Based on a popular toy line created by Mattel to capture the Star Wars merchandising buzz, He-Man began life as a clay mockup of another action figure and became a bastion of ’80s nostalgia. Yet few recall that the original He-Man and the Masters of the Universe only ran for two years (from 1983-85). Still, the popular series managed to spin off several animated series, including She-Ra: Princess of Power, a 1987 Dolph Lundgren film, a reboot in 2002, and a comic book series.
Jay Oliva – storyboard artist and director extraordinaire for Marvel and DC Universe (Justice League and The Dark Knight Rises I & II) – would like to upend our perception of the beloved yet dorky ’80s do-gooder. And his source of inspiration is the wildly popular HBO series, Game of Thrones.
Oliva lays down his ideas for vast and morally ambiguous Masters of the Universe for the grown-up set on the latest episode of Adi Shankar’s The Bootleg Universe Pitch Show. Reimagined as a sweeping saga with a sic-fi-fantasy twist — which allows for the wacky weaponry seen on the cartoon — the show would primarily follow the adventures of Prince Adam (He-Man). As time passes in the series, the focus would shift to a now fully grown Adora (She-Ra) as she discovers her unique powers and Adam loses his. The show would then alternate story lines as the scourge of Hordak sweeps the planet, converging in one epic battle for Eternia.
Much like Game of Thrones, Oliva’s show would explore a significantly grayer world of Eternia. Unlike the cartoon, He-Man and Prince Adam might even be played by two people, making his alter-ego more plausible (*ahem* Superman). It also could serve to ratchet up tension in the series as King Randor constantly implores his son to be more like He-Man, but Adam can never reveal his true identity. Naturally the kingdom will face challenges from familiar faceless fiends like Skeletor. But as the ancient evil of Hordak rises (a la Lord of the Rings), all races of Eternia will be forced to set aside their differences and band together to save their world.
Building an epic Masters universe is an ambitious undertaking, but Oliva has some intriguing concepts to work with. Using an idea hinted at in the comic series – that of a broken dynasty where Skeletor was once King Randor’s half-brother Keldor and an heir to the throne of Grayskull – would add an extra air of moral ambivalence to the series. His subtext of intolerance between the various racial groups of Eternia also adds depth to the world. Oliva also claims that no one is safe, hinting at killing off King Randor, Queen Marlena, Skeletor, and even She-Ra in the series. He even conceptualizes an “outlaw” He-Man, usurped by Skeletor, who brings about the evil of Hordak in a doomed Herculean quest to retrieve his father from hell.
One of the major hitches to the series will be merging nostalgia with the grown-up universe Oliva has in mind. Much like the new Muppet Show managed to hit and completely miss with its adult take on the beloved series, any Masters of the Universe reboot needs to contend with legions of fans who may or may not want to see the Powers of Grayskull as morally gray. It could be very refreshing to see the dark side of He-Man, though.
Source: Adi Shankar
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