Thursday, July 7, 2011

Throwback Thursday - She-Ra: Princess of Power

"For the honor of Greyskull!... I am She-Ra!" Yep, I'm finally following up my uber-popular He-Man post with one focusing on his long-lost twin sister, the striking She-Ra! Or as I like to say, "Um, what, Dad? No, these aren't dolls! They're part of the Masters of the Universe collection!"
Mattel had begun advertising its doll TOY line Princess of Power, fronted by She-Ra, on TV and I believe some of the toys had even popped up at retail, but no one knew yet just WHO this She-Ra person was! Everything was revealed with the theatrical animated movie The Secret of the Sword.
She-Ra was secretly Adora, the twin sister of Prince Adam, He-Man's alter-ego and the front man for the phenomenally successful Masters of the Universe toy line. As was revealed in the movie, when the two were just newborns, the villains Hordak and Skeletor sneaked into the Royal Palace of Eternia and attempted to kidnap both of them, but were thwarted by the arrival of Man-At-Arms. Skeletor was captured, but Hordak escaped into another dimension, known as Etheria Despondos with infant Adora. The Sorceress mindwiped everyone except Man-At-Arms, King Randor and Queen Marlena into forgetting about Adora, who was raised by Hordak on Etheria (located IN the dimension Despondos) to become the top agent in his army The Evil Horde. Adora was fooled into believing that The Horde was GOOD and when she became suspicious at times, was placed under a spell by Hordak's right-hand sorceress Shadow Weaver.
In The Secret of the Sword, He-Man's benefactor, The Sorceress, discovers a magical sword, identical to He-Man's (which is the source of his powers), with the exception of having a blue jewel embedded in it. The sword shows The Sorceress the portal to Etheria, where Adora now resides. The Sorceress quickly dispatches Adam to this parallel dimension to locate her, although she doesn't reveal that the person he is seeking is his sister, of whom he has no knowledge.
Upon reaching Etheria, Adam finds himself in a bar brawl with agents of The Evil Horde and allies himself with Bow, a member of The Great Rebellion. After some homoerotic horseback riding, Bow takes Adam to the mystical Whispering Woods to meet Glimmer and the rest of the Rebellion.

The Whispering Woods are enchanted to keep the Rebels concealed. Should Horde troops attempt to find them, the plants and foliage actually moved around to confuse the villains.

Later, He-Man is captured by The Horde and both his Sword of Power and Adora's Sword of Protection are seized. Once in The Fright Zone, Hordak's base of operations, the Sword of Protection seeks Adora out and allows the Sorceress to communicate with her, which she does to enlighten Adora to the true nature of Hordak.

Adora then breaks free of Shadow Weaver's spell and cries out "For the Honor of Grayskull!... I am She-Ra!"

She then rescues He-Man and quickly discovers that she is also able to transform her normal horse, Spirit, into a winged unicorn named Swift Wind. The rest of the movie consists of He-Man and She-Ra rescuing Glimmer's mother Queen Angella from harpies and paying a return visit to her family back on Eternia. However, Adora/She-Ra realizes that her true purpose is to return to Etheria and help The Great Rebellion free the planet from Hordak's rule.
She-Ra had the same super strength as He-Man, but her powers of "Protection" granted her some other, more subtle abilities, like the power to communicate with animals telepathically and healing powers. Also, her sword, unlike He-Man's, could transform into other tools, like a shield, ladder or pretty much anything else she needed.
Whereas Eternia appears much more technologically advanced, with high tech vehicles and ray guns and such, Etheria appears more agricultural and magically-based. The Horde seem to posses the only advanced technology on the planet, but there seem to be a lot more magic users there than on Eternia.
Here's where things get really muddled. I may have mentioned this in my He-Man post, but the earliest books featuring the Masters of the Universe seem to take place in another continuity, where Eternia is more primitive and savage. The high-tech weaponry used appears to actually be left over from a previous civilization that died out. In this timeline, He-Man was a member of a tribe of cave dwellers. Then the idea of him being the prince of the royal family was introduced and the previous timeline was negated. THEN, the Filmation series began and once again slightly modified, making Eternia much more advanced and civilized. The She-Ra TV show followed along with the previously established Masters series. The toys however... didn't.

The entire She-Ra cartoon centered around She-Ra and her allies battling Hordak and The Evil Horde, most notably, Catra, Mantenna, Leech, Grizzlor, Modulok, Shadow Weaver and Scorpia. However, the mini comics that came with the PoP dolls never mentioned the Horde. The only villain in the books was Catra, who bore very little resemblance to the character from the cartoons.

The male Horde members were introduced in the Masters of the Universe toy line. (The other female Horde members were not made as toys in either series.) The mini comics that came with The Horde toys told a different tale, that these conquerors had been traveling the universe and were now returning to take over Eternia, with no mention of Etheria or She-Ra and The Great Rebellion.

What I didn't know at the time, is that the He-Man cartoon series had ceased production and Filmation was ONLY producing She-Ra at this point. (They were still airing new He-Man episodes, that had been completed prior to She-Ra, but saved and not previously aired.) The He-Man toy line was still around, though, so in order to promote the new He-Man toys, a lot of concepts were introduced on She-Ra's show!
Most notably, the Rock People...
And cyborg elephant Snout Spout. Yup. That happened.
In addition to the continuity between the toys and cartoons no longer making any sense, the most annoying thing about the She-Ra toy line is that the dolls themselves never looked anything like the cartoon characters. I've kind of already addressed this, but check it out:
This is how She-Ra herself looked on the show, white minidress with gold "sun burst" on the front with a jewel in the center that matches that on her sword and two gold "wings" on the upper bodice. She wears a gold tiara with wings on the sides.
Here's the doll. I can somewhat accept that they upped the "frilly factor" making her skirt more ruffly and longer. I hated the addition of frills to her cape, though. I think I cut those off mine. The colors on her bodice are now inverted. The "sun burst" pattern is now white on gold and only has the "wing" pattern over one side, rather than two and of course that also is now white instead of gold. The worst is the head dress, though. It's now HUGE with that shiny holographic sticker on it.
On the cartoon, Adora is wearing a completely different outfit, similar to that worn by Prince Adam, when he wasn't in He-Man mode. In the Masters toy line, a separate Prince Adam action figure was produced to reflect this, but in the Princess of Power line, You were just supposed to... and I forget the specifics, but I think you were supposed to remove her cape and have her wear her headdress as it appears above. Then when she was supposed to be She-Ra, you were supposed to put the cape on and flip the headdress upside down so it looked like she was wearing a mask over her eyes. Lame!!!
The whole PoP line was like that. Almost nothing was as it appeared on TV. Above is the Crystal Castle from the show. Below are two pics of the toy version.
ZERO similarity. Not only that, but the toy was supposed to serve as She-Ra's home, which it wasn't on the show. On the cartoon... presumably, she lived in a tent like the rest of the rebels. Crystal Castle was the home of Light Hope that She-Ra would usually visit once an episode, the same way The Sorceress lived in Castle Grayskull, not He-Man.
As for the dolls, recently unearthed photos seem to show that the characters on the show were based on prototypes of the dolls, which were colored as they appear above and then for whatever reason, the colors were switched in production. The most noticeable is Castaspella who went from a blue and yellow color scheme to solid yellow (or yellow/orange depending on your perception). Maybe the idea was to make the toy line more "girlie" and traditional.

Unfortunately, the Power of Grayskull was starting to wain. A poorly-received live action Masters movie in addition to a glut of He-Man toys clogging up store shelves soon led to the end of that mammoth toy line. Most of Masters of the Universe's target audience had moved on to more "sophisticated" properties like GI Joe and Transformers. Princess of Power continued for two more years. The final wave to arrive in stores, in 1987 are all extremely rare these days.

Interestingly, Mattel introduced a new villain doll that year, but rather than produce Shadow Weaver or Scorpia, two regular villains from the show that fans had been clamoring for, they introduced an all-new character, Entrapta with long, prehensile hair.
Also of note that year, was Netossa, the only Princess of Power character of color. (The Masters line had just prior introduced its first black and "Latino" heroes, Clamp Champ and Rio Blast, respectively and an "Asian" villain Ninjor. They had previously featured another "Asian" foe, Jitsu. I used parentheses because... well, it's an alien world. They don't have an Asia or Latin America, so...)A line for 1988 was solicited, but retailer orders were insufficient to warrant production. 1988 would have seen the introduction of The Star Sisters, Starla, Jewelstar and Tallstar and their pet Glory Bird.
The characters did appear in the above She-Ra magazine and on the cartoon, but sadly never made it to plastic form. Starla appears to be a fairly standard doll.
Jewelstar would have been molded out of translucent glittery plastic and appears to have employed a similar "transforming" effect as the Rock People from the Masters line, ie curling herself up into a ball.
And Tallstar would have employed an elongating effect, similar to that used by Master figure Extendar. But these never came to be and with the cancellation of the Princess of Power line, the concept went dormant for two decades.In 2002, Mattel relaunched Masters of the Universe with hyper-detailed, modern sculpted toys and an all-new cartoon series, hoping to gain a new generation of fans. What they gained, however, was a legion of adult fans who'd played with Masters of the Universe as kids. Adora/She-Ra and her friends were not included in this relaunch, but as with the original toy line, The Evil Horde was, once again cast strictly as foes of He-Man's with no mention made of his heroic sister.
The line unfortunately failed as Mattel followed the typical model in producing boys' action figures, crowding each case assortment with multiple variant He-Man and Skeletor figures and short-packing the unique characters. The adult collectors who comprised the line's main audience, did not want these variant He-Man and Skeletor figures and were only interested in the unique figures. Soon stores were overstocked with He-Man and Skeletors that no one wanted and refused to order more toys when they were stuck with so much stagnant product, and soon the line was canceled.
The relaunch had re-invigorated the He-Man adult fan community, however and Mattel began to produce products aimed solely at this audience. A company called NECA produced a line of "stactions" small, inarticulate statues in scale with the 2002 toy line, which included characters that hadn't been produced by Mattel in that line, including the 2002 revamp of The Sorceress. Then, in 2008, Mattel and the 4 Horsemen, the sculptors of the 2002 toy line, launched Masters of the Universe Classics, a new action figure line, based more on the original toys than the 2002 revamp, offered online only, one new figure per month. The series was a SMASH and the toys tended to sell out within minutes of going on sale. Soon, for the first time in 20 years, new Princess of Power figures appeared, with a cartoon-based Adora figure leading the way! Thus far, not counting The Evil Horde members, the only Princess of Power characters to appear are She-Ra herself, Bow and Catra. The line is a subset within the larger Masters of the Universe line, so the releases are limited to maybe four a year. With ComiCon coming up, fans are hoping that at least one or two new Princess of Power characters will be announced as upcoming additions.
The biggest treat for most fans, though, is that these new figures are modeled on the Filmation animated versions, with only some references to the original toy line, so for many fans, like me, we are finally getting "definitive" versions of these characters that we'd wanted all along, but were never able to own!
So while Princess of Power never proved to be the juggernaut that Masters of the Universe had at it's peak, it is one of the only times an action adventure property has ever been marketed toward the female demographic and likewise, is one of the only "girl" properties to attract attention from young boys. And now, after decades, fans are able to enjoy new product featuring these classic characters, rendered in forms that we'd always dreamed of but were never able to own!


  1. This was an awesome post to read! I've been an avid She-Ra fan since the 80's and wasn't even aware of the Star Sisters! Cool read!

  2. Thanks! I did an article for on the current She-Ra subset of the Masters of the Universe subset. I'll try and post a link to it at some point.

  3. This was I think my first favorite cartoon show when I was little, together with He-Man and Eewoks.. Thing is, I couldn't remember the exact story or I doubt if I really understood the whole story.. LOL! Thank you for making this post... :)

  4. Hi, did Netossa be on she-ra cartoon?