29 October 2012

Blinker turnaround.

I would like to think that Zadoc Angell and I were the first on-line to vent our rage at the season two He-Man and the Masters of the Universe episode "Trouble's Middle Name"; an episode with a great deal of promise that favors comedic one-liners instead of decent storytelling resulting in one of the worst episodes of the series. However, I will admit to absolutely loving the comedic qualities of Blinker, the ever-obedient sidekick to Prankster. I'm not sure whether it is the simplicity of the character's design; the fact that he is a Trollan robot; the beautiful delivery of dialogue by Lou Scheimer; or the fact that he agrees with Prankster even when there is nothing to agree with. When I saw this model sheet of the character on sale, I had to purchase it without hesitation!


(click on the image to see it at full-size)

27 October 2012

A happy ending...

This very happy illustration appears on the last page of the Masters of the Universe Ladybird book "A Trap For He-Man". Here artist Robin Davies has illustrated He-Man and Teela to perfection. I love the way that Teela is looking towards He-Man with a big smile on her face, whereas He-Man is looking as heroic as ever. One of my favorite things about this illustration is Battle Cat. We cannot see his mouth, but given the somewhat goofy eyes, we can tell that he is smiling...


(click on the image to see it at full-size)

25 October 2012

Star Comics cereal:geek article #7

As many of you will know I continue to self-publish cereal:geek magazine; the one-hundred page glossy magazine dedicated to the cartoons of the eighties. I have incredibly talented individuals write articles for the magazine. However, when I required an article covering the Masters of the Universe comic book published by Marvel's Star Comics imprint I knew I had to write this article myself, given that I have such strong views on this series! As I have rarely covered the Star Comics series on this Blog I thought it would be good to showcase the article I wrote for the magazine across a group of posts.

So here I present the seventh part of the article...

Another memorably big error occurs during issue ten. Blade and Saurod attack the heroes after shooting down their Wind Raider. During the battle He-Man overpowers Blade, who is promptly tied up by Teela, whilst Man-At-Arms is put to sleep by Saurod's spraying sparks. The following page dialogue indicates that Kobra Khan put Man-At-Arms to sleep (presumably with his mist), and we see that instead of Blade it is Webstor who has been tied up by Teela!

This begs the question as to how these pages were assigned to Ron Wilson, and more importantly what the editor was doing when going through the pages.

One of the common gripes with both the writing and art in the first eight issues is how quickly things wrap-up, sometimes at a comical speed. The worst offender is issue eight. King Randor appears on the last page, and in six small panels the following happens; Randor effortlessly defeats Skeletor in two panels; Orko "inspired" by Randor manages to freeze Scare Glow, as He-Man also "inspired" by the king begins to gain advantage over Ninjor; Randor fires a laser bolt from his hand (not sure how he is able to do that) to defeat Blast-Attak, sending him flailing into Ninjor; Skeletor vanishes with predictable dialogue; and in the final panel the heroes strike a pose.

Even though issues one to eleven are stand alone, one to eight feel incredibly isolated and often monotonous in their storytelling. Thankfully George Caragonne would come along and change everything.


To be continued...


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24 October 2012

Nepthu crawls.

Here is a fantastic piece of development artwork from the He-Man season one episode "Temple of The Sun". Here we see an artist's suggested look for the opening scene where Nepthu, who has been crawling across the desert for goodness knows how long, finally discovers the legendary Temple of The Sun! I especially like the second illustration where we see the temple in the distance. Notice that the look of the temple itself was in development, as it appears to look nothing like the one in the actual episode...


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23 October 2012

Skeletor wakes the Beast!

The Masters of the Universe Ladybird book "He-Man meets the Beast" features a great deal of beautiful artwork by Robin Davies. Here is a fantastic illustration showing the moment when Skeletor wakes the Beast! I love the colors on this illustration, as well as Robin's ability to create amazing scale-like texture on the Beast's skin with simple circular shapes. Over the years I have featured numerous illustrations from this particular book. Track them down!


(click on the image to see it at full-size)

21 October 2012

Star Comics cereal:geek article #6

As many of you will know I continue to self-publish cereal:geek magazine; the one-hundred page glossy magazine dedicated to the cartoons of the eighties. I have incredibly talented individuals write articles for the magazine. However, when I required an article covering the Masters of the Universe comic book published by Marvel's Star Comics imprint I knew I had to write this article myself, given that I have such strong views on this series! As I have rarely covered the Star Comics series on this Blog I thought it would be good to showcase the article I wrote for the magazine across a group of posts.

So here I present the sixth part of the article...

One of the things that bothers me most about Star's Masters of the Universe comics are the amount of art errors. There seems to be an odd lack of consistency, which is strange as anyone who has seen Ron Wilson's art outside of this series will know that he is a fabulous artist. One of the most common errors is when Adam calls upon the Power of Grayskull; in many an issue the Sword of Power would inexplicably swap hands from panel to panel, during the sequence. The sword itself was often drawn in a variety of ways throughout each issue.

Issue six contains the most offensive art errors in the entire series. First though, let me explain. Throughout this issue (thanks to Mattel's product placement) Eternia is no longer the Royal Palace, but the expensive playset. We see that the Heroic Warriors now operate out of the Central Tower with the tramway that goes all the way to Castle Grayskull and Snake Mountain. Yes, you read that correctly. Obviously to make their battles easier the heroes of Eternia made an agreement with Skeletor to build a tram that connected his lair to Castle Grayskull. Best of all in one image we see that the tramway goes straight into the mouth of Castle Grayskull!

Skeletor attacks the lone Central Tower with his Fright Fighter and so He-Man leaps aboard the Blasterhawk to fight back. We then get a two page spread showing the Blasterhawk exchanging fire with the Fight Fighter high above Central Tower. However, most confusingly we now see it surrounded by the many walls and buildings of the Royal Palace! This fantastical location only exists on this two page spread. On the following page we see the lone Central Tower once more, albeit with one new addition, a pit of green slime for Skeletor to fall into. As before, never seen in any other panel, the slime is another new addition to Central Tower.


To be continued...


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20 October 2012

A brief review #032 - "Search for the VHO"

As many of you will know, in 2010 I published The unofficial cartoon guide to He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. At 300+ pages the book features 700+ pieces of trivia, 460+ deleted scenes, 360+ examples of animation reuse, 380+ quotes, 50+ abandoned episodes, and a LOT more! It is the book that NO fan of the Filmation series can live without! BUY IT NOW!

As an incentive, here is my brief review and rating (as they appear in the book) for "Search for the VHO"...

Water-based, race against time, action-adventure episodes do not come much better than this one. Within the first minute of the episode the plot is pretty much laid out, and when the Kraken appears and kidnaps Teela, we know we are in for a treat. He-Man's underwater adventures are visually interesting, as is the animation throughout this episode. Although Mer-Man does not get much screen time, he does shine in what little he has. He-Man seems to wear a wry smile during this story, and his moments with Teela are well scripted. It has to be said though, that as loud as it is, the Kraken is the star of this episode. 8/10

Now, may I ask; what is YOUR rating?

18 October 2012

An approaching Gnoll...

Here is an illustration by Robin Davies from the Masters of the Universe Ladybird book "Wings of Doom". Gnolls were a race briefly mentioned in the Masters of the Universe Series Bible. When I was a child I remember thinking that the Gnoll's shield was actually a mouth that could eat things, not realizing that it was merely an elaborate design! I love the composition of this piece with the Gnoll approaching He-Man, who is drawing the Sword of Power.


(click on the image to see it at full-size)

17 October 2012

Star Comics cereal:geek article #5

As many of you will know I continue to self-publish cereal:geek magazine; the one-hundred page glossy magazine dedicated to the cartoons of the eighties. I have incredibly talented individuals write articles for the magazine. However, when I required an article covering the Masters of the Universe comic book published by Marvel's Star Comics imprint I knew I had to write this article myself, given that I have such strong views on this series! As I have rarely covered the Star Comics series on this Blog I thought it would be good to showcase the article I wrote for the magazine across a group of posts.

So here I present the fifth part of the article...

A lot of these poor characterizations owe much to the dialogue, which is often poorly written. There are some real 'gems' in there. A few of the best examples of how badly the character dialogue is written include Hordak threatening Skeletor with Grizzlor, "I send the snaggle-toothed Grizzlor to do you in!"; Man-At-Arms comeback to Hordak, "Oh, yeah, ugly? Sez you!"; Skeletor's use of the word "Humongous" when describing Monstroid; Blast-Attak's "Whoa-Ho! This Ninjor dude is good!"; Mosquitor's grammatically uneasy, "Mind holdin' a bit stiller, He-Man."; Snake Face's, "Come back here and get rocked!"; and another wonderful piece of dialogue from Snake Face to He-Man, "You bet your sweet potatoes you will!"

Also another 'Eternian' phrase "Crumb-bum" is uttered numerous times, once even by Skeletor! And we were all led to believe that he was a little more creative with his curse words in the cartoon. The problem I have with a lot of the dialogue is that it doesn't appear to be spouting fourth from the mouths of characters located on a world where magic and science are wonderfully balanced.

A lot of this dialogue sounds as if it has come from New York City in the eighties. Not for one second am I harkening back to the days of the characters as interpreted by DC Comics, but a character like Snake Face for instance should be more cold and calculated, not talking about He-Man's "sweet potatoes". Fortunately the Sorceress does not utter the word "dude" in her appearances, though if she had done, it would not have surprised me.

Throughout the first eight issues there are one or two moments of good dialogue. In the first issue we hear Man-At-Arms explicitly state, "I guess I'm still just better with machines than people". Sadly the line is a throwaway one as he says it in the background with no one reacting to him, but it would make for a nice story in itself. In issue two we have Orko mocking Adam' desire to avoid a forthcoming storm, highlighting the prince's dependency on the Sword of Power stating, "Scared of the rain! Is that because your sword doesn't come with an umbrella attachment!" And as dislikable as they are, the pairing of Rio-Blast and Snout Spout works well in issue four; their constant bickering and wanting to outshine the other works well in the context of the story.


To be continued...


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16 October 2012

Maddock model sheet.

"To Save the Creatures" is one of the less impressive episodes of He-Man's season two. In fact, you could actually say it is one of the worst episodes of season two. There are only a few saving graces in the episode. Surprisingly, I actually like the character of Maddock. The premise of the sub-plot, in which he has a chance to replace Beast Man, is unique. However, in this episode it is wasted due to the annoying main plot which is a convoluted mess. I always like the subservient way in which Maddock has his head somewhat lowered much of the time, creating this creepy doe-eyed stare! To this day I am still not sure if he is supposed to be wearing a helmet of sorts, of it that is his actual hairstyle! Looking at the model sheet on the far left would seem to suggest that it is his hairstyle...


(click on the image to see it at full-size)

15 October 2012

A unique disguise!

Here is an amusing shot of B.H. in disguise from The New Adventures of He-Man episode "Glastnost Schmaznost". I like that his disguise is incredibly poor to say the least, and that he is sporting a classic glasses, nose, and mustache look, ala Groucho Marx! I very much doubt this comical disguise would have been written into the script!


(click on the image to see it at full-size)

14 October 2012

Star Comics cereal:geek article #4

As many of you will know I continue to self-publish cereal:geek magazine; the one-hundred page glossy magazine dedicated to the cartoons of the eighties. I have incredibly talented individuals write articles for the magazine. However, when I required an article covering the Masters of the Universe comic book published by Marvel's Star Comics imprint I knew I had to write this article myself, given that I have such strong views on this series! As I have rarely covered the Star Comics series on this Blog I thought it would be good to showcase the article I wrote for the magazine across a group of posts.

So here I present the fourth part of the article...

One of the biggest problems with the first eight issues are the way in which the characters are written. Now the biggest mistake for me to make would be to compare the portrayal of Eternia's heroes and villains to the animated series.

Writing comic book dialogue is a lot different than writing dialogue for animation; as an audience we have to appreciate that certain liberties may be taken in order to make the characterizations leap from the page. But the one sad thing about the characters in the first eight issues is that they are simply unlikable. This would not be problem if they were villains, but most, if not all of the heroes come across as jerks! He-Man is the least offensive because he's written so blandly, but Orko, Man-At-Arms, Adam, Randor, the heroes and the villains all have an air of cockiness about them. And it is most unsettling.

Issue three opens with Adam and Orko sparring. Even though Orko is horribly whiny he seems to have a point as he addresses the fact that Adam can use the Sword of Power to overcome any odds. This is where we should see Adam point out that the Sword of Power isn't what makes He-Man a great hero, it's the man who wields it. Instead Adam simply shushes Orko!

Issue four features new toys Rio-Blast and Snout Spout who are written pretty much as the same character. One could easily switch their personalities and you would not be able to tell the difference. Although they are partners they bicker and fight their way through the issue leading to the predictable splitting up, to the even more predictable reformation in order to overthrow evil. Sadly throughout the issue neither are given any real character, just very angry shout-laden dialogue.

Issue seven features an ensemble of unlikable characters. Although given a good story, that of a king who desires to be a warrior once more, Randor's character in this issue does not endear him to the reader. Instead of the noble, wise king we are used to, here we have an arrogant, old man (and I quote) "I'm the king! I can go anywhere I want to! How many times do I have to keep telling everyone?!"

Clamp Champ's debut in the same issue is by far one of the worst character debuts ever. As the king's bodyguard he is puzzled as to why the ruler of Eternia would take on one of Man-At-Arms training robots, only to then say that if he had of been hurt it would have looked bad on his own record. Queen Marlena retorts, "You're just making matters worse", even she, one of the most loving characters on Eternia doesn't like him! She even proceeds to mock him when he believes the dinner bell to be a threat on the king's life. Both King Randor and Clamp Champ further isolate themselves from the reader by being noticeably unhappy about He-Man's presence on Eternia, believing he takes away their "action".


To be continued...


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13 October 2012

Sorrowful concept artwork.

Here is an interesting piece of concept artwork from the She-Ra series featuring Sorrowful; the cowardly dragon that first appeared in the season one episode "The Laughing Dragon". You can see that even at this early stage the fundamental look of the character had already been established. The most notable difference is that the character originally had droopy ears to emphasize his sad demeanor. I for one think that the ears should have remained on the final character model.


(click on the image to see it at full-size)

11 October 2012

Evil threesome...

Here is an interesting illustration from the story "The Lost River", which was featured in the rarely-seen four story She-Ra Ladybird compilation book. In a few of the Ladybird books Castaspella was often seen allied on the side of Catra. In this piece by Glenn Steward we see that Castaspella is listening to the latest scheme of Catra alongside Entrapta. The thing worth mentioning is that in these Princess of Power books Catra's plots were never malicious, and often came across as acts of jealousy, thereby making Castaspella's alliance less of a threat.


(click on the image to see it at full-size)

10 October 2012

Star Comics cereal:geek article #3

As many of you will know I continue to self-publish cereal:geek magazine; the one-hundred page glossy magazine dedicated to the cartoons of the eighties. I have incredibly talented individuals write articles for the magazine. However, when I required an article covering the Masters of the Universe comic book published by Marvel's Star Comics imprint I knew I had to write this article myself, given that I have such strong views on this series! As I have rarely covered the Star Comics series on this Blog I thought it would be good to showcase the article I wrote for the magazine across a group of posts.

So here I present the third part of the article...

The first eight issues of the Masters of the Universe comic truly embody what people perceive the cartoon to be; one giant toy advert. The closest we actually come to a decent story in the first eight issues occurs in issue seven when King Randor desires to become a warrior again. Although poorly executed we do get some interesting moments and uses of characters, such as Scare Glow fooling the heroes into believing that he is Skeletor, and Faker at the Royal Palace pretending to be He-Man. However, many of the stories are bad, full of inconsistencies; one of my favorites being Skeletor not knowing how to get to Castle Grayskull.

In the first eight issues we are literally bombarded with product placement after product placement. Some fit quite smoothly into the story, such as the Jetsled and the Horde Troopers, while others, like the Monstroid, are central to the story. However, issues six and eight are effortlessly the worst with regards to blatant product placement and also feature some truly offensive storytelling!

In the first eight issues we see the following characters make their debuts (coinciding with the release of their action figures); Meteorbs (all ten of them), Rock Warriors, Horde Troopers, Rio-Blast, Snout Spout, King Hiss, Rattlor, Tung Lashor, Extendar, Multi-Bot, King Randor, Clamp Champ, Ninjor, Blast-Attak, Scare Glow, Faker (re-issue), Mosquitor, Sssqueeze, and Snake Face; plus the accessories Jet Sled, Laser Bolt, Mantisaur, Monstroid, Fright Fighter, Blasterhawk, Beam Blaster and Artilleray, Cliff Climber, Scubattack, and Tower Tools; and finally the playsets Slime Pit and Eternia. Even in this list I've omitted certain things like Skeletor's Terror Claws, and Hordak's Hurricane and Buzz-Saw powers, all of which were also based on toys.


To be continued...


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08 October 2012

Sand Demon destroyed!

The season one He-Man episode "Temple of The Sun" features some great action sequences, as He-Man and his friends attempt to save Zoar from Nepthu. Here we see Michael Swanigan's original storyboards for the highly memorable moment when He-Man effortlessly demolishes a Sand Demon by using his bare hands. Granted, the Sand Demon in these storyboards is a lot different to what we see in the actual episode, but at the time the model sheet for that particular character had not been assigned. The action and fury of this scene is beautifully expressed in these illustrations!


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06 October 2012

Antics to punch.

Here are some awesomely expressive action-packed storyboards panels by Michael Swanigan from the episode "Temple of The Sun". I love the two extreme poses of He-Man in the second and third panels. Sadly, when translated to screen, the excitement in these boards was completely lost, as Filmation opted to choose a traditional stock animation sequence...


(click on the image to see it at full-size)

05 October 2012

Star Comics cereal:geek article #2

As many of you will know I continue to self-publish cereal:geek magazine; the one-hundred page glossy magazine dedicated to the cartoons of the eighties. I have incredibly talented individuals write articles for the magazine. However, when I required an article covering the Masters of the Universe comic book published by Marvel's Star Comics imprint I knew I had to write this article myself, given that I have such strong views on this series! As I have rarely covered the Star Comics series on this Blog I thought it would be good to showcase the article I wrote for the magazine across a group of posts.

So here I present the second part of the article...

The first issue starts off fairly predictably with Skeletor at Snake Mountain plotting to conquer Eternia; this is how a He-Man comic should start. However, after a scene at the Royal Palace featuring the heroes, it soon becomes apparent that we aren't going to receive any mind-blowing stories. Skeletor's first momentous evil plan of the series is to use his Terror Claws to dig (yes, dig) into Castle Grayskull. So in the first issue we have Skeletor on his hands and knees burrowing like a woodland creature! It is a very bizarre sight. The Evil Horde appear and the stage is set for this comic series; He-Man versus Skeletor versus Hordak. The three-way tussle always worked quite well in other canons produced...

Unfortunately many of the stories in the first eight issues are run of the mill at best, with little story to speak of; feeling more like a bunch of scenes strung together with some new toys thrown in to please Mattel. The cartoon series is often unfairly criticized as a lengthy toy advert, but when looking back at the one-hundred and thirty episodes you will see very few new toys make appearances; the writers often relying on an original cast of six or seven at most. This is also because Filmation had an incredibly unique deal where they could pick and choose what toys they would "advertise" in the animated series, and Mattel had no choice but to agree.

It is possible that Star Comics' agreement with Mattel wasn't as lenient. In the interview with Marvel Age Ralph Macchio explained that each story had to be approved by Mattel before it could be published. To me, that sounds like a pretty harsh deal, though nowadays it is sadly commonplace.


To be continued...


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03 October 2012

Bow's comedy take!

Here are two beautiful pencil illustrations from the She-Ra season one episode "The Prisoners of Beast Island" that I managed to obtain a few years back featuring Bow as he prepares to fall down a trap door. In the He-Man and She-Ra universe characters rarely performed comical over-the-top "takes", but on this occasion, for comedy effect, Bow desperately attempts to run in mid-air as his arms crazily rotate!


(click on the images to see them at full-size)

02 October 2012

Interesting nails!

Bruce Timm illustrated some of the best Masters of the Universe minicomics that came packaged with the action figures. By far one of the best was "The Terror Claws Strike!", which featured some of his most striking artwork. In this action-packed page, we see He-Man fighting Skeletor, who is using the Terror Claws to gain an advantage. Bruce always managed to make He-Man look heroic in every single panel; the second panel in particular is a perfect example.


(click on the image to see it at full-size)

01 October 2012

Star Comics cereal:geek article #1

As many of you will know I continue to self-publish cereal:geek magazine; the one-hundred page glossy magazine dedicated to the cartoons of the eighties. I have incredibly talented individuals write articles for the magazine. However, when I required an article covering the Masters of the Universe comic book published by Marvel's Star Comics imprint I knew I had to write this article myself, given that I have such strong views on this series! As I have rarely covered the Star Comics series on this Blog I thought it would be good to showcase the article I wrote for the magazine across a group of posts.

So here I present the first part of the article...

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was one of the most popular cartoons of the eighties. But while shows such as Transformers, G.I. Joe and ThunderCats were being heavily supported by comic books, the "most powerful man in the universe" had nothing. The characters had appeared in comic book form under DC Comics back in 1982, prompting Mattel to commission the company to write and illustrate a further seven minicomics that would be packaged with the figures. These stories were all based on the early conceptual identity of the brand (a more barbaric, magic-laden Eternia). Mattel soon realized that at the height of the cartoon's popularity a comic book to promote their toys would work far greater than before.

At the beginning of 1986 Marvel's Star Comics imprint was in full flow having picked up many popular licenses, including Care Bears, Muppet Babies and most notably (for the sword and sorcery fans) ThunderCats. It should be noted that even though they were based on toy properties neither Transformers nor G.I. Joe were ever brought across to the Star Comics imprint.

Marvel Comics acquired the rights to publish a He-Man and the Masters of the Universe comic from Mattel and they made a big deal about it; He-Man himself appearing on the cover of Marvel Age, an editorial magazine showcasing the latest events and behind the scenes action at Marvel Comics. Even Transformers never got that kind of fanfare. Editor Ralph Macchio hired writer Mike Carlin and artist Ron Wilson both of whom had just finished working on The Thing comic when it was cancelled.

Mike Carlin was quoted as saying in Marvel Age that he would not write down to his audience, and that the stories would be regular ones with regular conflicts. Ralph Macchio didn't hide the fact that, like the cartoon, the comic would have a sense of humor, citing Carlin's feel for light stories and comedy as one of the many reasons he was hired. Apparently so impressive were the sample character sketches that Ron Wilson did for the heads at Mattel that they wanted to hire him on the spot.

From the interviews carried out over the next few months, it was clear that all those involved with the Masters of the Universe comic were looking forward to working on it, and that Marvel were proud to be producing a comic featuring one of the most popular cartoon characters of the time.

Which prompts me to ask this question; how did it go so very wrong?


To be continued...


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