There are a few things that come to mind whenever the ’80s are mentioned, and for most children of the ’80s, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and ThunderCats cartoons are usually at the top of that list. In a six-part miniseries, DC Comics delivered a crossover between He-Man and the ThunderCats that previously only happened with the help of their respective toy lines and a little imagination.
The writers, Lloyd Goldfine and Rob David, artist, Freddie Williams II, and colorist Jeremy Colwell, really hit it out of the park on this one. Williams’ pencils transport the reader to their childhood: a simpler time, full of corny jokes on the boob tube. With this miniseries, the stakes are instantly raised and you realize that this isn’t the same cartoon you watched as a kid. This is easily a must read for a fan of either series wanting to experience a blast from the past. The story, banter, and visuals arrest your attention.
Naturally, Mumm-Ra hatches another scheme to destroy the ThunderCats and the Sword of Omens by converging Third Earth across the cosmos with Eternia where he seeks to obtain He-Man’s Sword of Power. The story starts from a plausible premise and builds layer upon layer in what truly amounts to be a mostly epic crossover. Despite the nostalgia, there are a few things that could be called into question. Here are 10 reasons the “He-Man/ThunderCats” crossover is epic and five reasons it plain sucks.
SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for the epic miniseries.
15. EPIC: THE DEATH (AND RESURRECTION) OF PRINCE ADAM
The death of Prince Adam in issue one set the tone for the six-part miniseries. Disguised as the Sorceress, Mumm-Ra tricked Prince Adam into handing the sword over and then plunged the blade into Adam’s chest. With Prince Adam’s dying breath, he called upon the Power of Grayskull to transform into He-Man. This time though, when the power would leave He-Man’s body, he would die.
Later, in issue four, an act of desperation to fight the combined evil of Skeletor and Mumm-Ra, Lion-O and Cringer travel to the Black Pyramid of Third Earth. Lion-O prayed that the ancient magic imbued in the sarcophagus would restore life to He-Man. Thank Jaga, Lion-O’s prayers were answered, but the evil magic corrupted the resurrected He-Man and the two were forced to battle before Lion-O could bring He-Man to his senses.
14. EPIC: THE BETRAYAL OF THE ANCIENT SPIRITS OF EVIL
After the latest defeat by the hand of Lion-O and his ThunderCats, the Ancient Spirits of Evil inform Mumm-Ra that they are sick of his repeated failures despite the power they bestow on him time and time again. This time, they will grant him the transformative power, but he is going to follow their plan. They inform Mumm-Ra of a sword that can rival the power of the Sword of Omens and they send him to fetch the sword.
Mumm-Ra, sensing the total absence of evil, finds Prince Adam, kills him, and takes the Sword of Power. Having completed his mission, the Ancient Spirits transport Mumm-Ra and the sword to Skeletor’s lair. In return for delivering the Sword of Power to Skeletor, the Spirits ask to be freed from the prison of the Black Pyramid.
13. SUCKS: THE NARRATION IS DISTRACTING
Narration is a staple of most if not all comics. It provides critical insight to essential characters inner thoughts and feelings, refreshes our minds of old story lines the main story is referring to, and in some cases, foreshadows events to come. In the case of the He-Man/ThunderCats crossover, the authors have chosen to go to with a style that gives very little insight.
The narrator, while talking about the qualities of being a leader or other musings, remains anonymous until the very last panel. Once the narrator for that issue is revealed, it almost requires a re-read in order to get the proper perspective and context. While it’s not uncommon to reveal the narrator later in the comic, it is slightly annoying to have a narration box in the middle of a dialogue bubble, because it breaks up the sentence even further.
12. EPIC: CRINGER BECOMES A THUNDERCAT
As we all know, when He-Man would hold aloft his sword and call the power of Castle Grayskull, that quivering ball of green fur would transform into Battle Cat, a fearsome creature on which He-Man would ride into battle.
Despite the courage of Battle Cat being beyond Cringer’s reach, he wanted to join Lion-O on his quest to revive his fallen friend. In one exciting moment, Lion-O hefts the Sword of Omens chanting, “THUNDER, THUNDER, THUNDERCATS, HOOO!” then Cringer transforms into a humanoid cat adorned with red armor and the ThunderCats logo emblazoned on his chest. On Twitter, the artist, Freddie Williams II, refers to what emerges as, “BraveOR the BattleCat” or simply, BattleCat Man. BraveOr fends off the bad guys while Lion-O tucks He-Man into the sarcophagus in the hopes of reviving the fallen hero. Unfortunately, this appearance was short-lived, only lasting for a page or two.
11. EPIC: SKELETOR DRINKS MUMM-RA’S ASHES
Upon the delivery of the Sword of Power, the Ancient Spirits of Evil tell Skeletor to do with Mumm-Ra as he pleases. Naturally, doing what every good villain does, he incinerates Mumm-Ra leaving only his helmet and a pile of ashes. That isn’t the end of Mumm-Ra though. Skeletor recognizes that, despite being dead, Mumm-Ra’s remains are a significant source of power.
Skeletor gets to work, pouring the remains into test tubes. Mumm-Ra speaks to Skeletor and informs him that as long as evil exists, so will Mumm-Ra. A quick cast of a spell and stir of Mumm-Ra potion later and Skeletor chugs the evil-infused Gatorade much to the protest of Mumm-Ra’s disembodied voice. Skeletor goes on to reveal that without Mumm-Ra’s power, the Power of Grayskull would kill anyone it entered that wasn’t worthy, or in this case, ever-living.
10. SUCKS: ABBREVIATED STORYLINES
Both the He-Man and ThunderCats cartoons have primarily featured their main protagonist and antagonist in all of their storylines. However, the supporting characters would always get their time or episode to shine. Due to the great convergence of worlds, so many fantastic characters fell by the wayside. When characters like Panthro, Tygra and Man-At-Arms did pop into the story, while their voice was captured perfectly, their actions had little to no impact on the overall story. Meanwhile, scenes that could have stretched on were cut short. They were reduced to fighting and holding off hordes of bad guys in the background.
This is, in part, an unfair criticism because it is no small task that was before this creative team. We truly do appreciate what little time these beloved characters were featured on the page, but the fact remains, everbody wanted more.
9. EPIC: SKELETOR ACCESSES THE POWER OF GRAYSKULL
Skeletor has been trying to obtain the secret power of Grayskull for years to no avail. This time around, the bad guys get to have a little fun rather than the usual ’80s style defeat.
After his bargain with the Ancient Spirits of Evil paid off, resulting in the delivery of He-Man’s Sword of Power and chugging the ever-living, super-evil, Mumm-Ra cocktail, Skeletor, after all his years of plotting, finally gets to chant the words we’ve heard so many times. This is quite significant. Not only has Skeletor won, but with the Power from Castle Grayskull now in Skeletor, He-Man dies due to the mortal wound Mumm-Ra inflicted earlier in this series. It is a dark day for all of Eternia. Luckily, Skeletor doesn’t have all that power for long, because Lion-O gets in the way.
8. EPIC: ANCIENT SPIRITS OF EVIL ARE FREED FROM THE BLACK PYRAMID
When talking with the disembodied voice of Mumm-Ra, Skeletor reveals that during his studies of the Golden Disks of Knowledge, a repository of history and lore of the universe, that Snake Mountain was built to honor The Serpent, a long lost sister spirit to the four Ancient Spirits of Evil that Mumm-Ra had served.
Thanks to the knowledge found in the disks, Skeletor and Mumm-Ra (now only existing as a voice in Skeletor’s head) freed the spirits from the Black Pyramid and, using Mumm-Ra’s connection to them, enslaved the spirits, forcing them to do their bidding. The Ancient Spirits of Evil, at the bidding of Skeletor and Mumm-Ra, wreak havoc upon the cities of Eternia. It takes everything that the Masters and ThunderCats have to slow their advances on Castle Grayskull.
7. SUCKS: NOT ENOUGH SPACE ON THE PAGE
Due to the epic scale of this miniseries, there is just too much to fit on one page. There is an expression, “everything but the kitchen sink,” that is exactly what these comics accomplish, except if you look hard enough, there is probably a kitchen sink somewhere in there too. What Williams is able to accomplish with the limited space available on a standard comic page is astonishing. Frankly, it’s a downright travesty he wasn’t given a larger canvas.
Page after page, Williams skillfully captures these massive battle scenes with such detail that you can still pick out all the major players of both franchises. These battle scenes are really more suited to an oversize comic so it can be appreciated to its fullest. This is an unfair criticism once again, but in reality, it’s equal parts compliment.
6. EPIC: LION-O USES POWER BEYOND POWER
Lion-O’s plan to revive Prince Adam/He-Man in Mumm-Ra’s sarcophagus did the trick and returned the fallen hero to life. However, the experience drove He-Man mad. Without mercy, He-Man attacked and Lion-O was hard pressed to defend himself against the mighty power of Grayskull. Lion-O even describes He-Man’s power as “ridiculous” and, seeing no other way for either hero to survive a prolonged battle, Lion-O holds aloft the Sword of Omens and asks it to bestow Power Beyond Power, despite the devastating toll such power might have on his body.
Red lightning engulfs Lion-O and, eyes blazing with red electricity, he goes toe-to-toe with the Defender of Eternia in the depths of the Black Pyramid. Even the great stone statues of the Ancient Spirits of Evil were picked up and used as over-sized weapons in their super-powered battle.
5. EPIC: HE-MAN GETS SIGHT BEYOND SIGHT
The Sword of Omens, containing the Eye of Thundera, is the source of the ThunderCat’s power. It grants the wielder a great number of various powers and abilities, one such power being Sight Beyond Sight. The Eye, when using Sight Beyond Sight, grants the wielder to see far off places, find hidden items, and sometimes it can warn of danger. For a ThunderCat, the Eye can also break through any sort of mind control when commanding, “ThunderCats Ho!”
With He-Man driven mad by the sarcophagus, Lion-O saw no other option than to try to break through to He-Man, forcing him to look into the Eye of Thundera using Sight Beyond Sight. This time, when combined with the Power of Grayskull, He-man was granted a vision of the future in which Skeletor rules the universe and everyone is dead or enslaved, and it snapped him out of his madness.
4. SUCKS: ABSENCE OF NEW THUNDERCATS AND VILLAINS
Despite the already jam-packed roster of characters and only six issues to tell the story from start to finish, it was still a little disappointing to see an absence of the new ThunderCats, Lynx-O, Bengali, Pumyra, and Snarfer. The story even utilizes the ThunderStrike, the flying vehicle usually piloted by the new ThunderCats stationed in the Tower of Omens, but they were nowhere to be found.
While the Slithe and the other Mutants are fantastic characters, they seemed more like Mumm-Ra’s lackeys and never a real threat. The Lunataks on the other hand, were so visually striking, evil, and extremely eerie that they were easily more compelling. They wanted power and it didn’t matter if it was the ThunderCats, Mumm-Ra or the Mutants in their way; they would fight anyone. Perhaps that’s something we could visit in a sequel?
3. EPIC: SKELETOR AND MUMM-RA BECOME MUMM-ATOR
Jaga and the Sorceress utilize a Disk of Knowledge in Jaga’s possession to reveal the weakness of the towering Ancient Spirits of Evil and, after a few motivating words from the Sorceress, the Masters, and a giant Snarf (thanks to Orko’s spell), make quick work of the titans by destroying the golden disks on their chests.
In the death throes of the Ancient Spirits of Evil, Skeletor and the disembodied Mumm-Ra call upon the Ancient Spirits to release their terrible power, wickedness and might to Mumm-Ator. Visually, Mumm-Ator is an amalgam of both beings, except with all the power of Skeletor, Mumm-Ra and the four Ancient Spirits combined into one menacing form. Mumm-Ator then single handedly defeats the combined forces of the Masters and ThunderCats before stepping foot into Castle Grayskull.
2. EPIC: HE-MAN BECOMES SUPERMAN
He-Man and Lion-O find the fallen warriors outside Castle Grayskull. Fearing the worst, the heroes pursue Mumm-Ator into the depths of the castle. Mumm-Ator, holding the Sorceress captive, explains to them that the secret within the belly of Castle Grayskull is that it’s a nexus of the multiverse. It also protects the Orb of Power (a crystal ball that contains the power that created the multiverse), and Mumm-Ator now holds it in his hand. Luckily the Orb remains locked away from him without He-Man’s Power Sword.
After a quick battle, He-Man and Lion-O are able to take the Orb from Mumm-Ator, only for the Orb to transfer the holder to whatever possible dimension they desire. One quick trip when He-Man held the orb was to an Earth where he can be seen disguised as a Clark Kent analogue working at the Daily Planet right before he rips open his shirt to save the day.
1. SUCKS: THE ENDING WRAPS UP TOO QUICKLY
Every issue builds and builds to the final issue where such glorious panels are clogged with dialogue to quickly explain what is happening and hurriedly wrap up the story. Mumm-Ator chases He-Man and Lion-O through multiple dimensions like a strange combined universe, Thundera (before it explodes), and to an alternate version of Earth, until he catches up and takes them back to the depths of Castle Grayskull. An enormous battle ensues when Mumm-Ator and Sorceress bring their allies into the castle.
He-Man and Lion-O then defeat Mumm-Ator when each in turn holds up their sword, chants “WE HAVE THE POWER BEYOND POWER!!!” Then beams of light spring forth and destroy Mumm-Ator, putting an end to his threat against the multiverse. The last few pages are them saying goodbyes, exchanging gifts, and words of encouragement. The final panel does say “The End…?” so we can only hope a sequel might follow.
What was your favorite EPIC or SUCKS moment in this crossover? Did it make our list? Let us know in the comments!
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