Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
He-Man is the heroic lead character in the toy series Masters of the Universe and the various spin-off products and media related to it. The most prominent is the animated series He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, produced by Filmation Studios. The syndicated series premiered in 1983 and ran until 1985, for a run of 130 episodes. In the series, He-Man and his friends defend Eternia and the secrets of Castle Grayskull from the evil forces of Skeletor.
He-Man's true identity is Prince Adam, who was granted the power to transform into his alter-ego by the Sorceress. Prince Adam's pet is a cowardly green tiger named Cringer. When Adam changes to He-Man, Cringer becomes a giant (and brave) armored green tiger named Battle-Cat, who serves as He-Man's steed.
Castle Grayskull, which resembles a gigantic skull, is the source of the Power of Greyskull. Inside the Castle lives the Sorceress. Part bird and part woman, she possesses the magical ability to change herself into a falcon. The Sorceress is among the most powerful magic-wielders on Eternia, and she also has limited use of the power held within Castle Grayskull, but only for the purpose of its protection. She also communicates telepathically with He-Man, and was the person responsible for introducing Prince Adam to the power of changing into He-Man.
He-Man has other allies, many of whom are in the King's service.
- Teela is Captain of the Royal Guard and often assists He-Man in his battles. She is the daughter of the Sorceress, though she does not know this. She is characterized by a strong personality. One of her duties is to teach combat skills to Prince Adam, but she frequently berates him for his careless and worry-free attitude.
- Her foster father Duncan is known simply by his title Man-At-Arms. He designs and builds weapons and other technology for the King. Duncan knows Adam\He-Man secret identity and acts as mentor and teacher to the young prince.
- Orko is an inept magician from the parallel dimensional world of Trolla. He moves around by levitating and is often the comic relief.
- Ram-Man is a sturdy warrior with poor verbal skills who runs down most of his obstacles. In the 1983 original series, he was rather short and resembled a dwarf, whereas in the 2002 series he was a very large man with a disproportionately small head.
- Stratos is a vaguely ape-like humanoid with wings for flying.
- Buzz-Off is an anthropomorphic bee.
- Mekaneck can stretch his neck to incredible lengths, which enables him to serve as a scout.
- Man-E-Faces is an actor who can change his faces. He also adopts the abilities of the face he puts on.
He-Man's chief adversary is Skeletor, a blue-skinned muscleman with a skull for a head, wearing a cowl. He is skilled in dark magic as well as all forms of combat. Skeletor's weapon of choice is his Havok Staff, a ram's skull atop a large rod which serves to channel his magic and amplify his powers. Though his origin is mysterious, a tie-in comic inferred that Skeletor was Keldor, King Randor's younger brother and this was confirmed in the 2002 cartoon series.
Skeletor's base of operations is Snake Mountain, a carven fortress made of polished black basalt, which has a giant stone snake coiled around it. Snake Mountain is located on the Dark Hemisphere of Eternia.
Skeletor's allies include:
- Beast-Man, who can control nonsentient lifeforms.
- Evil-Lyn, a powerful witch with the usual complement of malevolent powers.
- Mer-Man, a fish-man who controls sealife.
- Tri-Klops, a 3-eyed mechanic and inventor.
- Trap-Jaw, a weapons expert with a metal jaw which can bite through anything.
- Faker, a duplicate of He-Man. (The toy version is done in blue, with the backstory that he is a robot duplicate that didn't work out. In one annual he was a deformed clone. However in his sole appearance in the cartoon he was a magical creation identical to He-Man apart from glowing eyes.)
- Jitsu, an oriental wrestler with a giant arm.
- Whiplash, whose tail is a formidable weapon. His 2002 appearance was much larger but somewhat less intelligent than in the 1983 series.
- Clawful, a giant anthropomorphic crab.
- Kobra Khan, snake man who can emit a sleeping gas. In the 2002 series, he spits acid instead.
- Webstor, a blue-skinned man with the abilities of a spider.
- Two-Bad, a character with two faces that constantly argue between themselves.
- Spikor, a humanoid covered in spikes.
- Stinkor, an anthropomorphic skunk with magical control over his own stench (he only appeared in the written comics and 2002 animated version, never the original series).
Independent villains include:
- Modulok, a cunning scientist with multiple limbs. He only appeared in the 1983 series. (The toy version has a body that can be taken apart and remade into multiple forms, but for the cartoon he was simplified.)
- Count Marzo is a very powerful sorcerer who was punished for his evil deeds by being transformed into a physically frail dwarf, although Skeletor and Evil Lyn can revert him back to his true form whenever they require his assistance.
- Shokoti, is an extremely powerful undead sorceress who resided in the Sands of Time. She only appeared once in the entire Masters of the Universe cartoon series, but is worthy of mentioning due to the fact that she nearly defeated He-Man. She had a rather demonic appearance, with a horned headress, jet-black hair, pale bluish skin and black, lifeless eyes. The only episode of her appearance, 'The House of Shokoti, part 2' is considered one of the darkest episodes in the series.
As with many parts of the Masters of the Universe story, He-Man's background and origins were somewhat revised in successive versions of the story and it is sometimes difficult to reconcile the various versions.
The Original Mini-Comics
All the toys came with special mini-comics that sought to tell stories involving the characters. In the earliest comics, He-Man is a wandering barbarian on the world of Eternia, which is dealing with the aftermath of a Great War that has devastated the civilisations that once reigned. He-Man is given special powers and weapons by the Sorceress and sets out to defend the secrets of Castle Grayskull from Skeletor. He-Man is supported by allies such as the Man-At-Arms and Teela. A key task is to prevent Skeletor from linking the two halves of the "Power Sword" which will allow him to gain access to the castle.
The second series of mini-comics establish the existence of the kingdom of Eternia, ruled over by King Randor and Queen Marlena . The third series developed the concepts further by giving He-Man the secret identity of Prince Adam, the son of Randor and Marlena.
The original Masters DC Comics take place in this Eternia, though there are a few contradictions stemming from the early alterations to the storyline. In one of the stories Superman is transported to Eternia where he teams up with He-Man, and he later returns for a second adventure.
The middle years of the mini-comics adopted the same scenario as the animated series, and even adapted some stories for the comic form. In later years the comcs would handle the character and back story of Hordak differently from the cartoon. The final mini-comics were released after the animated series had finished and feature many characters and equipment never seen on screen.
The Cartoon Series
Eternia is ruled by King Randor and Queen Marlena. Their son is Prince Adam, a cowardly blond muscleman dressed in a Cote d'Azur chemise. However, Prince Adam possesses a magic sword, and when he holds it aloft and says the magic words "By the Power of Grayskull! I have the Power!" he is transformed into He-Man, the most powerful man in the universe. He-Man is a brave blond muscleman in a baldric and loincloth.
Most episodes are about Skeletor's repeated attempts and failures to enter Castle Grayskull. Apparently, were he to succeed, he would be able to wrest the power of Grayskull from He-Man and conquer Eternia. He-Man invariably defeats these attempts.
Despite the limited animation techniques that were used to produce the series, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was notable for breaking the boundaries of censorship that had severely restricted the narrative scope of children's TV programming in the 1970s. For the first time in years, a cartoon series could feature a muscular superhero who was actually allowed to hit people, though he still couldn't use his sword often. The cartoon was controversial in that it was produced in connection with marketing a line of toys; advertising to children was itself controversial during this period. In Britain, advertising regulations forbade commercials for He-Man toys to accompany the program itself. The action figures themselves were often repaints and head-swaps of existing characters, outfitted with different equipment; for example, Stinkor was originally a colour- and gear-swap of Mer-Man.
The cartoon series was also particularly remarkable because it was the very first animated series produced directly for syndication, as opposed to all other syndicated cartoons of the time which were re-runs of old Saturday-morning cartoons .
He-Man also has a sister, named She-Ra, who was introduced in the animated feature The Secret of the Sword. This film was a compilation of the first five episodes of the She-Ra television series, which ran from 1985 to 1986. He-Man often appeared in special crossover episodes of She-Ra, but She-Ra did not appear in the He-Man series.
In 1987 a live action He-Man film was made, under the title Masters of the Universe, with Dolph Lundgren in the title role, Frank Langella as Skeletor, and Courteney Cox in an early supporting role. The film was however largely a disappointment both commercially and critically.
The later Mini Comics
Beginning with the introduction of Hordak the mini-comics began to diverge in someways from the scenario shown in the She-Ra animated series (the animated He-Man was now out of production). Whereas in the cartoons many new Masters toys would now appear as based in an Etheria under the rule of Hordak with a resistance headed by Adora/She-Ra, the mini-comics stayed primarily on Eternia. Etheria only appeared as Hordak's main base of operations.
Many years earlier Hordak had been overthrown by his minion Skeletor and banished from Eternia. He now returned, accompanied by his minions the Evil Horde, and sought to conquer the planet. Occasionally allying with Skeletor, though more commonly seeking to destroy him as well, Hordak met repeated opposition from He-Man.
An even more dramatic addition to the legends of Eternia came in the mini-comic King of the Snakemen. In this Skeletor discovered a pool of energy buried in Snake Mountain which contained the ancient emperor King Hiss . Hiss revealed he had conquered many planets before invading Eternia. Large parts of the planet had fallen to the Snakemen before they were defeated by the "Council of the Elders" and banished to another dimension. Hiss now sought to recover his fellow Snakemen and bring vengeance to Eternia.
Further details of Eternia's ancient past would be revealed in subsequent mini-comics. The most dramatic revelations surrounded the "Three Towers" - Grayskull Tower, "a symbol of goodness", Viper Tower, "a symbol of all that is evil", and Central Tower, holding the "ultimate power". This giant structure was raised from underground by Hiss and Skeletor and became the focal point for further adventures as He-Man sought to prevent both villains, and also Hordak, from acquiring the secrets of the towers. In the process a series of fascinating discoveries were made.
Hordak recognised the towers and claimed to have helped build Central Tower, though little further was discovered. The return of the Towers also enhanced the Sorceress' magic and she was able to help King Randor to search to discover what had happened to his long-lost brother Keldor . Skeletor was determined to stop this search, claiming "that knowledge could destroy me". It was strongly hinted, but not confirmed, that Keldor had become Skeletor.
But the most astrounding revelations came when the Sorceress took He-Man through a time portal to visit Eternia's ancient past...
The Powers of Grayskull
This past was to form the basis of the next incarnation of the toyline, entitled The Powers of Grayskull. However the toyline was axed very early on, with only a few toys released. The main story information originates from the very last mini-comic The Powers of Grayskull: The Legend Begins (intended as the first of a three-parter, however only this issue appeared), supported by snippets of information on some of the toy packaging.
Ancient Eternia was populated by many creatures, including cybernetic dinosaurs and giants. When the Sorceress and He-Man arrived, followed by Skeletor, they found King Hiss leading a Snakemen attack on a village in the hope of drawing out "the Elders", using some of the cybernetic dinosaurs to their advantage. Hiss served an "unamed one" and agreed to unite with Skeletor on the basis that he might be an emissary. Seeing Skeletor's interference, the Sorceress allowed He-Man to enter the battle but "for reasons that will be made clear to you in the future" he had to be disguised. He found himself overwhelmed, but then a shadowy figure appeared who turned the odds with a powerful wand. The stranger then sent the Snakemen back to their base and all the time travellers home. The Sorceress described the intervener as "the Greatest Sorceror of all" and He-Man was left asking "But who is he?"
No further story information was given, and it remains unclear how the giants mentioned and released as toys would fit into the story. However some marketing press releases and prototypes have shed further information.
The wizard was He-Ro , an ancestor of He-Man with the alter ego "Gray". Raised by his mentor Eldor and discovering special powers in a cave, He-Ro would have led the fight. According to the mini-comics' writers it was intended that the central protagonist would be Keldor, though whether he was the "Unnamed One" Hiss served was not clear.
Little further of the back story was developed, though many fans have produced their own theories and continuations.
The New Adventures of He-Man
In 1989 a second He-Man series, The New Adventures of He-Man, was produced, and set in a more science fiction-like setting which saw both He-Man and Skeletor transported to the future. It was not as popular as the original series, and lasted sixty five episodes.
The 2002 series
In 2002, a new He-Man and the Masters of the Universe series was produced and aired by Cartoon Network. This series ended after 39 episodes and is noteworthy for cementing the fact that Keldor and Skeletor are the same person (though making no connection between Keldor and Randor), showing Skeletor without his cowl, and the first animated appearance of Stinkor. It has also been revealed that Evil-Lyn's father is a powerful sorcerer known as The Faceless One. The action figures are noteworthy, having been sculpted by Four Horsemen Studios.
Later episodes of this series were retitled Masters of the Universe Vs The Snake-Men, and sidelined Skeletor as chief villain in favor of King Hiss, leader of the reptilian Snake-Men. Though the Snake-Men and King Hiss had their own line of toys in the 1980s, this was their first appearance in the animated series.
The 2002 series was considerably more developed than previous incarnations. The 2002 series based itself heavily on a 'series bible' which fleshed out a far more coherent history of Eternia, King Grayskull (from whom He-Man derives his powers), the Sorceress and Hordak, Skeletor's mentor. There were also several major alterations in character from the original series: Adam and Teela, for example, were rendered as squabbling teenagers, whilst King Randor was transformed into a far more pro-active sort of warrior-king, rather than the stern-faced cipher of old. The transformation of Adam and Teela into squabbling adolescents lent an element of caustic humour (usually Teela complaining about Adam's uselessness), but reduces the strong female presence of the original series. While Teela holds a high position within the MOTU in the 2002 series, she appears considerably reduced from the animal-sensate 'warrior goddess' of the original. However, much of this is counterbalanced by the new version of Evil-Lyn. The 2002 series makes it quite clear that, in He-Man's own words, she is 'Skeletor's most powerful lieutenant.'
- The character of Zodac was originally presented in the toy line as an "Evil Cosmic Enforcer" as per the blurb on his figure card. However in most of his appearances in the min-comics and the cartoon he was clearly a "good guy" character where he was depicted as sort of an "interstellar policeman". The 2002 version of He-Man presented a Zodac who was neither evil, nor clearly good but somewhere comfortably in between with his own system of ethics and justice. The only occasions when he has been portrayed as evil were in an early DC Comics issue and in a 1986 Ladybird Book entitled He-Man and the Asteroid of Doom .
- Mattel created He-Man when they attempted to make an action-figure line based on the popular comic-book character Conan the Barbarian. However, the sexual and violent imagery of the comic was likely to give the toy-line the wrong image and so the main-character's hair was changed to blonde and he was given a new name.
- There is a lot of confusion over the exact order of the episodes in the 1980s cartoon. The production codes allocated appear to indicate nothing more than the formal clearance of an episode's script and often this order is directly contradicted on screen - for example the episode The Return of Orko's Uncle (code: MU023) has an earlier production code than the introduction of Orko's Favourite Uncle (code: MU027).
- The episode Diamond Ray of Disappearance (code: MU004) is the nearest thing to a launch episode. It was written as the first episode for the cartoon and has an extended sequence at the start which carefully introduces all the villains. However curiously little effort is made to introduce the heroes.
- The order is further confused by successive VHS and DVD releases which have often followed the production code order with little regard for the chronological sequence of the episodes.
- As a result of this, the first episode shown is often The Cosmic Comet (code: MU001).
- Early promotional literature from Mattel referred to Skeletor and his followers as the "Masters of the Universe" and an early version of the opening title sequence for the 1980s incarnation also uses this description (and was accidentally used on the final cut of an episode). However later literature and spin-offs use the term "Masters of the Universe" for He-Man and his allies.
- The original He-Man cartoon series and toy lines were exported to a number of European countries, and translated into German and French. In German, He-Man is still He-Man, but in French he becomes Musclor.
- He-Man live action film entry on IMDB
- Images and commentary on the live-action He-Man film, focusing on Courteney Cox and her character
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