November 2005

He-Man and the Masters of Universe on DVD

Masters of the Universe Season 1, Vol 1 Collector's DVD In 1983, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe premiered to the delight of little boys everywhere. For the next two years, He-Man escalated into a sensation, airing 130 episodes in the two seasons. The show was replaced in 1985 with She-Ra, but He-Man has remained the loved older brother in the hearts of most fans. After two spin-off series, one in 1989 and one in 2002, and a feature film, the mystique and magic and of the original He-Man, with its blend of fantasy, SF, and a dash of horror, still reigns supreme.

And now He-Man re-enters our living rooms for new generations and older alike as the entire series is released in four boxed set DVD collections thanks to BCI Eclipse Company. The first 33 episodes hit shelves on October 18th, but that was not the first He-Man DVD release. Also available is a special DVD collector’s edition featuring the best ten episodes of the show. After doing some research online, I discovered that this set sold so well that major retailers found their stocks depleted and had to scramble for more. This should not be the case with Season One, Vol. One as most stores have ordered appropriately.

I was four years old when He-Man originally aired, and I was swept off my feet by this fantasy world. Sometimes it’s dangerous to relive the loves of your childhood. They never are as good as you remember. Well, He-Man is the exception! While the animation cannot compete with modern technology, I am impressed with how good this show still is. The writing, while certainly not groundbreaking, is strong and consistent. The show never looses sight of its identity, which is to teach children moral lessons while showcasing the power of good over evil. (And, of course, whether people will admit it or not, to sell toys!) The voice work fits the show as well: not perfect, but good overall.

Along with the episodes, the Season One,Vol. One and The Best Of boxed sets contain behind the scenes documentaries featuring interviews with the show’s creators. These are segments from a 16 part series that will run throughout the boxed sets. It was interesting to listen to writers and directors discuss their concerns during the creation of He-Man, such as presenting violence off-screen so the show wasn’t just focused on fighting but instead on the characters. I was also fascinated to learn that J. Michael Straczynski’s first writing job was as a staff writer for He-Man. He would later gain fame as the creator of Babylon 5. What was most apparent through the interviews was the love and passion these artists, writers, producers, and directors had for the show. Their affections can be seen in the final product. Other bonus features on these DVDs include detailed character bios and Orko fun facts about each episode.

Of course, as an adult I see He-Man somewhat differently then I did as a child. For instance, I remembered He-Man kicking Skeletor’s butt every episode, but in fact He-Man resorts to violence only when necessary. He usually outsmarts that evil bonehead, and he always lets the bad guys get away unscathed, perhaps hoping they will redeem themselves someday. Speaking of Skeletor, he is not nearly as evil as I recalled. He more resembles a junior high bully trying to steal He-Man’s lunch money than he does a blood thirsty madman willing to murder people on a whim, as you see in some current cartoons. Skeletor also provides quite a bit of comic relief, but a good sense of humor is evident throughout the show. Castle Grayskull looks just as cool I remembered, however, and Snake Mountain just as ominous. And let’s not forget the moral that wraps each episode. Usually the morals tie into the plot of the episodes, and they teach children lessons like honoring their parents or helping those in need. Sometimes, however, the moral comes out of left field. My favorite random moral from the first 33 episodes is when Man-At-Arms warns children against practical jokes because someone could lose a finger, an arm, or even an eye! Hey, I guess kids need to hear it somewhere.

I hate clichés, but with He-Man you can definitely say, “They don’t make them like that anymore.” The best of ten DVD and the DVD boxed sets are great pieces for He-Man fans who want to relive the series and introduce the show to their own children. The sets also come with limited art cards that are stunning collector pieces. Some of my family and friends have mocked my continued love for He-Man, but now I can raise these DVDs in the air and proclaim, “By the power of Grayskull!” And it’s about time.<

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