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The Meteorbs have arrived on Eternia. There goes He-Man’s neighborhood. – Masters of the Universe #2

February 28, 2012

Sometimes I forget how much I loved the He-Man toy line as a kid. It gets lost in the shadow of the Hasbro twin towers, Transformers and G.I. Joe, which dominated 1980s toydom. But Masters of the Universe kind of ruled, with colorful characters (Stinkor, who actually stunk, was a particular favorite — he was scented with patchouli oil, and to this day hippie B.O. sets my STINKOR IS NEAR klaxon blaring), a damn fine cartoon (with a catchy theme tune) and a rich mythology.

If there’s one complaint I can file with the toy gods, it’s that He-Man’s physique has left me playing muscle catch-up my entire life. I didn’t know what an Adonis Complex was until I got older, but I’ve always had a mild case of it, and every push-up and pull-up I’ve done over the years has probably been due to some deep-rooted attempt to match the bare-chested He-Man’s pectoral prowess. IT HAS BEEN AN UPHILL CLIMB.

Anyway. He-Man was great. Established. But I abandoned ship rather fast when the Autobots and Decepticons and Joes and Cobras arrived on the block. And this comic is Exhibit A of why I headed for the lifeboats.

The Meteorbs.

Someone decided that it would be great to combine two of the things that young boys love so much: warriors and, um, hard-boiled eggs. THESE BLOBS WERE THE LAMEST LUMPS OF PLASTIC EVER GRAFTED ONTO AN ESTABLISHED PROPERTY. They generate loathing in the He-Man fan community to this very day. They were so stupid, they are so stupid. So unbelievably stupid. So needlessly stupid.

What kid wouldn’t want an eggish thing that transforms into a rough approximation of a blind man’s impression of an elephant?

The Meteorbs weren’t originally intended for the MOTU line, but instead were transforming oblong doohickeys that were relabeled and flung under that banner in its later days. They were cheaply made, and — no surprise — they wound up sticking out like sore thumbs. If there was a saving grace, it was that the Meteorbs came along too late to be included in the wrapped-up cartoon, and only made a brief, tangential appearance in the sequel/spinoff She-Ra. But, thanks to this comic, they did get an introduction into the He-Man comic book cannon. And what an introduction it is. FANTASTIC. Under Marvel’s kiddie-oriented Star imprint, which gave us the comic stylings of Alf, it arrives all the more puerile. (Though, to be fair, Star did manage to churn out the sublime Spider-Ham, so the imprint isn’t congenitally awful.)

The instigator for this introduction (Script: Mike Carlin, Pencils: Ron Wilson, Inks: Dennis Janke) is that other bemoaned member of the Masters line, the Jawa-like Orko. He’s playing elf-wizard-idiot grabass one day in the palace when he collides with one of Man-At-Arms’ many lethal contraptions:

A stray bolt strikes a meteor in a passing shower, which then crashes to the ground, and Orko, Prince Adam and Cringer go to investigate. They find more than just a smoking hole:

Adam suppresses the urge to laugh at this Easter egg assemblage, the dopiest motorcycle gang to ever exist. Clowns of the Universe. But they obviously have ill intent, so something has to be done. And the evil Meteorbs have no idea who they’re messing with, as Adam is no jug-eared, slack-jawed Prince Charles wannabe. He’s, well, you know:

One of He-Man’s best features was that his heroic transformation didn’t only turn him into a muscley champion of justice, it also heroed up his cowardly pet. If only I could have done the same for my Basset. Battle-Hound.

Before the Eternian turf war rumble starts — “Rule #1: No touching of the hair or face!” — the cavalry arrives:

More of them. The Meteorb Legion. GREAT.

The dividing lines are now clearly drawn. The meteor that crashed to Earth was actually named Rokkon, who was himself playing a little grabass, absolving Orko of a dash of responsibility (contributory negligence and such). Rokkon’s buddies, led by Stonedar (ahem), team up with He-Man — good has an easy time sniffing out good, apparently. And Skeletor, in a constant quest for allies in his battle against both He-Man and Hordak (remember him?), shows up and takes sides with the bad eggs. Their battle prowess, despite some damage that they do to the palace, has him regretting his decision in short order:

When your opponent is using you as the ball in his own personal batting practice, you are losing BIGTIME.

Skeletor has nothing to do but beat a hasty retreat alongside his worthless new minions. If he had lips he’d be dong that thing where you flap them with your index finger.

After the heat of battle, Stonedar and He-Man look as if they’re about to have themselves a little Brokeback Eternia interlude:

TELL ME YOU DO NOT THINK THE SAME THING AFTER THAT LAST PANEL. It looks like He-Man’s checking to make sure the coast is clear, as Man-At-Arms probably strictly adheres to the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of the Eternian armed forces. “I wish I knew how to quit you, Stonedar.”

Alas, no. They’re simply appreciating the renewed grabassery of their dimwitted pals:

And that’s it. The Meteorbs, ladies and gentlemen.

I often wonder how creative staffs feel about working on a title like this, one that owes its existence primarily to the movement of related merchandise. I’m sure they’re happy to have work, especially in an industry that’s hard to break into and in which it’s a constant struggle to remain fully employed. And this is a mag for your young readers, not The Decalogue. But when the word comes down that you have to cram transforming Easter eggs into your storylines, you have to wonder about your career trajectory.

And if He-Man were real, he’d be lamenting going from a DC Comics Presents crossover with Superman to consorting with talking rocks. It’s like Al Pacino busting up parking meters in Donnie Brasco. LOW.

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