t think I’d tell my shitty brother, did you?”
“Don’t think that I don’t know that it was you who sprayed ‘King Randor is a poopy head’ on the palace wall, Keldor. You’re a disappointment and a disgrace to the throne. And now get out of my sight and take that mangy Beast-Man and that useless sorceress Lyn along!”
“See what I mean? That’s my brother Randy – pardon, King Randor. He’s an idiot in every universe I visited – and I visited a lot of them. Still, he’s my brother and I love him.”
“Together we defend the Multiverse from the Evil Forces of Anti-Eternia He-Man. Otherwise known as my nephew, Prince Adam.”
“Surrender or die, Uncle Keldor. All the Power in the Multiverse shall be mine.”
“That’s He-Skeletor to you, Adam.”
“That’s a terrible name.”
“Says the guy who calls himself Anti-Eternia He-Man.”
“Oh yes, and my friends and I also defend Castle Grayskull from this guy. Who’s me, sort of, but from a different universe and evil. Oh yes, and he got his face burned off, because he tried to throw acid at our brother Randor and it backfired on himself. So yeah, he’s an arsehole and an idiot.”
“Arsehole? Idiot? Watch your mouth, boy. It’s you who’s a disgrace to our name, weakling.”
“I may be a weakling, Skeletor, but you’re the disgrace. All of you. Or do you think I like having to apologise for what YOU did to every single He-Man I meet.”
“You should be helping me to conquer the Multiverse and Grayskull. But instead, you… you cavort about with Lyn and paint pictures and rescue He-Men. Honestly, I have no idea what’s wrong with you.”
“Like I said, he’s an arsehole. They’re all arseholes, every other Keldor in the Multiverse.”
“The name is Skeletor, you blistering boob! And you are a loser, a weakling, a shame, a disgrace.”
“We should just kill him, comrades.”
“Yes, let’s kill the weakling.”
“See what I mean? I’ve always been my own worst enemy.”
“Finally, I’m also sworn to protect all the other He-Men in the Multiverse from my wayward nephew – and to persuade them to marry that Teela girl they’re all in love with. Sometimes, I think I’m truly cursed.”
“So that’s who I am. Keldor, Prince, weakling, loser, disgrace and the last best hope that the Multiverse has to be saved from the rampage of Anti-Eternia He-Man. Which means we’re all doomed, I guess.”
So in short, He-Skeletor is Prince Keldor from another universe, where He-Man is evil and Keldor is not. The idea of an evil mirror universe version of He-Man is actually quite old and Anti-Eternia He-Man debuted in 1985 in episode 11 of the West German Masters of the Universe audio-drama series.
In the 1970s and 1980s, audio dramas aimed at children and teenagers and sold as cassette tapes were extremely popular in West Germany. These were very well made full cast audio dramas, complete with sound effects and some of Germany’s best voice actors (e.g. He-Man shared a voice – voice actor Norbert Langer – with Thomas Magnum and Inspector Barnaby from Midsumer Murders, which could be quite distracting). As a kid, I never really paid any attention to these audio dramas on cassette – they were just something that was there, something you popped into the tape recorder and played before bedtime or during long car trips. I also had no idea that other countries didn’t really have audio dramas aimed at kids the way (West) Germany did.
There was a huge variety of audio drama series, ranging from explicit kiddie fare featuring friendly elephants, bees, ghosts and witches via realistic tales about girls riding horses, boys playing football to kids solving mysteries all the way to science fiction, fantasy and horror. Some of them were based on licensed properties, e.g. I distinctly remember Star Wars audio dramas. There also were more than thirty Masters of the Universe audio dramas as well as a She-Ra spin-off series.
Legend has it that the head of the children’s audio drama department of the Europa production company took a stroll across the Nuremberg Toy Fair in 1982 or 1983 and saw the first run of Masters of the Universe figures on display at the Mattel booth. Intrigued, she went up to a Mattel representative and asked them about the figures, whether there was any tie-in media and whether they were interested in licensing the characters for audio dramas. Mattel said yes and so the (West) German Masters of the Universe audio dramas were born. The first few audio dramas deviated quite heavily from what passes for Masters of the Universe canon, because that canon hadn’t really been nailed down yet. After a few episodes, Mattel supplied Europa with their series bible and licensor kit and the audio dramas became more in line with the continuity of the Filmation cartoon, even though almost no one in Germany had seen those cartoons at the time. That said, the audio dramas were usually darker than the Filmation episodes.
As for Anti-Eternia He-Man, he debuted in episode 11, penned by science fiction and horror veteran author H.G. Francis and entitled simply “Anti-Eternia”. The episode is actually online and you can listen to it here. The plot is quite simple. Skeletor devises a new plan to conquer Eternia and opens a dimensional gate that brings Anti-Eternia He-Man, Man-at-Arms and (I think) Orko to Eternia to help Skeletor conquer Castle Grayskull. However, Anti-Eternia He-Man has other ideas and kicks Skeletor out of Snake Mountain and proceeds to conquer Eternia for himself, before our heroes stop him. It’s one of the more popular episodes of the series and probably introduced a lot of kids to the concept of parallel universes.
Since it was an audio drama, there were no visuals and no images of Anti-Eternia He-Man – just a description that his skin was jet black and that he had blood red eyes and blood red hair. He showed up in fan art and customs and eventually Mattel officially adopted him and turned him into a figure in various toylines, probably because Anti-Eternia He-Man is easy and cheap to make, since he’s basically He-Man in a different colour.
The original “Anti-Eternia” audio drama only featured the evil counterparts of He-Man, Man-at-Arms and Orko and never mentioned Skeletor and the Evil Warriors and what they were like in Anti-Eternia. Were they even more evil than the already very evil Anti-Eternia He-Man? Or were they actually the good guys?
That question would remain unanswered for more than thirty years, until the He-Man and the Masters of the Multiverse comic mini-series by Tim Seeley and Dan Fraga. That series brought all the different incarnations of He-Man from various media together by stating that the minicomics, the Filmation cartoon, the New Adventures of He-Man cartoon, the 2002 cartoon, the 1987 Masters of the Universe movie, the 2012 DC Comics run, the West German audio dramas of the 1980s, a He-Man videogame, etc… all take place in different universes, which is why they’re all slightly different from each other.
The series is kicked off by Anti-Eternia He-Man going on a rampage through the Multiverse to murder other versions of He-Man and steal their power swords, so he can rule supreme over the Multiverse. Eventually two surviving He-Men, the He-Man from the 1987 movie and a videogame He-Man use the cosmic key (a time, space and dimension hopping gadget from the 1987 movie) to enlist the help of the one person who might be able to stop Anti-Eternia He-Man, namely that universe’s version of Skeletor.
There’s only one problem. Anti-Eternia Keldor is no Skeletor. He’s something of a goofball, crap at magic and not a very good fighter – unlike the versions of Keldor we’ve seen in the 2002 cartoon and the recent CGI cartoon, who are already skilled swordsmen and sorcerers well before they become Skeletor. He also has a massive case of imposter syndrome and is terrified of falling to the dark side, especially once he meets his other evil selves.
The comic miniseries is delightful, though also very dark, because a lot of He-Men, Skeletors and other beloved characters die over the course of six issues. The series does a great job of bringing together the many different Masters of the Universe continuities. Keldor is an incredibly likeable protagonist, from the way he differentiates between the various He-Men he meets (e.g. movie He-Man is “looking down He-Man”, because he’s very tall and rather aloof, while Filmation He-Man is “annoyingly chipper He-Man”) to the moment he employs a bit of Skeletor-like ruthlessness on a He-Man who wants nothing to do with his quest by using the one weakness all He-Men share, the fact that they all have a soft spot for Teela, against him. And once Keldor realises what his role is in this story and that it’s not the part of the villain, once he holds aloft the sword and says the magic words, it’s a true “Hell, yeah!” moment.
Mattel made a Masters of the Universe Origins He-Skeletor figure as an online exclusive – probably because he’s fairly easy and cheap to make, since he’s basically He-Man in a different colour scheme. Though I hope they eventually make an untransformed good guy Keldor as well, because he looks quite different from the 200X bad guy Keldor they already made.
When my He-Skeletor toy was delivered and I wanted to take some photos of him, I thought, “Why don’t I do a version of the classic Filmation intro, only starring Keldor?” And that’s how this story came about.
That’s it for today, folks. I hope you enjoyed this Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre Toy Photo Story, because there will be more.
Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, I just bought some toys, took photos of them and wrote little scenes to go with those photos. All characters are copyright and trademark their respective owners.
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