Guest Post – Masters of My Universe
Cynthia Celeste Miller, author of the Cartoon Action Hour RPG, takes a look back at a favorite toy line/cartoon of the eighties.
In the earliest days of the 1980s, I was very, very young. I was still a very linear thinker. Sword-and-sorcery was sword-and-sorcery and science fiction was science fiction. There was no crossover between the two genres for me. Perhaps this is why I fell so deeply in love with He-Man and the Masters of the Universe when I first spotted the action figures in a Christmas catalogue. The fact that these guys had swords and lasers just blew my mind. It completely changed how my creative mind functioned, tearing down the artificial barriers that I had apparently been born with.
It should come as no surprise that my Christmas wish list consisted of hulking brutes with names like Beast Man, Man-at-Arms and Skeletor. My mother was a little concerned. Whatever the case was, my parents purchased the entire original wave of MotU figures for me that year. Castle Grayskull, however, was obtained a few days later with money I had earned from selling pecans and other such odd jobs.
To say that I was enamored with these action figures would be a huge understatement. It bordered on obsession. I played with them practically all the time, creating my own science-fantasy stories that only I was privy to. I was the director and they were my actors, or at least thatâ€™s how I saw it at the time. Heck, I even went to great lengths to find new and interesting locales in which to carry out my action-packed dramas. I recall that my favorite â€œstageâ€ was this little brook that ran through my aunt and uncleâ€™s yard. It was perfect, due to the â€œrocky cliffsâ€ and â€œrushing rapidsâ€ that opened up so many storytelling possibilities. Another favorite site was this odd pit in my backyard. It wasnâ€™t more than three feet deep and four feet wide, but for whatever reason, I spent many hours there, directing my little actors through scene after scene.
All my other toys were shoved back into the toy box (at least for a while), allowing my MotU action figures to have my undivided attention. Star Wars and Strawberry Shortcake simply couldnâ€™t compete with the muscle-bound warriors of Eternia. No way, no how!
Now that I think about it, I was in love not just with the MotU figures, but also with the incredible mini-comics that came packaged with them. Well, they were more like storybooks than proper comicbooks, but I adored them nonetheless. My adventure-crazed eyes poured over them time and time again. The art was evocative and the stories were exciting. I even started making my own playsets based on the locations found in those pages, the most notable being Man-At-Armsâ€™ stone cabin.
The mini-comics, to me, offered the definitive MotU. They were like extremely thin bibles for my vision of He-Man holiness. Imagine my surprise when the cartoon series first hit the small screen. Who the hell is Prince fricking Adam? And why can He-Man suddenly lift mountains? I was outraged! Outraged, I tell you! To my wee little mind, this was sacrilege. The He-Man of the mini-comics was simply an ultimately skilled fighter, not a superhero. And he was not a prince in disguiseâ€¦ that much was certain. I still remember with perfect clarity how angry and disappointed I was. They took everything I had come to know about MotU and threw it out the window, replacing it with a vastly inferior mythos.
Eventually, I warmed up to the cartoon, but I never liked it as much as I liked the mini-comics. This is still the case, more than 25 years later. Iâ€™m not going to lie: I love the cartoon now, but I still have problems with He-man himself, or at least that version of him. For one thing, heâ€™s so much more powerful than the other Masters that itâ€™s almost pointless to have them around at all. For another thing, how on earth (errr, Eternia) could no one figure out that Prince Adam and He-Man are one and the same? Is it because Adam wore lavender? Come on! They both even have a giant green cat with yellow stripes! How dense can these people be?
Yikes, I guess I still get fired up over this matter.
My love of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and other cartoons/toy lines of the 1980s is what prompted me to design and release Cartoon Action Hour in 2002. CAH is a pen-and-paper roleplaying game that emulates the retro-toons of that era. It was nominated for â€œBest RPGâ€ at the 2004 Origins Awards and has accumulated quite a strong following. I recently released a second edition of the game (dubbed â€œSeason 2â€) that continues to sell strongly. You can find more information about it at www.spectrum-games.com.
Even at 35 years of age, I remain a staunch fan of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe in whatever form it takes. I even kind of like the 1987 live-action film, despite its many abysmal qualities. To some people, a toy line is simply a toy line; nothing more. MotU was far more than that to me. It was my springboard to adventure, my gateway to creative thought, and my stepping-stone to a fantastic world filled with magic, high technology and simplistic (but fun) morality plays.
Thereâ€™s no place like Eternia.
2 thoughts on “Guest Post – Masters of My Universe”
Amen! There’s nothing in my mind that tops the mini-comic version of the MOTU. I remember feeling pretty much let-down when the cartoon started coming on, but I enjoyed it nontheless. Long live He-Man!
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