Sketch vs. the 80s: Introduction to He-Man and “The Cosmic Comet” Review / Riff

Posted: April 13, 2011 by Sketch in Animation, Animation Editorials, Animation Reviews, Authors, Sketch, Sketch vs the 80s
Tags: , , ,

The first review is up already? Well will wonders never cease. Now if i could just churn out podcasts at this rate things would be golden. Those are still coming by the way. 5 are in the can and I’m editing them one by one.

In this post I give my introduction to He-Man and the Masters of the Universe touching on some common traits of the series and then I delve right into a review of the episode “The Cosmic Comet”. Click the post to read on.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is a fantasy adventure series from Filmation. It features a sizable cast of heroes and villains but centers on Prince Adam of the Eternia who was granted the power of Grayskull allowing him to transform into He-Man the strongest man in the universe.

He-Man is one of those shows that explain the series plot in the title sequence and I must say it does a good job getting me excited to watch the show. The music drives up the energy and gets me pumped to see what adventures these characters will have. Not a bad start He-Man. I will note however I absolutely loved that the 2002 He-Man series playfully dismissed this somewhat corny introduction to every episode. I appreciate when a franchise references and pokes fun at the campier renditions of itself.

I have to give He-Man some props right off the bat because from what I have seen so far the main cast includes at least two female characters who are not just there to be love interests and have no personality. Both Teela and Evil-Lyn have personality, they have high positions on their respective sides of the conflict and they are characters before they are token females thrown in to make sure the show is not a complete sausage fest. That’s rather progressive but they also seem to lose their fights so far and I’m hoping that trend does not continue for the majority of the series.

I cannot go any further without mentioning how campy this show is already. It is the definition of campy but you know what? So far I am completely okay with that. This show is unintentionally hilarious and I’m enjoying nearly every moment because of that. There are also many attempts at intentional comedy and it is succeeding in that respect for the most part. Orko’s gags and Adam’s talking Tiger Cringer along with some sarcastic remarks from Man-At-Arms and King Randor makes up the majority of the intentional comedy and it is pretty spot on though the delivery is at times awkward. As for unintentionally funny moments, everything from awkward dialogue delivery, choppy animation, and rather suggestive imagery to the fight sequences and laughable scenarios make for plenty of laughs. Maybe that was their intent all along but I’ve seen enough campy cartoons to know that sometimes they really are trying to be serious and failing miserably to do so. I am sure the one-liners coming from He-Man were intended to be funny but they probably wouldn’t be if He-Man’s acting was not so incredibly over the top especially in his iconic call “I have the pooooower!!!” but also with pretty much every line. When he’s not going over the top he’s speaking with absolutely no emotion whatsoever, which is also somewhat amusing at times. Another very amusing aspect to this show is Skeletor and his minions. The minions are mostly laughable but they are pretty unique and have creative designs. This version of Skeletor is hardly a threatening villain but he’s still a great antagonist for the show and much like Cobra Commander and The Shredder, he is almost too much fun to watch.

Now I’ll get into the episode review but before I do I’m going to take a moment to highlight the writers who worked on it. This episode was co-written by Larry DiTillo who later went on to write for Transformers: Beast Wars, Galaxy High, The Real Ghostbusters and oddly enough the 2002 He-Man series. The other co-writer for this episode is Tom Ruegger who went on to write for and produce the “silver age” Warner Bros. series Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, Freakazoid!, Pinky and the Brain, Road Rovers and even Batman: The Animated Series. So to say this episode had writing pedigree would be an understatement.

Now I shall begin my informal episode review / riff session

Skeletor has taken control of an evil comet and is trying to use it to invade Castle Grayskull. The comet was not always evil but because a wizard named Zagraz tried to control it and ended up destroying the comet which accompanied it, the comet “became lonely and turned evil because it lost its’ heart”. Please resist the urge to fall out of your chair laughing just yet. It only gets better. After a quick run in with Evil-Lyn and Beast Man at Castle Grayskull, Prince Adam and Man-at-Arms inform King Randor that they are going on a secret mission that is vital to the safety of Eternia. Their mission is to seek out the wizard Zagraz as the sorceress of Castle Grayskull suggested. Randor is pleased to see Adam is taking on some responsibility but feels Teela the captain of the royal guard should accompany them. Orko asks if he should go as well and at first King Randor feels he shouldn’t but when Orko suggests that if he stayed behind he would be practicing his magic tricks for the next banquet, Randor has a sudden change of heart quickly stating that “one can never tell what might come in handy”. I’m not sure what happened with this delivery but Randor says the following line telling Orko he can go so quickly after the previous line that it’s very awkward.

With that, the four of them go see the old wizard Zagraz on Zagraz Mountain (naming a mountain after yourself? Well that’s a little pretentious). The vehicle they are riding in talks (and that’s not even close to the strangest thing that will talk in this episode) and has wheels with long rectangular belts that look like they would not function like a tanks belted wheels would much less standard wheels and it goes by the name Track. When they arrive Zagraz (who looks a bit like Merlin from Disney’s The Sword in the Stone film and likes to say “don’tcha know?” more than a native of Wisconsin) informs them that he can no longer control the cosmic comet and laments that he’s “old and silly” (kind of like this show) and He-Man has to fight off some humanoid creatures made from the comet that Skeletor sent after them. I like how they animate He-Man punching at the screen. All things considered it is kind of a girly looking punch. He-Man makes quick work of the creatures and Orko decides to vacuum up the shattered pieces of them for plot convenience. The gag itself is pretty entertaining.

Teela asks where Prince Adam is because everyone who does not know about Adam’s secret cannot seem to put two and two together to figure out Prince Adam is He-Man. This is a common gimmick in all forms of fiction so I won’t harp on it in this case but sometimes it is a little hard to believe nobody can figure these characters’ secret identities out. It is a little easier to swallow in the 2002 series because Adam and He-Man look dramatically different but in this series Adam and He-Man are basically twins with slight variation in skin tone and hair color. Did I mention Adam is supposed to be 16? Boy they grow ‘em big in Eternia but I digress. He-Man assures Teela that Adam is safe and they never bring it up again (in this episode). Zagraz was injured in the battle when he tried to control the comet creatures so our heroes decide to take him with them but they are ambushed by Beast Man who they quickly deal with only to then be ambushed by Skeletor and Evil-Lyn who have absorbed some of the power of the comet. Apparently this comet can move freely and can bestow its’ power upon people who ask for it (sigh… just go with it). They strike our heroes with the comets’ power but they are whisked away to Castle Grayskull by the sorceress who guards it. So naturally Skeletor sets his sights on attacking Castle Grayskull with the power of the comet. The way He-Man, Man-at-Arms and Teela fall down a while after they are hit by the comet’s power is yet another instance of just plain laughable animation timing.

Meanwhile at Castle Grayskull, Zagraz tells everyone that the evil in the cosmic comet could be neutralized by a comet filled with good energy but he would need pieces of the evil comet to create a good one. As it just so happens Orko does have pieces of the comet as I mentioned earlier and the plot convenience is fulfilled. The sorceress pieces together what Orko had with him and apparently several other pieces which he did not, given the size of the comet she constructed. Zagraz then tells everyone to gather around and touch the comet to fill it with some “heart” (quick somebody call Ma-Ti!). Teela remarks that it feels “so evil” but Zagraz tells her to ignore those bad feelings (that sounds kinda wrong…) and concentrate on “goodness” by thinking of all the good people of Eternia and the “goodness” in their own noble hearts so they can fill the comet with good energy (again… just go with it). He declares that their efforts are working and I’m not sure how he can tell that from his sitting position nowhere near the comet but whatever he’s a wizard and he can sense these things I guess. His assumptions were correct of course and the comet speaks thanking everyone for their “goodness” that has allowed his “heart to beat again”. Yes you read that right, the comet spoke. These comets can fly freely with no set direction, bestow their power to others and speak in a pleasant tone of voice. I’ll give you a minute to have your laughing fit as I did.

Are we good now?

Great, let’s rap this thing up.

Skeletor, Beast Man and Evil-Lyn fly over to Castle Grayskull with the evil comet in toe. Beast Man cautions Skeletor that the comet might not destroy Castle Grayskull but Skeletor quickly dismisses that notion and calls Beast Man a furry coward (which is more amusing now than it was in the 80s I’m sure). He-Man tells the Zagraz it is up to him to make the comet fly and that he should forget out his mistakes in the past and trust in his own ability. You know, just believe in the He-Man that believes in you. I guess we know where Kamina got that from. Zagraz beckons the comet to fly away and the comet replies that he is trying to fly but needs the wizards help to fly (isn’t that what he was already trying to do?). They are having a bit of trouble getting the juices flowing or what have you and it is up to He-Man to buy them some time. So he asks the sorceress to lend him her power and she uses that power to make He-Man fly (honestly show, you are not helping anyone take this seriously).

He-Man collides with the comet and keeps it at bay until Zagraz finally launches the good comet into the sky by saying “fly away” to it several times. I know he was actually doing more but it did not look like he was and there’s no difference between what he was doing before when it was not working. I’d like to note that He-Man’s contorted expression whenever he’s pushing something is quite hilarious as is Zagraz’s expression when he’s “doing it as hard as he can” (cue Mooninites scene).

The two comets collide and He-Man falls back to earth like a sack of potatoes. Man-at-Arms struts over to nonchalantly ask He-Man if he is okay while not showing even an ounce of concern on his face and the comets thank our heroes for bringing them back together and restoring their hearts. Apparently the new comet made out of the bad comet is now the one that was destroyed before. Not sure how that works but for that matter, the comets collided and it looked like they were both destroyed in the process so why are they still there? Lazy animation, you’ve gotta love it. After the comets depart He-Man congratulates Zagraz for a job well done to which Zagraz replies “I guess I’m not old and useless after all”. He-Man replies “We never thought you were” and there’s the moral of the story though he could have said it more convincingly. It was like He-Man was reading off a cue card offering no emotion.

Meanwhile Skeletor is sure the explosion (see I told you there was an explosion) surely meant the comet brought its’ wrath upon Castle Greyskull but suddenly two comets fly by causing Skeletor’s flying machine to spin out. Skeletor cries out asking who could be responsible for there now being two comets but I’m pretty sure he knows who to blame. Back at King Randor’s castle, Adam is controlling some floating orbs in order to learn how to control comets himself but he loses concentration and the orbs go flying different directions. One starts chasing Orko and everyone laughs as the scene closes.

Ah but we’re not quite done yet because He-Man episodes are followed by quick moral recaps which are bit redundant because they already clearly presented the moral of the story but I guess for kids who are more focused on the action and such its’ not a bad call to emphasize the moral at the end of the episode.

So that’s my first review of an episode He-Man. So far while I wouldn’t say it is making a great action cartoon it is very entertaining, has great characters and is genuinely funny most of the time it is trying to be. That said the plots and various concepts within them are absolutely ludicrous even for a campy fantasy story. I can only imagine this is not as ridiculous as it can be but I’m not sure how they’ll top a talking comet. I’m enjoying He-Man so far. While it is absurd more often than not I can forgive it because it is entertaining in its absurdity whether it intended to do that or not and it certainly is not boring. Given that, I am rather looking forward to watching some more He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. It is quickly winning me over.

  1. sally says:

    i love he-man and the masters of the universe and he man is best character in world

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