We still don’t have any Hugo voting and nomination statistics – more than a week after the winners were announced. And apparently we’re not getting them until January. However, merely asking when the stats can be expected is apparently an aggressive act against hardworking Worldcon volunteers now, so instead of digging into the Hugo stats, I’m posting 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.
It’s been a while since I did one of these, because I’ve been busy with other things and also not really in the mood. However, I got a couple of new toys, so of course took some pictures of them.
Today’s story takes place in one of the less explored corners of the He-Man universe or rather multiverse, namely in the world of The New Adventures of He-Man. If you’ve never heard of The New Adventures of He-Man, you are forgiven, because a lot of people haven’t and many of those who have would rather forget its existence.
So what is The New Adventures of He-Man? It’s a sequel to the Filmation cartoon, which ran for a single season in 1990/1991. The New Adventures of He-Man cartoon and the related toyline are often considered the red-headed stepchild of Masters of the Universe. Both were widely disliked back in the day and even today, many fans consider New Adventures their least favourite incarnation of He-Man.
As for why New Adventures was so disliked, the main problem was that both cartoon and toyline ditched not only the familiar setting of Eternia but also all of the established characters except for He-Man and Skeletor, introducing a whole new setting as well as a new supporting cast instead. The premise is that the Galactic Guardians (later called the Galactic Protectors, after Marvel called dibs on the name), a bunch of warriors from the planet Primus arrive on Eternia to enlist He-Man’s aid in their war against their sworn enemies, the Evil Mutants. Since He-Man would never deny anybody who’s in need of his help, he goes along to Primus. Upon learning that there is a whole universe of inhabited worlds out there, Skeletor decides that he is no longer content with trying and failing to conquer Eternia. No, he will try (and fail) to conquer the entire universe now, starting with Primus. And so Skeletor follows He-Man to Primus like the obsessed stalker that he is and allies himself with the Evil Mutants.
After the original Masters of the Universe line folded back in 1987, Mattel clearly wanted to do something different when resurrecting their former cash cow. Instead of the sword and sorcery/sword and planet setting and designs of the original Masters of the Universe, they decided to go with a more science fictional setting and theme this time around, probably because sword and sorcery had collapsed as a literary and filmic genre in the meantime, while science fiction was still going strong in the afterglow of Star Wars and the resurgence of Star Trek.
The more science fictional direction might have worked, but Mattel also decided to jettison all of the established characters except for He-Man and Skeletor, which is probably what doomed the cartoon. At any rate, I remember coming across the cartoon on TV sometime in the early 1990s and thinking, “Oh, there’s a new He-Man show. Cool.” And then I started watching and thought, “Where’s Teela? Where’s Cringer? Where’s Duncan? Where’s Orko? Where are the Evil Warriors? And who are all of these people?” The original plan for what became The New Adventures of He-Man was to focus on the children of He-Man and Skeletor and send them into space, which might have worked better.
The fact that western animation was changing – the groundbreaking Batman: The Animated Series, created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, both of whom had worked on the He-Man mini-comics in the 1980s, came out only a year later – didn’t help either. The New Adventures of He-Man already looked dated, while the show was still airing. Even today, it looks more dated than the earlier Filmation cartoon.
The New Adventures of He-Man toyline had an additional problem, namely that the figures didn’t match the original toyline in scale and style, but were smaller and lighter, which meant that Masters of the Universe and New Adventures characters couldn’t interact with each other. And since there were only two or three years between the end of the original toyline and the start of the New Adventures line, the original toys were still around in toy chests and playrooms and were also easy to find at flea markets and garage sales. Some smaller shops might even still have had a few leftover Masters of the Universe figures in stock – I remember seeing leftover Star Wars figures in some stores as late as 1988/89.
Both cartoon and toyline sank without leaving much of a ripple and were quickly forgotten. In recent years, The New Adventures of He-Man have been reclaimed somewhat. Both the Masters of the Universe Classics and Masterverse collector toylines have integrated New Adventures characters – this time in scale with the other characters, so they can interact with each other. The New Adventures characters have also appeared in a couple of comics, including the Masters of the Multiverse mini-series by Tim Seeley and Dan Fraga, which brought all the different incarnations of He-Man together.
Since there now are New Adventures figures that are in scale with the other figures, a few of them have found their way into my collection. And yes, if you’d told me thirty years ago that I’d ever be excited about action figures based on The New Adventures of He-Man to the point of resorting to eBay to purchase figures that are hard to find in Europe, I’d have thought you were crazy.
In retrospect, the designs for the various Evil Mutants are actually interesting and highly reminiscent of the bug-eyed monsters that used to grace the covers of the less respectable science fiction pulp magazines. Alas, their heroic counterparts the Galactic Protectors are quite bland and much less memorable than the Heroic Warriors of Eternia. The more cybernetic redesign for Skeletor is also pretty good (I have the New Adventures Skeletor on order, but he hasn’t arrived yet) and I like the snarky, sarcastic way Skeletor is portrayed in the cartoon.
The New Adventures He-Man, on the other hand, is very much a product of his time. In order to be suitably attired for space adventures, He-Man has finally ditched his furry loincloth for tight blue pants, though he still doesn’t quite recognise the purpose of either a shirt or armour (though there have been various He-Man figures wearing armour from the original toyline on). The Power Sword has been redesigned to look more like a lightsaber and He-Man has also got a forcefield shield to go with it. But the most early 1990s thing about this incarnation of He-Man is that he wears a ponytail.
But while the He-Man redesign looks all right for a late 1980s/early 1990s space hero, his Adam incarnation – yes, He-Man maintained his civilian identity on Primus – looks absolutely terrible. People may joke about the bright pink vest and Prince Valiant style pageboy cut that the Filmation Adam wears, but that’s nothing against New Adventures Adam who dresses in a kind of pseudo-Roman toga that looks like a bedsheet and who wears his blonde hair in pigtails with a red headband. Honestly, I wonder what whoever came up with that design was smoking.
So far, only three New Adventures characters have appeared in the Masterverse toyline, the He-Man seen above, Skeletor, who hasn’t been delivered yet, and one of the Evil Mutants, a character named Slush Head. And actually it was Slush Head, who prompted me to get the New Adventures He-Man and Skeletor, because the figure looked just so cool – like a bug-eyed monster who stepped straight out of the cover of a golden age science fiction magazine. But see for yourself:
Doesn’t he look awesome? Vintage pulp science fiction, fantasy and horror has always been a big influence on the various incarnations of Masters of the Universe. Lovecraftian horrors frequently pop up in the Filmation cartoon, the Valusian Serpent Men from Robert E. Howard’s 1929 novella “The Shadow Kingdom” have become a entire faction of villains in the Masters of the Universe world and Hordak not only looks like Nosferatu, but the members of the Evil Horde are taken straight from vintage horror films. And the Evil Mutants from The New Adventures of He-Man are bug-eyed monsters, though few of them loom as cool as obvious as Slush Head.
So now I had a hero – New Adventures He-Man – and a bug-eyed monster, so what’s missing is a damsel in distress. Teela really isn’t the type for that, but luckily, I found Mara, one of the few female characters from the New Adventures of He-Man cartoon to get a figure in the Masters of the Universe Classics toyline (or indeed any toyline), for a really good price, so I decided to use her as a damsel in distress. Though Mara is actually quite formidable in the cartoon itself – one of the great things about Masters of the Universe and its various spin-offs is that there are a lot of strong women. Mara also appeared in the recent She-Ra and the Princesses of Power cartoon as a former wielder of the Sword of Protection.
So let’s see what happens when Mara meets Slush Head…
The Maiden and the Monster
Primus, the island of Titus:
“Master Sebrian, the Galactic Protectors, even He-Man, they all think I’m just a weak girl who needs constant protecting. Even though I’ve had combat and pilot training just like the guys. But at least they let me go on patrol on my own. And maybe one day, they’ll even give me a real combat mission…”
“Scout out the Titus Observatory, Skeletor said. Spy on the Galactic Protectors and find out their weaknesses, Skeletor said. Screw Skeletor. And screw Flogg. It’s cold, it’s windy, I’m tired and I want to go home to my swamp. If Skeletor wants the observatory scouted out, then why doesn’t he do it himself… – Oh crap, a patrol! I’d better hide.”
“No, not a patrol. Just that girl. What’s her name again? Mira – no, Mara. She is pretty though. Real pretty. Hmm, what if I take her prisoner? If we hold the girl hostage, then we can force the Galactic Protectors and that accursed He-Man to surrender to us. Yes, that’s a good plan. Skeletor and Flogg will be so pleased.”
“Get away from me, you mutant terror. I’m armed and I can defend myself.”
“Is that so? My tentacles and my laser rifle will deal with your weapons.”
“Don’t think you’ll get away with this, monster. He-Man will…”
“Oh, I bet He-Man will come to rescue you. In fact, I’m hoping he will.”
“You… you want to use me as bait for He-Man?”
“Got it in one, girl. You’re smart.”
“And now come, my pretty. There’s a nice cozy cell waiting for you on Nordor.”
“No, let me go, you monster! Let me go!”
“Are you trying to hit me with your little fists? Cause that tickles.”
“Let me go!”
“You should be nicer to me, girl. Cause maybe Skeletor will let me keep you, once we’ve defeated He-Man and the Galactic Protectors.”
“Put her down, monster.”
“Oh, speak of the devil. It’s He-Man. And Flipshot. If you want the girl back, lay down your weapons and surrender.”
“Take that, monster!”
“Owww! Not fair.”
“You’re one to talk about fairness, Slush Head. And now step away from Mara and take on someone your own size.”
HACK! SLASH! SLAM!
“Mara, my love, are you all right?”
“I’m fine, Icarius. Just a little shaken. Can.. can you hold me?”
“Of course. Just never do this to me again.”
“Game’s over, Slush Head. I should send you to the Prison Moon, but I’ll be lenient this time. Skeletor and Flogg are using you. So leave them, go back to your swamp and never bother me or my friends again. Cause the next time I see you, I swear I’ll send you to the Prison Moon.”
“You may have bested me this time, He-Man. But I swear, the next time it’s you and your friends who’ll be taking a one way trip to the Prison Moon or maybe the slave mines of Denebria.”
“Probably not. But I have a feeling that Slush Head isn’t evil, but has just fallen under the influence of Skeletor and Flogg. Maybe he will listen and return to his swamp.”
“I hope you’re right. Cause misguided or not, Slush Head is one very dangerous individual.”
“If he causes trouble again, we’ll be here to deal with him.”
“He-Man, Icarius, I… I’m sorry for going off on my own. I thought I could handle any threat. But it seems I was wrong.”
“You did handle Slush Head, Mara. But you still shouldn’t go on patrol on your own. None of us should.”
“Good idea, He-Man. From now on, we’ll only go in patrol in pairs of two.”
“And I herewith volunteer to be your partner, Icarius. Only if you’ll have me, of course.”
“It will be an honour and a pleasure, Mara.”
“I bet. After all, back on Eternia, Teela and I used to go on patrol together all the time.”
Icarius a.k.a. Flipshot is a character from the New Adventures of He-Man and member of the Galactic Protectors. He’s a flying ace with a jetpack and a space helmet and he actually did have a toy in the Masters of the Universe Classics line, though I don’t own it.
So who is the figure I used in this story then, if not Flipshot? Well, it’s a cheap Masterverse He-Man kitted out with the space armour, helmet and jetpack that came with the exclusive Vykron figure, who is based on a very early prototype, when what eventually became He-Man was planned to be a kind of male Barbie with different outfits. Hence, Vykron comes with three different outfits – Barbarian warrior, space ace and Eagle tank warrior – so I bought two really cheap He-Man figures and gave them the spare armour.
The space armour looks like something out of New Adventures, therefore I decided to make the guy in the space armour one of the Galactic Protectors, so my New Adventures He-Man would have a pal in his fight against Skeletor and the Evil Mutants. Plus, this gives Mara a love interest, because He-Man belongs with Teela. As for Tank Head, I’ll probably use him as a Special Forces Royal Guardsman wearing special armour designed by Duncan.
And that’s it for today, folks. I hope you enjoyed this Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre 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 a story to go with those photos. All characters are copyright and trademark their respective owners.