I Have the Power!

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 . . .

24 comments

  1. Eternia’s sense of ancient depth was so well-developed that at the end of the line, there were plans to do a subline or spinoff dealing with that very ancient era–the Powers of Grayskull, which would cover ancient “Preternia” and the battles of He-Ro (wizard ancestor of He-Man, at one point to be named “Grayskull”) and the Ancient Wizards against the Snake Men. That’s where the dinosaurs in your collection come from.

    Sadly, the line died before more than three of the dinosaurs could be released in the US, although the two Giants also slated for the line made it to European markets. Although I wish we knew a little more of what they had slated–especially since there were hints that it would not only delve into the past surrounding He-Man and Castle Grayskull, but Skeletor and Hordak as well–I wonder if it’s better that it’s left in the shadows of what might have been …

    Liked by 2 people

    • Great point. The world of Eternia really felt ancient and lived-in. I love the care and attention to detail they took with a kids’ show and toy line.

      I didn’t know that there was a plan for “Preternia.” Totally explains the dinosaurs.

      Like

  2. —That’s great! I remember playing with toys like that, setting up epic adventures with a mix of characters from different fantasy worlds.

    Thanks for sharing this one, very cute.

    —Merry Christmas!

    —While I’ve not watched this, I thought this was interesting, you may want to watch it sans children as sometimes getting a glimpse behind the scenes can ruin some of the magic.

    From Wikipedia:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_Cat#Origin

    In The Toys That Made Us, then-marketing VP of Mattel Paul Cleveland recounts the story that while the decision was made for He-Man to have some sort of vehicle, they no longer had the budget to be able to produce one; the decision was then made to repurpose a tiger from the Big Jim toy line.

    The tiger was, however, not the same scale as the He-Man figure, and compared to He-Man, was about the size of a horse. Cleveland, however, insisted it to be used, even after artist Tony Guerrero made a green version in an attempt to discourage Cleveland, who instead suggested simply putting a saddle on it, which resulted in Battle Cat’s final design.[7] You can see a clip from that episode here.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Is it sad or glorious that I think I can name every figure, even the non-Masters of the Universe figures?

    I was a huge fan of both Masters of the Universe and the G.I.Joe cartoon, especially the G.I.Joe animated movie. G.I.Joe was such an enormous influence on my young life that I pointed myself straight toward the US military while in school.

    All I ever wanted to be, from the age of 9 on up, was a United States Marine. Sadly, a visit to MEPS, and then a subsequent doctors’ office visit, discovered a heart defect and I was disqualified from service. MEPS probably saved my life but at the time, I was utterly devastated and lost.

    “And it’s not just the aesthetic but the attention to detail and the care.”

    That was key. Both shows told great stories. They were fun and didn’t talk down to us. If you haven’t before, look up some of the interviews with Larry Hama who wrote the G.I.Joe comic book and ‘personnel file’ on the action figures. That guy took a possible throwaway job and put a craftsman’s heart behind it.

    Masters of the Universe grabbed my attention because it looked like whoever drew it was staring at Roger Dean Yes album covers all day. My mom had a record collection and those Yes covers always grabbed my attention, even if I didn’t go in for the music back then. It also had the feel of archeaology, like there was eons of history and crazy stuff buried in the sands and jungles of Eternia. Loved that show.

    The 1987 movie, while not nearly as faithful to the animated Tv series storylines as it should have been, was a much better movie than it had any right to be. My kids and I still watch it regularly. The musical score is fun and epic. Frank Langella as Skeletor was fantastic. And he took the job purely because he knew it would make his kids happy and he supposedly enjoyed every minute of making the movie. Unlike a lot of shallow celebs, he still has a lot of affection for the movie and the role.

    Congratulations Alexander! I’ve been in semi-hibernation, avoiding commenting on the internet and most sites while working on my own pulp sci-fi epic. But you tempted me with the sweetest, reddest memberberries and I just couldn’t resist.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The 1987 movie was a direct and different license from the toyline, so a lot of elements of the cartoon were probably either not determined when production started or off-limits to them. The contractual issues surrounding the Mattel and Filmation licenses are complex and have led to cases where Mattel had to use loopholes and special permissions to do certain cartoon characters as toys, or even to the whole Netflix ‘She-Ra’ and the Princesses of Power cartoon being done without Mattel’s involvement to any real degree.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Whoa that’s nuts. I hate when intellectual property ownership disputes get in the way of stuff being made. Kind of like how Sierra, which I discussed a few posts back, doesn’t even own the rights to its own games anymore.

        Love the 1987 movie though. I was disappointed when I saw it as a kid but rewatching it as an adult gave me a new appreciation for it.

        Like

    • “Is it sad or glorious that I think I can name every figure, even the non-Masters of the Universe figures?”

      Glorious. It’s glorious.

      Love your G.I. Joe story. Sorry the Marines didn’t work out, but isn’t it amazing how toys can inspire us?

      You nailed how Eternia looks like prog album covers. The whole show had such a great vibe.

      And I agree about the MotU movie. I watched it a few years back for the first time since it came out and I loved it. It’s great B-movie fun. Frank Langellla eats up so much scenery as Skeletor I was almost worried my living room would would get gobbled up.

      And thank you for the kind words. Glad I lured you back to commenting!

      Like

  4. I never had the He man dolls but there was a neighbour who did. We played with them and the original GI joes/Gyperman figures.We didn’t care. Sometimes we’d throw in playmobil figures too.

    I played a lot with my gijoes and the cool adventures we had around the yard brings back happy memories

    I stil have some of my gi joes/gyperman with some of the vehicles, clothes and gear. I also have the more collector oriented 1/6th action figures.

    I even learn to make and sew uniforms for them and I’d like to get back to that. It’s fun!

    xavier

    Liked by 1 person

      • Alexander

        The Spanish version of Gijoe. In Britian it’s Action man; Falcon for Brazil.

        Well I love making/building stuff. 🙂 I’ve even moulded some magazines for some rifles. I’d love to how to do 3d printing. That’s supercool too!

        xavier

        xavier

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh okay. I never knew they had different names.

        That’s awesome that you enjoy building stuff. It’s so satisfying. One of my brothers-in-law has a 3D printer and he makes some really cool stuff out of it. You should snag one for yourself!

        Like

  5. One of the most disgusting aspects of current culture is that all television and toys intended for young people have become subsumed and perverted for the infantile geek manchild. Kids media should teach our young pre-teens and teens how to become adults, instead it’s pervo fetish for 40 year old sexual deviants.

    When I see adult men argue over She-Ra cartoons or children’s movies like Star Wars I lament the fact that COVID isn’t the Bubonic Plague.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alexandru

      And heavily geared towards collectors. It’s sometimes offensive to see 100-200$ ‘toys’ that belong in comic book stores not toy stores. Also I’m unimpressed with actual toys for kids especially for boys. Those toys are insipid and uninspiring

      xavier

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yeah…collectors and speculators ruined comic books back in the day. Not surprised that they’ve ruined toys as well.

        Maybe “ruin” is a strong word. But I can’t think of any others right now.

        Like

      • Alexander,

        Mind you I’m a tad guilty of this.
        I collect 1/6th military action figures But since the kids were born I’ve stopped cold.

        Now I’d like to get back not so much collecting, though there are some figures I’s like to get but not at 200+$; but rather making uniforms and gear again.

        To get back to my modelling roots once again.

        xavier

        Liked by 1 person

      • Do it! There’s nothing wrong with collecting. I like to snag old board games and whatnot. Most of the time high prices are the result of simple supply-and-demand. But with comic books, it was grown men buying up ALL copies of some new issue hoping it’d be valuable someday, leaving us kids out in the cold paying way too much for the next issue of a comic we actually wanted to read.

        Like

  6. My uncle recently gave me a box of my old action figures he had for some reason. Unless I find another cache at my mom’s house, I only have four He-Man action figures left: He-Man, Skeletor, Orko, and Jitsu (sans karate chop arm). I know I owned Ram Man, Buzz Off, and Rattlor too, at least, but those are probably long gone. Yours are in much better shape than mine. The raggedy condition hasn’t stopped no-angel from playing with them, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Mr. Constantin said: “….One of the most disgusting aspects of current culture is that all television and toys intended for young people have become subsumed and perverted for the infantile geek manchild. Kids media should teach our young pre-teens and teens how to become adults, instead it’s pervo fetish for 40 year old sexual deviants.

    When I see adult men argue over She-Ra cartoons or children’s movies like Star Wars…”

    —-I agree. Except the bit about the Bubonic Plague.

    I felt sad and disgusted when I watched footage of grown men playing with lightsabers, making them at Star Wars Land. Something felt incredibly off about it. It’s one thing if they were their with their children who wanted one, but for men, especially young adults…! It was disturbing.

    —Toys are meant to be played with. I took care of mine but put them in all kinds of crazy outdoor spots, nearly any location a fun setting and if not, then just imagining the kitchen table is a castle. And then you grow up and stop playing with them. Grown men purchasing a never-ending pile of toys and accoutrements is a symptom of how wrong society has become.

    —I used to get more worked up over things like that, now though I just shrug and think well, that’s their business.

    —-Enjoying fantastical fiction is good but the toys and accessories feel demented and weird, watch a movie, discuss it and do other things with your life in my opinion. And I say this as one who spent (or wasted) time arguing movies in late nigh diners; but at least it was in person, if that mitigates it a bit.

    —But Star Wars in particular has become some psuedo-cult/religious experience; and as someone who grew up watching the movies and enjoyed them it’s off-putting. One could say the same for Harry Potter but at least it’s a more recent fiction rather than a 30+ year old film trilogy.

    —As with most things it’s down to a healthy balance. In the end, while I may dislike things like Star Wars Land and grown men getting excited about Luke Skywalker Bobbleheads, I gotta just focus on my own life and ambitions and not waste time with cultural critiques which can be its own weird obsession.

    —Again, it feels like the older wisdom prevails, snares of the world and such, that’s how a lot of this feels. And the internet just really supercharged all of it.

    Merry Christmas.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was IN that lightsaber-building part of Disney back in 2018 with my wife and son. My son had a blast but man were there so many adult men and married childless couples decked out in head-to-toe with Star Wars gear just buying EVERYTHING: toys, lightsabers, lamps and other branded home decor. It was something. My boy was just like “I want a lightsaber” then we left. And he’s a fan!

      Like

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