When I was a kid there were few things that mattered more than He-Man. If I’m speaking honestly it was probably superheroes, Spider-Man (a class all of his own), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and He-Man. I think He-Man might be the first action figure I can remember playing with… that and Star Wars. But man, I was obsessed. I had all of them from Prince Adam to Moss Man. I was all-in on all things Eternia. I had Battle Cat. I had some kind of weird slime castle that my parents hated but I remember loving because the slime was cool and smelt oddly good. I can still remember the smell today. Kind of like playdoh but sour. Man, I’d give anything for a jar of that stuff. I used to just squish it in my fingers and eventually get it in my hair. Kids, am I right?
I even had the giant Eternia set. Three castles long… three freakin’ castles. My parents loved to tell the story of how my father and a family friend put that thing together one Christmas Eve and how much beer was consumed while doing so. Apparently, it’s not that easy to build the castles of the center of the universe. Who would have thought? All I remember is that thing looked cool. Not only looked cool, it was cool. I would play there for hours and hours. I’d even bring over G.I. Joes or superheroes because it was too good of an environment to be used on just one set of action figures. I was king of the crossover in a time where we didn’t even know how badly we wanted to see G.I. Joe mix it up with Darth Vader or Man-At-Arms.
True story, I have cousins who live in Massachusetts and when we would visit the first night we got there was always used to set up our He-Man figures. Hours and hours spent getting the figures just right. Buzz Off hanging from the tiled ceiling. Battle Cat and Panthor saddled and ready for battle. Castle Greyskull fortified. Then the next morning we would wake up at the ass crack of dawn and play… all day. Until the war was won and Eternia would unite to attack the girls Barbie mansion. Happened each and every time without fail, and each and every time the battle was glorious.
I miss being a kid. It’s not just a simpler time, no bills or jobs, but it was so much fun. This ability to cultivate an imagination and playout these stories with action figures. If I was to pinpoint one of the biggest influences in shaping my imagination and my love for stories it would be playing with action figures. It simply was the best. Every so often when I buy a new Funko item I look at it and then at the rest of my collection. For a brief minute, there’s this slight glimmer. This small thought in the back of my head wondering what kind of badass stories and events I could come up with involving a Captain America holding Mjolnir and Walter White. I never follow through with it but I like to believe that in some alternate universe there’s a Kevin who has. And he’s having the best time ever.
The funny thing about He-Man is it’s one of the things I loved as a child that didn’t really carry over to adulthood. Star Wars, superheroes, The Never Ending Story and all its pain, all have translated to my adult years while He-Man sits in a closet like a forgotten toy in Toy Story. A fond memory that hasn’t had the courage to step out of the nostalgia shadow and reclaim some part of the spotlight. Granted, my interests are a bit crowded nowadays, but I like to believe there’s still room for Eternia.
With that being said it would appear that that theory will be put to the test sooner rather than later. It was announced that Kevin Smith, yes, the Kevin Smith of Mallrats and Jay and Silent Bob fame, would be at the helm of a new He-Man animated series coming to Netflix. Now I would imagine some of you might have some questions about Smith doing an animated project but let me assure you that this will not be his first foray in the medium. Don’t forget the cult classic Clerks animated series and more recently Smith will be overseeing Marvel animated shows of Howard the Duck and MODOK over on Hulu.
Even with those titles under his belt, it would seem that He-Man is a different type of adventure. This is a property that hasn’t seen much happen outside the questioning of Prince Adams sexuality since the ‘80s. A failed live-action movie starring Dolph Lundgren seemed to signal the beginning of the end for the Masters of the Universe. If you think about it, the original cartoon is only two seasons. Sure, those seasons comprise of over a hundred thirty-something episodes, where Skeletor only appears in like seventy, but when you look at other franchises like G.I. Joe or TMNT there was a timeless staying power. It seemed that He-Man was destined to be a part of ‘80s lore. Which probably explains why a new live-action movie has spent most of its time in production hell.
There’s something special about that in a way. He-Man has been one of the few things from my childhood that has yet to be truly bastardized, unlike Transformers and G.I. Joe. I swear those movies kicked my childhood directly in the groin and giggled while doing so. He-Man has kind of stayed pure. I can hold on to the memories of playing with my cousin or watching the cartoons over and over again. Eternia has been protected in a lot of ways but this announcement has done more than just tickle the nostalgia button. There’s a genuine curiosity concerning this property.
Netflix rebooted She-Ra recently, the sister show to He-Man, and while I haven’t watched all the episodes the ones I did left me feeling all warm and toasty inside. I found it to be a refreshing re-structuring of something from my childhood that made itself accessible to new viewers while balancing just the right amounts of nostalgia for older viewers. Plus, I just really loved the message being sent. She-Ra gave off the impression that maybe Eternia could be seen again. That there was an audience of thirty something-year-olds waiting to catch up with Prince Adam and Orko while opening the door to a brand new generation of fans.
Kevin Smith’s plan for his ten-episode series is to be a direct continuation of the original cartoon which sounds awesome in theory but I’d be hard-pressed to tell how the original cartoon wrapped. Of course, it’s as easy as signing in to Netflix to see how things ended but I’m willing to bet something something “I have the power” something something Skeletor loses. I don’t really recall a massive who shot JR cliffhanger looming over the legacy of He-Man. But Smith’s ten-episode plan is perfect for the future of the franchise. Ten episodes allow the show to not overstay its welcome. Sometimes less is more, except in queso dip where less is never more, and could be the right amount of episodes to re-spark any dormant interest. And if there is interest? Maybe that live-action movie starts to move along at a quicker pace and we get more cartoon episodes. Who knows, we could maybe even get a new line of action figures too. To say that the future of the Masters of the Universe hangs in the balance of the success of this cartoon might not be an understatement.
Not that it’s fair to put so much pressure on to the project. I’m sure this is as nostalgic for Smith as it is for the rest of us. This could be a passion project that could be meant as a one and done. Just a quick stop to an old imagination vacation spot. Either way, Kevin Smith is perfect for this project. Just seeing how many times he’s watched Endgame you know that he’s as much a fan of this stuff as the viewer and that allows for a certain attention to detail. Someone who knows what’s on the line but still wants to make it special. Because this should be special. When’s the last time there was anything new He-Man related. Outside of Funko products and the Masters of the Universe vs Injustice comic. I’m talking mainstream new. It’s been a long time and the announcement of this new cartoon immediately made me pine for the days where I was in my cousin’s basement setting up for the following days all-out war. It made me want a can of the slime to squish between my fingers. It made want to shout “I have the power” in the hopes that my cat would transform into Battle Cat. It made me want to go back to something that was such a large part of my childhood, and that alone is a big enough win to me. Enough so where I have faith that this could be exactly what He-Man needs to make a comeback.