ENCYCLOPEDIA OBSCURA: FROM ETERNIA WITH DEATH!
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Yesterday, I watched some of those new He-Man cartoons to see what the fuss was about. "What fuss?" you may ask, to which I reply "Well, you know."
Let's start this one from scratch and try a different angle.
Throughout the history of comic books, there have been many crossovers that were uncalled for. Spiderman/Transformers. Tarzan/Predator. Marvel/Saturday Night Live. Witchblade/Tomb Raider. All right, nobody should really care about the last one. But the case is, just about every single comic book universe out there has at one point had an affair with another, meaning they theoretically should share the same continuity. And I don't know, there might be a problem with figuring out how Terminators, Howard the Duck, Spawn, Mandrake and M.A.S.K. fit together. Being a major structure freak, I praise Odin I only really care about a handful of titles or I'd be too busy drawing a giant structure chart on my walls to be writing this right now.
One universe marriage I never expected was Superman/He-Man, but once again the internet delivers. From Eternia With Death! was a one-off thing that only exists because it's customary to drag readers into a new title by crossing it with a major hero, in this case the majorest of them all. Yes, dear reader, this was back in the day when He-Man was still wearing his fur diapers. The ones he used to poop in, not the ones he's wearing today. Figuratively speaking, of course, He-Man isn't really a baby in this comic. That would be silly.
Masters of the Universe started out with only two action figures and a shoeshine kit to its name. These figures were of course He-Man and Skeletor. Kids loved them, and of course wondered what the story behind them was. To which the creators answered. "Uh... We'll get back to you on that. We've got it all figured out, we're just... fixing some stuff." They then hired Michael Halperin to work out a backstory and write a 'bible', a concept document that covers all the basics. This bible can be found at He-Man.org for those interested. It offers a mind-boggling glimpse into how the universe could have turned out. Like, you know, how Buzz-off could have been named Bugoff instead and been a beetle. All right, mind-tickling. Ish.
Thus, in 1982, pop culture history was made as MotU launched itself through every medium available. Mattel did the figures, Filmation did the animated series, and DC did the comics. Then Marvel did the comics. Then London Editions did. Then Mattel figured out they'd just as well do them themselves. But anyway, pop culture history was made. And in a way, it all began in this comic book we'll look at today.
As you can see, Man-at-Arms is about twenty years younger, twenty pounds lighter and far less mustachioed than he ended up being in the regular run. He's also got a one-boot-look going on, but he might have had that in the other incarnations as well. I'm far from a He-Man fanatic, and if I was, I sure as heck wouldn't pay much attention to Man-at-Arms. For a military leader, he sure never made much use for himself. I actually watched an episode some time back where the animators forgot to include him in a cave expedition until it suddenly was time for him to be kidnapped and he magically appeared.
As for Prince Adam, he hasn't got the Clark Kent routine down quite yet. The #1 rule when you have a secret identity and are too vain to cover your face up is to at least not behave like your alter-ego when in civil. So swinging from chandeliers and destroying gym equipment to impress girls is definitely out when you live on a planet where they don't have glasses to hide behind. Well, they may have glasses, but they're big and clunky with rotating parts and searchlights and are preferably welded to your face. On Eternia, you only wear glasses if you absolutely have to.
Meanwhile, that very same evening:
"Rather would I be home"? "A full flagon of ale with hearty fellows"? It's not difficult to understand why this hip to the max Shakespearean lingo was dropped like baby Uwe Boll on his head. This series was after all not aimed at veteran Thespians, and six-year-olds will always prefer heroes that shout stuff like "Think again, Salmonor!" over those who shout "Methinks thou would best reconsider, poor Yorickor!"
After a short pub brawl, He-Man is called to Castle Grayskull by Sorceress to check up on what Skeletor is hanging around outside for.
Wow, Beastman sounds ready to cite Poe there. Of course, his reading of 'Annabell Lee' would end in a roar and a stampede of wilderbeests, but boy would it introduce poetry to a new generation. Of course, the most interesting thing on this page happens in the last panel: an oh-so-convenient dimensional portal in Metropolis.
As you can see, Superman suddenly finds himself in Eternia, and our story kicks off. And what's that Superman says about scratching that 'crack' about storm clouds all about? "Great Krypton! That strange storm cloud seems to have popped out of nowhere!" was supposed to be a joke? It's a good thing you're pretty, Superman, you won't be making a living as a stand-up comedian.
After making a 'crack' involving Skeletor's sword and pocket knives, Superman learns that Eternia is a magical place the hard way. Apparently, Skeletor is a magical skeleton rather than a man mutated into a skeleton. An easy assumption to make when you've got a social circle like Superman's.
For those out of the know: Superman writers soon figured that the Man of Steel was too... well, man-of-steely, and that Kryptonite, the only thing that could hurt him, was turning way too easy to come by. To inject some sense of peril, they decided that Superman was also vulnerable to magic. The inherent problems with a too-super superhero are explored and satirized perfectly by Ruben Bolling's God-Man, so I recommend you head over there. After you're done reading this, of course. I mean, you wouldn't want to be impolite?
Soon enough, Superman is blasted away by Skeletor and is discovered by He-Man. Curiously enough, He-Man's mother knows about Superman, which I guess makes sense, seeing how Superman was a grown man in the thirties. That, however, does not make sense.
I know, I know, there's probably something involving Hitler's Ragnarok project or Chrisis on Infinite Earths that justifies all the superheroes' lack of growing old. Don't email me about it. I love feedback, but I know from experience that this is the kind of comment that results in three years of the same piece of mail from a hundred different addresses.
Because it was declared illegal to have two superheroes meet without fighting each other in the famous 'Some Semblance of Creative Storytelling versus the State of Ohio' case of 1944, Skeletor turns Superman into his puppet.
Oh, and what's up with that axe? I think I remember the He-Man figure coming with that, but shouldn't he have some sword somewhere?
Skeletor's plan seemed to be flawless, but what he didn't take into consideration was Superman's ability to pull new superpowers out of his ass whenever needed. In this case the power to melt rock in a way that makes it crawl upwards. It's not as stupid as the wall-build-vision of Superman IV or the time he turned an oak tree back into a sapling by running around it, but it's not far behind. I made the last one up, but you know it could have happened in one of the books from the seventies.
Skeletor is thwarted, somewhat, and teleports away. Again. Or for the first time, if you want to nitpick. If it had ever struck him that he maybe could have used that ability to conquer Eternia instead of just using it to run away from stuff, he'd be drinking Snapple out of Buzz-off's skull by now. Wait, does Buzz-off even have a skeleton? Is he a man who looks like a wasp, or is he a wasp that looks like a man? I seem to be presenting more questions than answers today.
Since the writer was running out of pages, Superman uses his supervision to spot a convenient way to wrap everything up in two panels. He-Man hates goodbyes, so he makes up some story about how he knows how to keep in touch.
And scene. If you want more wacky Superman stuff, check out the stuff I did recently for I-Mockery's new comics section, and if you want more wacky He-Man stuff... well, just watch one of the episodes. Either one of them. I know I'm gonna, I just borrowed some DVD's from a friend. Stay awesome, everybody.
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Copyright Per Arne Sandvik