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Seven Things I’ve Learned Watching Filmation’s He-man Cartoon As An “Adult”

Filmation83There’s a very popular criticism that pops up pretty much everywhere in regards to visiting something one once enjoyed as a kid: “it didn’t hold up to adult viewing.”

I haaaaate that. You can tell how much I hate it by how I stretched out the word “hate” there. As a criticism, it doesn’t hold up. While it’s meant to point an accusatory finger at the entertainment value of the movie/program/toy or whatever, to me it always seems to be more a statement on the speaker. Why someone would want to wreck their memory of something they enjoyed as a kid by forcing it through the foggy lens of so called “adult eyes” is not something I’ll ever understand.

I’ve been spending some of my spare time in the last few years on a run-through of pretty much every major ’80s cartoon. I was beholden to a very wary antenna signal as a kid living in a particularly mountainous region, so there were huge chunks of programming I just wasn’t able to get very clear. Seeing cartoons crips and clear on DVD that are only remembered as wavy, staticy half-hour blocks is one of the greatest things of making into this brave new world called “the future.” Already, G.I. Joe, Transformers (both American and the never-before-seen Japanese series’), M.A.S.K., C.O.P.S and some others have been knocked out. While Thundercats and Silverhawks are waiting for me in the future, I felt the time was right to sit down and check out the entire run of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.



I’m currently halfway through the second season — each season consisting of a whopping 65 half-hour episodes — many of which I don’t remember at all. I have strong memories of plenty of them, vague memories of a few, and absolutely none of others. I know I was a regular viewer, but I guess that finicky antenna signal stole more shows away than I previously thought.

I saw my first episode in a hotel room. Remember the one where He-Man lifts up the entire Castle Grayskull and throws it back into his own dimension? Yeah, that was nuts and was one hell of an introduction to the cartoon. It was a huge deal at the time to see some of my favorite toys in action, doing stuff on the screen. But I have to confess something up front: the cartoon was a little disappointing to little kid me. See, as I’ve often said, I was and am a mini-comic guy. My He-Man was a barbarian-esque dude that carried an axe. My villains weren’t bumbling buffoons, but kick-ass warriors that would frighten even the sternest heart (even if they bumbled a bit in the mini-comics also, but that’s another issue entirely). I enjoyed seeing them on screen in action, but I was always let down that it wasn’t my Trap Jaw on screen, nor my Tri-Klops.

So, in a way, watching the show as an adult is a reversal of the usual “liked as kid, hated as an adult” situation. A cartoon that kept crumbling under my own expectations as a kid is now something I can enjoy knowing full well I won’t be getting “my” He-Man universe. Neither Filmation nor the MYP series has successfully translated “my” He-Man. Maybe that’s why I like the Masters of the Universe movie so much. It’s really the closest anything has come.

Okay Luke and Leia, let’s break it up.


So I’ve come away with seven things I’ve learned not having that weight of expectation weighing down the experience. Let’s take a look back in no order…

Stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself.


He-Man is really the longest-running Superman cartoon ever. With super-speed, super-strength, super-breath, the Filmation He-Man is nearly Superman in a furry loincloth. I knew as a kid that they had seriously super-heroes him up, but watching it 30 years later it’s amazing how if you sub out the Superman characters for those on Eternia, you’d have an identical cartoon, right down to Teela/Lois Lane’s complete inability to tell that THEY’RE THE SAME GUY. I guess Orko would be Jimmy Olsen.

Nobody suspected Orko’s true purpose for being on Eternia until he started choking He-Man.


Orko is the hated kiddie character, right? The corporate mandated character so kids would have someone to relate to. Because we all related to be a floating bag of wind that could do magic. Yeah, sounded like 5th grade to me. I was never an Orko fan as a kid, and I was never a fan of characters I was supposed to relate to. I don’t need to relate to my entertainment. That’s stupid. Stop that. But watching it as an adult, Orko is a lot less annoying than I remembered. Since I’m not looking at the floating red guy as “taking up the time that He-Man could be using killing things,” I can appreciate the strong character nuances. Hell, I’ll just say it: Orko is the most three-dimensional character in the entire cartoon. He learns, he grows, he evolves. I’ve seen it evolve over more than 80 episodes. Sure, he still screws up, and he’s a clumsy little bugger, but where everyone else is more or less the same, Orko isn’t.

Despite years of training and her own personal uniform, Marlena still sucked at “Asteroids” on the Atari 2600.


It’s only dust in my eye! Or… something.

If I were a person capable of making liquid come from my eyes, I tell you… some of these episodes… As a kid I may have been waiting for the good stuff (fight fight fight!), but now as an adult… you know that one with Teela learning the sorceress was her mother, only to have the memories removed? Or how about the one where Marlena shows everyone she’s got what it takes and flies her old ship. Couldn’t you just feel Randor’s absolute pride in his wife as she zipped around and nobody knew who that superb pilot was? And what about when Teela was trapped on a ledge under Castle Grayskull, and the Sorceress was so concerned with her daughter’s safety.

I mean, damn.

I’m going to need a minute. I was chopping onions…
Eternia’s kids are all worthless.

In order to appease all the parent’s groups who must have believed that our toys being animated would turn us into Satan worshippers (hey parent groups, get a hobby, okay?), there were strong morals and messages written into the shows, and sermonized at the end by the toys we just watched doing things. And to push those messages, the children of Eternia were often seen doing stupid things in order to have an adult tell them what they did wrong, so they could learn. Which means every single kid we saw on Eternia was a high-voice, whiny, irresponsible sack of butt that seemed to only listen to the weird voices inside their own head — even to the point of one kid joining Skeletor in order to have adventure.

Awesome decision-making skills there, dingus.

Hail Santa!

This explains my sexual attraction to birds. Wait…

He-Man and the Sorceress belong together.

Yes, we’ve come to that part of the show where I get two fictional characters romantically entangled. See, I didn’t notice it back then, but while everyone was panting after Teela and wanting her and He-Man to get together, or later when people wanted to hook him up with this or that Princess of Power character… or Tri-Klops, if you’re into that… I’m looking at this palpable chemistry between He-Man and the Sorceress. Which, by the way, she is absolutely the hottest woman on the show. Based on Teela’s age she has to be in her 40s, but she’s the most well-preserved fortysomething around. While it won’t make it into my personal canon, for the cartoon — hell yeah, the Sorceress and He-Man totally get together.

We can still see you Cringer. You’re like…right there.

Cringer is solid gold.

I didn’t notice this as a kid at all, but Cringer is hilarious. His facial reactions, his lines, his terrified aversion to being a stronger version of himself, the fact that he jumps onto Adam like Scooby-Doo anytime he spots his own shadow, I’ll totally admit to loving every scene with him in it. Even with that whiny stutter of his. Next to Orko, Cringer is the most fully realized character.

Okay, now he’s just totally flashing us.
Power me! Love me rub me hug me!

Good day to be a bad guy.

While we have already managed to get several of the never-made villains, there are still so many more to get. I forgot just how many bad guys were created for the show. We still need so many, Masque most of all. If these aren’t made, we’re going to have to riot in the streets. The most compelling thing about these one-off villains is how much more of a threat they were than the villains we were most familiar with. It can only lead me to believe that Skeletor had a dumbing influence on his lackeys.

So that’s seven. I’m sure there are more, but I don’t want to bore you too much. I’ve grown a larger appreciation for a cartoon I frankly wasn’t looking forward to revisiting as much as some of the others from my childhood. It’s not “my” He-Man, and it may not be yours either, but that doesn’t keep it from being a damn fine show, and I’m glad I gave it a chance at a time when I can appreciate it without judgment, either as a kid or an “adult.”