If you were a kid growing up during the 1980s, you fell into one of two camps when it came to your preference for afternoon cartoon shows/toylines — you were either a GI Joe/Transformers kid, or, you were a He-Man/Thundercats kid. I was defintely on the latter side. GI Joe was just too basic for me, and Transformers were OK, but just not “out there” enough. Now, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe? It’s Conan the Barbarian meets Dungeons and Dragons meets Star Wars, but with everyone having crazy wrestler bodies and monster heads. What’s not to like when you’re a ten year old boy??
And Thundercats? Can you imagine the pitch meeting for that show? “So they’re anthropomorphic cat people, who come to a post-Apocalyptic Earth and fight an ancient Egyptian Mummy creature. Oh, and they sometimes hang out with robot teddy bears.” Again, what’s not to love? In short, as a kid, I lived for these two properties, as my bed sheets and lunch boxes and almost everything I owned could attest to.
At about age 13, the live-action Masters of the Universe movie came out, and I rushed excitedly to the theater to see it. As I sat there watching the travesty unfold, as He-Man and Skeletor battle it out in downtown Whittier, California…hearing real people say these things from this cartoon, I realized that everythng I loved was really stupid. I went home and and packed up my toys that day, and put them in the closet.
But as silly as these two properties were, deep down a part of me still loves them, and always will. And when a He-Man/Thundercats comic was announced from DC Comics, my inner 10-year-old might have squeed just a little bit. Because unlike GI Joe and Transformers, which were allowed to crossover over the years due to Hasbro producing both properties, He-Man and Thundercats were produced by two separate toy companies and animation studios. As much as we might have wanted Lion-O and He-Man to fight side by side versus their respective cackling nemeses back in the day, it seemed an impossibility. But thanks to DC, that day has come.
The best thing about He-Man/Thundercats #1 is that writers Rob David and Lloyd Goldfine know how ridiculous both properties inately are, but they also know what makes them fun. There is no bending over backwards to make the storyline seem more adult, just because the authors know this is mainly being read by a bunch of thirty and fortysomethings who grew up with the cartoon. This plays out almost exactly as it would have as an episode of either cartoon, and also if it were being produced back in 1986.
The storyline for this issue is simple: The Thundercats’ main baddie Mumm-Ra, who is obsessed with snatching Lion-O’s magical Sword of Omens for himself, decided he needs another magic sword to defeat the Thundercats. He attempted this on the show once, trying to get King Arthur’s Excalibur for the same reason (I hate myself slightly for know this fact without having to look it up).
So who has a powerful magic sword? He-Man does! Of course, he lives on another planet in another dimension, but Mumm-Ra’s buddies, the Ancient Spirits of Evil, give him the power to rip a dimensioal wall and travel to Eternia to get He-Man’s power sword for himself. We then have our first encounter with He-Man in this comic as Prince Adam, his bumbling secret identity who looks just like his He-Man persona, only without a tan and more clothes on. Adam is late to an official ceremony in his honor, disappointing the kingdom once more. Again, it’s the start of any random episode of the cartoon. It’s perfect.
But then there’s a massive earthquake, as tends to happen when dimensional barriers breach and worlds collide, and Eternos begins to crumble to the ground. These next few pages are fun because it gives heroic cameo moments to the second-stringer Masters of the Universe characters, all getting a chance to help save the day. Of course, Prince Adam knows that this is a job for He-Man, but before he can pick up his power sword and do the whole “By the Power of Grayskull” business, he is ambushed by Mumm-Ra, disguised as his mentor, the Sorceress of Grayskull.
Now, this is where the comic gets a little weird for me, a loses its vibe as a whole “lost episode of the cartoon show”, when Mumm-Ra straight up stabs Prince Adam through the chest with his own power sword. It’s a big, bloody panel, and just not something you’d see in either show, ever. It’s one of the only moments where I felt like the writers were trying to make this more grown up because they know no kids are going to actually be reading this. I wasn’t personally offended by it, but it’s slightly off-putting in a comic like this about characters who use their swords mostly to block laser beams and never stab anyone.
Of course, Prince Adam, despite having a sword stuck in his chest, manages to hold onto it and say his magic phrase “By the Power of Grayskull”, which, we learn, not only turns him into He-Man, but apparently heals him from life ending injuries. He then totally whoops Mumm-Ra’s ass. It’s pretty cool, especially as drawn by artist Freddie E. Williams II. He’s this comic’s secret weapon, because his art style is like a modern, more amped up version of late artist Alfredo Alcala, who drew the majority of those old He-Man mini-comics that came with your action figures. His over the top, muscled out art style is perfect for this, and gives you all the nostalgic feels you could want.
I will admit, as an ’80s kid who adored both properties, It’s hard for me to judge this comic in any objective manner. Is it very silly? Yes, although intentionally so I’d say. If you haven’t seen an episode of either cartoon show will any of this resonate with you? I’ll go out on a limb and say no. But if you were a kid in the ’80s who loved both properties, this comic is a pleasant nostalgia trip, giving you the cartoon crossover you always wanted back in the day, but never got. (although I must say, She-Ra better show up before it’s all over). If you didn’t grow up with these cartoons and toys, I can’t honestly recommend this comic to you, but if you did, then this might be your favorite comic you get this month. Even if it is a guilty pleasure.
RATING: 3.5 OUT OF 5 BURRITOS
He-Man/Thundercats #1 is available at comic book stores now.
Images: DC Comics