He-Man: “The most powerful man in the universe” (and the most popular character amongst children of the 1980s – well, children of the male variety at least) …
With that level of popularity in mind, surely everybody knows everything there is to know about the muscular hero? Well, you’d think so, but there’s a lot more to He-Man than meets the eye.
Having started out in the early 1980s as a toy line and in mini-comics, a He-Man cartoon (He-Man and the Masters of the Universe) began airing in 1983. Subsequently, He-Man and his pals began appearing in their own lines of mainstream comic books (as recently as 2012), a live action movie released in 1987 (starring Dolph Lundgren in the titular role), numerous revamped cartoon series (the most recent in 2002), and additional toy lines have been released based on different He-Man media (a classic line beginning in 2008 being the most recent).
This article will take you through a list of little-known facts about the hero. Here are ten things you didn’t know about He-Man:
10. He Fought Superman
There has recently been a DC Vs. Masters of the Universe comic book arc (2014) in which various characters from DC Comics and Masters of the Universe crossed paths. That may be something you’re aware of, but did you know the two universes clashed as far back as 1982?
From Eternia – With Death! was the lead feature in DC Comics Presents #47 in July 1982, and it saw Superman being magically controlled by Skeletor into attacking He-Man on Eternia. Although Superman admitted He-Man had the potential to kill him, the Kryptonian got the better of the Eternian in their physical exchange. Of course, they ended up as allies and defeated Skeletor together, but it was certainly cool to see the two heroic titans trading blows momentarily.
9. His Movie Made A Loss
This movie was terrible – there’s absolutely no denying that – but the fact that it was based upon such an iconic 1980s franchise like He-Man should really have ensured it was a commercial success. However, 1987’s Masters of the Universe actually bombed at the box office in a big way.
Starring Dolph Lundgren in the titular role as He-Man – the star of the brilliant and popular Filmation cartoon on which this movie was based (albeit loosely, as this was a very different depiction of the character) – and with support from the likes Frank Langella as Skeletor and Courtney Cox in one of her earliest roles, Masters of the Universe cost $22 million to make and made just $17.3 million globally.
8. He Never Hurt Anybody Or Anything In The Cartoons
He-Man was as tough as they come; incredibly strong, massively durable and wielding a powerful magic sword that could do all kinds of damage should he wish it to, and yet he managed to go through the entirety of his original cartoon without hurting a single living creature (often relying on his brains to outsmart his foes or even actively avoiding conflict altogether).
Sure, he smashed countless robots to pieces throughout the show’s 130 episodes, but he never so much as punched a single living creature. Whenever he got into a tussle, he would simply throw the opponent into a swamp or a bush. This was because Filmation was under pressure to make the cartoon as unobjectionable as possible, which is also why each episode ended with a message of morality.
7. He Was Almost A Viking
Early concept sketches of He-Man by Mark Taylor resulted in sculptor Tony Guerrero fashioning the first prototype He-Man toy into a very stern-looking viking type character. However, his angry, scowling expression and viking-esque horned helmet were seen as looking too menacing for a children’s toy line. Simply put, he looked too angry to be played with.
Because of this, he was softened up into the blonde-haired hero we know today. The first prototype of this version was used in market research testing – with one tester-kid so impressed that he tried to steal it and take it home. At his point, Mattel knew they were on to something (and incidentally, the young thief was caught).
6. The Cartoon Was Initially Turned Down By Everyone
After the success of the Mattel toy line, the toy company started looking for television companies to help them launch a cartoon based on it. Hanna-Barbera flat-out refused the idea of producing the cartoon, but Mattel had better luck with Filmation – a company who had worked with them in the production of an animated cartoon for their toys.
However, even after partnering with a production company, CBS, NBC and ABC all turned down He-Man for a Saturday morning slot. Filmation’s then-President Lou Scheimer suggested the idea of producing a 65-episode first season they could syndicate for stations to run five days a week. Such was the model’s success that, at the height of its popularity in 1984, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was seen by a phenomenal nine-million plus viewers every single afternoon.
5. He’s Half Human
He-Man is famously a citizen of the planet Eternia. He was born there, raised there and lived out his adventures there. It’s a planet with all kinds of weird and wonderful creatures and beings including, of course, the very human-looking individuals of which He-Man himself was one.
But there’s even more humanity to He-Man than the likes of Man-At-Arms, Teela and the Sorceress, as the most powerful man in the universe is in fact half-human. This stems from the fact that his mother – Queen Marlena – was revealed to be a human astronaut who ended up stranded on Eternia during one of her missions (This explained how she was able to tell stories of Superman’s exploits on Earth when the Kryptonian ended up on Eternia is the aforementioned From Eternia – With Death!)
4. He Only Exists Because Of Star Wars
He-Man and his Masters of the Universe buddies only exist because of Star Wars or, more specifically, because Mattel passed on manufacturing the Star Wars toys. Kenner took on the task of making the Star Wars toys and turned them into toy line goliath, resulting in Mattel feeling the need to catch up.
Subsequently, they came up with the idea of He-Man and pals – an original idea – and made the Masters of the Universe toy line every bit as popular as its Star Wars rivals. One thing’s for sure, though – He-Man wouldn’t exist without Star Wars.
3. Conan The Barbarian Vs He-Man: Legal Battle
In the 1980s, it was heavily rumoured that Conan the Barbarian was a source of inspiration for the concept of He-Man. However, this was refuted by Mattel, and any links between the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie and the toy manufacturers was deemed false, with Mattel claiming that the concept for He-Man had been dreamt up before the 1982 film.
That being said, Conan Properties International still opted to sue Mattel over the similarities they claimed to see between the characters of He-Man and Conan, but Mattel won the battle in court, retaining the rights to He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and making it He-Man 1, Conan the Barbarian 0.
2. He Has His Own Charity
Believe it or not, there is actually a registered charity that is entirely dedicated to preserving the work and legacy of artists and creative minds who helped to define the He-Man franchise. Founded in 2010, the Power and the Honor Foundation runs on a completely non-profit basis.
Original illustrations, toys and documents from Mattel and Filmation are digitally scanned and stored for safekeeping by the foundation. Should you wish to find out more about them, you can visit their official website by clicking here.
1. He Made $2 Billion
Roger Sweet – Mattel’s lead designer who worked extensively on the Masters of the Universe toy line – once estimated that when sales of all He-Man products (toys, clothing, curtains, duvet covers, etc.) were tallied up, the franchise brought in over $2 billion before the bubble burst in the late 1980s (when competition from the likes of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers and video games harmed the franchise).
That’s mega money in today’s financial climate, so to think He-Man generated that kind of cash thirty years ago really is something special and remarkable when you consider that he was essentially just a pacifist in furry trunks!