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“He-Man and Masters of the Universe” Celebrates 40 Years

A loving unpacking of narrative themes, a bundle of toy reveals and other material debuts, and a surprise appearance from none other than William Shatner marked the highlights of a special panel presentation celebrating the 40th anniversary of Masters of the Universe at San Diego Comic-Con 2022 on Thursday, July 21.

Moderated by director (and Masters of the Universe: Revelation creator) Kevin Smith, the event looked both backward and forwards, digging into the history of the pop culture sensation — which began as an original line of toys and accompanying mini-comics in 1982, and has in the decades since spanned action figures, film, publishing, videogames, and of course a plethora of animated TV series (sometimes existing in parallel), in addition to a variety of other media platforms.

Kicking things off, Smith got very personal about his connection to the series, and what brought him to 2021’s Revelation, which was released on Netflix five months apart in a pair of five-episode drops.

“I love all the many crazy characters on the deep, long bench on Masters of the Universe,” said Smith. “Visually, it’s an interesting show, and it ties into my childhood. Back before we even had cable TV, let alone streaming, I could come home from school and count on that show being there, every damn day — like a family member, like a friend.


“It’s beautiful to look at, it’s fun, it’s a world of sword-and-sorcery, although they never seem to fight, ever. But the thing about it that always really worked for me was the story behind the story.”

“That’s Prince Adam,” continued Smith, speaking about He-Man’s alter ego. “He’s somebody that most people have already made their mind up about. They know how they feel about him, they’ve dismissed him or they’ve put him into a box.

“But Prince Adam knows, deep down inside, that he’s the most powerful person in the universe. And for somebody who grew up chubby like I did that meant something, because sometimes you are relegated to a position of less-than — people don’t know who you are, they don’t see your light shine from within. And that’s why that character always appealed to me, and when I worked on Revelation, it was a very Prince Adam-forward story.


“I love He-Man, don’t get me wrong — any butch dude in a loincloth, that just does it for me. But at the end of the day, Prince Adam is my hero, and that’s what brought me to work on this wonderful franchise.”

After these remarks and some jokes, Smith was joined onstage by the panel’s seven other guests, consisting of Revelation producer and Mattel VP of Creative Content Rob David; Mattel VP of Action Figure Design Derek Handy; authors Dan Eardley and Greg Mone; Masters of the Universe: Revelation and Revolution voice cast members Stephen Root and Tiffany Smith; and the star of 1987’s live-action Masters of the Universe film, Dolph Lundgren.

In the first portion of the panel, Eardley recounted a bit of the exhaustive legwork that went into his photo-intensive The Toys of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

After Smith took a moment to laud him, and the people his tome chronicles as those who “kept the fires of the IP burning during dormant periods,” Eardley shared a photo of himself as a kid surrounded by his action figures, and became emotional talking about the lengths to which his mother went to track down Masters of the Universe toys for him.


Handy was up next, and he delivered nothing but joy for toy collectors of the franchise. Sharing slides of new designs being unveiled and teased at Comic-Con, he gave audience members a look at the first Castle Grayskull with lights, sounds, and a working drawbridge, plus a sneak peek at what will be the biggest-ever Masters of the Universe playset, an Eternia environment with a working monorail car.

Mone, meanwhile, talked about writing in the voices of the franchise’s characters in print form and debuted some cover images for both his The Hunt for Mossman book and an upcoming I, Skeletor autobiography, set to be published in November.

Following a special trailer for the animated He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, whose third season is set to debut on August 18, Lundgren recounted some of his experiences in the live-action 1987 movie.

The actor joked about his costume being “the size of a stamp — a leather stamp,” and said that his production filmed 54 nights in a row in Whittier, “which was a record for night shoots until Scorsese made After Hours.”

Kevin Smith then engaged with Root and Smith about their voice work, while teasing a bit that the forthcoming Revolution, which picks up where Revelation left off, will feature more Masters of the Universe characters pulled into its expanding story.

It was at this point that Shatner entered from offstage, his voice booming as he asked Smith about being the most important character. While not revealing who precisely Shatner is voicing, the pair engaged in a good-natured shared anecdote about a recording session over Zoom.

Smith explained that he jumped the gun and tried to give the legendary Star Trek actor a bit of advance advice, prompting the 91-year-old to interrupt by saying, “In a moment, you will have the honor of directing me.” (Smith’s wife would later quip: “It took Captain Kirk to shut up Silent Bob.”)

Masters of the Universe and its spinoffs have, in different iterations, managed to entertain and inspire three successive generations — no small feat.

Reflecting on his love for the property and his attempt to weave that into his creative process, David said, “I try to hold on to that joy that we all felt laying down on our shag carpets watching He-Man on our cathode-ray tube TVs. And if you hold onto that joy, no matter what project you’re working on, then I think you retain the spirit of MOTU that we all fell in love with.

“There’s nothing more central to MOTU than the idea that inside each and every one of us is something truly unique and special if you can unlock it. And the Sword of Power has always been a metaphor for a key to unleashing this tremendous power — a power great enough to transform not only yourself but an entire universe.”

For plenty of fans at Comic-Con 2022, that shared love was, for at least one day, its own power.