DVD Review: The New Adventures of He-Man - Volume 1
by R.J. Carter
Published: December 26, 2006
When the doors closed on Filmation, and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe went out with it, Mattel (the toy company -- these were half-hour toy commercials, after all) approached Jet Lag Productions to revitalize the franchise, with a new setting and a new look to the characters.
The premise of The New Adventures of He-Man was to bring the hero of Eternia centuries into the future, to the planet Primus. To do this, Master Sebrian -- realizing that the shields of Primus were eventually going to fail and leave the peaceful people (who've forgotten how to fight) vulnerable to the attacks of Flogg and his mutants -- builds a time travel vehicle to take advantage of a temporary anomaly that will allow him to go back and bring forward a warrior who knows the power of the good and the way of the magic. That hero, of course, is on Eternia (although whether Eternia and Primus are the same place in different times is a bit muddled), and is known to all of us as He-Man. But unfortunately, the two Primans who make the journey -- Flipshot and Hydron -- don't know who they're looking for. Skeletor takes advantage of their confusion and convinces him that he's the good guy, looking forward to conquering a totally defenseless people. Prince Adam is alerted by the Sorceress and -- after revealing to his parents his dual identity -- reaches Flipshot and Hydron in the nick of time. Since they don't know who is telling the truth, they take both He-Man and Skeletor into the future, where Skeletor quickly reveals his true nature.
He-Man (Gary Chalk, "Deck the Halls", Eureka) maintains his secret identity as Adam in this new series, pretending to be Sebrian's visiting nephew. However, for the first time, the superhero has a bit of a Lois Lane watching him in the form of Sebrian's daughter, Mara. When Skeletor records He-Man's brainwaves and later tracks down He-Man (and friends), he surmises that one of them must really be He-Man. When He-Man does finally appear, Mara is instantly suspicious that Adam is absent. Later, when He-Man is struck by a mysterious bolt of lightning, he is transformed back into Billy Batson... er... Adam, and finds that he can't turn into He-Man -- an adventure that leaves the shepherd girl Drissi wondering why Adam is carrying He-Man's sword.
Galactic Guardians: Flipshot (left) and Hydron
(right) are He-Man's new companions in their
battle against the evil mutants.
In many ways the story was a radical departure from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Visually, He-Man has turned in his pageboy haircut for a ponytail, while Skeletor gets eyes, leaving him looking more like the star of The Mask than the evil despot eager to get his hands on the power of Castle Greyskull. The backgrounds, creatures, and facial expressions all reflect a trend toward various manga styles. The plots leaned more heavily toward the comedic, with the argumentative scientists who work for the good guys, as well as the goofy mutants who work for Flogg (who's not the brightest bulb in the fridge, either.) Even Skeletor is more slapstick than before.
However, despite Skeletor's new role as buffoon, he manages to pull off something he hadn't done before: defeat He-Man! In a multi-part storyline, Skeletor captures Sedrian and the Galactic Guardians, driving He-Man into exile. Of course, He-Man makes new friends and manages to come back and rescue his friends in the end.
When Scary Met Boney: Flogg, leader of the
mutants, has his first encounter with Skeletor.
This boxed set continues the spine-art mural begun with the releases of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and provides one-half of the connective tissue between that set and the volumes of She-Ra, Princess of Power. Each episode maintains the tradition of ending with a thirty second morality play, although the lessons are no longer strictly related to the story you've just seen.
Each episode chapter menu contains "Gleep's Fun Facts", a list of trivia items to look for in each of the shows. The foldout case holds the six discs, with character art on each, evenly distributed among heroes and villains (He-Man, Sebrian and Mara; Slush Head, Flogg, and Skeletor), and artwork cards #13 and #14 of 16, with Ed McGuinness presenting the bad guys in action while Bryan Hitch gives us a streamlined new-look He-Man leaping into battle.
The sixth disc contains all the bonus features for this set (sorry, no commentary tracks on the episodes themselves), including two twenty-five minute featurettes. The first, "Creating The New Adventures of He-Man", is just what it claims to be. Compiled from interviews taken at the San Diego Comic Convention, the viewer hears from David Teague, writers Francis Moss and Michael Reaves, and He-Man/She-Ra historian (is that a paying job?) James Eatock, as they talk about the series and the concepts behind individual episodes. In "The Comic Book Adventures of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, editor Lee Nordling is joined by artists Larry Houston and Emiliano Santalucia and MV Creations and He-Man.org's Val Staples. The featurette looks at He-Man's comic appearances from the mini-comics that came with the toys originally through the versions later seen in DC Comics, Marvel's Star Comics, and ultimately MV Creations.
There are profiles (with video clips) for 30 characters, 10 guests, and 10 technology items that appear in this volume, as well as an image gallery of 19 very sharp pen and ink drawings (including a couple of color shots of He-Man and Skeletor.) For the completist, there are fifteen seconds of four commercial bumpers.
The DVD-ROM content includes PDF files: drafts for "Council of Clones" and "He-Man Mutant", outlines for "Planet of Junk", five premise documents, and the series bible.
While, to this reviewer, not as enjoyable as the original series (I was too attached to Man-at-Arms, Teela, the Sorceress, and Battle Cat), the DVD set itself is put together with the same quality and care as all the other He-Man universe titles, and will no doubt make many He-Man fans quite happy this Christmas -- albeit a day late.
Audio is available in either English or Spanish.
Previews on this set include He-Man and the Masters of the Universe", She-Ra, Princess of Power, Ghostbusters, "Journey Back to Oz", Bravestarr, Flash Gordon, Groovie Goolies, Mission: Magic!, The Freedom Force, "A Snow White Christmas", Space Sentinels, Hero High, Blackstar, "Happily Ever After: Snow White's Greatest Adventure", Jason of Star Command, Space Academy, Ark II, The Ghost Busters, and Isis.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
Season Two, Volume Two
3201 - A New Beginning
3202 - Quest for the Crystals
3203 - The Heat
3204 - Attack on Onnor
3205 - The Ultimate Challenge
3206 - Sword & Staff
3207 - The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword... Or Is It?
3208 - Glastnost Schmaznost
3209 - The Youngest Hero
3210 - The Festival of Lights
3211 - The Gift
3212 - Skeletor's Victory
3213 - He-Man in Exile
3214 - The Seeds of Resistance
3215 - The Battle for Levitan
3216 - Crack in the World
3217 - Escape from Gaolotia
3218 - He-Man Mutant
3219 - Juggernaut
3220 - Fading Star
3221 - Skeletor's Revenge
3222 - The Mind Lens
3223 - Adam's Adventure
3224 - Collision Course
3225 - Planet of Junk
3226 - Sanctuary
3227 - Council of Clones
3228 - Cold Freeze
3229 - He-Caz
3230 - Slaves to the Machine
3231 - The Galactic Guardians
3232 - The Siege of Serus
3233 - The Children's Planet
Creating The New Adventures of He-Man (28:05)
The Comic Book Adventures of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (25:16)