September 1983 - December 1985, syndicated
he He-Man cartoon show was based
on a Mattel toy line of muscle-bound action figures, which had
also been previously represented in comic book format. The
series took place on Eternia, a planet similar to Earth but with
strong fantasy and science fiction elements thrown into the mix,
including various races of intelligent beings - similar to
humans but with an assortment of physical differences - that
inhabited the world alongside mankind. The only overwhelming
similarity between the races was that the males all had the
physique of a champion body builder.
Eternia was governed by the
benevolent rulers King Randor and Queen Marlena. Their son and
future heir to the throne, Prince Adam, was fun-loving,
irresponsible in his duties and of seemingly limited talent.
Unbeknownst to those around him however, Prince Adam played up
the underachiever role to disguise his alter ego as He-Man.
Adam had been entrusted with the
Sword of Power - a relic from Castle Grayskull, a place of
ancient secrets and power. When Adam held aloft the sword (which
was invisible until drawn) and said, “By the power of Grayskull,
I have the power!” he was transformed into He-Man, the most
powerful man in the universe (translated: he was incredibly
strong and resilient). As part of the ritual Adam’s constant
companion Cringer – a nervous and cowardly, tiger-like creature
that could talk – was transformed into the fearsome Battle Cat,
a courageous and powerful feline warrior.
Only three people shared
Adam’s secret. The Sorceress was a powerful magic user and
the keeper of Castle Grayskull’s secrets. She was, however,
limited by the fact that she could not venture beyond the
walls of Castle Grayskull, except in the form of a falcon.
Of closer acquaintance to Adam were Man-At-Arms and Orko.
Man-At-Arms was a middle-aged soldier (or possibly
ex-soldier, his exact status is unclear)
who was also a gifted inventor. He served as Adam’s mentor
and occasionally used his engineering skills to supply
contraptions or devices to help in the latest adventure.
Despite his advance in years, Man-At-Arms remained a
formidable warrior and could more than hold his own in a
Orko belonged to a race from another dimension who
were comparatively small in stature, inherently magical and
levitated rather than walked. Orko’s skills as a magician
weren’t quite on par with his enthusiasm – his magic usually
backfired - and he served mainly as comic relief and as a
character for the younger viewers in the television audience
to identify with. Man-At-Arms and Orko often covered for
Adam when his absence due to his activities as He-Man might
Allies of various powers occasionally made guest appearances to assist He-Man
(and promote the toy-line). Two semi-familiar faces were Ram Man
(who butted things with his head) and Stratos (who had wings and
could fly). Of more importance appearance-wise was Teela,
adopted daughter of Man-At-Arms and Captain of the Royal Guards.
Teela was involved in nearly all of Adam/He-Man’s adventures,
although she was not privy to Adam’s secret. To Adam she was
aide and friend, but was often exasperated by Adam’s seeming
lack of responsibility. For his part, Adam found keeping the
secret of his alter ego from Teela something of a challenge.
There are always those who want
power for themselves and on Eternia this tenet was no exception.
Chief among those who wished to usurp the established ruling
structure was Skeletor, a powerful sorcerer and worthy
hand-to-hand opponent who had a hooded skull for a head. Like
most preeminent villains, Skeletor had his own cadre of powerful
and ambitious henchmen to assist him. Among those most prevalent
in his schemes were the likes of Beast Man, who had beast-like
strength and the telepathic ability to control beasts; Mer-Man
was warlord of an underwater species of humanoid creatures;
Trap-Jaw was a cyborg with a steel jaw who had an assortment of
weapons he could attach to his mechanical arm; Tri-Klops wore a
visored helmet with three mechanical eyes facing in different
directions that could be rotated to perform various functions;
and Evil-Lyn was an intelligent and cunning sorceress who often
appeared the most competent and dangerous of the villains.
Each episode ended with a short
segment, where one of the main characters talked directly to the
viewers, extolling some moral that could be learned from the
events in the episode. Presumably, this segment was added as a
way for the producers to appease FCC censors, who were always
touchy about violence in cartoons and the cross-promotion of toy
lines and cartoon series.
The series lasted for two
seasons of original episodes, with 65 episodes being made for
each season. In 1990, a new series was introduced that explored
a revamped He-Man and storyline, entitled
The New Adventures of
He-Man. In the new series He-Man and Skeletor were transported
to the planet Primus, where they once again took up the struggle
for their respective causes. The new series didn’t garner as
much fan support as the original. In 2002 another series, closer in
concept to the original, was produced under the same title as
the original series: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.
This series had a stronger following than The New Adventures of
He-Man, but neither would reach the heights of fan fervor
created by the original.