He-Man is a legend. The TV show was a popular favourite in the 1980s, and everyone who was around at that time will have a favourite episode or line from the saga. Then Dolph Lundgren shattered everyone’s childhoods by appearing in the live-action movie version.
You either get over that, or you don’t. We did, and we would like to focus on the show as a whole. Over the years since it stopped airing, a number of revelations have come forth that bring more context to the hero. Of course, he was never the only guy in the picture, and we all remember She-Ra (who had her own show), but then you look at the supporting characters like Skeletor and that cat thing that He-Man hung out with, and you realize that there is a lot of lore here.
At the time, it was just a fantastically camp and bizarre hero show. There was no Internet back then (we had to invent cars and colour TVs first) so all a viewer ever had was what the show gave them. Turns out, there are a few fascinating and sometimes shocking things that none of us knew while we watched the events unfold in Eternia.
18 The Toy Before The Show
That's right, He-Man was a straight-up legitimate toy before it became a TV show. This is not the way things are supposed to be. The general Law of Franchises states that TV shows and movies get to have merchandise if they make a ton of money. No one told Mattel this, and they decided to mess with the very fabric of the universe by making the toy first and then making the show.
It paid off. Mattel saw the He-Man figurine (more on that in a moment) become a huge success. Production of the toys began in 1981, and began to be marketed and sold in 1982. The TV show only came about in 1983. So there you are. He-Man was more authentic than you think. He was a real toy, not just a piece of capitalist merchandise.
17 He-Man Was Almost Conan
This is either a good thing or a bad thing. Conan the Barbarian was a great little action romp of the 1980s, starring the Austrian Oak (that’s a real pet name for Arnie, if you didn't know).
There were a couple of Conan movies made, and at least one spin off starring Brigitte Nielsen. And Conan the Destroyer has an early appearance from Winston, the ape from Overwatch, that you will never forget.
Mattel really, really wanted to make Conan toys and they were moments from signing a huge deal to produce three inch plastic versions of Arnold Schwarzenegger in a loincloth before they backed out. They withdrew because they suddenly realized that the Conan character is a man who kills people and has numerous relations with women. It’s tricky to make toys with that backstory. So He-Man was born, and Arnie became famous on his own merits.
16 He Would Cry If You Killed A Bug
Okay, he didn’t cry. But He-Man definitely didn't want to hurt anyone. In an interesting twist of fate, the most powerful guy in the universe simply did not want to commit any acts of violence.
It was a true children's show in that the guy never hit or stabbed anyone. He didn't even use incendiary language. Instead, he usually found a way to ensure that the bad guys didn't get away with their evil schemes through the laws of gravity (like ‘helping’ someone fall off a cliff for example). However, if you watch the opening sequence to the show, you will see He-Man punch the cameraman. Some guys are just asking for it.
So he’s been working out like a maniac and has a huge sword. But he won’t hurt anyone.
15 Associating With The Wrong Group Of People
Nearly, anyways. There is this race of creatures in Eternia called the Widgets. They were the softest, weakest things in the universe. Seriously, really weak little things. They attracted a lot of attention. At some point, they thought this was unfair (probably after they had all been beaten to within an inch of their life for the hundredth time) and decided to create an SOS signal that would call for He-Man.
Wimps. Anyway, the Nazi thing comes in when you realize that the Widgets would signal for The Most Dangerous Pacifist in the World with the symbol from He-Man’s chest. This symbol resembled the Iron Cross... the one the Nazis used. It's kind of like the Bat Signal, but more evil. It was changed. And quickly too.
14 Yet More Latent Racism
If you have even a cursory knowledge of the He-Man story, you will know that his arch rival and nemesis is Skeletor. It really isn't fair to try and describe Skeletor in words, suffice to say anyone who was alive in the 80s and lived within a mile of a TV or toy shop knows who he is and what he looks like. He’s a freaky-looking thing and has been responsible for some rather nasty nightmares for the show’s young audience.
Skeletor was basically a living skeleton. And he was blue. He was also passed over for the throne by his father. This gave us King Randor, who is white. That means Skeletor was neatly forgotten and denied the throne because he was blue. That’s textbook racism, and explains why Skeletor is so angry.
13 The Show Gave Us Some Major Talent
The show looks pretty basic now, and in some scenes it looks like a group of drawings coloured in by kids, all spliced together. But one of those kids would become a major talent in animation, as well as someone who would contribute to the lore of a famous comic book character.
How famous? Batman famous. Bruce Timm was the background designer on He-Man. So while he is responsible for some of the awful parts of the He-Man show (if you were born after 1990, this will be a whole new level of hell for you to discover) with the background designs, he leapt off He-Man and began to build a seriously dazzling career. But we’re not done yet. A scriptwriter for the show and the comics around He-Man also wrote Batman: The Animated Series. But that’s not all. Paul Dini created Harley Quinn.
12 Everyone In La-La Land Hated It
Mattel were quite desperate to sell it as a TV show, but those first few meetings were horrific. The big blow was being turned down by Hanna-Barbera. That can't have been nice. But obviously Mattel knew how to tap into the power of Greyskull, and they worked hard to get a producing partnership going.
This became Filmation, a company that had worked with Mattel previously on ads. Filmation was a kind of rising star in the Ridiculously Poor Quality Animation world, but they didn't disappoint. Perhaps the biggest ‘good idea’ around the partnership was from the company president. He suggested making 65 episodes immediately, and then syndicating them so that everyone who lived within 20 miles of a TV set would see He-Man.
11 Say What?
He-Man was hugely popular in the mid-eighties. He was popular on the level of the Marvel Universe movies right now. We’re not joking, if he was actually around now he’d probably be portrayed via CGI and star in twenty movies within the space of three years. Because that’s what Marvel does. Or Disney makes it do.
Anyway, one day in the 80s a TV station in the USA stopped showing it. They were bombarded with hysterical abuse from frenzied young children (kind of like a COD match) and quickly relented. They hired an actor to visit the station and make the kids happy. The children mobbed him. A spokesperson then said the immortal words to a reporter: ‘He-Man left early because we became very concerned about the safety of the children’.
Does that quote just kind of sound wrong to you?
10 The Slime Pit Made Parents Sick
The Slime Pit is a legendary part of the story, and was referenced to death by the characters on He-Man. It is never actually shown in He-Man (probably because the animators found the prospect of drawing a hole full of gooey slime just too daunting) but did appear o the sister show She-Ra.
The slime would run out by the time kids had made everyone around them sick and disgusted (it wasn’t pleasant stuff) and then the parents found out something they probably wished they hadn’t. The slime would have to be bought so their kids could play some more. Fair enough. The only issue was that to get more slime, you had to buy two more figures.
9 Was The Name Of This Really Okay?
Mattel is a toy giant, and has been for a long time. But every now and then it would have the odd lapse in judgement. This was often around the time they tried to sit down and work out new ways to fleece parents of their hard-earned money. Developing ideas for a night out is hard, but developing ideas for an internationally famous cartoon is hellish.
Mattel developed a new tour that featured a round object that children could beat toy characters senseless with. It is possibly the most violent thing Mattel had created. It was called The Bashasaurus. Well, it was after a little ‘trial period’ when it kicked everyone’s toys into next week under a different name. Filmation refused to include this toy in the TV show.
8 A Disaster On Multiple Levels
The movie came out in 1987. It was universally hated. Even kids who watched it thought it sucked, kind of like the nerds of today whenever they’re discussing Star Wars Episodes I and II (Episode III rocked!).
It wasn’t exactly a great idea to hire Dolph Lundgren to play He-Man. He had the physique (or he did after a quick fifteen reps on the weights) but his accent was ridiculously hard to deal with. So Dolph, feeling that he really needed to get under He-Man’s skin and do some real acting, dubbed his lines three times. He got a little better by the third time, but in reality that just meant he mumbled louder.
The movie was a disaster in plenty of ways. But having Dolph involved didn't help at all.
7 He's More Like You Than You Think
He-Man is actually half-human. Now, we know that he looks human, but don't forget that Eternia is another planet. This means that he is an alien, or at least half of him is.
His father is King Randor (the name alone should tell you Daddy isn't from Iowa) but his mother was an Earth Girl through and through. And not just any old Earth Girl either, she was an astronaut. The story goes that Mummy crashed on Eternia (NASA really messed up that day) and met Daddy. The rest is history.
This explains the odd weird look she aims at the various characters she meets in Eternia. You don’t get any Orko dudes where she’s from. Oh, and apparently as testament to her incredibly cool parenting skills, she regularly read Superman stories to Prince Adam when he was a boy.
6 The Show's Most Tragic Figure
Teela is a good friend to He-Man. It’s totally platonic and cool. But there’s a secret history to the character of Teela that even die-hard He-Man fans will be surprised to discover.
We don't know what happened to Teela when she was younger, but there is a fairly strong possibility that she is suffering from some bizarre identity crisis. Man-at-Arms is her father, right? Yes, absolutely, but the good people of Eternia are obviously on some weird stuff, because Man-at-Arms is sometimes referred to as her adopted father.
But that ain’t all. Because in some shows a character called Fisto is named as her real father. Basically this kind of reminds us of Mamma Mia, but without Pierce Brosnan. Teela later becomes The Sorceress after her mother dies an incredibly painful death when she is defeated by King Hiss, who is a snake.
5 Clear Your Desk And Go Home
Stinkor is the He-Man character no one ever remembers, and that’s because he was not liked by the company that made him. And if Mattel doesn’t like you, you’re not going to last very long. The true cause of their hatred of the thing they created has never been fully known and verified. So we spent the last seven hours sifting through blog posts and fan fiction to see what on Earth was going on.
What was going on was bullying (if Stinkor was a real person). The top guys at Mattel thought he looked too dumb to represent the story. We agree. He was never going to join Mensa. But the kicker is what happened next. Mattel disowned him and put the fear of God into all the other characters, because they now knew that no one was indispensable.
4 The Pioneer Of The "Movie Universe"
These days, if we watch a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie we get a story that has at least ten characters in it from various comic books. It’s just expected. But back in the eighties it rarely happened, anywhere.
With He-Man, we had a very similar situation in that the She-Ra cartoons gave us He-Man in some of the storylines. He was a guest performer, obviously, but having the guy in another character’s show was a big and bold move back then. We may have Iron Man (or Robert Downey Jr.) appearing in everything these days, but it was a big deal when He-Man started guesting in She-Ra.
Also, bear in mind that He-Man had ended by the time She-Ra turned up as a show. So for all of the fans out there, back then this was a new lease on life (there was no Internet, and video was still new).
3 You Can't Get Good Help In Eternia
That's right, even in Eternia you can't get the staff. So it's a good thing that there was a giant on site, casually grinding the bones of Englishmen so that he could get a head start on making bread that evening. Not particularly busy, he decided to build a castle.
Now, this is where it becomes great fun. You know where Star Wars or the Green Lantern have these huge backstories about battles that were fought long ago? He-Man has a bit of that too. Don't get excited, the keyword is 'bit'.
Tytus was a giant, and he built Castle Greyskull. With the lack of giant hardware stores on Eternia, we're guessing that he used his hands, or some people he found under his shoe, to dig away at the rock. He's a true Eternia legend.
2 He Makes Bank
That's right, He-Man made bank. Once, a very bored man named Roger Sweet sat back and pondered the mysteries of the He-Man universe, in all its complexities. Two minutes later, he had worked out just how much the character was worth, after all of the merchandise and other aspects of the He-Man business were factored in.
Actually, Mr Sweet created He-Man, so he knew what the whole thing was about. He reckoned that everything sold under the character's name would total around $2 billion.
We carried out a little research ourselves. we wanted to know what having that kind of money would mean, if you went shopping. According to our think tank staff, $2 billion will buy you 10 F-35C Lightning Fighter Jets (fuel not included). You can also buy The Solomon Islands for $1 billion. That means you still get five fighter jets too.
1 Just A Hint Of Racism
Just a hint, but it definitely wasn’t pleasant. We all know that toys are designed in stages, right? At some point there will a be a couple of versions that don't make the cut, and they will be discarded, like the worthless pieces of plastic they truly are. He-Man had a couple of early versions too, but Mattel don’t like to talk about it. Three prototypes came up first. One was a barbarian, one a soldier, and the other a spaceman.
The barbarian originally had dark hair and a ‘deeply tanned Eastern European or Middle Eastern appearance’, according to the designer. Then, apparently, upper management at Mattel asked that he have blond hair and that his skin be lightened. Make of that what you will. We think it sounds like an indirect and unintentional theory of eugenics delivered, by chance, through the medium of toys. Or racism.