In the 1980s one of the biggest toylines was Masters Of The Universe, a sword-and-sorcery fantasy series with a hint of science fiction with advanced fighting machines and Skeletor’s original origin being a space alien who wanted to open a doorway so his people could conquer Eternia, with himself as ruler. The lore changed over the years with the addition of DC Comics and later the animation studio Filmation, who added a secret identity for the hero, He-Man, and created a lot of what we know about He-Man, his allies, and his enemies. Additionally there were books, some of which came with adapting audio dramas, and of course the minicomics that came with the figures. Most people know about all of these, but did you know there was also a comic strip? I didn’t until a friend of mine bought me this collection for my birthday one year.

The Masters Of The Universe newspaper strips (He-Man added to the name later) was Mattel trying to find a new avenue to promote their toyline. While a pitch strip was created (which included the famed Stan Sakai among them) it was deemed too expensive but a new team would still arrive to bring the comic into existence. Jim Shull wrote the first story, with Chris Weber (edited by his wife, Karen Willson) taking over for the rest of comic’s run. Gerald Forton was the artist and Connie Schurr as colorist were there for the entire run. Despite having an international release the comic has gone largely unknown even within the fandom.

Enter Danielle Gelehrter, who talked Val Staples, head of the fan website He-Man.Org and a fellow collaborator on a Masters Of The Universe art book for Dark Horse Comics, into working on bringing the strips to a full collection. This required the effort of many fans who did know about the comics to find the original strips, translate the ones they could only find in Spanish or Greek (among other languages), create a font based on Forton’s handwriting for consistency, and convert it all to digital. Weber and Willson also helped out with the years they were able to keep on hand, and finally the strips were restored and put into the collection above. I’ve already reviewed the individual stories on my other site but this is a look at the book itself.

I will however take a quick look at the comic and tell you it’s quite good. While suffering a few of the issues that come with adventure strips over the gag-a-day strips (since their stories have to last longer than a week and sometimes have to stop for a recap), my only real complaint there is that most of the stories felt like they could use another week to get a full tale out. There are also other art errors that crop up from time to time, like Adam shown wearing He-Man’s harness or what I felt was an oversimplification of the Power Sword, but otherwise the art is really good. They also make good use of the characters even too often Weber and Willson being newlyweds affects things in the comic. Man-At-Arms has a girlfriend out of nowhere and Teela keeps trying to win over He-Man, who has romances in both identities during his two time-travel adventures (not at the same time) but it’s a minor issue. I recommend reading these stories if you like science fantasy adventure comics in general and Masters Of The Universe specifically.

A sample of the unrestored scans. Click for full-size.

The book itself has plenty of extras. There are interviews with the creative team except for the first story’s writer, a section on the pitch strips I mentioned earlier which weren’t chosen to be published, a look at the hard work tracking down as many of the strips as they could and restoring them, and all 15 stories from the actual comic run. However, two percent of the comics, about 35 strips, could not be found from near the end of the run, which also has no color in the Sunday strips, and I’m guessing they opted to leave them that way rather than guess the colors. If you read my reviews you’ll see near the end I started coloring a few of the comics myself just for fun and practice. The book, which is about the size of a “coffee table book” with a built-in bookmark to keep your page, and it works.

A sampling of the restored comics, from one of the Sunday strips.

Overall the collection is a great way to go over these newspaper comic strips, and it’s He-Man adventures I bet most of you have never seen. The fan love is obvious and the work shows in the quality. It’s worth tracking down if you’re a fan of the series or just adventure comic strips and this Dark Horse collection is a great way to experience it.

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