Friday, November 16, 2018


Story: Chris Weber | Art & Lettering: Gérald Forton
Colors by: Connie Schurr | Editor: Karen Wilson

So after several story arcs which were mostly in the vein of the Filmation TV series that this comic strip ostensibly continues, we now reach... whatever this is. "When You Need an Extra Something" is, so far, the nadir of the strip. "The Time of Disasters", which we looked at last week, was bad, but it nonetheless felt like a sub-par episode of the cartoon. This subsequent arc, however, reads like a pitch that should have been firmly rejected at the earliest possible stage. It's not just awful, it's not HE-MAN. The entire plot is ludicrous and doesn't fit within the established world. (And this is a world that allows for a lot of crazy stuff!)

From the very beginning, we realize this isn't the Eternia we know, as Orko and Cringer argue over what TV show to watch. Prince Adam, meanwhile, is tasked by his father to escort a visiting princess to the theater that night -- and at the theater, the two are accosted by Eternian paparazzi; specifically a reporter and her film crew. Now, look -- I know high technology exists alongside sword and sorcery in He-Man's world. But having the characters watch television and populating the world with roving TV reporters is just absurd. These things are too mundane and "normal" for MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE.

But that's not where the inanity of this tale ends. Before the evening's performance begins, Evil-Lyn appears on stage... to hock her new line of beauty products to the well-off ladies of Eternia. And everyond just lets her do it -- she gives a sales pitch, hands out free samples, and nobody attempts to stop or arrest her. Isn't she, like, wanted for war crimes or whatever? This seems the equivalent of an Al Qaeda lieutenant waltzing into the Super Bowl to hock Tupperware or something. It's offensively surreal and makes absolutely no sense.

And like I said above, the Filmation version of He-Man never shied away from somewhat silly material -- but it also never betrayed the internal logic of its own universe, as Chris Weber does here. The idea that everyone would just forget Evil-Lyn has waged war on Eternia for years is ridiculous. But that's exactly what happens, as all the ladies of the court happily accept their samples. The rest of the story follows He-Man, playing detective, as he tries to figure out why jewelry belonging to all of Eternia's wealthy women is mysteriously vanishing. Spoiler alert: Evil-Lyn and her samples are behind it!!

There's more to the story than this, but I really don't want to discuss it any further. It makes no sense within the context of the series, and it is, to be kind, the most terrible piece of MASTERS fiction I've ever read or viewed.

So let's move on! In "It'll Be a Cold Day", Weber thankfully returns to form. We begin with He-Man performing a suitably Filmation feat, transporting an iceberg to Madaka, one of Eternia's Northern Isles, which are suffering through a desperate drought. But a woman is found frozen in the iceberg -- and Skeletor, monitoring the situation from afar, recognizes her as an ancient witch named Iandir. Skeletor travels to Madaka to team up with Iandir as she prepares to conquer Eternia. But He-Man proves too much for the villains to handle, and Iandir is frozen once again while Skeletor escapes.

Following from, as described above, a story that felt like an unimpressive TV episode and one that felt totally out of place in He-Man's world, it's kind of crazy that a relatively "paint by numbers" approach can come across as amazing. "It'll Be a Cold Day" is nothing particularly special; were it a Filmation episode, it would sit comfortably in the middle of the pack in terms of quality. But thanks to the tales that preceded it, it feels like a wonderful return to what a MASTERS adventure should be.

On the artistic front, I must unfortunately report that, even though he returned Skeletor to his Filmation appearance (with one or two minor tweaks), Gérald Forton is still drawing Beast Man to look like his movie self. And while I'm on the subject of art, let's take a moment to discuss the colors in this strip. They're only on Sundays, of course, provided by Filmation's Connie Schurr, and while a lot of the time they're just fine, occasionally they take some unusual liberties.

When the strip started out, Schurr stuck pretty religiously to the Filmation palette, with occasional exceptions -- coloring all the Wind Raider vehicles white instead of the traditional green, for example. But in the more recent strips, she's really started going in odd directions. In "When You Need an Extra Something", Evil-Lyn's costume is colored in shades of brown rather than her usual purple/blue -- and browns used don't even always match from Sunday to Sunday! Also, as of "It'll Be a Cold Day", Schurr seems to have made a decision to age up a lot of the older cast members, as Man-At-Arms, King Randor, and Queen Marlena now all have white hair rather than their usual brown. He-Man's hair, meanwhile, has been off pretty much since the very first strip. Perhaps in an attempt to help sell the whole secret identity thing, she gives him nearly red hair all the time, while keeping Prince Adam in his usual blond.

I touched on this with regards to Forton's artwork last week, and it carries over to Schurr's colors as well -- you have a bunch of wonderfully crafted Filmation character designs at your disposal, and you're continuing from the Filmation shows' continuity. Why on Earth would you ever deviate from the established looks of the characters? It just seems a dumb choice to me.

(Yes, this is a variation of my rant from TRANSFORMERS posts of years past with regards to religious adherence to the Sunbow character models -- I think, from my perspective, animation character designs based on toys are nearly -- not always, but nearly -- the best, most perfectly streamlined versions of those characters. I just can't understand why any artist would want to draw such characters in a way that doesn't mimic the cartoons. I know it's a weird hang-up, but I feel that way about practically every such property I've ever encountered.)


  1. I kinda cracked up at the first part of your latest review. ^_^

  2. I can't help but wonder if the art for the first story had been originally intended for something else and had been pressed into duty for the He-Man strip after some redrawing. Because, man, that's about the only solution for a story so far out of left field as that one.

    Though I do have the sort of sense of humor that wonders just how unintentionally hilarious the news in an Eternia with television would be. "He-man defeated...ah...Skeletor and Stinkor I really have to read these names? I'M A RESPECTED JOURNALIST!"

    And now I am imagining a story where Skeletor wears a mask, takes over a newspaper, and starts demanding "PICTURES! PICTURES OF HE-MAN!" from ace freelancer Prince Adam.

    Actually this is kind of writing itself...

    1. Jack, your ideas would fit right in with some of the material in this newspaper strip! I've finished the whole book since I wrote the above post, and while nothing gets quite as offensively bad as this storyline, there's still some really weird stuff coming up...

    2. I'm not sure if I should pleased or terrified at this turn of events, actually.