It seems like a long time since Kevin Smith first announced he was creating a new He-Man animated series that would be a “continuation” of the original ‘80s cartoon for eight-year-olds. Now, we finally have our first look at Masters of the Universe: Revelation, and I think I finally understand what Smith is doing...and I think I like it.
This is quite a surprise to me. I have repeatedly announced what a He-Man fan I am on io9, but have been constantly annoyed by the Revelation project because it’s been touted as a sequel to the original show, which is bananas because the original show never had an overarching storyline. (It’s also been touted as an anime series, which Netflix has now asked journalists not to call it.) Like almost all cartoons of the time, there was no serialized storytelling; He-Man would just thwart a new plot of Skeletor’s each week. There was never a story to continue.
Furthermore, while Revelation was clearly meant to appeal to adults who grew up in the ‘80s, there are many parts of the classic cartoon made solely to cater to little kids, and continuing the original Masters of the Universe presumably meant it had to bring back annoyances like Cringer, Battlecat’s scaredy-cat alter-ego; magical nitwit Orko, who was comic relief that was never funny; and the fact that Skeletor’s minions were virtually all stone-cold imbeciles.
And then I finally saw the first stills:
These are clearly the classic character designs of the ‘80s, they just look...good. But what really sold me was the update of Orko, one of my most-loathed characters:
This is not a continuation of the ‘80s show. If Revelation was, Orko presumably would look something like this instead of the tiny eldritch sorcerer he now appears to be:
Unless Smith has made the incredibly weird decision to make Orko look awesome but still be a bumbling idiot, Revelation looks like a...refining of the original 1980s cartoon. It’s taking the original childish cartoon and distilling it into the platonic ideal that adult fans have of the show when they look back at it through the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia (or so it seems). This is corroborated by the almost endearingly overblown description of Revelation:
“It’s a really classic, universal action-adventure epic about growth, discovery, magic, and power. This series explores destiny in a fresh way. There’s a lot of reconciling with secrets, betrayal, trust, acceptance, love, and ultimately, loss.”
The show’s official summary is equally as dramatic:
“The war for Eternia culminates in Masters of the Universe: Revelation, an innovative and action-packed animated series that picks up where the iconic characters left off decades ago. After a cataclysmic battle between He-Man and Skeletor, Eternia is fractured and the Guardians of Grayskull are scattered. And after decades of secrets tore them apart, it’s up to Teela to reunite the broken band of heroes, and solve the mystery of the missing Sword of Power in a race against time to restore Eternia and prevent the end of the universe.”
The idea that “decades of secrets” tore the simple-minded, simple-hearted heroes of the original cartoon is ludicrous. Again, if Revelation were a true continuation of the ‘80s cartoon, instead of He-Man finally getting a chance to save the universe, he’d be doing absolutely nonsense, like going to the circus, where we’d get scenes of “love and, ultimately, loss” such as this:
Instead, we’re apparently going to get Skelegod, as revealed by an upcoming action figure in the new Masters of the Universe collectors toyline based on Revelation. Please compare and contrast Skelegod to the goofball you saw riding the rocket above:
It is still unfathomable to me that we’re getting a Masters of the Universe animated series targeted specifically to 40-year-olds, but—and as a He-Man fan, I’m incredibly biased here—this is much, much better than new episodes of the original cartoon, which is how Revelation has been presented so far. Again, I could be wrong, and the show will be populated almost entirely by badass-looking, bumbling oafs. But, for the first time, I feel like the new He-Man cartoon might actually be a revelation after all.
Part One of Masters of the Universe: Revelation will premiere on Netflix on July 23. You can learn about the show’s wildly over-talented voice cast here.
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