Friday 23 July 2021

By the Power of Netflix, He-Man returns to Grayskull!


Mattel's fantastical sword & sorcery MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE  franchise powers up today with release of a new animated series on Netflix. The inaugural HE-MAN and THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE animated series debuted nearly 40 years ago in 1983 based on Mattel's toy line released the year prior. 

The story takes place on the world of Eternia, where young Prince Adam uses the Sword of Power to transform into He-Man, the most powerful man in the universe. Together with his trusty Battle Cat and allies such as Teela & Man-at-Arms, He-Man defends the mysterious Castle Grayskull against the evil forces of Skeletor from learning its secrets for ultimate power to rule the universe.

Opening title sequence of the 1980s cartoon.
Full episodes available on YouTube.

Thinly disguised as a “cartoon commercial”, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe certainly catapulted toy sales skyrocketing for a number of years and over 130 episodes emblazoned He-Man in minds of Gen-X boys across the world. Now those boys have grown to be middle-aged men and get to relive their childhood with Netflix's MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE: REVELATION, an official sequel for the original 1980s series and now updated to current audience expectations.

Official Synopsis

After a calamitous battle fractures Eternia, Teela and an unlikely alliance must prevent the end of the Universe in this sequel to the '80s classic.

Masters of the Universe: Revelation is set to release in two parts, with the five-episode releasing today July 23, 2021 on Netflix. Here is list of episodes:

Total run time adds up to about 2 hours which is quite binge-watchable as a full-length animated movie. It is Rated 13+.

This new animated streaming series is developed by Kevin Smith and produced by Powerhouse Animation Studios. Kevin Smith is well-known in the American geek pop culture fraternity as filmmaker, actor, comedian, comic book writer, author and podcaster, often best known for his role as part of the duo Jay and Silent Bob in a series of low-budget comedy films from the mid-90s. Smith himself is a big fan of 1980s He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and gleefully excited to take on the reins of this beloved franchise as showrunner for this sequel series. Hear what he has to say about Revelations:

Read more about what Kevin Smith has shared in this in article by Den of Geek. Follow Kevin Smith on Twitter for latest reveals on Masters of the Universe: Revelation.

Now check out the voice cast for Masters of the Universe: Revelation:
  • Chris Wood (The Vampire Diaries, Supergirl) as Prince Adam / He-Man
  • Mark "Luke Skywalker" Hamill (Star Wars, Batman animated) as Skeletor
  • Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones) as Man-At-Arms
  • Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) as Teela
  • Lena "Cersei Lannister" Headey (Game of Thrones) as Evil-Lyn
  • Diedrich Bader as King Randor and Trap Jaw
  • Alicia Silverstone as Queen Marlena
  • Stephen Root as Cringer
  • Griffin Newman as Orko
  • Susan Eisenberg as Sorceress of Castle Grayskull
  • Kevin Michael Richardson as Beast Man
  • Kevin Conroy (Batman animated) as Mer-Man
  • Henry Rollins as Tri-Klops
  • Jason Mewes as Stinkor
  • Alan Oppenheimer as Moss-Man (voice of original Skeletor... and Mer-Man)
  • Justin Long as Roboto
  • Tony Todd (Candyman) as Scare Glow
  • Phil LaMarr as He-Ro
  • Cree Summer as Priestess
  • Harley Quinn Smith as Illena
  • Tiffany Smith as Andra
  • Dennis Haysbert as King Grayskull
  • Adam Gifford as Vikor
  • Jay Tavare as Wundar
Top left clockwise: Kevin Conray as Mer-Man, Liam Cunningham as Man-At-Arms,
Mark Hamill as Skeletor, Justin Long as Roboto, Lena Headey as Evil-Lyn,
Sarah Michelle Gellar as Teela. Source:

Perhaps not by coincidence, San Diego Comic Con 2021 takes place this week, albeit virtually streamed across the world as Comic Con @ Home. Scheduled under Netflix Geeked panel line-up is the Masters of the Universe: Revelation panel with the cast and creators now available to watch on YouTube official channels for Comic Con International.

Tying in with this new animated series is an official comic book Prequel mini-series from Dark Horse Comics written by the show's Executive Producers Kevin Smith and Rob David and episode writer Tim Sheridan and featuring art by Mindy Lee. The first issue of the 4-issue mini-series is already out earlier this month with subsequent issues releasing monthly to fill in events between the 1980s animated series and Revelation

Find out more at the official Dark Horse website with preview pages. Then if  motivated to read this prequel story, consider purchasing the digital edition (available from Amazon) since comics books are not so commonly found locally in Malaysia nowadays. There are also other official Masters of the Universe publications by Dark Horse Comic to check out. 

Of course Masters of the Universe (MOTU) being a franchise owned by toy company Mattel, there are new toys to complement Revelation. Last year Mattel released the Masters of the Universe Origins line reintroducing the 5.5 inch tall action figures in their vintage 1980s forms and packaging inclusive of mini comic book. Fortunately these are not reissues of the original figures but updated with additional articulation by 16 joints yet keeping to the vintage body proportions. Thankfully Mattel chose not to use the rubber band hip joints this time around as surely those MOTU figures nearly 4 decades old have had their legs drop off! The classic retro-packaging also encourages today's big boys to revisit their youth and “play” again.

Now for MOTU Revelation, Mattel has released the first wave of characters under the Masterverse line. You can now collect He-Man, Skeletor, Evil-Lyn and Moss-Man as seen in the new animated series in more realistic body proportions of bulging muscles with 30 points of articulation enabling great poseability as demanded by today's standards. Check out the amount of playability for these figures in these great stop-motion videos by Mattel:


It's somewhat surprising Moss-Man was included in this first set instead of Teela which is expected to play a major role in Revelation. But there's no shortage of “shoes” to fill with such a huge cast of colourful MOTU heroes & villains from the new series to be realised in plastic . Already out are He-Man's loyal Battle Cat and a deluxe version of Skeletor, which may be a bit spoilery.

There's even brick building toys for MOTU under Mattel's Mega Construx line that allows fanboys to build Castle Grayskull itself from over 3500 pieces for a price of USD 250 (RM1056). WoW!

Oogle more on these MOTU toys from the official Mattel Toys website. 

Whilst Mattel toys are distributed in Malaysia, they may be a bit hard to find on shelves not because of MCO but due to hot demand from many middle-aged fanboy collectors! Instead of trying luck at Toys R Us in-store or online, consider following Mattel's official shops on Lazada and Shopee for hassle free delivery to your doorstep.

For more context to the younger generation as well as nostalgia for matured fans, let's briefly step back into the good ole early-80s and the impact of morning cartoons into modern pop culture. Remember that Mattel created the toys first in 1982 with design of He-Man inspired from Conan the Barbarian  blending into a fantasy world of sword and sorcery in hopes to capture the success of Kenner with Star Wars in the toys for boys market. As Star Wars had movies to captivate young boys in space adventures, MOTU needed similar media to enthrall young boys into the fantastical world of Eternia. Hence, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe animated series was produced by Filmation to air the following year until 1985 and beyond through syndication.

The original cartoon quality certainly does look tacky by today's standard, and often times even felt that way in the day. This was an era before computer animation, when quantity took precedence over quality and even today no animation studio would probably dare attempt to produce 130 episodes within a span of 3 years. Filmation animation studios indeed managed this and more for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe as well as a multitude of cartoons such as Star Trek The Animated Series (1973-74) and Bravestar (1987-89). The trade-off was frequent re-use of animated sequences (stock footage) and frame rates lower than the standard 24 frames per second, saving time and money. But kids in those days were undeterred and flocked after / before school to catch the latest adventures of He-Man and then pestered their parents to buy them the toys. Toys that often looked ridiculous and sounded similar with character names like Buzz-Off, Extender, Fisto, Clawful, Faker, etc. (just Google these to “facepalm”). 

For more in-depth entertaining look into the MOTU toys, watch the documentary series The Toys That Made Us currently streaming on Netflix as well. Here's the synopsis of episode 3 of Season 1 (47 minutes) featuring He-Man:

“Searching for a new toy line for boys to compete with Star Wars after their toy lines for Clash of the Titans and Flash Gordon flopped, designers at Mattel saw inspiration from Frank Frazetta's artworks, as well as their creative imagination, and launched the Masters of the Universe action figures. The toy line dominated in sales from US$38.2 million in 1982 to US$400 million in 1986 before its demise in 1987 as a result of sales dropping to US$7 million and the critical and financial failure of the live-action film adaptation.”

The success of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe led to a spin-off series SHE-RA: PRINCESS OF POWER. In this series complimenting Mattel's new toy line for young girls, Prince Adam's twin sister Adora leads a rebellion against the tyrannical rule of Hordak on the planet Etheria. Like Adam, Adora uses a magical Sword of Protection to transform into She-Ra. This new female version of He-Man was first introduced in the animated movie HE-MAN AND SHE-RA: THE SECRET OF THE SWORD released in 1985 before airing on television over 93 episodes. He-Man often appears in this episodes, possibly kicking off the first “shared universe” franchise now common place under the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC on CW. This spin-off was recently rebooted by Netflix in 2018 as a new animated series titled SHE-RA AND THE PRINCESSES OF POWER.

As for He-Man himself, he has reappeared in different incarnations prior to Revelations, including a live-action movie in 1987 also titled MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE. The titular role of He-Man went to Swedish hunk Dolph Lundgren, following his rising stardom from Rocky IV (1985) as Ivan Drago plus stints in James Bond A View to a Kill (1985) and Red Scorpion (1986). Veteran actor Frank Langella donned the skull of Skeletor and new characters were introduced casting young Courtney Cox (Monica of sitcom Friends infamy) and Robert Duncan McNeill (best known as Tom Paris on Star Trek Voyager) as teenagers on Earth.

(Off-topic) Trivia about Dolph Lundgren: He has a Masters Degree in Chemical Engineering from University of Sydney and declined scholarship to study at the famed Massachusetts Institute of Technology MIT to pursue acting. He began studying martial arts during his military service and became a world class competitor in Japanese karate. During his early acting career after He-Man he played Frank Castle in Marvel Comics' The Punisher (1987). His more recent theaterical role teams him up with other action stars of yesteryears like Sylvestor Stallone, Arnold Schwarzeneggar and Bruce Willis in The Expendables movies as Gunner.

The movie flopped at the cinema for a variety of factors, the obvious one wrapping its plot around He-Man coming to our Earth. If even young less discerning kids wanted more action on Eternia but was served a much too familiar suburban America. And there wasn't even a proper MOTU toy line for the movie!

Well, if the 1980's animated series were to transition to live-action, these 2 recent parody videos by might just well satisfy long time fanboys:

Dancing to the tune of “(I've Had) The Time of My Life” by Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes from Dirty Dancing (1987)

#EpicSkeletor prancing to “Fame”  by Irene Cara of the namesake 1980 movie.

Other than providing great laughs, these YouTube videos show He-Man and Skeletor still resonate in modern pop culture today injected with resurgence of pop music of that era. That's not just in US but across the world when the 80s cartoon series was broadcast and translated to multiple languages. And in Malaysia MOTU fans at Fusion Wayang Kulit recently designed shadow puppets named Per-Kasa and Tengkorar inspired from He-Man & Skeletor; check their Facebook Page for more details.

Want to know even more about the Masters of the Universe? Again head over to Netflix for the feature length documentary (1.5 hours) titled POWER OF GRAYSKULL: THE DEFINITIVE HISTORY OF HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE, especially on its impact on modern pop culture beyond the toy line and children's cartoon.

Ready to start Masters of the Universe: Revelation? Consider this Looper video on “Top 10 Things to Remember” which kind of summarises this feature article.

Reviews of Masters of the Universe: Revelation has been positive THUMBS UP. Read what Gizmodo has to say or watch IGN's review here: 

Now for you MOTU fans, mark time in your calendar to binge watch Revelation on Netflix and relish in the best He-Man fan service experience you will be getting this year. This action packed teaser trailer perfectly sync'd to the tune of Bonnie Tyler's “Holding Out for A Hero” simply shows it all... 


Disclaimer: Masters of the Universe, He-Man, and associated characters are registered trademarks to Mattel Inc, reference here for fan service only without intent to infringe.