REVIEW: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: The Newspaper Comic Strips

It is hard to believe that a line of toys could have as much impact as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Immediately after the toy came out, there were the afternoon cartoons, then comics and video games and movies. There was a spin-off designed to appeal to girls, She-Ra: Princess of Power. The cartoon was revived twice. It never lasts long, but always reinforces the cult status of the original show.

And all of these are, more or less, easily collectible. You can find the toys all over E-Bay. You can get all of the shows on DVD. You can even get the He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special. (Never get the Christmas special.) However, until now there is one medium where the stories of He-Man existed that were almost impossible to collect: the He-Man newspaper comic strips.

Now, under the guidance of Danielle Gelehrter, almost all of the 15 story lines that stretched out over 4 ½ years have been collected into one book. It is almost because after the first couple of years the strip was dropped from most US newspapers, but was continued on in foreign ones. There are stories that have never been seen before in America.

There are some gaps in the final stories, where the researchers could not find the strips for some of the days. They instead give brief descriptions of what happens in the missing panels.

The interesting thing in these stories is that they really give the secondary characters room to grow and become more than just He-Man’s side kick. Teela, Man-at-Arms, and Orko all really benefit from this. One character who is much more active in the strips than she ever was in the cartoon is The Sorceress. In several of the stories she has a much more expanded role that she ever did on the show.

Sadly, although Hordak, the enemy of She-Ra is the villain of one story, the Princess of Power never appears. Apparently, there was a licensing issue that prevented her from showing up in the strip.

Between the stories, The book offers interviews with the writers, artists and editors of the strips and they offer some interesting insights into the stories, the characters, and the difference between what they could do on the cartoon and in the newspaper.

One issue that never comes up in the interviews that I really wanted addressed was the character and costume designs. Who decided that the characters in children’s cartoons should dress in outfits that would blend in at gay S&M clubs?

Dark Horse wisely decided to keep the daily strips black and white and only the Sunday ones are in color, as they would have appeared in the newspaper. The art is dynamic but limited by the needs to meet the limited capabilities of newspaper presses.

This book is a must have for anyone who is a fan of He-Man and his friends. Even casual fans of the cartoon will find something fun and infectious to latch onto.

Writer: Chris Weber
Art: Gerald Forton
Color: Connie Schurr
Publisher: Dark Horse

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