Exploring the series that boasted the Power of Greyskull and one of the greatest villains in television history.
What were your favourite shows of the eighties and how did they inspire you?
Growing up in a time that boasted the pinnacle of musical ballads, the kids of the eighties were exposed to many exceptional television shows that introduced us to some of the most iconic characters to ever enter the annals of pop culture. These incredible characters, broke new ground for the genre and established a bench mark that has proved to be hard to live up to. Many of these magnificent characters are, whether via reboot or reimagining still part of our modern culture today and are still accessible on screens all over the world; influencing the imaginations of our children just as they did ours.
At a time when the Star Wars franchise was in its infancy, one of the most iconic television series’ of all time was unleashed upon the world and changed the dynamics of both children’s television, as well as the action figure merchandising of the time.
He-Man and The Masters of the Universe
It’s the one that started it all. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was born from a new range of mass-produced action figures from toy manufacturer Mattel. After declining the offer to produce a range of toys for George Lucas’ Star Wars franchise, Mattel CEO Ray Wagner commissioned a new range of figures to capitalise on its overwhelming success. Concerned that his muscular and chiselled figures wouldn’t reach a wide enough audience to be successful, an animated television adventure series was commissioned to introduce the children of the era to the colourful characters from the mystical realm of Eternia.
It was an overnight success!
Making its debut in 1983, the colourful series boasted characters that were as bizarre as they were alluring to fans of all ages, and within a matter of weeks, they had become household names. Set in the fictional land of Eternia, a place of myth, magic and fantasy, a young and inexperienced prince Adam had been bestowed with a magical sword that had the ability to transform him into a muscled super warrior charged with defending the ancient Castle Greyskull from the forces of evil.
Raising his magical sword aloft and uttering the words “By the power of Greyskull” transformed him from his innocent and often clueless persona into the heroic protagonist of the series He-Man. Prince Adam’s cowardly talking cat companion Cringer, was also transformed. He became the mighty Battle Cat, a larger, fearless and armoured version of his former self that would serve as He-Man’s noble steed to be ridden into battle.
He-Man was accompanied by many elaborate and colourful companions on his adventures throughout the series. His most trusted ally was Duncan, better known as Man-At-Arms, a master of weaponry whom preferred to seek a peaceful alternative opposed to a physical confrontation. Not only was Duncan an ally, but he was a trusted friend and confidant whom would offer an peaceful alternative to physicality. He was one of only a few individuals trusted with secret of He-Man’s true identity.
Another faithful companion was Orko, a mystical, bumbling magician who offered a degree of comic relief with his colourful and mischievous antics. The levitating “Trollan” was another confidant trusted with the secret of Prince Adam’s true power and would aid He-Man on his many adventures.
As is always the case, a larger than life hero needs an equally powerful archenemy to test his wits against, and in Masters of the Universe we were treated to a true icon of our culture. The main antagonist was the maniacal Skeletor, a blue skinned megalomaniac humanoid with a yellow skull for a face. Skeletor was the Lord of Snake Mountain, a dark and sinister structure sculpted into the form of a coiled snake, built into the side of the mountain, and hidden within its depths was an army of evildoer’s eager to serve their master.
Skeletor’s minions were as colourful as they were monstrous, however their lack of intelligence rendered them powerless against the forces of He-Man and his devoted companions. Regardless of the sinister plot conceived by Skeletor, his underlings always came up short with victory within reach and left their sinister leader to fume at their incompetence. The narratives written for these adored characters, were as thought provoking as they were imaginative and boasted the writing talents of Paul Dini and Brynne Stephens, both of whom would go on to be instrumental contributors on the acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series, a show that would be regarded as the quintessential incarnation of the DC Comics character.
Masters of the Universe boasted a positive message with a final thought of reflection delivered by the main characters themselves. Much in the same vein as the great Hanna-Barbera Scooby-Doo cartoons of the sixties, each episode explained the dilemmas faced by the main characters and explained the moral implications of the dramas that had unfolded. On the strength of this positive message and the mix of elaborate, larger than life characters, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe ran for two seasons with a total of one hundred and thirty action packed episodes. Both He-Man and Skeletor became household names, and sales of the Mattel action figure range reached lucrative heights to rival that of the Star Wars franchise.
In short, the series was a cultural phenomenon, and despite a live action movie and rebooted animated series being released, the original series is regarded as a trail blazer. At a time when Star Wars was at the height of its popularity, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe arrived upon our television screens and captured the hearts and imaginations of an entire generation. To this day, the colourful characters are remembered with an unrivalled affection which evoke a feeling of nostalgia for the hordes of devoted fans.
An all new live action reboot has since been proposed, and yet, despite the fans demonstrating an insatiable appetite for an authentic interpretation of the renowned source material, the project is yet to commence filming. The concept art alone, which has revealed the all new interpretation of the mighty Battle Cat, has sent the fans wild with delirium and yet the wait goes on for a release date.
But, there is good news on the horizon. The streaming service Netflix, has since acquired the rights to stream the classic original series on their platform and as a result, all sixty-five episodes from the first season are available to view at the touch of a button.
Thank you Netflix!
Either way, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was, and still is a true icon of television history. With the Star Wars universe dominating the landscape of the time, the visionaries at Mattel produced a instant classic from the leftover parts of their failed barbarian range of toys. He-Man’s impact on our culture was immense, and the characters are still as adored now as they were back then. Its success has propagated a new range of action figures designed for adult collectors which are just as popular now as they were upon the series’ release.
Until details of the new movie emerge, the wait goes on for the definitive theatrical version of the He-Man legacy. But, with Netflix streaming hours of the classic original series, the wait is a little less painful for its adoring fans.
By the Power of Greyskull!