My kids found all of my brother’s and my old He-Man and the Masters of the Universe toys the other day.
They’re not in the best condition, and most accessories are missing, but my son loves them. He noticed what made my brother and I love these when we were younger: they’re huge and each one has a gimmick or a little thing that makes them unique.
Battle royales were set up and summarily commenced.
What’s amazing, though, is not just the quality of these toys–and the accompanying cartoon which we fired up on YouTube (more on that later). It’s how much this franchise actually influenced me in writing The Swordbringer series.
When the idea was gestating almost ten years ago, it began of a primordial world entirely populated entirely by anthropomorphic animal-men on a blasted landscape full of ancient castles, swords and sorcery, and strange technology. This is where the character of Princess Dhaxiha came from, because I wanted a Warrior Princess.
Then I got the idea that humans could be there, voyagers from Earth long ago. That’s been done to death, of course, so I made the humans recently arrived refugees in a hostile land. But the Masters of the Universe influence remained.
Obviously, Castle Greyskull was an inspiration that’s clear to anyone who’s read The Last Ancestor, or even just seen the cover. But it was the overall vibe and aesthetic of Masters of the Universe that I wanted to emulate.
See, that old cartoon was so pulpy it hurt. It was pitch-perfect sword-and-planet full of sci-fi/fantasy adventure. And I loved how Eternia seemed like such an ancient place of desolate wastelands, deep jungles, hidden cities, high technology contending with goblin armies riding attack robots, and strangely colored skies . . . you get the picture. My planet of Yxakh is a cross between Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom and He-Man’s Eternia, with a little Thundercats thrown in.
The show actually had a young stable of up-and-coming talent writing it, and though it seems goofy it was also fun. Pure action/adventure with no annoying winking irony. Never underestimate how passionate adults crafting quality stories for kids can overcome, as was the case here, Masters of the Universe‘s origin as a cash-grabbing animated advertisement for the, admittedly awesome, toy line.
Children’s fare nowadays seems like a Peter Pan’s idea of the safe sort of anodyne stuff they think they would’ve loved as kids as opposed to stuff that didn’t condescend to kids’s desire to both be seen as, and do, cool grown-up stuff. Maybe I’m misreading a lot of it, but there is a total difference of feel that I think kids now, when exposed to the older stuff, totally feel as well.
And it’s not just the aesthetic but the attention to detail and the care.
So there you go. A kid’s show that left a deep influence no different than how the old Buck Rogers serials left an impression on George Lucas. I’m not comparing myself to George Lucas, but–
Okay, I totally am.
Check out The Last Ancestor here. And yes, the sequel is coming soon . . .