30 November 2012

Minicomic cartoon reference.

In the superbly-illustrated Bruce Timm minicomic "King of the Snake Men" there is an interesting comment made by Kobra Khan, which clearly acknowledges the animated appearances of both Rattlor and Tung Lashor. Shortly after King Hiss has summoned the two Snake Men, Kobra Khan informs King Hiss that his spells are not working correctly, citing that both Rattlor and Tung Lashor are two warriors that serve The Evil Horde on Etheria! This is of course in reference to the fact that in the She-Ra animated series both Snake Men were indeed seen working for Hordak in certain episodes. Admittedly, they were also confusingly seen working for Skeletor at one time, too! It is nice to think that the minicomic attempted to address the situation...


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29 November 2012

Gatekeeper in full.

Filmation's character model reuse came into play in the form of the Gatekeeper from the season two He-Man episode "The Magic Falls". Interestingly, in the episode we never saw the Gatekeeper's full form, as it was only his head that appeared to both He-Man and Orko in spirit form. Given that his character model was originally used as from Zagraz you will not be surprised to learn that the model sheet shows the Gatekeeper's full form to be exactly the same as Zagraz's, save for a few minor color changes.


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28 November 2012

Cruncher?!

As I have mentioned before The New Adventures of He-Man series often told stories that I wish had been written for the Filmation show. "He-Man Mutant" is one such episode. In the story He-Man, in an attempt to spy on the Mutants, offers to transform himself into a creature that could pass for a Mutant. However, after the transformation it becomes obvious that his mind has become warped and the protector of Primus legitimately joins Skeletor and Flogg. The one problem I have with the episode pertains to the visual look of He-Man as a Mutant. We can clearly see that he still wears the same clothing as He-Man; he even has a ponytail! And yet Skeletor, who is an intelligent being throughout the series, does not cotton on to the resemblance!


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27 November 2012

Star Comics cereal:geek article #13

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 thirteenth and final part of the article...

Even though issue thirteen would prove to be the final issue of the series it appears that plans were well under way for more stories. The splash page illustration you will see overleaf (see issue six of cereal:geek) is actually from the unproduced issue fourteen of the Masters of the Universe comic.

Under the title "War and Peace" it appears that the series was going to take a drastic new direction, as we see not only a fleet of Horde Batmex, but also He-Man wearing his costume from the live-action movie!

George Caragonne's arrival on the series was sadly too late, and Masters of the Universe became one of many Star Comics that would end up being cancelled in the space of a few months. Unfortunately under the banner of Marvel's Star Comics imprint, the writers would always be fighting a losing battle to command respect; the comics they were producing were seen as nothing more than comics for kids. And maybe therein lies the problem. Would Masters of the Universe have faired better outside of Star Comics, under the regular Marvel imprint?

I honestly believe that had the comic started with the quality of storytelling witnessed in issue nine onwards we would have seen a longer-lasting comic, and a complete lack of "crumb-bums".

Sadly George Caragonne is no longer with us, but his contribution to the Masters of the Universe comic is nothing short of spectacular. I'm sure that Masters of the Universe would have proven to be a small part of George's brief life, but with this comic he made a lasting impression on the fans.

He breathed life into an ailing book by actually taking the world of Eternia quite seriously and writing the characters as they were meant to be written.

Within the space of a few issues George Caragonne wrote some of the greatest He-Man stories ever told. And for that, I am eternally grateful to him.


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

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23 November 2012

Kickstarter project - cereal:geek

As many of you know I've been self-publishing cereal:geek magazine since the beginning of 2007. It is a 100 page glossy magazine (with NO ads) dedicated to showcasing the cartoons of the eighties. I'm currently attempting to finance a reprint of issue two via the crowd funding website Kickstarter. I'm hoping that should this project prove successful, then other He-Man and She-Ra-related projects will follow soon after...

Take a look at the project!


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22 November 2012

A brief review #033 - "The Starchild"

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 "The Starchild"...

The strength of the non-villain episodes of the series is that the writers are often able to create character-heavy episodes in which we learn more about the main cast. Unfortunately, that is not the case with this, the first non-villain episode of the series. Whilst Palos and Willen are quite well-rounded characters, Starchild comes across as unlikable, as it is hard to feel sympathy for a character that actively tries to harm the heroes. After a while, we tire of seeing Starchild run away again, and again, and again, and find ourselves wanting her to be found, not because we care, but so that the story can end. 3/10

Now, may I ask; what is YOUR rating?

21 November 2012

Catra shakes fist!

The rarely-seen four story She-Ra Ladybird compilation book was interesting in that aside from including two new stories, it included two previously published stories in "Catra's Ice Palace" and "She-Ra and the Golden Goose", renamed "The Golden Goose" for this publication. The most striking thing about "Catra's Ice Palace" is that due to the size of this compilation book being a different format, the illustrations that accompanied the story were completely redrawn. Previously the story had been illustrated by Geoff Senior, but this time Glenn Steward illustrated it, to tie into the fact that the other three stories in the compilation were illustrated by him! In this atmospheric illustration we see Catra angrily shake her fist in the direction of the Crystal Castle, as the Fright Zone is a miserable place to be in the winter...


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20 November 2012

Star Comics cereal:geek article #12

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 twelfth part of the article...

Issue thirteen begins with the heroes camped outside Castle Grayskull, now controlled by Skeletor. As the small band of rebels begin their mission it is revealed that Skeletor observes everything, and in some incredibly creepy scenes we see Skeletor effortlessly capturing Teela in the form of Zoar. It is not long before the heroes are captured and chained in Skeletor's throne room; the villain sporting elements of his live-action movie costume.

Both future and past Adams retrieve the Sword of Power and call upon the Power of Grayskull, resulting in the appearance of two He-Mans! As the future He-Man and future Skeletor engage in one final battle Castle Grayskull begins to crumble all around them. As the rebels escape, the castle explodes presumably killing both He-Man and Skeletor. Across Eternia, inspired by Adam's rewriting of the Obelisk, the people rebel against the evil that has enslaved their planet and within one single day Eternia becomes a world of peace.

Although having achieved a great deal Adam is still understandably saddened by recent events and tells Teela, "Because of my actions thirty years ago, Skeletor enslaved my people, killed your mother and father and caused untold suffering!" After discovering a way to get back to the past Adam remarks to Teela, "I thought I could get along without He-Man. But that's like saying I can get along without accepting my responsibility to decide my future!" Teela hugs Adam beautifully stating, "That's what you really came here to find, isn't it?"

Arriving back in the past Adam is overjoyed to see all his loved ones alive and well. Almost knowing that the series had been cancelled the final page has Prince Adam transforming into He-Man atop Castle Grayskull declaring that "He-Man is here to stay!!", with the last caption stating, "Never...The End".

Issue thirteen when compared to issue twelve probably isn't as strong, but this is due to the sheer number of revelations and power of storytelling in the first part of the story.


To be continued...


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19 November 2012

"I AM HE-MAN!"

Here is an absolutely fantastic page from the Masters of the Universe minicomic "Slave City". Throughout this artist Larry Houston, who was a professional comic book artist, employed numerous traditional techniques to illustrate a very violent, yet superb story. The poses on this particular action-packed splash page remind me of the way in which the late great John Buscema would stage action during his time at Marvel Comics...


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17 November 2012

Race for the crystal...

Here are three action-packed panels from issue four (volume one) of the Masters of the Universe comic from MVCreations! I enjoy the fact that in each panel He-Man and Skeletor's movements are perfectly matched to one another. The second panel where they are both racing towards the crystal at an equal pace is wonderfully illustrated. And these are very small panels in print, too!


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

16 November 2012

Star Comics cereal:geek article #11

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 eleventh part of the article...

As Adam departs we are treated to two wonderful panels in which we learn the shocking truth. Randor asks Marlena, "Do you think we should have told him?", to which she replies, "No ... I've always said that he'd tell us when he was ready. I knew that when I figured out his "secret" -- all those years ago", finally adding, "A mother knows." In those two panels Caragonne proves that not only does he enjoy referencing the cartoon (which hinted twice during its run that Marlena knew that Adam and He-Man were the same), but that he also actually cares about the comic he is writing, and not for one second is he writing down to the audience that his comic is clearly marketed for.

Just when we think things can't get any more difficult for Adam he finds the Sorceress who gives up her life to power a weapon, given to him by his father. As the Sorceress dies she whispers to the prince, "I will always be with you, my 'son'..." Adam's rage in the last panel on this page is perfectly illustrated by Ron Wilson.

The final few pages of issue twelve have Adam discovering his future self, and that Teela has now taken over the mantle of the Sorceress, though the years since the death of her father have left her cold and distant with little emotion. The issue ends beautifully with Adam heading towards Skeletor's towering obelisk which reads, "Here lies He-Man." In the fury of the storm Adam uses the laser weapon powered by the lifeforce of the Sorceress and rewrites the words of Skeletor's obelisk, "Skeletor lies!! He-Man lives!!!" in an effort to inspire the people of Eternia. The issue's last panel has the small band of heroes preparing themselves to fight Skeletor's evil head on.


To be continued...


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14 November 2012

He-Ro artwork.

As I explained a few days ago, I absolutely loved the miniscule pieces of artwork featured on the initial cardbacks of the Masters of the Universe figures. As the line continued these illustrations would match the figures a great deal more in both design and pose. In this fascinating image we see what would have been the cardback illustration of He-Ro based upon the action figure that never made it past the prototype stage! When comparing this style of illustration to the one of the Skeletor cardback from a few days ago you can see the quality and style had changed dramatically by the end of the toyline.


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13 November 2012

Skeletor and the Shadow-Man.

Here is one of my favorite illustrations from the Masters of the Universe Ladybird book "A Trap For He-Man". Skeletor's stance with his Power Blade held high makes him look incredibly formidable, as Teela appears to be resigned to the fact that she is Skeletor's prisoner. The Shadow-Man, who appear in force in this story, is also given an appropriately cool low pose. There is an impressive use of blacks in this illustration, and throughout the book, too!

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

10 November 2012

Star Comics cereal:geek article #10

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 tenth part of the article...

The two part "Lifetime" story that runs across issues twelve and thirteen is often heralded as one of the best Masters of the Universe stories ever told. And rightly so!

For the first time in the series we see Adam and King Randor engaging in meaningful conversation, Randor stating that he is pleased with his son taking an interest in affairs of state; the dialogue sounding a lot like something we could have heard in the cartoon. Page three of the issue is very clever as it foreshadows the story; in the three panels that He-Man appears in we do not once see his face; every shot of him is shown from behind.

Later, as Adam tells Man-At-Arms that he is tired of being He-Man, we are treated to some great dialogue, most notably Adam's declaration, "It's not 'I Have The Power!' Now 'The Power Has me!'" Adam's argument as to give up being He-Man is convincing to the point that we never truly question it, and to be honest, I found myself rooting for him to return the Sword of Power to the Sorceress!

Of course Skeletor shows up with a new plan. This time he has a bomb that will trigger itself upon picking up He-Man's brainwaves, and explode, sending the most powerful man in the universe into the future. Unfortunately for Skeletor Adam is in the room and the bomb sensing He-Man's brainwaves begins to count down. We are all horrified when Adam's sword disappears and again Caragonne writes Adam's despair beautifully. Adam journeys to the future and discovers a frightening world now ruled by Skeletor, as He-Man hasn't appeared in over thirty years. The best scene in the comic, and perhaps the series' history, occurs when Adam discovers his mother and father in Skeletor's dungeons.

In an incredible few panels Adam tells his parents that he and He-Man are one and the same. They are shocked as he proceeds to explain why he kept it a secret; "Please forgive me for keeping this secret from you. I love you both ... making you proud of me is all I ever wanted." As Adam leaves the dungeon Randor replies that he has always been proud of his son, "Never more so than I am today."


To be continued...


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09 November 2012

Evilseed dies!

Here is a beautiful piece of layout artwork from the episode "Evilseed" by the late great Fred Carrillo. This piece was illustrated to give the storyboard artists and director a sense of how the scene may play out. Tom Sito animated the death of Evilseed sequence, and one has only to look at this illustration to see how the final shot of a dying Evilseed was originally envisioned.


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

08 November 2012

Catra versus the Golden Goose!

The rarely-seen four story She-Ra Ladybird compilation book was interesting in that aside from including two new stories, it included two previously published stories in "Catra's Ice Palace" and "She-Ra and the Golden Goose", renamed "The Golden Goose" for this publication. Due to the size of this compilation book being a different format, some the illustrations that accompanied "She-Ra and the Golden Goose" were completely redrawn. Here I present one of the illustrations that was not redrawn for the book by Glenn Steward. In this piece we see Catra, adorned in her Scratchin' Sound outfit, pursuing the Golden Goose, which is evading her effectively in this illustration! Just in case you were wondering, Catra does eventually catch the goose...


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

07 November 2012

Star Comics cereal:geek article #9

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 ninth part of the article...

Issue ten continues the good characterization and storytelling established in the previous issue. In another nod to the animated series Caragonne has He-Man transform back into Prince Adam uttering the phrase "Let The Power Return!" This issue, more than his other four, demonstrates that Caragonne understands these characters, what makes them work, and how they should interact with one another; highlighted during the scenes featuring Adam and Teela, especially their final scene. It should be noted that whilst not award-winning storytelling Skeletor's plot in this issue is the best so far; with him tricking the Eternians into giving him a powerful gem. Incidentally issue ten was actually the first issue I managed to find in the United Kingdom. Imagine my sadness when I finally discovered the quality of the first eight!

In issue eleven we are presented with a very interesting story; after a trip through space both He-Man and Hordak end up on a different planet suffering from amnesia. The writing is what shines most of all in this issue. Instead of merely joining up with He-Man, Hordak asserts his independence, believing that he can survive on his own. Throughout the issue we see him struggle to make decisions and question why he is treated so harshly by the beings of this planet; a planet that the Evil Horde once ruled. Hordak's change of personality does not for one second feel forced upon us, and when Shadow Weaver returns his memory we are genuinely saddened for the villain, as he has formed a close bond with He-Man.

The ending of this issue is brief but well executed, with Hordak "accidentally" missing an opportunity to destroy the heroes. It should be noted that this comic has a couple of references to the Flash Gordon series in the form of Prince Bar'in and his homeworld of Aarboria. This was no doubt made possible as Star comics themselves owned the Defenders of the Earth property.


To be continued...


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

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04 November 2012

Smiling Bow.

Here is a beautiful piece of layout featuring Bow from the season one She-Ra episode "The Laughing Dragon". This is of course from the end of the episode shortly after She-Ra kisses Bow and he faints! I love the rendering of the character in this piece; with a fantastic use of the blue pencil to lay down the groundwork for this sketch. Fortunately the detail and expression found in this piece of layout artwork was thankfully executed in the actual episode produced!


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

02 November 2012

Angry Lyn!

Andie Tong's artwork on the Rise of the Snake Men miniseries published by MVCreations is fantastic! Alongside beautifully action-packed panels Andie also found time to illustrate some humorous panels throughout the story, including this one of Evil-Lyn. Having been mocked by King Hsss, Evil-Lyn looks at him with pure hatred, but bites her tongue. The way in which Andie has illustrated her lips so that she is almost pouting is hilarious, as are her incredibly arched evil eyebrows! Even when she is mad, she is still beautiful, at least when drawn by Andie!


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01 November 2012

Star Comics cereal:geek article #8

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 eighth part of the article...

With George Caragonne taking over the writing chores with issue nine the entire quality of the comic shifts dramatically. The first thing to notice is that there are no new characters in this story. Okay, I tell a lie, there is a new character, but she's not a toy, and was never intended to be one!

Right off the bat Caragonne shows his knowledge of the Masters of the Universe cartoon (or at the very least willingness to research the source material) by introducing Uncle Montork and Dree Elle from Orko's homeworld of Trolla. The story of Orko's desire for revenge on Hordak for the apparent death of Dree Elle is well written, and while the Hate Stones sudden appearance is never really explained, as a plot device they work well. The story is refreshing, and it is a nice to see the characters genuinely torn by the actions of their friend.

One clever and somewhat amusing element to the story is that the Evil Horde have a new ship/weapon called the War Star which looks like a large pyramid. The ship is powerful, but due to the energy used in transporting the ship from Etheria to Eternia they seem to be constantly waiting for their weapons to charge. I think this is well worked into the story because it shows that not all of the Evil Horde's plans are well thought out.

There is also a reference to Marlena's earth heritage as He-Man quotes Lord Acton's famous "absolute power corrupts absolutely", and an ending that is the first decent non-preachy moralistic ending the comic has featured. It should be noted that this ending is handled a lot better than most episodes of the cartoon as the characters muse the events of the day without lecturing the "audience". George Caragonne finally gives the comic a story that it deserves.


To be continued...


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