You can’t get much more ’80s than Skeletor. The memorable He-Man villain practically defined this era of Saturday Morning cartoons; Shredder was funny, Mumm-Ra was intimidating, and Megatron looked awesome, but Skeletor was somehow able to envelop all three of these qualities!
The character first debuted when Mattel launched the first wave of their He-Man and the Masters of the Universe toy line back in 1982 (with the TV show soon to follow). Much like so many other entries in legendary action figure lines, Skeletor was created strictly to have mass appeal, and then writers were forced to fill in the blanks for the story behind the character.
What they filled in was an incredible villain who some would say has even overtaken his hero in popularity; even those only casually familiar with pop culture can recognize Skeletor’s familiar design and personality. Then there was his iconic voice, brought lovingly to life by Alan Oppenheimer, that we can all still vividly hear in our heads as we type this. With a new Masters of the Universe movie on its way in the near future we figured that fans need a little bit of a refresher course on the legendary villain. Here are 15 Things You Need To Know About Skeletor.
15. He wasn’t the only major villain in the ’80s He-Man cartoon
He-Man and Skeletor go together like peanut butter and jelly: one simply cannot exist without the other. Almost every single Masters of the Universe story worth telling involves the skeletal sorcerer attempting to capture Castle Greyskull and harness its power to take over all of Eternia. All of the He-Man shows, movies, and comics so far have portrayed Skeletor as the clear-cut primary antagonist. Unlike Batman or Spider-Man or the Flash, He-Man didn’t do the whole “villain of the day” thing too often. Instead Prince Adam found himself locked in an eternal battle with Skeletor and his henchmen, week in and week out.
Despite his designation as the show’s main villain, Skeletor was actually only in 71 of the original cartoon’s 130 episodes. This meant that half of the time, He-Man and his friends were going up against other foes. Now, often this simply meant that one of Skeletor’s many minions acted as the episode’s villain, with their boss’ presence still looming large in the background.
Other times, however, a new big bad would make an appearance: The evil Count Marzo appeared a few times throughout the series as a major villain. Every now and then He-Man would have to face a one-off threat like Evilseed, the Game Master, or Shokoti.
14. He and Richard Nixon share an actor
To make any sort of political jokes here would be far too easy and probably would be considered low-hanging fruit. But come on, comparisons between Nixon (considered one of America’s most corrupt Presidents) and Skeletor (a conniving over the top ruler) are jokes that practically write themselves!
The Masters of the Universe movie was anything but masterful; it took the swords and sandals/futuristic setting that made the cartoon so popular and threw it out the window, forcing the heroes to spend a majority of the film in “our world” and playing up the overused fish out of water trope. Also, He-Man was played by Dolph Ludgren, the sidekick Orko was replaced by a really odd-looking troll, and most of Skeletor’s colorful minions were replaced by faceless soldiers.
Just about the only thing that makes Masters of the Universe watchable is Frank Langella’s portrayal of Skeletor. It wasn’t good, per se, but watching the character actor chomp scenery as Skeletor was a delight to watch (especially when you compare it to the stale acting of the rest of the cast). Langella later would move on to play another famous villain (we’re kidding!) in Frost/Nixon, for which he earned a Best Actor nomination for his role as the 37th President of the United States.
13. He’s had to team up with He-Man on multiple occasions
Skeletor isn’t the type of person who likes to play nice. He’s ridiculously arrogant, always boasting about his intelligence and how superior he is to the likes of his underlings. The character’s comically large ego is a defining feature of the Skeletor we all know and love; to think that he would ever put aside his differences for some sort of “greater good” seems like too much to ask. He doesn’t even get along with his fellow villains!
Yet, Skeletor has been forced to team up with his most hated adversary on many occasions. The most famous occasion of the two enemies joining forces is the “Evilseed” episode of the ’80s cartoon, which saw the titular villain of the episode easily defeating both the Masters of the Universe and Skeletor’s forces. Skeletor reaches out to He-Man in desperation and they join forces to bring down Evilseed once and for all.
Most recently, in He-Man: The Eternity War, a version of Skeletor can see into the numerous multiverses of his existence. He claims that in every plane of his existence, there was always a He-Man or She-Ra there to defeat him. Hating to be on the losing side of a battle, Skeletor offers his services to the side of good. Of course, this lasts for all of two seconds, as by the end of the series he gains the power to summon infinite dead soldiers from across time and space in effort to conquer the known universe.
12. The original comic series gave him a drastically different origin
The origins of Skeletor in the ’80s cartoon are still up to debate this day. Though it was hinted at throughout the series and the comics that came after, we were never told the details on the character’s early years; we only know that he has been working for the forces of evil since Prince Adam was just an infant.
The 2002 show attempted to fill in the blanks by reusing an abandoned plot line from the post-Filmation comic books (but we’ll get to that later!). Honestly it might have be better to never know the character’s origin story. It gave Skeletor an aura of mystery and allowed the audience to see him as pure evil, rather sympathize with him.
As mentioned earlier, the toys for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe came out long before the show. Each toy came with a small comic book that detailed the backstory of the figure and featured vastly different origins for each character. He-Man, for example, was a straight-up barbarian rather than royalty. Skeletor was said to be from a race of skeletal beings that hailed from another dimension. During the “Great War,” the villain ended up in Eternia thanks to a rift in the space-time continuum. His main goal in this series was to use the power of Grayskull to reopen the rift and bring his race through to conquer the land.
11. Skeletor was actually second in command to Hordak
During the initial run of the He-Man cartoon Skeletor was seen as the ultimate villain. His loyal servants feared his wrath and he was always portrayed as one of the most powerful sorcerers in all of Eternia (if not the universe). Not to mention that he was one of the few characters who could actually go toe-to-toe with our heroes and not get completely humiliated. Whenever something sinister was afoot, Skeletor always seemed to be behind it.
When Mattel launched its She-Ra: Princess of Power series, coinciding with their new line of toys in 1985, they decided that they needed to one-up the legendary villain. The premiere of the show introduced us to Hordak, the leader of the evil Horde who was hellbent on conquering the known universe. It was also revealed in the premiere that Skeletor wasn’t always the powerful leader that we thought; he started off Hordak’s “favorite pupil” before being left behind during a skirmish and betraying his former master.
10. He got a cybernetic upgrade in the ’90s reboot of the series
Who here remembers The New Adventures of He-Man? We didn’t think so. Despite having a whopping 65-episode season one, the show fell off the radar fairly quickly for casual fans of the series. The plot followed He-Man as he was called on to defend the futuristic planet of Denebria from a group of evil mutants. Naturally, Skeletor ends up on Denebria and allies himself with these new enemies. This incarnation of Masters of the Universe only ran for a single season in 1990.
The Skeletor of The New Adventures of He-Man was a bit different than the one that came before; he was given a makeover to look more realistic and serious, ditching his bright purple hood for a black one and gaining more humanoid features. The character’s iconic high-pitched voice was also replaced by a more subdued and sinister one.
Perhaps the biggest change, however, came in the form of cybernetic upgrades. In the first episode Skeletor is exposed to a large power crystal that bestows upon him a suit of power armor and gives him a more futuristic look. Yeah, we’d much rather have the purple hood and cloak.
9. Skeletor isn’t the laughing stock you think he is
Thanks to his comical nature and the overall family-friendliness of the original show, Skeletor is often looked upon as a bumbling idiot. The character has been an easy target of pop culture jokes through the years and has been reduced to more of a laughing stock of the supervillain world as of late. Worst of all (as you’ll see later in our list) is that it works! Skeletor’s characteristics make him stick out in the minds of anyone who was around at the time and the perfect fodder for parody. But is the character really that laughable?
He may consistently fail to capture Castle Grayskull and defeat his arch enemies, but Skeletor is actually a brilliant inventor, skilled tactician, and a powerful sorcerer. Often the only thing that stands between him and victory is himself. Skeletor has a bad habit of being over confident in his schemes, leading to him missing an exploitable flaw that brings about his downfall.
In the 2002 cartoon and the modern comics the character is portrayed in a much more menacing way than his predecessors. The Skeletor in these series tortures, kills, and mauls his way through anyone who stands in his way. The writers are also able to seamlessly blend the character’s old traits into these new versions without taking away any of the fear factor that comes along with these darker versions.
8. He is consistently one of the funniest characters on Robot Chicken
Yes, we realize that we just spent an entire entry on how not laughable Skeletor is. But we also said that he’s the perfect type of villain for parody! His voice alone is enough material to base countless jokes around. The hit Adult Swim show Robot Chicken captured our nerdy hearts when it debuted in 2005 thanks to the way it lovingly skewered our favorite pop culture characters, and is still going strong 8 seasons later.
Skeletor is easily one of the best non-original character on the show! The character is always portrayed as partaking in some parody of one of his schemes that goes awry, like the time he traveled back in time to kill He-Man’s mother and accidentally killed his own. Or the time that he carpooled to work with the likes of Lex Luthor, Cobra Commander, and Mumm-Ra. Or when he accidentally killed He-Man (“the first recorded murder in Eternia history“) and hastily wrote a suicide note to cover his tracks.
Skeletor is usually joined in these sketches by his loyal servants Beast Man and Evil-Lyn, who point out how pointless his plots are and just how unappreciated they are as henchmen. If you haven’t caught any of these sketches yet, you definitely need to!
7. He has a soft spot for cute animals and children
In a show about barbarian princes fighting a magic skeleton man, He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special took the campiness cake. This very special crossover episode saw Orko accidentally crash-landing on Earth during the Christmas season. He accidentally brings two young children back to Eternia, and they share the story and spirit of Christmas with the Masters of the Universe. Meanwhile the supreme leader Horde Prime tasks Skeletor and Hordak with capturing the children because “the Christmas spirit could prevent his rise to power.” Yeah… it was weird.
Skeletor kidnaps the children and their dog, but his ship is sabotaged by Hordak and he crash-lands on a snowy mountain side. Determined to deliver his captives to Horde Prime, Skeletor and the children begin a journey on foot. Over the course of this journey, the villain is shown to be caring and compassionate about the children and their pet. He makes them coats when they get cold, protects them from a snow monster, and even asks them to explain Christmas. He also refuses to let anyone else but him carry the dog.
In the end, Skeletor has a change of heart and betrays Horde Prime, claiming that he was swallowed up with the “spirit of Christmas” at the time. The villain’s affinity for animals is portrayed in other media, as he often keeps a large cat named Panthor as a pet.
6. He has dark beginnings in the 2002 series
In 2002, Mattel relaunched its Masters of the Universe toy line for a new generation along with a new cartoon series. This version of the show took on a similar tone to the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot, taking a concept that was cartoonish and campy and injecting it with a darker tone. Though the show only lasted two seasons it was praised for reviving He-Man for a new group of children and bringing characters to life that had never been put on screen before.
The Skeletor that appeared in this reboot was given a complete backstory and a more sinister portrayal. The character started off as Keldor, a warlord who was taught dark magic from this show’s version of Hordak. During his initial attempt to conquer Eternia, Keldor came into direct conflict with the future king, Randor. When it appeared that he was going to lose, Keldor threw a vial of acid at his opponent only to have it reflected back in his own face. The villain returned to Hordak with his wound and begged for his life to be spared; the dark sorcerer saved Keldor by turning his head into a floating skull and dubbed him as “Skeletor.” Pretty dark for a children’s show don’t you think?
5. The character has an affinity for advertising
As much as people ridicule him for his voice and personality, everybody loves Skeletor. How could you not? He’s the stereotypical mustache-twirling villain that epitomized the shows of peoples’ youth. He’s also one of those characters that is just a blast to watch! You know that he’s never going to be successful in his endeavors but dang it, he’s gonna try his hardest. Skeletor is perhaps the most iconic character to come out of the Masters of the Universe series, maybe even more so than He-Man.
One of the core principles of marketing is to tap into your audiences’ sense of nostalgia. And what better way to get people talking about your product than by having it endorsed by their favorite childhood villain? A few years back Honda launched a series of commercials featuring Skeletor and He-Man in which he tells viewers that buying a new Honda will bring back the same sense of euphoria they felt when they received his action figure as a child. The company even went so far as to let the character “take over” their twitter account, to much hilarity.
Most recently, Skeletor appeared in a commercial for Money Super Market, where he can’t help but dance for joy over the money that he saved by using the company.
4. Skeletor is a member of the Gar species
In 2012, DC Comics once again tried to give the character of Skeletor an intricate backstory in their He-Man comic series. It had been hinted at for years that Skeletor was not human, but rather a member of a mysterious race that was never explored in the initial show or comics run. It turns out, Skeletor (or Keldor more specifically) is actually a member of the Gar. These beings are not alien or from another dimension; the Gar are natural inhabitants of Eternia but the majority of their species has been wiped out.
The Gar have a long history with Castle Grayskull. Originally inhabitants of a small island in Eternia, King Grayskull turned to the race for help against the dark forces of the Horde one thousand years ago. The Gar supported the king in his killing of Hordak and banishing the Horde to another dimension, but were weary in the war’s aftermath. A small group of Gar prophesied that Grayskull’s rule would bring about Eternia’s destruction. They banded together and assassinated the legendary king, branding their race as traitors for the next thousand years. Of course Skeletor came from these guys.
3. There’s a debate as to whether or not he has a neck
Talk about a pointless debate. Of course Skeletor has a neck! He’s a living skeleton, for crying out loud. Besides, how could he wear a hooded cloak if there was nothing there for it to drape around? Wouldn’t it just fall off? Also, the original action figure clearly shows the character without a cloak and he clearly has a neck. Debate over! Right?
Well, wait just a second. In the 2002 show it clearly states that Skeletor’s head floats on his body. Like, they make a big deal about it. So does this apply to the character retroactively as well? You never see him with his hood all the way down in the original show or comic series, so maybe he never had one to begin with? But then there’s also a scene in the original show where his hood is getting blown back by the wind, but Skeletor’s neck is nowhere to be seen. Why is this so confusing?!
2. His voice actor was the director of the original Westworld park
The smash hit HBO show Westworld has taken the world by storm. Though it hasn’t yet reached the levels of popularity shared by the company’s other shows, like Game of Thrones or The Wire, the series has skyrocketed in popularity since its premiere last year. The show is loosely based on the Michael Crichton movie of the same name, where a futuristic Western-themed park filled with androids goes off the rails and begins to kill its guests. Being HBO, the new version of Westworld is able to ramp up the gore and adult themes that could only barely be touched upon in the 1970s.
The role that Anthony Hopkins plays in HBO’s newest hit was portrayed originally by Alan Oppenheimer, also known as the voice of Skeletor. It’s odd to see Oppenheimer in the part of the Park Director; he’s much more subdued and stern than you’d expect for the man who would go on to become one of the most beloved voice actors of all time.
Sadly, he didn’t get to show off his true acting chops in this role, as this film was one that was mostly forgotten about until recently and the actor went into a celebrated tenure on the small screen. We’d absolutely love to see the 86 year old Oppenheimer make a return to the franchise that kickstarted his career if the showrunners would have it!
1. There’s a 90% chance that he is He-Man’s Uncle
Skeletor and He-Man, related?! These two are arch enemies; their hate for each other as intense as Obi-Wan and Darth Vader, or Batman and the Joker. To think that the two could be born form the same bloodline is insane. Granted, this is only relevant for the ’80s television show. In the 2002 version and 2012 comic series it was made clear that Skeletor was originally a Gar named Keldor and had no relation to the royal family of Eternia whatsoever. The character of Keldor in the original show, however, had a very different role.
In the canon mini-series comic that followed the cancellation of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe in 1986, we find out that Keldor is the long lost brother of He-Man’s father, and it is hinted at that he and Skeletor are one and the same. Sadly, we cannot confirm this with 100% certainty, as it was never officially included in the canon of the series.
During the comic, Skeletor goes to great lengths to stop He-Man and King Randor from discovering “the secret of Keldor.” The mystery is deepened even further when the two heroes find a blurry picture of Keldor via a rip in the space-time continuum and start to make out familiar features before Skeletor barges in and stops them. One of the comic book writers later came out and admitted that Skeletor and Keldor were supposed to be the same person, but the show and comic series got cancelled before the twist could be put into place. Talk about trouble at home…
What do you think of our list? Would it make Skeletor proud? Let us know in the comments!