He-Man ("The Most Powerful Man in the Universe!"[1]) is a heroic fictional character in the Masters of the Universe franchise. He is the alter ego of Prince Adam and also the twin brother of She-Ra. The character's name comes from the word he-man, which was once used to describe a strong, masculine and virile male. He-Man and his friends defend Eternia and the secrets of Castle Grayskull from the evil forces of Skeletor.

Fictional character biographyEdit

Early mini-comicsEdit


In the illustrated books released with the first series of toys and drawn by Mark Texeira, He-Man is a barbarian from an Eternian tribe. The planet's inhabitants are dealing with the aftermath of the Great Wars, which devastated the civilizations that once ruled supreme over all lesser beings. The Wars left behind advanced machinery and weaponry known only to select people. An early incarnation of the Sorceress of Castle Grayskull gives He-Man some of these weapons, and he sets out to defend the secrets of Castle Grayskull from the evil villain Skeletor. He-Man possesses one half of the Power Sword; the second half is possessed by Skeletor, who uses it as his main weapon. When joined, the two halves of the Power Sword will provide the key to Castle Grayskull. This is why the two figures' swords could combine into one sword, when the action figures were initially released. In one early illustrated story, He-Man and Skeletor actually united their two Power Sword halves to form the true Power Sword in order to defeat a common enemy.

Filmation eraEdit

By the time the Filmation series was being developed, He-Man's origins had been revised as follows: his true identity is Prince Adam of Eternia, son of King Randor and Queen Marlena who live in the palace of Eternos along with Adam and the rest of their inner circle. Marlena was a lost astronaut from the planet Earth. The Sorceress of Castle Grayskull endows Prince Adam with the power to transform into He-Man, which Adam does by raising his Power Sword and proclaiming: "By the power of Grayskull...I have the power!"

Prince Adam's pet is a cowardly green tiger named Cringer. When Adam becomes He-Man, he similarly transforms Cringer into a brave armored green tiger named Battle Cat. Battle Cat serves as He-Man's steed and fierce fighting companion; like He-Man, he was created prior to his alter ego.

Adam is friendly with the beautiful and strong-willed Teela, the adoptive daughter of his mentor Duncan. Adam and Teela grew up together and now, as Captain of the Guard, Teela is entrusted to protect the prince. She often sees Adam as lazy and cowardly because she is unaware of his alternate identity as He-Man. Teela is revealed to be the only daughter of the Sorceress and the future inheritor of Grayskull; the Sorceress chose adoption for Teela after her father died, when she was just a baby.

Duncan, also known as Man-At-Arms, is He-Man's closest companion and the Eternian royal family's innovator of technology and weapons. In many episodes, Man-At-Arms unveils new and fantastic weapons or devices that help He-Man and his friends.

Castle Grayskull is the source of He-Man's powers. Inside the Castle lives the Sorceress, who grants Prince Adam his transformative abilities, and communicates telepathically with He-Man. The episode "Evil-Lyn's Plot" reveals that she also created He-Man's harness from a rare Eternian mineral called Korodite, which adds to his physical strength.

To protect his family, He-Man keeps his double identity secret, sharing the knowledge only with Man-At-Arms, Orko, Cringer/Battle Cat, and the Sorceress; with the advent of the She-Ra: Princess of Power series, this list is expanded to also include Adora/She-Ra, Spirit/Swift Wind, Light Hope, Loo-Kee, Madame Razz, and Kowl. The original cartoon series also includes the dragon Granamyr and the cosmic enforcer Zodak being in on He-Man's secret. The episode "The Rainbow Warrior" also strongly hints that Queen Marlena has worked out He-Man's secret but will not admit it. He-Man is usually accompanied by an assortment of allies in his battles, such as Ram-Man and Stratos.

The spin-off cartoon series She-Ra: Princess of Power later revealed that Adam has a twin sister, the Princess Adora, a leader in The Great Rebellion against Hordak on the planet Etheria. Adora, like Adam, is given the gift of the power of Grayskull and has her own sword which she uses to transform into She-Ra, Princess of Power. He-Man makes a number of appearances in the She-Ra: Princess of Power television series.

He-Man's chief adversary is Skeletor, a blue-skinned sorcerer with a skull for a head, wearing a cowl. He is skilled in black magic as well as all forms of combat. Though his origin is mysterious, and the cartoon describes him only as a "demon from another dimension," a tie-in comic implies that Skeletor's true identity is Prince Keldor, younger brother of King Randor, thus making him He-Man's uncle. It is revealed in the animated motion picture He-Man and She-Ra: The Secret of the Sword that Skeletor was Hordak's right-hand man up until his capture, and supposed release. Skeletor is accompanied by a group of henchmen who aid with his evil schemes.

According to Lou Scheimer, executive producer of the Filmation animated series, the idea of He-Man having a teenage alter-ego was derived by from the Fawcett/DC Comics character Captain Marvel, about whom Filmation had already produced two TV series: Shazam! and The Kid Superpower Hour with Shazam!. He-Man's twin sister She-Ra was created as a female spin-off, as Captain Marvel's twin sister Mary Marvel had been. [2]

He-Man in live actionEdit

In 1987, Cannon Films produced a Live-action film Masters of the Universe which features Dolph Lundgren in the role of He-Man. Although the film was not received well upon its release, it has developed a strong cult following over recent years.

Although generally portrayed in much the same manner as other media, there were several notable differences in the character of He-Man within the movie. His additional use of a gun in several scenes, rather than only his characteristic sword, caused controversy among some fans. Also, there was no mention of his secret identity of Prince Adam within the film, which some fans have interpreted as an implication that the makers envisioned him as having only one permanent identity, as in the early mini-comics. He is portrayed as a widely recognized hero, regarded as a great leader and Eternia's best hope of survival.

As of 2008 another Masters of the Universe film is in the works and is to be released in 2010. Jemaine Clement, from Flight of the Conchords fame, has been confirmed in the role of Cringer / Battle Cat. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is rumoured to have accepted the role of Orko.[3]

The New Adventures of He-ManEdit

After the demise of the MOTU toy line, Mattel attempted to reinvigorate interest in He-Man by producing a new toy line, simply titled He-Man. The accompanying storyline in the minicomics packaged with the figures explained that He-Man had now left Eternia and pursued Skeletor into the depths of space, where Skeletor had now set his sights on conquering the distant world of Primus, a planet with high technological resources. He-Man was shown to have given up the identity of Prince Adam altogether to permanently become He-Man, basing himself on the world of Primus where he had allied with a team of defenders known as the Galactic Guardians and become their leader. He-Man's appearance was re-designed for the new toy line, with a space helmet and golden armor added to his attire to give him a more futuristic appearance, and his sword was also completely redesigned.

A cartoon series was produced by Jetlag Productions to accompany the toy line, titled The New Adventures of He-Man. Although generally in-keeping with the story line from the mini-comics, this series maintained the double identity of Prince Adam and He-Man. On the world of Primus, Prince Adam posed as a travelling merchant and the nephew of the character of Master Sebrian in order to disguise his secret identity. His transformation oath was also altered slightly to become "By the Power of Eternia".

2002 seriesEdit

To tie-in with a new line of revamped figures based upon the original toyline, a new He-Man cartoon series was produced in 2002-3 by Mike Young Productions, again titled He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. This series retold the MOTU story from scratch from the very start. He-Man's origin was told in a 3-part episode that began the series, in which the 16-year-old Prince Adam is summoned to Castle Grayskull by The Sorceress to take upon the identity of He-Man and the role of Eternia's defender. The portrayal of his character in this series was mostly consistent with Filmation's portrayal, although the character of Prince Adam was shown to be much more brash and youthfully energetic than his 1980s counterpart, to convey the image of a teenage boy saddled with the overwhelming responsibility of defending the entire planet from evil. The second season episode "The Power of Grayskull" also revealed He-Man to be a descendant of King Grayskull, an all-powerful barbarian hero from Eternia's ancient past, who sacrificed his life to save Eternia from the Evil Horde and was the original wielder of the Sword of Power. He was the original owner of Castle Grayskull, and his sword was concealed in the castle for centuries before being given to Prince Adam, who inherits his ancestor's own power which is channeled through the sword (thus giving an alternate meaning for the phrase "By the Power of Grayskull").

History of the He-Man action figureEdit

He-Man action figure

He-Man & Battle Cat (1982).

The Original "Masters of the Universe" toy lineEdit

The first He-Man action figure was released by Mattel in 1981, and had a twist waist and power punch action. The figure came with the grey half of the Power Sword, a battle axe and a shield, together with a removable harness. In 1982 the figure was also released in a set with either Battle Cat or the Wind Raider vehicle. The He-Man figure was released again in 1983 together with Teela and Ram-Man; and the figure was also released in 1986 together with the Jet Sled vehicle.

Starting with the third wave of figures in 1984, a different He-Man variant, and corresponding Skeletor variant, was released with each new wave. The first alternate version was entitled Battle Armor He-Man. The chest contained a springloaded rotating drum bearing three "damage indicators". As before, the power sword and battle axe were included. The figure was also re-released the same year, in a two-pack with Battle Armor Skeletor, and the figure was also available packaged with the Road Ripper vehicle. In 1986, the figure was released again, together with Battle Armor Skeletor and Orko.

Another alternate version was released in 1985, with the name Thunder Punch He-Man. The toy was powered with caps to make a bang when he threw a punch. The power sword, colored mustard gold with this version of the character, and a new design shield (which could carry the power sword) were released with the figure, together with some red caps. "Dragon Blast Skeletor", featuring a water spraying armor and chains was its counterpart. Battle Armor He-Man was re-released with Battle Cat, and again in a collector's pack with Man-at-Arms and Man-E-Faces who was played in real life by Matt Tosunian.

1986 saw the release of another version, named Flying Fists He-Man. The figure's arms moved as his waist rotated. The figure included a spinning trident mace and a rotating shield. A double-pack was later released containing both Flying Fists He-Man and Terror Claws Skeletor.

In 1988, a final version was released for the original toy line, entitled Laser Power He-Man, which lit up He-Man's Power Sword powered by batteries inserted into the back of the figure. The figure was limited to releases in Italy and Spain, although it also appeared in some major department stores in London, England, and is one of the rarest and most highly sought after figures of the toy-line due to its limited release. This figure is also notable in that, whereas previous alternate versions had stuck to the basic original He-Man head, this new version had a completely new head sculpt, inspired in part by He-Man's appearance in the 1987 movie.

It should also be noted that He-Man, along with all of the early figures (bar a few exceptions), was originally released with a hollow rubber 'squeezable' head. In the later days of the line, the He-Man figure, as with a number of the early figures, was altered to have a solid head. The soft head version is the far more common of the two, with the hard head version being relatively scarce. Thunder Punch He-Man and Flying Fists He-Man were released with hard heads; Battle Armor He-Man, like the original version, was originally released with a soft head, but later also appeared with a hard head. Not all countries of production adopted the later hard head alteration.

Actors who have played He-ManEdit

In the 1980s series, He-Man/Adam is voiced by John Erwin, for many the definitive He-Man, a congenial hero with an endless supply of one liners. In the 1987 live-action feature film, he is played by Dolph Lundgren. Gary Chalk provides the voice of He-Man for the 1989 series The New Adventures of He-Man, and later the voice of Man-At-Arms for the 2002 series. He does not provide the voice of Prince Adam; Adam is instead voiced by Doug Parker, unlike the 1983 and 2002 series, where Adam and He-Man were voiced by the same actor. In the 2002 series, He-Man is voiced by Cam Clarke.

Powers and abilitiesEdit

He-Man is characterized by his immense strength. In the intro sequence of the 1980s cartoon series he claims to be "The Most Powerful Man in the Universe". Similar wording is also used in early packaging of He-Man toys. He-Man's strength is an issue rarely tackled and seems to vary depending on the adaptation. In his first DC comics appearance he was able to trade punches with Superman (although Superman is commonly depicted as being vulnerable to magic, and He-Man's powers are magical in nature). And in one episode, he even lifted AND was able to throw Castle Grayskull itself (when it was transported to another dimension), though this was the result of a temporary increase in power. Typical of most adaptations is that He-Man is often shown successfully attempting feats deemed impossible by other characters. Episodes of the original cartoon also depict him as being able to swim at a far faster rate than is humanly possible. It is unknown if there is a limit to how long He-Man can remain He-Man before he reverts back to his original form of Adam, but in the 2002 series, He-Man is shown enduring the brunt of at least two large explosions, which he survives, but reverts back to Adam in the process, suggesting that even He-Man has a limit as to how much abuse he can endure before his superhuman strength and stamina are exhausted.

His physical prowess is not limited to strength, however, and he is also depicted as being extremely fast and acrobatic. These traits do not show themselves in He-Man's movie appearance, but this may have been due to budgetary reasons, as well as the fact that Dolph Lundgren, in the absence of a fitting stunt double, was forced to perform all his own stunts.

On the other hand, He-Man as a character is largely non-violent and usually only resorts to combat as a last resort, often preferring to outsmart his adversaries, his most violent actions typically consist of picking up an enemy and tossing him away like a rag doll, though the 1987 film and 2002 series show him fighting more aggressively. He-Man is also depicted as a leader, most noticeably in the movie adaptation where he is referred to as the leader of the resistance. Sometimes He-Man's intellect appears to cross a point not within his character, but this usually happened in the original 80s cartoon.

He-Man's primary weapon is his sword, but he also uses other weapons, such as a laser-gun in the film, and equipment while battling his foes. His sword is able to deflect bolts of energy both magical and technological. Originally He-Man's primary weapon was an axe. The chest piece on his baldric (battle harness) is made of an Eternian mineral called Korodite that helps add to his physical strength.

Due to his costume he can rarely carry large items with him. The 1980s cartoon depicts He-Man sometimes carrying items in his chest-plate and in some cases in his belt. This has caused some irritation with fans who consider the latter cases as embarrassing to the character. The He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon by Filmation also gives He-Man a number of powers many fans considered silly or over-cartoonish and which in result have not appeared in other versions. Such powers include:

  • He-Man being able to blow, using the full-capacity of his lungs, a gust of wind powerful enough to knock over most opponents (similar to Superman's "super-breath").
  • Able to transform himself into a human tornado (sometimes with the aid of spinning his sword) to divert objects, or even fly short distances on rare occasions ("Evilseed" and "The Shadow of Skeletor" being two such examples).
  • Able to run at high speed, creating a vacuum ("The Once and Future Duke")
  • Able to rub his hands together fast enough to turn sand into glass (as seen in "Temple of the Sun").

There are also dubious feats specific to plot, such as an inexplicable ability to fix a broken chain by merely connecting both ends ("Evil-Lyn's Plot"), to adjust the course of one of Eternia's moons by flying a Wind Raider to it and pushing it ("Jacob and the Widgets"), and shattering/deflecting a falling moon (on a collision course with Eternia) by throwing a rock from the ground at it ("Eternal Darkness").

Other MediaEdit

  • A He-Man parody, He-Bro, appeared in 2006 on the TV show Wonder Showzen which portrays He-Man as a Jewish black man who can stretch his muscles like Plastic Man. The feature stays true to the actual Filmation style.
  • He-Man was briefly spoofed in the fifth season The Simpsons episode "The Front". An animation awards ceremony included a clip of 'Strong-Dar: Master of Akom: The Wedding Episode'. There were physical similarities between the two characters, primarily being blond and muscular.
  • He-Man was parodied in an episode of Round the Bend (a children's TV show shown on CITV in the UK), as Wee-Man and The Masters of The Loo-nyverse.
  • He-Man was briefly seen in the 4th season of Family Guy episode "Brian the Bachelor" jumping on a donkey as Prince Adam, then changing into He-Man, with the donkey morphing into BattleCat, complete with the appropriate music and sound effects and voiced by the original He-Man, John Erwin.
  • He-Man appeared in the Robot Chicken episode "Toy Meets Girl" voiced by Adam Talbot. In the "Where Are They Now" segment, He-Man is shown as a security guard. Tom Root voices He-Man in the episode "Shoe" where He-Man is accidentally killed by Beast Man. In the episode "I'm Trapped," Prince Adam changes into He-Man when Skeletor sends Faker in an attempt to ruin King Randor's birthday party. Seeing as Faker (who everyone thought was the real He-Man) was the life of the party, King Randor had the partygoers decide which they think is the real He-Man and Faker was chosen causing He-Man to end up beheaded next to Skeletor's head.
  • He-Man was satirized by Penny Arcade where Skeletor vandalized his Wikipedia entry.
  • He-Man makes a cameo in the Drawn Together episode "Breakfast Food Killer." He is among the characters seen auditioning to become the next cereal mascot. He is missing his cross pattée here.
  • As well as appearing in every Master of the Universe and New Adventures minicomic he also appeared in The Story of She-Ra, the first She-Ra minicomic.
  • Filipino-comedian Joey De Leon starred in a parody movie entitled She-Man: Mistress of the Universe, which portrays He-Man as a gay warrior equipped with a powerful scepter that magically turns into a sword, a folding fan that can generate powerful winds, shotgun, umbrella and at one time a brightly colored umbrella. Battlecat was replaced by a large colorful butterfly that serves as She-Man's mode of transportation.
  • A Hong Kong children's programme dating back to the 1980s had a character named She-man. He was portrayed by an actor wearing a muscle suit made of foam, and hair styled like Superman's with gel.
  • In the popular MMORPG, World of Warcraft, He-man is spoofed in the vast Naaru city of Shattrath as the Arathi Basins battlegrounds master. His Battle-cat is seen behind him.
  • In the Marvel Comics miniseries Marvel 1985 (which takes place during that year), a friend on the phone talking to the main character Toby Goodman, can be seen wearing a Masters of the Universe t-shirt.
  • In Ghostbusters 2, when Winston Zeddmore and Ray Ztants show up as entertainers in a kid's birthday party, the boy whines about how he rather expected He-Man to come. This is possibly because Filmation's He-Man cartoon was in direct competition with DiC's The Real Ghostbusters. It could also be at stab at Filmation for having their very own team of Ghostbusters.
  • In the action comedy Hot Fuzz (2007), Police Officer Danny Butterman (played by Nick Frost) utters "By the Power of Grayskull!" to express surprise in front of a stockpile of weapons gathered by a local farmer. The expression is used later on in the same way by Sgt. Nicholas Angel (played by Simon Pegg) in front of Danny's DVD collection.

See also Edit

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