This is the seventy-fifth in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous seventy-four. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Masters of the Universe was a reworked Fourth World movie.
A significant number of fans of the film Masters of the Universe suggest that the film is really a reworked Fourth World film.
The film features characters that seem like they have analogues from Jack Kirby’s classic Fourth World series of comics: Orion (He-Man), Kalibak (Beast Man), Kanto (Blade), and Darkseid (Skeletor).
The way that they travel in the film from Eternia to Earth is essentially a Boom Tube, and there’s a lot of other similar touches.
However, the film itself was not intended to be literally a reworked Fourth World, although the intent WAS to make the film a tribute to Jack Kirby – just a tribute to ALL of his work, not just the Fourth World.
Writer/artist John Byrne was quoted in Comic Shop News #497 as saying, “The best New Gods movie, IMHO, is Â´Masters of the UniverseÂ´. I even corresponded with the director, who told me this was his intent, and that he had tried to get Kirby to do the production designs, but the studio nixed it.” This is probably where most of the confusion comes from, for while Byrne is basically correct, his statement that the intent of the film was to be a New Gods movie does not match what the director, Gary Goddard, wrote to Byrne in the letter column of Next Men #26, in response to a comment Byrne had made in an earlier column about the similarities between the film and the Fourth World comics.
In that column, Goddard wrote:
As the director of Masters of the Universe, it was a pleasure to see that someone got it. Your comparison of the film to Kirby’s New Gods was not far off. In fact, the storyline was greatly inspired by the classic Fantastic Four/Doctor Doom epics, The New Gods and a bit of Thor thrown in here and there. I intended the film to be a “motion picture comic book,” though it was a tough proposition to sell to the studio at the time. “Comics are just for kids,” they thought. They would not allow me to hire Jack Kirby who I desperately wanted to be the conceptual artist for the picture…
I grew up with Kirby’s comics (I’ve still got all my Marvels from the first issue of Fantastic Four and Spider-Man through the time Kirby left) and I had great pleasure meeting him when he first moved to California. Since that time I enjoyed the friendship of Jack and Roz and was lucky enough to spend many hours with Jack, hearing how he created this character and that one, why a villain has to be even more powerful than a hero, and on and on. Jack was a great communicator, and listening to him was always an education. You might be interested to know that I tried to dedicate Masters of Universe to Jack Kirby in the closing credits, but the studio took the credit out.
Still, whether the film was literally a Fourth World remake or not, the devotion to the work of Jack Kirby remains, and it is quite interesting on Goddard’s part.
Thanks to Bright Raven for finding me the right issue of Next Men and Ryan Day for sending me a copy of the letter. Thanks to yo go re for suggesting this one (it was on the to-do list anyways, but I figure, might as well mention it).
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