Dark Horse Books, $29.99, ISBN 978-1-61655-877-2
Popular Culture, 2015
Back in those days, Mattel commissioned a minicomic (a small, slim comic) to be included in each He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and She-Ra, Princess of Power toy. As you can imagine, as the toy line halted and people realized that most of the minicomics were gone forever due to the rough handling of kids, whatever that are left out there become quite valuable commodities among collectors. But for folks who are just curious to find out what these minicomics are like, thanks to the folks at Dark Horse Books, they only need to pay $29.99 instead of hundreds of dollars to find out.
Incidentally, despite being called He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Minicomic Collection, this one also includes the minicomics for the She-Ra toys. All of these minicomics on the whole are… not very good, to put it nicely, obviously cranked out in a rushed manner by people who just want to earn some side money.
Oh, and the He-Man universe here can be very different from that in the cartoon series in the 1980s. Teela or Tee-La (depending on which minicomic one is reading) is the servitor in Castle Greyskull, and she uses her staff very often, unlike her cartoon counterpart, while Man-at-Arms works full time there too. It is only later that we see a slow shift for the minicomics to be more aligned with the cartoon, with Prince Adam transforming into He-Man and what not. All in all, everything is muddled, so don’t expect continuity from one minicomic to another. For example, one issue sees Skeleton drooling over Teela via his stalker cam and ordering his henchmen to capture her to that she can be his, but in a later issue, he manages to take over Castle Greyskull and Teela, acting like she’s never seen him before, tells her that she is all his to do as he wishes. His reaction then is not “Yes, hentai time!” but orders his henchmen to drag her away to the dungeons because, eeuw, girl cooties.
Actually, don’t expect much continuity even within one minicomic: Teela’s hair can go from unbound and hanging down to being bound up into a bun and back again within a space of a few panels. He-Man can go from wearing his chestplate thing to being completely bare-chested and back again, although that could be just the artist forgetting to draw in the chest plate.
One consistency, though, is the bewildering ability of Teela to get into trouble. Even in one of those story lines which don’t revolve around her getting captured and needing rescue, all will seem well and then, I turn the page and oops, she’s tied to a pole by the bad guys. How did that happen? Was there a sneak attack between the previous page and this one? Who knows – I have no idea, but it seems like back in those days everyone has to include a Teela-in-distress scene or, I don’t know, get a reduced paycheck or something.
Another one is the all-around uselessness of that flying dude Stratos. Seriously, in one scene he is carrying He-Man’s broken down flying vehicle in his arms… and manages to knock Teela and He-Man out of it in the process. And these two plummet to the ground while he keeps flying ahead, apparently oblivious to the whole thing! And he shows up much later in the minicomic, telling He-Man that he only realizes that they are missing once he reaches their destination. And, of course, they then have to rescue Teela because puppies will die if Teela gets through a single issue without getting captured by the baddies.
That’s not to say that the minicomics are a ghastly read. In a way, they are, but they are so bad that they eventually become so good to read and laugh at. Even the writer, or writers in some case (which is worrying, because do we need two people to create a dumb story line?), seems to be poking fun at the stupidity of the morons on the pages quite often. In one minicomic, He-Man actually says something like, oh well, he supposes that they will have to go rescue Teela, and that’s when it’s very obvious that the writer is trying his best to reduce the blow to his self-esteem at having to write unbelievably stupid stories to pay the rent by inserting his mockery and disdain at such stupidity.
Adding to the lulz factor is how this volume also features interviews with the minicomic creators. Most writers and artists are full of squee because they claim they were fans all along, but some of the interviews are hilarious because the interviewee can’t care less and is, in fact, a bit dismayed that people actually recall that he was involved in creating these things and, worse, someone is collecting and reprinting these things as a monument to his secret shame. One fellow takes pains to point out how he finds the character designs absurd and spends a considerably amount of time namedropping his other works as if he wants to really say, “People, I’ve a more respectable body of work aside from this thing, so please don’t forget that!” His despair when he points out that people seem to remember him more for his He-Man minicomics than those works makes me giggle for a few minutes, right before I feel awful for laughing at his obvious pain.
At any rate, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Minicomic Collection is not a bad buy for collectors who can’t be bothered to track down the individual minicomics out there, and really, if I can overlook the universally awful stories, the artwork quality isn’t that bad. If you are just curious, though, buy it to laugh at it; so long as you don’t expect any semblance of good stories here, you’d be fine and may even have fun with all the absurd awfulness you will find between the covers.