?We live in a new golden age of kid’s cartoons. Kid’s shows today are, by and large, slick, hip, and most importantly, smart — they’re meant to make the parents laugh as much as their kids. Call it the Pixar effect. But in the 1980s, when the FCC relaxed its regulations regarding toy manufacturers creating TV shows to sell their toys, there was an explosion of dumb, if often fun, cartoons featuring two-dimensional characters, cliched storylines, and of course, lots of action.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe typified this sort of show. Many episodes featured new characters and vehicles that could, of course, be purchased at your local toy store. The animation was very cheap, relying heavily on the same few cels for each character. And while there were a few great stories (such as “The Dragon’s Gift” or “The Problem with Power”), the majority of He-Man cartoons and comics were simple affairs in which conflict resolution usually involved He-Man punching, throwing, or crushing something. As the cartoon and comics wore on, there seemed to be a contest going on among the writers as to who could come up with the most bizarre or ridiculous stunt for He-Man to save the day. Here are 10 of He-Man’s most mind-blowing feats of strength, skill, and insanity.
10) Punching Through Fire
?In the minicomic “The Terror Claws Strike!” (with art by Bruce Timm), Skeletor has stolen the Gem of something-or-other and He-Man chases him into Snake Mountain, where Skeletor throws up a wall of fire to stop him. Silly Skeletor! The fact that fire isn’t a solid material doesn’t mean He-Man can’t just punch his way through it! And so kids learned a valuable lesson: if you have a problem, punch it enough times and it’ll go away.
9) Throwing a Gem 80,000 Mph
?Some of He-Man’s craziest feats were to be found in the short-lived Marvel comic (produced under the preteen-oriented “Star” brand). In a story titled “Courage,” Man-at-Arms is poisoned by Saurod, sending Prince Adam and Teela on a quest to the floating city of Helios to retrieve the Healing Gem (those darn gems!). After defeating a “Mind-Beast,” they return to heal Man-at-Arms only to discover he’s actually a robot–all part of a scheme by Skeletor to obtain the Gem and use it to take over Grayskull. The good guys triumph, but as he escapes Skeletor mentions that the Gem has to be back at Helios by sundown or the city falls out of the sky. The story is even more convoluted than I’m making it here. Anyway, the solution? He-Man throws the Gem at “twenty-two miles per second,” for over 700 miles, so that it lands in the exact right spot before sunset.
8) Vibrating a Major Fissure Closed
?The UK had its own Masters of the Universe comics, and in one story, an undersea earthquake cracks open a secret underwater passage into the heart of Eternos, Eternia’s capital city. Skeletor and his minions go through and cause some minor havoc until they’re inevitably defeated by He-Man and friends. To make sure Skeletor never uses the passage again, He-Man dives underwater and “vibrates” his sword until the crack until it slams shut. Makes sense, right?
7) Twirling His Sword to Nullify a Tornado
In the episode “Temple of the Sun,” some Eternian hobo finds a magical ankh (which he insists on calling a “scarab”) in the titular temple and starts wreaking havoc with it (Eternia is apparently littered with these all-powerful magical baubles). For some reason, in this episode Cringer talks He-Man into not turning him into Battle Cat, then wastes no time in getting caught in a sand-tornado. He-Man’s strategy for solving the problem is exactly what a four-year-old would come up with, except it actually works: he spins around in the opposite direction and un-spools the tornado — then throws in into space.
6) Rubbing His Hands on Sand So Fast It Makes Glass
Later in “Temple of the Sun” (2:25 in the video for #7), He-Man and his pals are attacked by a giant scorpion. He-Man shows off his outside-the-box thinking by concocting the most insane plan ever: he rubs his hands really fast over the sand until he makes a giant pane of glass — yes folks, HE MAKES A PANE OF GLASS. Then he smashes it into four sections and builds a cage around the scorpion. While the other entries on this list might be far more impressive feats of strength, none of them are as remotely batshit-crazy as this one.
5) Deflecting a Falling Moon by Throwing a Bomb at It
In the episode “Eternal Darkness” (at 7:50 in the above video) a bad guy in a Slanket named Darkdream, aided by Evil-lyn and some creepy elf, drags the moon in front of the sun to create an eclipse. To move the moon back, He-Man fills a rock with some explosive crap and throws it at the moon. The rock explodes, the moon moves back to its proper orbit and a generation of kids learns that physics is totally arbitrary.
4) Propping Up a Entire City
In “Trouble in Arcadia” (at 6:50), Adam and Teela are captured by the people of the titular city, where women rule while men are sent to work in the mines. In a pretty significant design flaw, the entire city apparently rests on a single pillar, and when all the mining takes its toll and the pillar buckles, it’s up to He-Man to push it back into place, thus preventing the city from sinking.
3) Throwing Castle Grayskull
“The Taking of Grayskull” is probably the most incoherent, psychedelic, absolutely insane episode of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe — and that’s saying something. The idea is that Skeletor uses a so-called white hole (“it’s like a black hole, only not as dense!”) to transport Grayskull into another dimension. So, after a smattering of adventure and other nonsense, He-Man picks up Grayskull and throws it back to Eternia (the simplest solutions are always best, really). He-Man even hitches a ride back on Grayskull, using a grappling hook, although I don’t want to know where in that furry loincloth he was keeping a hook and half a mile of coiled rope.
2) Moving a Mountain
?In the episode “Journey to Stone City,” Evil-Lyn discovers a Pompeii-like city of stone people and revives its dumb-as-rocks leader, Vokan. The only way to bring the cityfolk back to life is by using a device called the “Life-Bringer,” which Evil-lyn steals and immediately blames on He-Man, setting up a battle between the hero and Vokan. Once the whole mess is sorted out, the Life Bringer is no longer in astronomical alignment, and it’ll be another 1,000 years before it’s lined up again. Impatient fellow that he is, He-Man simply pushes the mountain the Life Bringer’s sitting on to bring it back into alignment.
1) Pushing a Moon
?Another episode, another bizarre plot by the bad guys and an even more bizarre resolution by the good guys. In “Jacob and the Widgets” (never mind who Jacob is), Mer-Man wants corodite, a special metal mined by the hobbit-like Widgets, to make his giant sea monster robots indestructible. Rather than just hiring a hobo to buy it from the Widgets or something, Mer-Man digs a hole beneath the sea to the Widgets’ mine, causing it to flood. He-Man foils the plan, of course, but there’s still the problem of the flooding mine.
He-Man observes that the moon controls the tide. And so, in the most irresponsible — not to mention impossible — act of environmental recklessness of all time, He-Man flies to the moon, stands on the tip of a Wind Raider, and pushes the moon away to lower the tide. He goes back to the surface, plugs the hole, then flies back to the moon and pushes it into its proper orbit.
Meanwhile the entire coastal region of Eternia is no doubt destroyed by tsunamis, and millions are dead. But at least the Widgets have their mine back!
HONORABLE MENTION: Trading Punches with Pre-Crisis Superman
?Of course, most of the actions listed above would have been tame for pre-Crisis Superman, who could juggle planets and fly through time before being de-powered in the mid-1980s. That’s why one of He-Man’s most impressive acts occurred in DC Comics Presents #47 (1982), when he fought Superman for a few rounds (Superman, being vulnerable to magic, was being controlled by Skeletor, of course). Superman won the fight (barely), and was eventually freed from Skeletor’s control and teamed up with He-Man to save the day. Still, the fact that He-Man held his own for a few minutes against pre-Crisis Superman puts him in an elite class of superheroes.