Quick facts for kidsMasters of the Universe
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Filmation animated series logo
|Original work||Masters of the Universe (1982–88)|
|Comic strips||Daily newspaper comic strip (1985–89)|
|Films and television|
|Television specials||He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special (1985)|
|Role-playing||FASA - The Masters of the Universe Role Playing Game (1985)|
Masters of the Universe (sometimes referred to as the He-Man or She-Ra series) is a sword and sorcery-themed media franchise created by Mattel. The main premise revolves around the conflict between He-Man (the alter ego of Prince Adam) against Skeletor on the planet Eternia, with a vast lineup of supporting characters in a hybrid setting of medieval sword and sorcery and sci-fi technology. A follow-up series, She-Ra: Princess of Power revolves around He-Man's sister She-Ra and her rebellion against The Horde on the planet Etheria. Since its initial launch, the franchise has spawned a variety of products, including multiple lines of action figures, five animated television series, several comic series, video games, books and magazines, a daily newspaper comic strip, and two feature films (one animated, one live action).
- Series overview and main characters
- Current Masters of the Universe properties
- MOTU Classics, Super7, and other collector's toy series (2008–present)
- New mini comics, books, and other media (2012–present)
- DC Comics – Current series (2012–present)
- She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (2018–2020)
- New animated series – Masters of the Universe: Revelation
- New animated series – Masters of the Universe (CGI revival)
- Reboot film
Series overview and main characters
He-Man and the accompanying Masters of the Universe franchise would make their debut in 1982 with Mattel's release of the original "Masters of the Universe" 5.5-inch action-figure toy line. Masters of the Universe, often abbreviated as MOTU, would begin its mythos through the minicomics that accompanied the toys throughout the 1980s. These initial mini comics were soon followed by several children's books and issues of DC Comics. However, the Masters of the Universe franchise would become best known through Filmation's groundbreaking He-Man and the Masters of the Universe animated series. Debuting in the fall of 1983, the Filmation series ran 130 episodes over two seasons until November 1985.
Since its inception, Masters of the Universe has usually placed its focus on the two primary characters, the blonde muscular He-Man, "the most powerful man in the Universe," and his nemesis, the evil skull-faced, blue-skinned sorcerer Skeletor and their many moral-themed encounters on the planet Eternia. Set in a hybrid world of sword and sorcery and technological sci-fi, He-Man battles with Skeletor to prevent him from conquering Eternia and discovering the secrets of Castle Grayskull—a mysterious ancient fortress with a skull-shaped facade, containing great power and magic. As with many toy franchises that have been transferred to several different media, there are a number of story differences between the various versions of Masters of the Universe. In most continuities from the Filmation series onward, He-Man is the secret identity of Prince Adam, the son of King Randor and Queen Marlena, the ruling royal family of Eternia. Adam becomes He-Man by holding aloft his magic Power Sword and uttering the words "By the power of Grayskull…" and serves as the protector of good on Eternia. He is first given this ability by the Sorceress of Castle Grayskull, a powerful magic user and mystic guardian of the castle, who in many depictions is able to transform herself into the falcon Zoar. Upon Adam's transformation into He-Man, his cowardly green pet tiger Cringer becomes the mighty Battle Cat, a giant armored beast that He-Man often rides into battle.
He-Man's most prominent allies include Man-At-Arms, a wise loyal veteran soldier and inventor; and his adopted daughter Teela, a spirited and skillful female warrior, often portrayed as captain of the Eternian Royal Guard and a potential love interest of He-Man/Prince Adam. The childlike Trollan magician Orko also often features as one of He-Man's closest allies; as does Stratos, a flying bird-man from the kingdom of Avion; Ram-Man, a stout dimwitted warrior with springlike legs and a large helmet that encloses his head and upper torso; and Man-E-Faces, an actor with face-changing abilities.
Skeletor is originally described as an evil being from another dimension and in some later MOTU lore as a disfigured and vengeful relative of the royal family, known as Keldor. From his lair on Snake Mountain, Skeletor would assemble his "Evil Warriors" to assist in his various schemes to conquer Eternia. These core minions usually include Beast Man, an orange-furred, apelike master of beasts; Mer-Man, an aquatic fishlike ocean warlord; Evil-Lyn, a powerful sorceress and one of Skeletor's most feared and competent associates; Trap Jaw, an iron-jawed criminal with a mechanical arm that can be fitted by a various assortment of weapons; and Tri-Klops, a mercenary swordsman with a rotating three-eyed visor.
The series overall would feature a wide and ever-expanding cast of heroic and villainous characters added to the toy line, the Filmation cartoon, and other media; with the franchise far outshining prior expectations, continuing to grow through 1983 and 1984. The release of the animated cartoon movie He-Man and She-Ra: The Secret of the Sword in the spring of 1985 introduced He-Man's twin sister She-Ra (with her secret alter ego Princess Adora) and the arch-villain Hordak (leader of the Evil Horde and the former master of Skeletor) on the planet Etheria. Stemming from the animated movie, Filmation went on to produce 93 episodes of the series She-Ra: Princess of Power, which ran until the end of 1986, along with the He-Man & She-Ra: Christmas Special. Other main characters of the She-Ra series would include Swift Wind, winged unicorn and alter ego of She-Ra's trusty steed Spirit; Light Hope, mystical living beam of light and mentor to She-Ra; and her Great Rebellion allies Glimmer, magically inclined onetime leader of the rebellion; Bow, skilled archer and the main male protagonist of the series; Kowl, Bow's owllike, rainbow-eared companion; Madame Razz, absent-minded witch with her sarcastic sentient Broom; and Queen Angella, Glimmer's mother and angel-winged queen of the Bright Moon; along with Hordak's spell-casting witch Shadow Weaver; shape-shifting spy Imp; bumbling bug-eyed henchman Mantenna; Force Squad captain Catra; evil scientist Modulok; beastly warrior Grizzlor; energy-draining Leech; and thuggish henchwoman Scorpia.
Various children's books, magazines, comics, read-along records/cassette tapes, and other merchandise were also released worldwide around this time, with much of the content based primarily on the Filmation He-Man and She-Ra series. The live-action film Masters of the Universe was released in 1987 by Cannon Films, starring Dolph Lundgren and Frank Langella. The later 1980s mini comics, Marvel comics series, and UK magazine comics continued the adventures of He-Man and She-Ra past the end of the two Filmation series. However, popularity had waned by the end of 1987 and a planned continuation of the original toy line under the heading of "The Powers of Grayskull" (set in ancient Eternia, featuring the villain King Hiss and He-Man's ancestor He-Ro) was started, but eventually scrapped.
He-Man would be brought back in 1989 in an entirely new and space-based cartoon series and toy line known as "The New Adventures of He-Man." Only He-Man and Skeletor would return as major characters to join the battle between Galactic Guardians and Space Mutants on the planet Primus. Jetlag Productions would go on to produce 65 episodes of the New Adventures cartoon, with a few mini comics and adventure magazines also created for this new series. Ultimately, though, the series would not be as successful and the entire franchise would go on a hiatus for more than a decade.
After some success with a "Commemorative Series" rerelease of the classic action figures in 2000, Mattel relaunched the toy line with all-new action figures, playsets, and vehicles, sculpted by Four Horsemen Studios in 2002. As part of the relaunch, a modern updated animated series was also created by Mike Young Productions, lasting for 39 episodes; featuring He-Man and his ensemble of heroic warriors, now called the "Masters of the Universe," battling Skeletor's minions and, later, King Hiss, the ancient and evil lord of the Snake Men. Characters such as Mekaneck, heroic warrior with a mechanical extending neck; Buzz-Off, heroic beelike flying Andreenid warrior; Clawful, large villainous crab-like henchman; Whiplash, evil reptilian Caligar with a deadly tail; Stinkor, foul-smelling mutated Paleezean; and many others would gain more prominent backstories during this series. Several volumes of comic books were also produced to go along with the series by Image Comics and MVCreations. Although popular with longtime fans and collectors (with mini-statue figures being released by NECA until 2007), the new series failed to catch on with a larger audience and was canceled in 2004.
From 2007 to the present, a new assortment of Masters of the Universe action figures has been released under the banner of "Masters of the Universe Classics." Primarily geared toward the collector's market, the series took into consideration all aspects of previous Masters of the Universe lore, with characters from all previous incarnations (and also featured a continuation of the original mini comics line). DC Comics would soon follow suit and relaunch a new grittier, contemporary version of the Masters of the Universe franchise, releasing various new comic book series from 2012 until present; featuring crossovers with the DC Comics Universe, ThunderCats, and a new origin for She-Ra, culminating in Hordak's conquest of Eternia. The most recent DC comic book series is a crossover with the DC Injustice franchise.
Netflix and DreamWorks released a new animated series entitled She-Ra and the Princesses of Power in November 2018. A new Masters of the Universe–based film has long been in development and is currently slated for release in 2021.
Current Masters of the Universe properties
MOTU Classics, Super7, and other collector's toy series (2008–present)
In 2007, a new incarnation of Masters of the Universe was announced, with the first action figure, King Grayskull, released at San Diego Comic Con 2008. Based on the look of the original 1980s MOTU toys, this new toy line was aimed primarily at the adult toy collector market, often available only through subscriptions (from MattyCollector). Sculpted by the Four Horsemen, these toys were updated versions of previous figures as well as characters that never before had an action figure made of them; such as Filmation's Queen Marlena, Fang-Man, Lizard-Man, Count Marzo, Granamyr, and many others. The toy line featured many redesigned and updated action figures from the original action-figure line from the 1980s, but it also included characters from She-Ra: Princess of Power (Adora, Madame Razz, Scorpia, Shadow Weaver, and others), The New Adventures of He-Man (Mara, Crita, and more), and the Mike Young Productions series from 2002 (Faceless One, Chief Carnivus, King Chooblah, Ceratus, and others). As the line progressed, characters from all versions of MOTU lore were included, from such things such as prototypes and concept art (He-Ro, Eldor, Demo-Man, Gygor, Vykor, and others), box art from vehicles and model kits (Sky High and the Fighting Foe Men), mini comics (the Goddess, Geldor, and Procrustus), and other books, comics, and media (Despara, Strobo, Goat-Man, and more). There were also newly created figures, exclusive to the Classics toy line, such as Draego-Man, Cy-Chop, Castle Grayskullman, and others. In February 2010, the figures of He-Man and Skeletor were available as Toys "R" Us exclusives packed in two-packs with Superman and Lex Luthor, respectively, from Mattel's DC Universe Classics action -figure line; with this dual line expanded to include two-packs featuring Aquaman/Mer-Man, Hawkman/Stratos, Bizarro/Faker, Supergirl/She-Ra, and finally Green Lantern/Zodac.
Masters of the Universe Classics surpassed the original 1980s toy line in terms of length, running continuously for seven years with more than 150 different figures produced since its launch in August 2008. Along with the Classics series, MOTU Minis and Giants figures were also released in 2014 and 2015. In 2016, Mattel ended production on the MOTU Classics and MattyCollector.com's Club Grayskull series, with the production company Super7 now taking over the Masters of the Universe license. Super7 has thus far produced several 3¾" figures (in the style of the classic Kenner Star Wars action figures from the late 1970s to early 1980s) and many figures in the style of the small pink M.U.S.C.L.E./Kinkeshi also from the 1980s. Super7 releases include 1980s Mattel-inspired figures from their animation special, The Curse of the Three Terrors, the Masters of the Universe "Ultimates" line (which consists of "deluxe" rereleases of Classics figures), and the continuation of the previous Classics and Club Grayskull lines.
New mini comics, books, and other media (2012–present)
Starting in 2012, Dark Horse Comics produced mini comics included in Mattel's Masters of the Universe Classics line of toys, continuing the series of mini comics first introduced in the original MOTU toys of the 1980s. The initial three mini comics were written by Tim Seeley and drawn by Wellinton Alves, with covers by Eric Powell. The Dark Horse mini comics continue the storyline The Powers of Grayskull/Preternia that was to have been the direction the original action figure line was headed before it was canceled. In these issues, He-Man goes back in time to battle King Hiss, finally bringing He-Ro, Eldor, Tytus, and Megator into the storylines and introducing newly created Classics characters such as Sir Laser-Lot and the Mighty Spector. Seeley stated that these comics were intended to blend the different He-Man continuities and select the best stories and ideas from MOTU history. DC took over the Masters of the Universe Classics mini comics from Dark Horse in 2013, publishing five more mini comics, with stories from Scott Neitlich and artwork by Wellinton Alves and Axel Giménez. These mini comics provide an origin story of Keldor (Skeletor), and then proceed to join into the later New Adventures of He-Man continuity. The Fall of Eternia saga in the final issues incorporates the proposed Dare, son of He-Man (He-Ro II) series from the 1990s, along with many "Create-a-character" contest finalist designs from the 1980s Masters of the Universe Magazine. Many of these stories are meant to be read in conjunction with the altered continuity presented in the character biographies on the cardbacks of the Masters of the Universes Classic's line action figure packaging, and thus do not provide a detailed flowing narrative in the mini comics themselves. With the 8th and last mini comic published in 2015, it is uncertain if DC will continue to produce any future mini comics in this series with Super7 taking over the Masters of the Universe Classics line in late 2016.
Dark Horse Books continues to produce various hardcover anthology books with collaborative efforts from Val Staples, James Eatock, Josh de Lioncourt, Danielle Gelehrter, Eric Marshall, Jukka Issakainen, David Clark, Aidan Cross, Leanne Hannah and others. Volumes include the "Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe," "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Minicomic Collection," "He-Man and She-Ra: A Complete Guide to the Classic Animated Adventures," "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: The Newspaper Comic Strips," and "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: A Character Guide and World Compendium."
An Android and iOS game, He-Man: The Most Powerful Game in the Universe, was developed by GlitchSoft and published by Chillingo and Mattel in late 2012; later followed by He-Man™ Tappers of Grayskull for the iOs (which also includes an updated She-Ra's Adventure version).
For many years now, fan-sites such as He-Man.org, Planet Eternia, and Wiki Grayskull, podcasts such as Masters Cast and the annual Power-Con convention, have all served and promoted the Masters of the Universe brand in recent years. Masters of the Universe was also featured in the 3rd episode of the first season of the well received Netflix series The Toys That Made Us in 2017 and in 2018 with the release of the Power of Grayskull: The Definitive History of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe documentary, also on Netflix.
DC Comics – Current series (2012–present)
A Masters of the Universe comic book series was relaunched by DC Comics in 2012, first appearing as a series of digital comics. This was quickly followed by a six-issue mini-series and all new revised origin issues for He-Man, Skeletor and Hordak. After a crossover mini-series with superheroes from the DC Comics universe in 2013, an ongoing series ran for 19 issues through 2014, before being replaced by the "He-Man The Eternity War" 15-issue series in 2015/2016. This introduced a new back-story for He-man's sister She-Ra (as Despara), Skeletor (as the half-Gar son of King Miro), Hordak, and the Snakemen; moving the storyline further along, with a new Horde invasion of Eternia and He-Man taking the Eternian throne, amongst other new developments. He-Man/ThunderCats, a crossover with another heroic 1980s action figure line, ThunderCats, was also produced for six issues in 2016–2017 and a six-part crossover series with DC Comics' Injustice Storyline was released in 2018. The next DC Comics MOTU property will be 'He-Man and the Masters of the Multiverse', beginning in November 2019, with a six issue limited series, written by Tim Seeley.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (2018–2020)
On December 12, 2017, DreamWorks Animation SKG and Netflix announced a new reboot series based on She-Ra Princess of Power series from the 1980s. The series is executive produced by award-winning author, Noelle Stevenson (creator of Nimona and Lumberjanes). The series' first season of thirteen episodes was released on Netflix November 13, 2018. The DreamWorks series features a new animation style and alternate backstories for many of the characters, many of whom are presented as younger in age and with a more diverse makeup than in the previous 1980s Filmation series. Adora/She-Ra is again presented as a former member of the Horde, befriended by re-imagined versions of Glimmer and Bow (with new voice actors Aimee Carrero, Karen Fukuhara and Marcus Scribner, respectively). Under the direction of Glimmer's mother Queen Angella of Bright Moon, the three embark upon re-uniting the Princesses of Etheria, which include Perfuma, Mermista, Entrapta and Frosta, each with re-imagined characters as well. Also appearing in the series are Swift Wind (without the alter ego of Spirit and with a completely different take on the character's personality), Light Hope (as a female hologram generated by the "First Ones"), Sea Hawk (now presented as a more comical glory-seeking associate of Mermista), Castaspella (as the sister of Angella's husband King Micah), Madame Razz (as an older and confused forest dweller with knowledge of Mara, a prior "She-Ra"), Netossa and Spinnerella (princesses not often featured, in limited speaking roles).
The evil Horde returns as the villainous overlords of Etheria, and although Hordak remains leader of the Horde, Catra is often presented as the primary antagonist (now voiced by AJ Michalka), with a much stronger relationship established between her and Adora. Shadow Weaver (Lorraine Toussaint) and Scorpia (Lauren Ash) also play prominent roles within the series, and cadets Lonnie, Rogelio and Kyle are introduced (possibly inspired by previous Filmation characters). Overarching galactic villain Horde Prime and a re-imagined shape-shifting Double Trouble enter the series in later seasons, and other previously established villains appearing in lesser roles are Admiral Scurvy, Tung Lashor, Grizzlor, Imp and Octavia. Although no longer directly linked to He-Man or the Masters of the Universe, Eternia, Castle Grayskull and Adora's kidnapping as a child are referenced.
Season two of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power was released on Netflix on April 26, 2019, with a shorter seven-episode run; soon followed by season three, also in 2019 on August 2, and season 4, on November 4 of that year. While firmly establishing a new continuity, these seasons make further connections to previously established lore and characters, and include Geena Davis voicing the role of Huntara in season three. The series aired its fifth and final season on May 15, 2020.
New animated series – Masters of the Universe: Revelation
In August 2019, Kevin Smith announced at the 2019 Power Con that he and Netflix are developing a new series titled Masters of the Universe: Revelation that will be a direct sequel to He-Man and the Masters of the Universe that follows Teela searching for the missing Power Sword.
On February 14, 2020, the full voice cast was confirmed. Mark Hamill will provide the voice for Skeletor and Chris Wood will voice Prince Adam and He-Man.
New animated series – Masters of the Universe (CGI revival)
In December 2019, it was announced that in addition to their other series, Netflix will also be developing a new Masters of the Universe series using CGI animation, with Rob David developing the series, producing it alongside Adam Bonnett, Christopher Keenan, Jeff Matsuda and Susan Corbin. Bryan Q. Miller will serve as story editor on the series. Animation services are being provided by House of Cool and CGCG Inc.
Since 2007, a reboot of Masters of the Universe has been in the works but has gone through development hell with various studios, directors and writers connected to the project. Variety reported in 2007 that Grayskull: Masters of the Universe would be produced by Joel Silver, and written by Justin Marks, and employing visual special effects to a large degree, as was done with the 2007 war film 300.
With that deal to reboot the film going nowhere, Warner Bros. announced that John Stevenson, director of Kung Fu Panda, was slated to direct the upcoming feature. On May 12, 2009, it was announced that the scripting duties had been handed to newcomer Evan Daugherty, with John Stevenson still attached to direct.
In September 2009, Sony took over the rights from Warner Bros. to produce the Masters of the Universe live-action film after Mattel and Silver couldn't agree on creative direction for the film. Sony and Escape Artists' Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal and Steve Tisch were now developing the project from scratch for Columbia. In April 2010, Sony hired screenwriters Mike Finch and Alex Litvak to draft a new script. Deadline reported that Jon M. Chu was in talks to direct the film. Original He-Man actor Dolph Lundgren did an interview with IGN about possibly appearing in the film as King Randor.
On October 12, 2012, Richard Wenk was hired to rewrite the script for the film. On March 28, 2013, Chu said that the film was still early in its development and that it would not be campy, but rather a dramatic origin story.
On October 7, 2013, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Terry Rossio would write the film; Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, and Steve Tisch were assigned to produce it. The film would be set on Eternia. The site also reported that Chu would not direct the film. On February 26, 2014, it was reported that directors Jeff Wadlow, Mike Cahill, Harald Zwart, and Chris McKay were on the short list to direct the film.
On April 9, 2014, Schmoes Know reported that Wadlow would direct the film, but The Hollywood Reporter announced that he was merely rewriting the script. Columbia Pictures Senior Vice President DeVon Franklin tweeted that Jeff Wadlow had completed the script. Franklin later tweeted a photo on his Twitter page of Battle Cat.
On August 19, 2015, Variety reported that Christopher Yost would rewrite the script. Mike O'Hearn announced on his Instagram account that he was in training to star as He-Man. However, he then quashed the rumor, saying he only wanted to do the part and was not cast for the live-action movie.
On January 22, 2016, Deadline reported that McG would direct the film and also oversee a rewrite of the latest script by Alex Litvak and Mike Finch, while Escape Artists' Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal and Steve Tisch and as well as DeVon Franklin were now on board as producers. On June 24, 2016, Kellan Lutz tweeted on his Twitter page that he had a meeting with both McG and Mary Viola about taking the role of He-Man. McG told IGN that the role of He-Man had not been cast yet, but that Lutz was being looked at very closely for the part. This draft of the script would be set on Eternia, but not exclusively there. In addition, pre-production had moved on to doing makeup testing. McG commented on the film saying, "I think we want to honor the fan base, first and foremost, We also need to be cognizant of the incredible resonance of what Kevin Feige is doing with Marvel, and the balance of full-bodied entertainment. That it's both credible and emotional, action-packed, and the story of a hero's journey. It's the genesis of He-Man, it's the becoming of He-Man. We want it to be clicking on all cylinders in that regard. We're not going to stop until we get it right." On April 26, 2017, Sony confirmed that the film would finally be released on December 18, 2019.
Along with the release date confirmation it was announced that McG was no longer directing the film. During the search for his replacement, Entertainment Weekly reported that David S. Goyer had been brought in to write the script. In December 2017, further reports said that Goyer was in talks to direct the film; however, in February 2018 Variety reported that Goyer had decided to step away as director to focus on other projects, but stated he would remain on board as an executive producer and screenwriter, and that the studio was said to be very happy with the script he turned in and is currently meeting with potential replacements. In April 2018, another Variety report stated that the Nee Brothers were set to direct the film.
On January 11, 2019, Deadline reports that Art Marcum and Matt Holloway will rewrite a new draft for the film. Principal photography will begin on July 15, 2019, and wrap on October 18, 2019, with Prague as one of the shooting locations. On February 13, 2019, it was reported that principal photography on the film will begin in mid-July 2019 in Prague and will be directed by the Nee Brothers. On March 20, 2019, it was reported that Noah Centineo is in talks to play He-Man. On April 29, 2019, Centineo, in an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, confirmed that he will be playing He-Man in the upcoming film. Sony announced that the film's release date has changed to March 5, 2021. In October 2019, The Hollywood Reporter had reported a rumor that Sony would sell the movie to Netflix. On January 24, 2020, the film has been taken off its release schedule with the film adaptation of Uncharted, which also got its release date changed, taking its place before that film changed its release date again.
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