How many times can you say, “By the Power of Grayskull, I have the Power?” If you are streaming giant Netflix, as many times as you want—as long as you do it differently. That line, of course, is the iconic sentence that transforms Prince Adam into He-Man, the most powerful man in the Universe from the Filmation cartoon series “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” which ran for two seasons for a total of 130 episodes on American television from 1983-1985. This cartoon was a bit of an experiment, freed from federal restrictions that allowed them to make a show that was based off a toy, in this case, Mattel’s ground-breaking (and nigh-invincible) 51/2” action figures. But “He-Man” was a worldwide hit and is the show most Gen Xers think of with nostalgia when they think of He-Man, overlooking the simplicity (if not the downright nonsensical nature) of storylines and the moral lesson at the end. The remaining federal guidelines meant that He-Man (John Erwin) could not throw a punch (honest to goodness) or cause harm which was probably which Skeletor (Allan Oppenheimer has a laugh unlike anyone else) got away all the time. Nevertheless, the smooth, rotoscoped animation, the colorful characters and the sheer ubiquity of the show made it an ‘80s staple.
He-Man might have been the most powerful man in the universe, but his show wasn’t immortal. It was spaced by a new show in 1990 called “The New Adventures of He-Man,” representing an entire new line of Mattel toys, and is appropriately nicknamed, “He-Man in space,” where Eternia is a spaceship. The radical transformation didn’t take, and the series only lasted one season with 65 episodes.
In 2002, a new “He-Man” series, a more serious take on the original (even including the origin of Skeletor), produced by Mike Young Production, brought back the familiar heroes and a new set of villains, with the series eventually retitled “He-Man Vs. The Snake Men” on Cartoon Network. The show lasted two seasons with 39 episodes.
But the biggest, most ambitious attempt at a He-Man sequel series came just this past July. First announced in 2019, “Masters of the Universe: Revelation” would a true sequel in that it would follow the last events of the Filmation series and feature the same characters, but now done in a more sophisticated fashion. Teela, for example, is taking Duncan’s place as Man-At-Arms and captain of the palace guard. And Skeletor has finally figured out how to acquire the power of Grayskull for himself.
The element that had fans all abuzz was the mind behind the show: uber-geek Kevin Smith, director of “Clerks.” He promised the titular revelations were forthcoming. “Revelation” would be aired on Netflix in two chapters, each composed of five episodes. It boasted of a very dynamic, seemingly 2-D, anime-influenced style.
When the first chapter finally premiered, it drew both acclaim and controversy. The show opened by apparently killing off both He-Man (Chris Wood) and Skeletor (Mark Hamill) and magic almost entirely being lost on Eternia, with Adam’s secret identity exposed. A betrayed Teela (Sarah Michelle Gellar) goes off on her own. The first chapter focuses on her and a quest to reclaim the magic with an unlikely crew: her new resourceful comrade Andra, Roboto, Orko—with Evil-Lyn (Lena Headey) and Beast Man. This is not the ‘80s “Masters.” There is death, a lot of action and a fascinating Eternian mythology. It ends on a shocking and furious note and offers a dark, violent take on a post-magic Eternia. Don’t mind the naysayers; catch the final chapter later this year.
But Netflix has one more He-Man for you to meet. In case “Revelation” may be just a little too adult for your tastes, Netflix has a family-friendly completely CGI “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” series premiering on Sept. 16. It is produced by Mattel and DreamWorks Television with new, much younger characters—only a skinny teenage Adam is the holder in what appears to be a much more futuristic, oriented world. Skeletor rises to threaten this world with his minions but the power sword-wielding He-Man stands in his way. Enchanted Power Weapons will turn the kids into Masters of the Primal Powers of the Universe to help He-Man.
So whether you want old-school “He-Man” for a more mature audience, or kid-friendly “He-Man” for younger ones, Netflix has it the power for you.
“Masters of the Universe: Revelation” is now streaming on Netflix; the CGI “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” will premiere on Sept. 16, also on Netflix.