Tuesday, August 6, 2013

365 Comics...217: Masters of the Universe #2 (1983)

I've touched on Masters of the Universe thrice already: just a short time ago in 365 #216 whilst looking at it in relation to the Ninja Turtles, in 365 #165 poking at the recent Origin of Hordak, and in 365 #85 which looked at the Star Comics years and a peek even further back at the first DC Comics Masters of the Universe stories which led into the 3-issue mini-series of 1983.  Since writing 365 #85, my daugher and I have dosed heavily on the original He-Man and Masters of the Universe cartoon.  So much so that I've forgotten how definitive that series makes everything seem.  Though there's little through line throughout its 130 episodes, the show's interpretation of the characters, their powers and personalities, the use of magic and science, and even the appearance of Eternia as a rich planet of lavish flora and darker edges, and awe-inspiring natural and supernatural architecture seem like the only relevant take.

Is this why subsequent cartoon and comic relaunches (not to mention the largely unsuccessful movie) have been unable to crack the public consciousness in the same way, or was He-Man's unique mix of barbarianism, sword-and-sorcery and sci-fi a one-shot-only deal.  The resonance it has had with many of us would suggest otherwise, but at the same time, beyond the cartoon and toys, nothing has been as successful.

The DC Masters of the Universe mini-series was trying to make sense of what little story was present in the toys design phase.  As such, it shows He-Man wielding his axe mightily,and gaining his transformative powers from Zoar.  Paul Kupperberg's script is written like a fantasy script, with the character all talking in frustratingly round-about ways ("...for it is here where lies our destiny...", "...although I fear you did understate the situation, for in truth-- though it be the place of my birth and my youth -- I hate it) that make it tongue twistingly difficult to read aloud to an impatient four-year-old.  I try to employ the MOTU voices from the show, giving Mer-Man his gargled delivery and Skeletor his nasally "gay villain" whine and Man-At-Arms his husky barotone (if there's a new movie, he's gotta be played by Nick Offerman, right?) to soften the heavy fantasy tone.

If anything, I think that's the thing about MOTU, is that it's a light fantasy with a hint of sci-fi in the mix, and if either element is played too heavily it just doesn't capture the imagination just right.  And perhaps the other thing is a toy line is needed to spark the interest in the first place (and not one that's costing $40 a figure).  Something clunky but powerful looking that fits in small hands and sparks big imagination.

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