Friday, November 30, 2012

BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE! (mini-comic, 1985)

Between a Rock and a Hard Place! is a 1985 Masters of the Universe mini-comic written by Tina Harris and Jim Mitchell and illustrated by Mitchell and Tom Luth. Here, Evil-Lyn sells out to Hordak, who launches an assault on Castle Grayskull.

The pages before the comic turns into a big fight scene are quite good, and while the comic is reasonably well done, there are some annoying niggles with how this story is put together. He-Man’s dialogue doesn’t always ring true. The Mantisaur cannot tell time. Orko flying is, apparently, an impressive magic trick these days. And the Power Sword is getting directly involved in the action with powers we haven’t ever seen before (and if the sword can return to He-Man whenever he needs, why is he upset about dropping it?).

The art is a plus (certainly it’s noticeably better inside than on the slapdash cover), and the opening page is a highlight. The artists do a particularly nice job with faces, especially Evil-Lyn’s. The inks are a little light on details at times, but the shaded coloring helps make up for it.

The sword having boomerang powers is pretty hard to forgive, but on the strength of the setup and the art, this is a solid enough mini-comic.


Read it HERE

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

DANGEROUS GAMES by Mark Sufrin and Charlie Pietrafeso

Dangerous Games is a 1985 Masters of the Universe children’s book written by Mark Sufrin and illustrated by Charlie Pietrafeso. Here, Skeletor has been driven back into Snake Mountain and is trapped there by the Mystic Wall, so the Heroic Warriors host an Olympics-style event to keep everyone sharp.

Sufrin’s story is pretty good. The Heroic Warriors are up to some interesting things, and Skeletor has a solid, logical plan. The plotting doesn’t get lazy until the end, when He-Man just happens to bump Skeletor et al. into the Lost Corridors of Time during their dogfight.

The Mystic Wall is a notable story element here because it would be featured later, in much the same way, in the 200X cartoon. Its presence here, however, begs for the potentially very interesting stories of A. how they got Skeletor trapped behind it in the first place and B. how, exactly, he broke through it (apparently without much difficulty).

Pietrafeso’s art is generally good. His figures are typically well done, although he occasionally gives us big, cartoony heads and awkward poses. He also does a fine job with Skeletor’s myriad of monsters.

In short, Dangerous Games features an entertaining story and pretty decent art.


Read it HERE

Monday, November 26, 2012


The Fastest Draw in the Universe! is a 1985 Masters of the Universe mini-comic written by Steven Grant and illustrated by Mike Vosburg and Greg Brooks. Here, He-Man and Orko travel to West Texas the Flatlands of Eternia, where Skeletor is plotting some cattle rustling on an economy-busting level.

So here we have bionic NRA poster boy Rio Blast and his ten barrels of 80’s action movie overcompensation. He’s over the top in every conceivable way, and, like so much from the 80’s, he seems a lot sillier now than he did twenty-five years ago. However, he actually fits pretty well within the setting (keeping him in his own demesne works a lot better than making him a palace regular, like Extendar, in part because he’s so overpowered and in part because he’s a small-doses kind of guy).

The story is entertaining, if obviously thin – Skeletor may make a dent in Eternia’s food supply, but are we supposed to believe there’s no agriculture, that the peasants of Eternia eat predominantly beef? And of course Prince Adam is lugging the Megalaser all over Eternia – we couldn’t have He-Man get outclassed in a pissing contest, could we? Never mind that he takes out both of Skeletor’s henchmen with a cooking pot.

The art is very solid. Vosburg does a nice job with the landscapes, and his figures and action are pretty good. Interestingly, He-Man has his Flying Fists shield rather than his regular one.

It’s inherently a little bit silly, yes, but this mini-comic’s a satisfying enough change of pace.  


Read it HERE

Saturday, November 24, 2012


He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Magazine #3 is the summer 1985 issue, with activities and stories following the usual format. This one is “The Evil Horde issue;” the focus on the Horde coincides with the theatrical release of Filmation’s The Secret of the Sword movie. Marketing, ho!

On page 5, in the letters, a five-year-old kid writes in with his own He-Man story – and heck, it isn’t any worse than some of the stories they gave us in the first two issues. It’s kind of amazing they didn’t send him ten bucks for the rights and then pad it out to three pages.

That said, “The Legend of Hordak” is the first quality story we’ve had in this magazine – it gives us background on how Hordak got his gang together, how he and Skeletor became BFFs, and how Skeletor sold him out. It’s a nice little prequel to The Secret of the Sword, in which only some of these events are referenced. The prose story here, “The Stone of Nimyar,” is perfectly readable, if not the least bit clever or original (there’s hardly a paucity of stories in which Orko suffers from low self-esteem and then learns a valuable lesson in self-worth at the end, or of stories in which gaping holes in Skeletor’s plans allow the heroes to win).

On page 9, there’s a plug for the MLB All-Star Game. Pictured is Matt Young, who not only didn’t make the All-Star Game that year (or the year before), but also led the league in losses.

Of the activities included here, I highlight “The Sketch Pad,” a not-very-helpful step-by-step guide to drawing He-Man characters (draw a triangle; now draw a circle; now draw Skeletor’s head!).

There are two more posters included: one great one of the Horde by Earl Norem and one featuring scenes from The Secret of the Sword.

Read it HERE

Friday, November 23, 2012

HE-MAN MEETS THE BEAST by John Grant and Robin Davies

He-Man Meets the Beast is a 1985 Masters of the Universe children’s book written by John Grant and illustrated by Robin Davies. Here, King Randor takes a vacation to the desert, where Skeletor unleashes a slumbering behemoth.

This isn’t saying a great deal, but this is one of Grant’s most intelligent He-Man stories. Adam running around without the Power Sword is a tired and lazy plot device, and the whole book turns on it – there’s no real climax, and when Adam finally becomes He-Man, that pretty much wraps things up – but at least things are happening for logical reasons otherwise, and this story could have made a solid Filmation episode given even the flimsiest excuse for Adam not to have his sword.

That said, Grant still has no regard for the powers of any of the characters or artifacts – whatever fits the story is what he throws in. In other stories, Grant gave the Power Sword a radio, made it glow when danger was near, and had it shoot energy beams whenever necessary. Here, it glows the closer it gets to Prince Adam – how convenient.

He-Man Meets the Beast features some of Davies’ best art. There are some genuinely good pages here, and the beast is nicely done. But the highlight is the excellent use of color to create atmosphere, particularly in the underground scenes.

In the end, in spite of Grant’s chronic lazy writing, He-Man Meets the Beast does enough right – including better art than we had any right to expect – to make it an enjoyable read.


Read it HERE

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

SNAKE ATTACK! (mini-comic, 1985)

Snake Attack! is a 1985 Masters of the Universe mini-comic written by Steven Grant and illustrated by Bruce Timm and Red Grant. Here, Tung Lashor, hoping to impress King Hiss, sets out to abduct the king and queen.

Here’s yet another mini-comic that prominently features Extendar, the walking male enhancement joke for whom full plate armor is casualwear (his catchphrase here, “Call me Extendar – I get big,” doesn’t make it any better). And he’s still dealing with self-esteem issues. At least he’s competent enough that his constant presence isn’t an annoyance.

All that said, the story is solid, if not all that original. The Skeletor-King Hiss alliance is full of potential, and minions taking initiative is a good change of pace. Tung Lashor’s petrification venom is a rarely-seen, short-lived feature made obsolete by the later introduction of Snake Face. And how amusing that he equates kidnapping the king and queen with conquering Eternia.  

Timm’s art is good as always (although He-Man’s back tends to be freakishly large – see page 9). On top of his pencils, Grant’s heavy inks are great for atmosphere, particularly for the opening pages and especially for Skeletor.

Decent story, good art – on the whole, another quality mini-comic.


Read it HERE