Tag Archives: Prince Adam

Prince Adam: Heroic “Secret Identity” of He-Man (1984)

Of all of the He-Man toys I got when I was young, Prince Adam was perhaps the second-most disappointing to me at the time, next to Orko. Like many fans, I was introduced to He-Man through the first wave of toys and mini comics in 1982. While I loved the Filmation cartoon (which debuted in September of 1983), I never gelled with Prince Adam. To me he represented a softening of the brand to something silly instead of awesome. He-Man to me was about axe-wielding barbarian dudes fighting skeletons and monsters. Prince Adam seemed pretty tame, and as a boy in the 1980s, I just wasn’t having that pink vest and those lavender pants. I watched the cartoon religiously, but I was always wanting the episodes to get to the “good part” where the weak Prince Adam would be replaced by the hero, He-Man.

In any case, I received both Orko and Prince Adam as birthday presents in 1984. I wouldn’t have chosen either of them had I been consulted, but, on some level I was still happy to get anything He-Man related. I was also pleased to note that Prince Adam’s vest had been changed from pink to dark maroon.

The earliest incarnation of Prince Adam comes from Mark Taylor, who envisioned the character, according to The Power and the Honor Foundation catalog, as a “nobleman who would sometimes ally himself with He-Man and sometimes with Skeletor.” He was not He-Man’s secret identity then, but a separate character. As acknowledged in Taylor’s notes in the concept drawing below, he was a foppish looking character with a more slender build than typical He-Man figures. Note that he has the pageboy haircut that was used for both Adam and He-Man in the Filmation cartoon:

Artwork by Mark Taylor. Image source: The Art of He-Man/The Power and the Honor Foundation

It’s unclear exactly why Prince Adam was reenvisioned as He-Man’s secret identity, but the earliest known example of that is from the July 1982 He-Man/Superman crossover comic, From Eternia With Death! In his print debut, Adam bears little resemblance to what he would become later, although there are a few points in common. He has a cowardly pet tiger, Cringer, and a reputation for being irresponsible. Unlike the cartoon version, his irresponsibility includes carousing, drinking, and getting into bar brawls. He also seems to be incredibly strong already, as he manages to tie a barbell into a knot.

This version of Prince Adam, unlike Mark Taylor’s design, looks like He-Man in a different costume. In fact, his face and hair seem to have influenced Filmation’s depiction of He-Man and Adam. He wears a kind of long blue tunic with no sleeves, sometimes with a red vest over top, and light brown/tan boots. In order to transform into He-Man, he enters the “Cavern of Power” and is transformed by the Sorceress (who here looks like Teela with her red armor on – eventually Teela and this version of the Sorceress became the same character).

Update: From the letters section of the same issue, we get a little more background on how the comic came about:

Image Source: Dušan M.

So it appears that the storyline in these early DC Comics (and, presumably, the idea to make Prince Adam the alter ego of He-Man) came about as a result of discussions between Dave Manak, Paul Kupperberg and Mark Ellis (Ellis was Director of Marketing for male action toys at Mattel at the time). Hat tip to Dušan M., who pointed this out to me.

Mark Ellis explains the concept of power and empowerment here, which seems to be driving some of the changes to the He-Man story. He doesn’t take any credit himself for the Prince Adam as He-Man idea:

What became clear was that for a five-year-old, power was a central issue because seemingly they were always being bossed around.  Psychologically, they wanted to be the boss.  They wanted the power.  This then was manifested in the figure by making him “the strongest man in the universe.”  The idea is, if you are in charge of the most powerful man in the universe, then this feeds directly into the “why” of their play.  As the line developed, the phrase “I have the power” was born to emphasize that point…

We told DC about the research for the product line, the powers of each character, and the importance of power as a theme.  The fact of the matter was that we were toy people, not comic people.  All of the credit for the storylines in the comic goes to them.  We did do a series of TV commercials, which I thought hit the exact right notes. Although forgotten now, these commercials were instrumental in the initial success of the line. I would think they were inspirational for the guys doing the comic…

Others developed the Prince Adam/He-Man storyline. 

As the DC series of comics progressed, Adam’s look underwent some subtle changes. In the November 1982 comic, Fate is the Killer, Adam has blue and yellow boots, a yellow belt, and yellow fringes around the arms of his blue vest. He still maintains the image an irresponsible carouser – here he is shown drinking with a woman on each arm:


Again Adam and Cringer transform into He-Man and Battle Cat when they enter the Cavern of Power.

We get a very similar sequence in the following issue, “To Tempt The Gods” (December, 1982). Adam has the same costume as before, and he again transforms into He-Man by entering the Cavern of Power:


That’s the last we see of Prince Adam in the first run of DC-produced Masters of the Universe comics.

Meanwhile, on December 1, 1982, Michael Halperin finished his Masters of the Universe Bible, which would influence the development of Filmation’s storyline as well as future minicomic canon.

In the Bible, we get our first example of Prince Adam changing into He-Man without any reference to DC’s Cavern of Power concept. Instead, he is lead into Castle Grayskull by Man-At-Arms, where the Sorceress (still described as holding a snake staff, like Teela) gives Adam the power sword, and he transforms into He-Man by shouting, “By the power of Grayskull!”

The Sorceress proceeded to tell Man-At-Arms and Adam a brief history of Eternia and how Grayskull came into existence. She withheld the story of the Council of Elders for that would be told in its time. Adam asked who this champion would be? Where did he come from? With that the Sorceress looked upon the prince with her stern, dark, wise eyes.

She told him there was one who could save Eternia and the universe. Perhaps, in time, he would also rule as the true Master of the Universe along with others of good heart and true.

Man-At-Arms at last broke his silence. He also wished to know where this champion lived and why hadn’t he come forth at once. To this the Sorceress answered:

“He is one among you. The last to be thought of and yet the first in many minds.”
She raised her serpent staff and out of the very air within the chamber a brilliant light gathered together into a magnificent sword which gleamed with the soul of a thousand fires.

“Behold the SWORD OF POWER created from the very heart of Castle Grayskull and imbued with the forces of the ancients who once dwelt bodily within its walls at a very different time. Take hold of the sword Man-At-Arms.”

The warrior-teacher reached out and grabbed the handle. A knot of pain raced from the weapon through his hand and into his arm. As quickly as he snatched the sword he let it go. Man-At-Arms had never experienced such excruciating anguish in his life and he had been through battle where swords and lasers and photons left scars as testimony to his bravery.

Adam watched in amazement. Never before had he seen his teacher flinch at anything. “The sword knows its master,” intoned the Sorceress. “Adam, take the sword!”

The prince backed off, shaking his head. If it could make Man-At-Arms wary he was no match for this dancing blade. The Sorceress voice poured forth like a trumpet. “Take the sword, Prince Adam!”

With a pounding heart Adam reached out a steady hand ready to retreat in a moment. He didn’t have to grasp the hilt for it floated gently into his palm. The grip felt as if it had been molded to his hand. It was light as a feather and seemed to shine brighter as he held it. Adam looked questioningly at the Sorceress. Man-At-Arms backed away from his young pupil as the guardian of Grayskull approached the prince.

“Hear me and hear me well,” she said, firmly. “The mastery of the Sword of Power is insignificant to the mastery of yourself and the conquest of evil which even now stands upon Eternia. You, Prince Adam, are heir to all Eternia’s wisdom and power, but it shall not come easily for you must earn it by your actions and your actions will be dictated by your heart and your head. You shall go forth and battle the power-mad Skeletor — that spawn of a base and vile world where treachery rules. You shall use your might to defeat his renegade companions who subject themselves to his will for the hope they may rule Eternia by his side.”

Standing straight and tall, Adam demanded to know how he, a mere mortal, could accomplish all the things desired by the Sorceress.

“Within you,” chanted the keeper of Grayskull, “is a soul of power and might and truth. The soul of one called HE-MAN.” Adam continued looking without comprehension upon this strange woman of miracles. “Raise the sword above your head, Prince Adam.” He lifted the blade toward the heavens. “Now call out ‘By the power of Grayskull!'”

Adam opened his mouth, but the words stuck in his throat. Man-At-Arms stepped to Adam’s side and prodded his student. Adam finally shouted the words. A blazing, brilliant, flaring burst of light illuminated the room. Man-At-Arms shielded his eyes from the incredible white blast of energy. The prince was obliterated from sight except for the Sword of Power which seemed suspended over the spot where Adam stood.

The light faded and when Man-At-Arms opened his eyes an awesome vision stood in place of the prince. A man, vaguely resembling Prince Adam, with mighty rippling muscles, taller by a head than the prince, with wild shoulder-length hair, piercing eyes, clad in a battle kilt, buckler shod with leather boots strapped about with supple metal bands and girded by a belt of many pockets. This was HE-MAN champion of Eternia, bearer of all Eternia’s virtue.

He-Man looked down and about himself in amazement. The Sorceress informed him that The Sword of Power had the ability to cut through almost anything on Eternia as well as ward off magic and sorcery. She held out a shield which almost vibrated with a life force of its own, the shield could repel both magic spells and weapons.

Adam using the power sword and the phrase “By the power of Grayskull” to transform into He-Man would become standard Masters of the Universe canon for the rest of the life of the vintage toyline, and beyond. The Filmation cartoon would add the phrase “I have the power!”, but other other stories after the MOTU Bible, but before the cartoon, would stick to the Halperin formula, more or less.

The 1983 Kid Stuff Masters of the Universe story record (written by John Braden) would have Prince Adam shout the phrase “By the power of Grayskull” twice in order to bring about the transformation:

Prince Adam: I am ready to do my duty to defend this planet. Skeletor will perish!
Then, in a booming voice that echoed off the Castle walls and out into the forest, Prince Adam shouted the magic words that would cause his amazing transformation.
Prince Adam: By the power of Castle Grayskull, by the power of Castle Grayskull!
The earth shook underfoot and black clouds swept across the Eternian sky, darkening the sun. Overhead, the heavens opened up and down through the inky clouds flashed a brilliant bolt of white light. In a split second it flashed on the very tip of the sword power like a bolt of lightning. A shower of blue sparks flew upward toward the heavens. Even the gods watched on in amazement as in a blinding moment the molecules of Prince Adam’s body danced and swirled in a kaleidoscopic pattern of energy and change. Moments later as the blue smoke cleared, Prince Adam was gone. In his place, muscles poised for action, stood He-Man.

In the 1983 Kid Stuff story, He-Man and Battle Cat, we see a Prince Adam with a red costume, with a general design reminiscent of some of his DC Comics looks. The story closely follows the ideas from the Halperin Bible.

Image source: He-Man.org

Filmation’s 1983 Series Guide, created before the studio finalized the looks of the characters for animation, seems to draw Prince Adam’s look from the From Eternia With Death comic, at least from the waist up. His boots are red and yellow, influenced by a prototype look for He-Man that also appears in the series guide:

In the Series Guide, Prince Adam is portrayed this way:

The carefree, happy-go-lucky Prince of Eternia, known to all on his home planet as a rousing free spirit who lives a fun-loving life to its fullest. The daily problems of the royal ship of state mean nothing to this charming rogue. He’s brash, bold and, to the chagrin of his parents, completely irresponsible. They hope he’ll grow out of it, but he seems to have developed a natural appetite for fun and amusement. From the royal court to the distant island states of Eternia, the escapades of Adam have become legend. He constantly lands himself in the most embarrassing predicaments. The people of Eternia are actually quite fond of the good-natured Prince and are amused by his antics. However, the King is not amused, particularly when he has had to send regiments of royal guards to retrive his errant heir!

On his many sojourns, Prince Adam’s over-enthusiastic behavior helps to hid his true goal-and his true identity. On the BATTLE RAM, he travels to the turbulent areas of Eternia – or, through Grayskull’s Space Portals, he travels to the warring planets of the Universe-as an ambassador of good cheer, but also as a powerful agent of justice – HE-MAN!

Where the turmoil is greatest, the Prince is mostly likely to find the evil MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE upon such an encounter. Prince Adam sheds both his royal attire and his carefree manner. He strikes his sword against stone and “by the power of Grayskull” becomes…HE-MAN!

Note that in this guide, Adam strikes his sword against stone as part of his transformation sequence. This idea was never used in the cartoon.

The Filmation He-Man cartoon debuted in the latter half of 1983, but even in the 1984 series of mini comics, Adam retained his mini comic look, with a blue and yellow vest and red boots:

From He-Man and the Insect People. Artwork by Alfredo Alcala, story by Michael Halperin

Filmation’s animated Prince Adam looked quite different than any version that had appeared previously. He was given a long-sleeved white undershirt with a pink vest, as well as lavender tights and purple boots. He was portrayed in the series as affecting the demeanor of a lazy Prince, but he was not given to womanizing or getting into drunken fights (Filmation president Lou Scheimer was highly concerned about instilling good values in children).

Prince Adam’s transformation into He-Man in the Filmation cartoon

As mentioned earlier, when Mattel released Prince Adam as a toy, they gave him a darker, maroon-colored  vest. They also gave him a maroon version of the power sword. Adam was the first toy in the MOTU series to come with cloth accessories – his vest and his elastic belt. The prototype version of Prince Adam is simply a hand-painted He-Man figure with the added cloth elements (images come from Grayskull Museum).

From some catalog images, it’s possible that Prince Adam was originally going to come with the standard gray power sword that came with He-Man:

The cross sell artwork used for Prince Adam matches the design of the final toy exactly:

Image courtesy of Axel Giménez
Image via He-Man.org


The transformation scene on the back of the card was done by Errol McCarthy, one of the most prolific artists who worked on the line:

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

The produced figure looked like this:

The Taiwan release of Adam had a few different versions of the vest. The first release had separate shoulder pieces that were sewn on. The second was a single piece of fabric, with stitching along the shoulder line. The third was a single piece of fabric with no stitching at all (hat tip to Mantisaur82).

Update: recently, a picture was posted by the Instagram account “vintagetoys_de” showing what looks like sample Prince Adam cards together with second and first wave MOTU figures. The Prince Adam samples have no minicomic. Thanks to Tokyonever for bringing this to my attention.

Prince Adam coming out earlier than other third wave figures is also supported by Mattel’s trademark filings – Prince Adam was trademarked along with other late second wave figures, several months before the first third wave figures:

January 21, 1983 – Evil-Lyn trademarked
January 21, 1983 – Heroic Warriors trademarked
January 21, 1983 – Evil Warriors trademarked
February 16, 1983 – Panthor trademarked
February 16, 1983 – Screeech trademarked
May 23, 1983 – Prince Adam trademarked
May 25, 1983 – Faker trademarked
May 25, 1983 – Point Dread trademarked
May 25, 1983 – Talon Fighter trademarked
August 15, 1983 – Snake Mountain trademarked
August 22, 1983 – Battle For Eternia trademarked
August 22, 1983 – Buzz-Off trademarked
August 22, 1983 – Clawful trademarked
August 22, 1983 – Fisto trademarked
August 22, 1983 – Jitsu trademarked
August 22, 1983 – Mekaneck trademarked
August 22, 1983 – Road Ripper trademarked
August 22, 1983 – Roton trademarked
August 22, 1983 – Stridor trademarked
August 22, 1983 – Whiplash trademarked

Aside from his carded release, Prince Adam was also offered in a JCPenny two-pack along with Orko:


Prince Adam was trademarked on May 23, 1983, long before any other third wave character. It’s possible he might have made it into the second wave of MOTU figures, but was delayed due to the development of the character for the Filmation cartoon.

The Golden Books stories released from 1984 onward followed the Filmation look and characterization for Prince Adam. In Golden Books stories released prior to 1984, He-Man had no alter ego.

In Demons of the Deep, Adam is portrayed with short sleeves:

Image source: He-Man.org

Prince Adam makes a single appearance in the MOTU box art – on the 1987 Tower Tools packaging illustration by William George. Interestingly, he appears in the same scene with He-Man, which is like portraying Bruce Wayne and Batman together.

Prince Adam also makes an appearance in several posters by William George:

Some fans favor versions of the Masters of the Universe canon that omit Prince Adam, and others feel like he’s essential. I will say that the transformation sequence in the Filmation cartoon is iconic and thrilling (even if perhaps overused given that every episode started with it), and there is something to the idea of a weak character powering up to take down the villains (similar to DC Comics’ Shazam character).

On the other hand, it’s hard to root for Prince Adam. He’s the spoiled and wealthy heir to the throne of a vast kingdom. It’s like trying to root for the the popular jock who already has everything and gets the girl in the end. If there had to be an alter ego for He-Man, I would think that an underdog type character would have been more effective, and easier for fans to relate to than a prince.

Fans who don’t like Prince Adam tend to prefer what is called the “pre-Filmation” canon, although as we saw earlier in the article, Prince Adam is just as about as pre-Filmation as it gets. I think his portrayal in the Filmation cartoon is so ubiquitous that some fans tend to forget that he was a frequently-depicted character long before the debut of animated show.

Special thanks to Larry Hubbard, who provided the example Prince Adam figure photographed for this article.

Return to Table of Contents.

1983 Kid Stuff Masters of the Universe story record – full transcript

kid-stuff-cover
Image source: He-Man.org

The 1983 Kid Stuff Masters of the Universe story record (written and produced by John Braden) is an interesting piece of intermediate MOTU canon. Its production predates the debut of the Filmation cartoon, and represents an intermediate step between pre and post-Filmation canon. The story seems to be informed by the Masters of the Universe Bible, written at the end of 1982 by Michael Halperin. The recording hasn’t been available in written form, so I’ve transcribed it here.

There are a few interesting tidbits here:

  • Prince Adam shouts, “By the power of Castle Grayskull” twice in order to transform into He-Man.
  • Evil-Lyn speaks in an old crone’s voice and transforms into Screeech. Screeech is a black vulture.
  • Panthor is black, not purple.
  • Castle Grayskull is located in the middle of a thick forest.

In order to make the read a little more interesting, I’ve added illustrations from various sources (most via He-Man.org or Bustatoons’ He-Man and She-Ra Blog), including other Kid Stuff story books.

Masters of the Universe (Lyrics):

A glimmer of magic in the darkest night
A sword is drawn o’er the endless fight
The forces of evil never rest
But we are ready to put them to the test

We are the masters of the universe
We are the masters of the universe
We are the makers of our destiny
And we will struggle til the universe is free

We are the masters of the universe
We are the masters of the universe
The universe, the universe

Lost in space, lost in time
With our mighty power
We will fight, we will win
The victory shall be ours
It shall be ours

We are the masters of the universe
We are the masters of the universe
We are the makers of our destiny
And we will struggle til the universe is free

We are the masters of the universe
We are the masters of the universe
The universe, the universe

Lost in space, lost in time
With our mighty power
We will fight, we will win
The victory shall be ours
It shall be ours

We are the masters of the universe
We are the masters of the universe
We are the masters of the universe
We are the masters of the universe

Far in the deepest reaches of space, hidden from view by the swirling gasses of trillion solar systems lies a world beyond all imagining. Here, spinning in the endless blackness of space, exists the planet Eternia.

eternia

Eternia – even in the name you can hear the magic. The roar of the winds that whip their way through the rocky mountain tops. The crashing of the waves that cast themselves on the sandy shores of time on this mysterious world, tucked away in a forgotten corner of the universe. Eternia. The equatorial vine jungle whose steamy swamps swarm with gigantic serpents and twisted man-eating plants, whose roots dangle dangerously, waiting to trap and devour any foolhardy Intruder.

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Eternia, where the evergreen forest towers, as immense trees reach upward toward the fleecy blue sky overhead. The thick ferny underbrush teems with countless strange creatures who have evolved into life forms much different than those on earth. Great winged lizards dangle by their scaly claws from the top-most branches of the pines, while deep within the mossy caves that line the cliffs, awesome dragons watch the world through beady green eyes and spew their sulfurous breath out into the morning chill.

Eternia. The sprawling sands of time. A desert whose shifting dunes hide ruins of long past ages when great stone temples lined the streets of imperial cities. All gone now. Swallowed up and swept away by the constant changing sands. All that remain are a few crumbling monuments to tell the tale of a forgotten civilization that labored and perished in the unforgiving desert.

Eternia – a world of unimaginable beauty and unspeakable danger. For it is here, on this isolated planet, that one of the greatest battles between good and evil in the universe is being played out. The monstrous Skeletor, a villain of unending cunning and wickedness, has escaped after years of isolation on his own planet, Infinita: and with a legion of demons at his side, threatens the safety and tranquility of Eternia.

Skeletor
Image Source: Bustatoons Blog

But Eternia has a protector. A hero foretold in legend and myth since the dawn of Eternian time. Centuries ago Eternia’s wise rulers, the Council of Elders, sensed that some time in the future, danger would descend on their planet. In one moment of incredible concentration, they compressed all their accumulated knowledge and wisdom about the universe into one omnipotent glowing orb of power. They transformed the center of their government, the lustrous hall of Wisdom, into a fearsome rocky castle with a stone face of a skull at its front. They placed the orb of light and wisdom deep in the musty dungeons of the castle, where it would be safe from the forces of evil. Over the thousands of years that followed, the thick evergreen forest swallowed up the frightful edifice, and it disappeared into memory and folk legend. But, to this very day, its name brings a chill of fear and awe. It is the mighty Castle Grayskull.

And now, the evil warrior that the wise Council of Elders feared has arrived. Skeletor stalks the planet, searching for a way to seize control. But at every turn, his wickedness is checked by the heroic protector spoken of in the old tales. A giant of a man, with long golden hair and rippling muscles that gleam in the brilliant Eternian sunlight. This is He-Man.

In order to protect his true identity and thus make it harder for Skeletor to destroy him, He-Man lives a double life as Prince Adam, playful son of King Randor and Queen Marlena. Even now, as we speak, Prince Adam is playing with his pet tiger, Cringer. In the beautiful gardens that surround his father’s castle, he and his feline friend romp in the tall grass, happy and care-free, unaware that as He-Man, he is about to face the most difficult and dangerous challenge of his life – a life and death struggle with Skeletor. The outcome of which will determine the fate of the planet, and perhaps the entire universe.

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Image source: He-Man.org

Prince Adam: Ha-ha, careful my furry friend. Your claws are sharp. Sometimes you do not realize your own strength. Here, I will toss this stick out on to the lawn, and you will find it and return it to me. Do you understand?

Cringer growled with pleasure. He loved the long afternoons he and his master spent in games and fun. Adam hurled the wooden stick high into the air. It soared over the flower beds and landed far away in a bushy area at the very edge of the castle grounds. Sometimes Prince Adam didn’t realize his own strength either.

Cringer charged away after the stick.

Prince Adam: Good cat. Find it and bring it to me.

Suddenly a huge black shadow swept across the green lawn. The warm afternoon air was stirred to a chill at the flapping overhead of two gigantic wings. Prince Adam gazed up into the cloudless sky and saw an amazing sight. It was Zoar, the falcon. The great winged bird whose wingspan was more than 20 yards across glided low, skimming the tops of the tall trees that surrounded the castle walls. And most amazing of all, on the falcon’s wide feathered back rode Man-At-Arms, Prince Adam’s teacher and companion. In a swooping arc the giant bird and its rider soared over the lawn and landed in a flurry just a few yards from the young prince. Man-At-Arms slid down along one of the gigantic wings as Prince Adam rushed to his side.

05
Image source: He-Man.org

Prince Adam: Greetings my friend, and greetings to Zoar the falcon too. I see concern on your brow, my teacher.

The enormous bird settled its mammoth wings by its side in a gust of wind as Man-At-Arms put his hand on Prince Adam’s mighty shoulder, and the two of them walked through the garden, talking.

Man-At-Arms: I am afraid, sire, that I am not the bearer of good news.

maa
Image source: He-Man.org

Prince Adam: This I sensed, my friend. Please tell me what is wrong.

Man-At-Arms: There is trouble in the northlands my lord. The wicked Skeletor has found his way dangerously close to castle Grayskull.

Prince Adam: That boney fiend! His wickedness knows no bounds,

Man-At-Arms: It is worse than you think my prince. Skeletor has learned of the wisdom of the elders which is hidden deep inside castle Grayskull. He has vowed by all that is unholy to break into the castle and gain control over the elders’ wisdom.

Prince Adam: This must not be done! With this power Skeletor could easily rule all Eternia. His cruel leadership would plunge our world back thousands of years into the dark ages once more. All across the planet the light of hope and joy would be snuffed out by this fiend. He must, he will be stopped if it takes my last breath to do it.

Man-At-Arms: I knew, my lord, that you would not let your people down. The fate of the planet rests on the outcome of this battle.

In an instant Prince Adam reached down and grasped the sword which always hung by his side. He seized it in his strong hand and lifted it high overhead. It gleamed in the afternoon sun. This was the sword of power, given to him by the Sorceress, protector of Castle Grayskull.

With this mighty weapon, Prince Adam could transform himself and his pet tiger Cringer into He-Man and Battle Cat, his armored mount.

Prince Adam: I am ready to do my duty to defend this planet. Skeletor will perish!

Then, in a booming voice that echoed off the Castle walls and out into the forest, Prince Adam shouted the magic words that would cause his amazing transformation.

Prince Adam: By the power of Castle Grayskull, by the power of Castle Grayskull!

HM
Image Source: Bustatoons Blog

The earth shook underfoot and black clouds swept across the Eternian sky, darkening the sun. Overhead, the heavens opened up and down through the inky clouds flashed a brilliant bolt of white light. In a split second it flashed on the very tip of the sword power like a bolt of lightning. A shower of blue sparks flew upward toward the heavens. Even the gods watched on in amazement as in a blinding moment the molecules of Prince Adam’s body danced and swirled in a kaleidoscopic pattern of energy and change. Moments later as the blue smoke cleared, Prince Adam was gone. In his place, muscles poised for action, stood He-Man.

By his side stood Battle Cat. The power of Castle Grayskull had transformed Cringer into a fierce animal, a huge cat with green and yellow stripes and gigantic sharp claws and fangs. He-Man leaped up onto the enormous cat’s broad muscular back and with a shout, the two brave fighters charged off into the forest toward Castle Grayskull.

hm bc.jpg
Image Source: Bustatoons Blog

Meanwhile, on a rocky bluff overlooking Castle Grayskull, Skeletor and his wicked followers, Evil-Lyn, Beast Man and Tri-Klops gazed down at the view below. It was dusk and the setting Eternian sun cast strange twisted shadows as its last remaining rays filtered down through the ancient pines.

cardback_triklops
Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

Far below Skeletor and his friends, rested Castle Grayskull. In the dim, half-light of sunset, the Castle glowed with an eerie green light that seemed to radiate from within the moss-covered stone walls. The eye-like windows of the skull faced castle stared out menacingly as if to warn any would be intruders to stay far away.

A shroud of swirling fog was settling over the castle now. It wrapped its misty fingers around the castle towers and spiraled towards the damp earth. The castle’s entrance, the huge tooth-lined mouth of the skull, was sealed shut. Like the mouth of a long dead man, it knew many secrets but would speak none of them. Small leathery bats flapped their way out of the cracks in the castle walls and darted madly across the blackening sky. It was a sight that would fill most people with fear and disgust. But it had just the opposite effect on Skeletor. The castle’s bony exterior mirrored his own skull face, and he gazed on admiration.

cg

Skeletor: Isn’t it beautiful? What a lovely sight. And to think, soon Castle Grayskull will be mine, all mine! Once I am inside the castle I will find the secret of Castle Grayskull, and the wisdom of the elders of this miserable planet will belong to me. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Of course, there is the small matter of the unavoidable fight between He-Man and me. But that is of little consequence. His puny power will prove to be no match for the power of evil I posses. By the time the sun sets another day, I, Skeletor, will be the supreme ruler of all Eternia. And Castle Grayskull will be mine! Mine! Mine!

End side one.

It is dawn on Eternia. As the morning sun creeps up above the craggy mystic mountains, it spills its warm life-giving light onto the dark and foggy valleys below. Small furry creatures stir in their holes. High in the pine trees creep birds stretch their stiff feathered wings while other birds, night predators, return home to their lairs in caves and hollow trees. Even the myriad strange plants that line the forest floor respond to the sun in a ballet of movement too slow to be seen by any eye. They unfurl tender new leaves and twist their faces toward the warmth of the rising sun.

But, this morning, the peace and tranquility of the forest is shattered by a strange intruder. It is He-Man and Battle Cat. All through the long night they’ve raced on toward castle Grayskull determined to reach the castle before Skeletor can begin his attempt to enter the fortress. Battle Cat is fast as the wind, but can they reach the castle in time?

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Nearby, at Skeletor’s campsite, everyone is still sleeping. Everyone, that is, except Panthor, Skeletor’s mammoth black cat. Perhaps it is a scent carried along the wind, or the sound of the rustling bushes that has awakened the cat’s senses. The gigantic animal is anxious and paws at the ground nervously. He smells danger. Soon Skeletor opens his wicked eyes with a start and looks around.

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Image source: He-Man.org

Skeletor: What is wrong, my good friend Panthor? Do you smell or hear something that we cannot sense yet? Up, up you lazy creatures! I have a feeling He-Man is drawing near. We must not let him catch us unprepared.

Soon, Tri-Klops, Beast Man and Evil-Lyn were awake and preparing themselves for battle. As they donned their armor, Skeletor gazed down on Castle Grayskull. Even the gleaming light of the morning sun could not erase the dark and foreboding shadows that clung to the castle walls. In the bright sunlight, Skeletor could appreciate the immense size of Castle Grayskull. Its towers reached skyward and the mammoth stones around its base dwarfed even the huge trees of the forest.

From deep within the castle walls Skeletor thought he could hear a sound, softly at first, but growing slowly louder. It was a voice. No, not one voice but rather a chorus of voices speaking as one. The voices sounded anxious as if they sensed that something dark and horrible was waiting outside the castle walls. The sound grew louder until it reverberated thru the valley and rang with a fury in Skeletor’s ears.

“I know that sound,” whispered Skeletor in a low and raspy voice. “It is the voice of the Council of Elders, keepers of the wisdom and power. Of course they are nervous. They know I am nearby and that soon all that they possess will belong to me. So sing, fools, sing! This is the day I have dreamed of all my life. By sunset, I will be the master of Castle Grayskull.”

05
Image source: He-Man.org

Skeletor and his friends made their way down the side of the rocky cliff toward the castle. The approach to the castle was hard. The path was old and clogged with thorny vines and bushes. Skeletor slashed at the underbrush with his sword and hacked his way onward.

Soon they reached the entrance to Castle Grayskull. They all gathered around the raised drawbridge which was caked and crusty with age, and gazed up toward the parapets high above. The fortress seemed impenetrable.

Skeletor: I have not come this far only to be stopped by a wall of stone. We must find a way inside this blasted castle.

“Perhaps I can be of some small assistance, your royal wickedness,” intoned Evil-Lyn in her raspy bird-like voice. “I too have many powers. Watch as I demonstrate my amazing skills.”

Her bird-like eyes grew wild with excitement. “Yar!” She closed the cape overhead and grumbled a strange, unintelligible chant. A pale green mist began to form about her. Soon she was glowing with a putrid light. A foul odor filled the air. When the fetid smoke cleared, Evil-Lyn was gone. In her place scratching at the ground was a hideous vulture. It was Screeech, the alter ego of Evil-Lyn.

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The filthy bird had a plan. She would fly up to the top of the castle and see if she could gain entrance through one of the eye socket windows. With a dreadful screeching sound, the repulsive bird flapped its feathered wings and lurched skyward.

He-Man: Look, Battle Cat, do you see what I see? There by the castle tower. That ugly black bird is circling the parapet trying to get inside. By the power of Zodac, I’m sure that is Evil-Lyn, a companion of Skeletor. We must hurry. I just hope we are not too late to save the castle from this foul intruder.

He-Man and Battle Cat charged onward thru the tall bushes. The giant cat leaped high in the air, covering enormous distance with a single bound. Soon He-Man and Battle Cat arrived at a clearing right outside the castle.

He-Man: Unholy heathens! How dare you try and enter Castle Grayskull. Skeletor, you boney coward! Prepare to fight!

Skeletor: Well, well, if it isn’t He-Man, the pure and puny. We have been expecting you, haven’t we my friends? How I have looked forward to this day. Finally, a chance to put your fabled strength to the test.
You may be strong, He-Man, but you will find you are no match for the great Skeletor. You will perish, just as sure as daylight is devoured by the night, time and time again

He-Man: You are eloquent, my fiendish enemy, but you fail to understand the true nature of the universe. While it is true that night time devours the day, it is doubly true that every morning the sun returns to frighten away the cowardly darkness. Just like the darkness of midnight, you are doomed by time and fate, Skeletor. Darkness has no power here. Be gone!

Skeletor: Ha ha ha! We shall soon see who has the power in the universe. Enough talking. I grow impatient with your idle words. It is time to fight.

He-Man: I would prefer not to engage in violence, but I see now that it is the only language you understand. So, we will fight. By the power of Castle Grayskull!

Skeletor jumped up onto the mighty back of Panthor and drew his sharp sword.

Skeletor: To battle, Panthor. The enemy is upon us! Attack! Attack!

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Image source: He-Man.org

Battle Cat roared into action. He reared up on his hind legs and let out a terrifying growl. As the two arch enemies charged across the stony ground toward conflict, He-Man had drawn the sword of power, and it gleamed in the dazzling sunlight. Soon they were upon each other in battle.

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Image source: He-Man.org

The clash and clatter of sword against sword rang out across the battle field. Tri-Klops and Beast Man stood by and watched in awe as the two giants fought furiously. Suddenly, down from the sky flew Screeech. The savage vulture caught He-Man by surprise and in an instant knocked the sword of power from his hand. In a split second He-Man was struck with a bolt of energy from the sword of Skeletor, and he crashed to the ground in a cloud of dust.

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Image Source: Bustatoons Blog

Skeletor: So light always triumphs over darkness does it? We shall soon see about that. You are defeated He-Man. You are powerless without that sword.

He-Man lay on the ground, stunned and silent. Could this really be happening? Could he actually lose the battle to Skeletor? Then he heard the sound. Softly at first, like a ringing in his ears. Whispering voices. But what were they saying?

Council of Elders: Vortex! Vortex!

On the verge of unconsciousness, He-Man strained to understand the voices.

Council of Elders: The vortex! The time vortex! Right beside the castle walls. You cannot see it, but it is there. Believe us, believe us! You must trick Skeletor into the vortex. It is your only chance. The vortex, the vortex! Vortex…

He-Man staggered to his feet. He understood now. All across Eternia there are time vortexes. Mostly they are concentrated in the Sands of Time Desert, but here and there all over the planet there are these strange vacuums of empty space. Like tunnels through time, they lead back far into Eternia’s history. Anyone who stumbles into one of these holes in time will tumble backward for endless centuries.

07

He-Man knew now what he must do. Still reeling, he shouted to Skeletor, “I am down, but I am not defeated! If you want me, you will have to catch me!”

Skeletor: With pleasure, He-Man. I love the hunt as much as the kill. Come my friends, join me on Panthor. We will chase the cowardly He-Man for sport! What fun!

Beast Man, Tri-Klops and the vulture Evil-Lyn boarded Panthor, and the monstrous cat charged after He-Man. He-Man darted back and forth, leaping high onto rocks, and behind thick bushes. He was amazingly agile of foot, and soon Panthor was dizzy from the constant turning and spinning. Again He-Man heard the voices.

Council of Elders: Over here! Trick him over here! Into the vortex. But be careful. The vortex will capture you too, if you misjudge the distance. Be brave! Be brave! The entire planet is counting on your skill.

He-Man staggered toward the spot where the vortex swirled invisibly. Once he was sure of the exact location, he stood a few feet in front of it and shouted tauntingly to Skeletor.

He-Man: All right you bag of bones, I’m tired of playing with you. I will tear you limb from limb with my bare hands. I await you! Come to me, you coward!

The threat infuriated Skeletor. He dug his heels deep into the flanks of Panthor and with all his helpers he charged angrily toward He-Man

Skeletor: You die, you fool. You die!

He-Man stood courageously. Behind him he could feel the time vortex swirling into infinity. One false move and he would tumble backward into the past and Skeletor would conquer all of Eternia.

The mammoth black cat was almost upon him now. He could see the wild glow in Skeletor’s eyes. Then, as quickly as a fox, he jumped to one side. Skeletor and his minions were unable to stop or turn. They crashed head first into the vortex.

Skeletor: By all the devils, what is happening?

He-Man looked on in wonder as right before his eyes, Skeletor, Panthor, Evil-Lyn, Tri-Klops and Beast Man began to sparkle in the sunlight. They had fallen into the time vortex. Every molecule of their bodies was spinning madly off course and flickering on and off light a firefly. They were growing invisible.

Skeletor: Help us! Help please! Don’t let us die!

He-Man: You will not die Skeletor. You have been trapped in a time vortex. It will carry you far away from here to another time, far in the past. Perhaps for a while we here on Eternia will be safe from your tyranny. Farewell Skeletor! Farewell!

Skeletor: You may have tricked me this time, but be warned. You have not seen the last of me. I will find my way out of this time trap, and return to challenge you again, He-Man. Of that you may be sure. You have not seen the last of Skeletor. I will have revenge. Revenge! Revenge! Revenge!

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The voice of Skeletor faded away to nothing and he was gone, lost in the swirling infinity of time. But He-Man knew better than to count his enemy out. If anyone could find his way back from the depths of history, it was the evil Skeletor. And if it wasn’t Skeletor, it would be yet another foe. For there is always some selfish soul ready to take up the low road of tyranny. He-Man knew at that moment that the battle would never be truly over. In his heart, he knew that he would struggle all his life against the cowards and bullies who mistake gentleness and concern for weakness and fear. But if there were battles to be fought, he could think of no better cause. It was as old as time itself. All across the infinite universe, thousands of brave men and women were carrying on the struggle against tyranny. He was but one lone soldier in an army of heroes. Together, they were truly Masters of the Universe.

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Masters of the Universe (reprise)

We are the masters of the universe
We are the masters of the universe
The universe, the universe

Lost in space, lost in time
With our mighty power
We will fight, we will win
The victory shall be ours
It shall be ours

We are the masters of the universe
We are the masters of the universe
We are the makers of our destiny
And we will struggle ‘til the universe is free

We are the masters of the universe
We are the masters of the universe
The universe, the universe

Lost in space, lost in time
With our mighty power
We will fight, we will win
The victory shall be ours
It shall be ours

We are the masters of the universe
We are the masters of the universe
We are the masters of the universe
We are the masters of the universe

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1984 US He-Man commercials

Masters of the Universe commercials had settled into a comfortable rhythm by 1984. All of them had more or less the same pacing and background music. They often ended with the tag line, “may the mightiest power prevail”, or sometimes just”yaaargh!”

I’ve been able to locate commercials for almost every item released in 1984, including Battle Armor He-Man, Battle Armor Skeletor, Orko, Prince Adam, Fisto, Clawful, Buzz-Off, Whiplash, Kobra Khan, Webstor, Roton, Dragon Walker and Snake Mountain.

I could not locate 1984 US commercials for Road Ripper, Stridor, Jitsu, Mekaneck (he appears in a 1985 commercial with Land Shark), or the Weapons Pack. I’m not sure if they exist, although if I had to guess I would think Mattel would have at least produced a commercial for Road Ripper.

One interesting note – Battle Armor He-Man appears to be an early production sample. The one featured in several of these commercial looks identical to the early version from the 1984 Mattel Dealer Catalog. This sample is a bit different from the final toy in that the “H” symbol has a darker outline and is filled in red rather than orange.He also has relatively dark-colored boots and loincloth.

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Production version (Taiwan)

Clawful is also an early production sample, with brown Skeletor boots. You can read more about the evolution of his design in the feature I wrote on Clawful several weeks back.

One nice thing about some of these commercials is that characters that didn’t feature prominently in commercials from previous years get a little more spotlight here, including Mer-Man, Zoar and Stratos.

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