Friday, January 2, 2015

Bitching About Skeletor

Remember when I wrote that huge article on Skeletor?  No?  Refresh yourself HERE.
Well for diverse reasons I don't want to go into because nobody needs to go down that rabbit hole, I was thinking about Skeletor again and came to this conclusion:
I don't like Keldor.
What the hell is with the van dyke?  Is he French or something?
Let me explain, so it doesn't seem like I'm a crazy person.

Before the Masters of the Universe toys hit the shelves there had to be concept drawing and prototype work.  As is common in toy design the concepts and prototypes rarely look like the finished products.  The original look for Skeletor was a hulking brute, more like Beastman would come to look, with a skeletal face covered in a huge beard.  He was pictured with a flail and a sword and with a horn on his head.  The face was not purely skeletal either.  He was more monstrous, essentially.  The final product was the figure we came to know and love that appeared on toy store racks in 1982.  In keeping with the style of children's toys of the era there was not too complicated of a backstory to deal with.  There were good characters and evil characters and Skeletor was the Lord of Destruction.  Thus children were given a plain, simple, easy to understand bad guy.  The He Man figure came with the first minicomic which detailed He Man's origin and mentioned Skeletor's as well.  At this point He Man was the greatest warrior of a jungle tribe who set out to save the planet Eternia from evil and rescued the Sorceress (who was green and wore snake armor, not falcon dress) who gave him his armor and weapons and a flying ram that could warp space.  I shit you not.
Honestly Masters of the Universe had a John Carter vibe to it back then.  Very sword and planet type stuff.  Great Wars, technology and magic side-by-side while swords and blasters are considered of equal martial efficacy.  He-Man's little S&M bondage straps generate a force field.  Which is the only saving grace of that creepy submissive attire, let me tell you.
Some He-Man examples.  I am not showing it here but in that first comic He-Man was a bit of a jerkass as well, given to sarcasm and roid rage.

In that minicomic we were introduced to the being that would become He Man's greatest nemesis: Skeletor!  Skeletor had the two basic motivations of all evil villains of the genre: conquer the world and forcibly marry the girl from the good guy team.  Yes, I'm not making any of this up.  World conquest and rape, subjects you'd think would not sit well with parental action groups.  This was real Snidely Whiplash type stuff.
A missed opportunity from the minicomics.

Now Skeletor takes a moment, as all good villains should, to recount his origin on page 10 of that comic where we learn that he is not native to Eternia, coming from another dimension and that he was forced into Eternia when the "Great Wars" breached the dimensional wall and threw him into Eternia's dimension.  His stated goal is to break into Castle Greyskull, find the two halves of the Power Sword (neither he nor He Man have either piece it seems) and open the gateway to his homeworld to lead his people to Eternia where they will conquer it.  Easy peasy.
Classic evil villain.
How bitchin' is this?
Then shit changed.
I blame Filmation.  One year later (1983) the cartoon He-Man and the Masters of the Universe premiered.  As a devoted player-with-the-toys I sat down to watch it.  From the opening narration with Prince Prissypants telling us how he used his magic sword to become He-Man I lost my shit.  I had a thrombo.  My buddies just didn't understand.  They weren't what you would call "readers".  They had not read the original minicomics that came with their toys.  The dumb bastards did not realize that we were being lied to by the stupid cartoon that apparently thought we needed shit dumbed down for us.
Worse than that, Skeletor was some sort of whinging twat.  His voice was stupid, his plans were stupid, and he was likely to run like a coward when anyone, even Orko (don't get me started on Orko) stood up to him.  This was not Skeletor.
So time passed and no new episodes were produced (a blessing) but the toys were still being made.  By 1987 the minicomics were reflecting the cartoon's canon and in a comic entitled The Search for Keldor the king, Randor, is searching for his missing brother, the titular Keldor and Skeletor is worried about this because if they find out what happened to Keldor it could destroy him.  Or so he claims.  At this point Keldor had not been positively identified as Skeletor.
In 2002 the Mike Young Productions re-imagining of He-Man had it that Skeletor had been a man named Keldor that trained in evil magic under Hordak (who was the villain of the She-Ra cartoon but not in the She-Ra toyline...I don't want to go into that right now) and had his face burned off with acid by Randor before Randor was king.  You know, that old story.  So to save his life Hordak made him into Skeletor.
Yeah.  Bullshit.
Fast forward to 2009 and Mattel released a new Skeletor through their Masters of the Universe Classics line for members of their super-secret collectors club.  The packaging has a short bio for Skeletor.  Mattel seemed to decide to weave all the various media together-their original minicomics, the Filmation cartoon, the MYP cartoon, the various full size comics written by multiple companies, fan service-and came up with the line that Keldor was the half-brother of Randor, he rebelled against the family, got his face burned off, and Hordak, his dark arts master, saved his life by MERGING HIM WITH AN EXTRA-DIMENSIONAL BEING FROM DESPONDOS.  The being was named DEMO-MAN.

Look familiar?
Go back and read the description of the prototype drawings for Skeletor above.
In 2011 the Demo-Man figure was released and on his packaging it adds to the Skeletor backstory by saying that after the merging of Keldor with Demo, Keldor went batshit loco and thought he would open the portal to Despondos to free what he believed where "his people".  Just like in the first ever minicomic.  See how they did that?  Hardcore fans and collectors eat this stuff up, by the way.
"With my new green balls I can finally defeat He-Man, aha ha ha ha <cough> ha!"
Oh, yeah, Demo-Man came with an extra head in case you felt like being a fucktard.  Yet Skeletor, as he was now known, managed to tame the great green beast inside, much like Banner (or an addiction to NyQuil), and became the lovable blue villain we all know today.

Why this Shakespearean drama?  Keldor was Randor's half brother, and the elder brother, but their father did not wish to give him the throne because of his half-breed (Gar, for the record) blood.  So why was daddy dearest getting his freak on with a Gar woman in the first place.  Was he trying to unite the tribes of Eternia?  Was she a mistake from his college days?  Was she a <gasp> concubine?  Fantasy racism is what it is.  Gar are blue therefore evil?  Is this where Skeletor gets his rapey proclivities?  This is unsavory stuff, my friends.
Since He-Man is Prince Adam and Adam is the son of Randor and Randor is the half-brother of Keldor and Keldor is Skeletor this means that Skeletor is He-Man's uncle.  And he wants to kill him.  That's some Hamlet shit right there.  And you thought you needed a genealogy chart to watch Game of Thrones.  And don't forget that She-Ra is Adam's sister but raised in another dimension and that their mother is an astronaut from Earth.  Am I the only one getting an uncomfortable Lucas vibe?  Like the Mattel people put on flannel, grew beards and completely forgot how to write?  Just me?

While I give Mattel their due for blending all the disparate elements together into one origin narrative, because that sells product, I prefer the original Skeletor.  This tragic origin of family betrayal and forbidden love (Evil Lyn for all you shippers out there) is fine but not necessary.  It is a result, more or less, of nostalgia in children now grown to adulthood who, being fans of a geeky genre, obsess about continuity, as all geeky genre fans do-your humble author included.  As he was originally presented Skeletor was like Doctor Doom, a conqueror.  Also he was not of Eternia, but there by an accident of fate and determined to conquer it for HIS PEOPLE.  While he is a tyrant at heart he probably would have been a better monarch than old Randor though.  All the crazy shit that goes down under his administration would not be tolerated under Skeletor the First, overlord of all Eternia.  To me that is better.  He's an alien, not some lich.  Because I know everyone thinks he's a lich.  Pretty buff and healthy looking for a lich, don't you think?

That's my gripe.  Had to get it off my chest.

The single best resource for all of information you could ever want to know about Masters of the Universe across all media is, by the way.  I highly recommend checking it out if you are at all interested in this sort of stuff.
"That eezz, 'ow you say, all mes amis."


  1. List of crimes?
    Rape, world conquest, cattle rustlin', rape...
    You said rape twice.
    I like rape.