He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was a favourite of just about every young kid back in the 80s. As a cartoon closely connected to a toy line, the series had no shortage of cool and colourful characters specifically designed to get us anxious to own the action figure. So many characters came and went on the show it could be hard to keep track; so while you’ll probably remember the first few characters in our list, you might not be so familiar with some of those towards the end…
Who were the original He-Man characters?
- Prince Adam
- Beast Man
- The Sorceress
- Ram Man
- Trap Jaw
1. Prince Adam
The young Prince of Eternia, Adam comes off as a simple-minded and ineffectual young man, but he hides a secret that very few people know: when he holds aloft his mighty sword and cries, “By the power of Grayskull, I have the power!” he transforms into He-Man.
Of course, even when we were kids it was hard to understand why no one realised that Adam and He-Man were the same person, given that they both have the exact same face, haircut and unbelievably musclebound physique. Pretty much the only difference is that He-Man wears a lot less and speaks in a deeper voice.
Adam’s transformation into He-Man may have involved even less of a change in appearance than Clark Kent taking off his glasses to become Superman, but this didn’t make He-Man any less of a superhero. In every episode of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, we waited with bated breath for him to make that transformation and show off his incredible physical prowess.
Whether it was lifting up fallen vehicles, pushing aside giant rocks, or punching a bad guy square in the face, He-Man was always up to the challenge. However, as the cartoon was aimed at young kids, things never got quite so violent as some of us bloodthirsty little tykes would have liked, and his sword in particular never got much use.
No hero is complete without a villain who is every bit as formidable – and Skeletor, the evil lord of Snake Mountain, was the perfect foil to He-Man. Every bit as buff as our hero, but with a bare skull where his face should be, few bad guys had quite so memorable and potentially nightmare-inducing a look as Skeletor.
As terrifying as he could have been, the makers of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe made efforts to ensure Skeletor didn’t freak out the tots in the audience too badly. Voice actor Alan Oppenheimer gave the character a raspy, somewhat comedic voice that ensured we couldn’t take the character too seriously, especially when he would berate his henchmen with the words, “you boob!”
As viewers of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe will recall, the mighty sword of power didn’t only transform Prince Adam into a mighty warrior. It also had a similar effect on Cringer, Adam’s pet cat. He might have been the size of a tiger, but Cringer didn’t have a fraction of the courage we’d expect from those mighty beasts.
Cringer’s green fur and yellow stripes made him clearly stand apart from the big cats of our world; well, that and the fact that he could speak, of course. While we always got the impression that Prince Adam was putting on an act when he played cowardly, in Cringer’s case he truly was a big scaredy-cat until he was magically transformed into his alter-ego…
5. Battle Cat
Adam’s signature battle cry, “by the power of Grayskull, I have the power!” would not only transform him into He-Man – it also turned Cringer into the mighty Battle Cat. Unlike when Adam became He-Man, Cringer’s transformation was more substantial, with the already sizeable feline growing even larger.
Battle Cat also sported some neat red armour, complete with a saddle that enabled He-Man to ride his mighty steed. On top of this, Battle Cat’s personality was also very different from his usual self: where Cringer was constantly shivering and hiding from danger, Battle Cat always had his head held high and couldn’t wait to get into a scrap.
As He-Man’s opening monologue told us at the start of every episode, only three people know the secret of Prince Adam’s true identity. One of those is Man-At-Arms – or, to use his given name, Duncan. A close aide to the King and Queen of Eternia, Man-At-Arms is their most senior soldier and an expert in weapons and vehicles.
As well as being father to Teela, Man-At-Arms is also something of a mentor to Adam/He-Man, always ready to impart some wisdom to help the young hero in his battle against evil. (Presumably the makers of the cartoon series hoped this would encourage the kids watching to treat their own parents with respect, but this didn’t always work!)
7. Beast Man
Any skull-faced super-villain needs a crew of henchmen who are similarly monstrous in appearance. Step forward Beast Man, one of Skeletor’s main lackeys with a perpetual growl, covered from head to toe in red fur.
Just as Skeletor was made a bit of a comedy villain, the makers of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe ensured that Beast Man wasn’t too scary for kids by making him a total dimwit. Despite this, he was of course incredibly strong and had the unique, beastly power of persuading animals to do his evil bidding.
Another member of that exclusive trio who were in on the fact that He-Man and Prince Adam were the same person, Orko was the court magician of Eternia’s palace and a close friend of Adam’s. A diminutive, floating, blue-eared ‘Trollan,’ Orko claimed to have awesome powers as a sorcerer, but had a tendency to get his spells badly wrong.
Although most of the characters in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe were based on the figures from Mattel’s original toy line, Orko was in fact an original character created specifically for the cartoon. Unsurprisingly, the character was so well-loved by young viewers that Mattel wasted no time getting an Orko action figure into production.
To ensure that Masters of the Universe wasn’t a boys-only club, a few significant female characters were also included. For starters, we had Evil-Lyn, whose name alone made it crystal clear which side she was on.
One of Skeletor’s chief underlings (and possibly his love interest, not that young kids wanted to think about such things), Evil-Lyn was considerably smarter than most of the villains, and was a dab hand at black magic.
The daughter of Man-At-Arms (although it was never entirely clear whether or not she was adopted), Teela may have been the prettiest young woman in Eternia, but she was every bit as tough as any of the boys. She was Captain of the Royal Guard, and frequently fought alongside He-Man and Man-At-Arms in battle.
Despite Teela’s closeness to both He-Man and Prince Adam, she was not informed that they were both the same person (although it’s very hard to believe she failed to spot it). At times there was a bit of a will-they won’t-they romantic tension between the characters, but this was never emphasised too much because nothing puts off a pre-teen audience more than kissing.
11. The Sorceress
Even if He-Man was ‘the most powerful man in the universe,’ he owed every last ounce of his power to The Sorceress, the mysterious guardian of Castle Grayskull and keeper of its secrets. An all-knowing mystic, she gave Prince Adam the power sword that makes him He-Man, and as such is the third person to be aware of He-Man’s true identity.
While her role as guardian of Grayskull means she can never leave the castle, the Sorceress does have the ability to transform into a bird, as suggested by her bird-like costume. She is also ultimately revealed to be the true mother of Teela, who is destined to become Sorceress of Grayskull herself.
Another of Skeletor’s evil henchmen, Tri-Klops was a play on the mythic monster the Cyclops, but with a hi-tech twist. While he only used one eye at a time, the upper half of his head revolved, enabling him to switch between three different eyes to suit his purposes.
While his first eye gave him standard vision, his variant eyes had different functions such as the ability to see in the dark, and a telescopic lens. Of course, Tri-Klops wouldn’t have been much of a villain if he wasn’t also able to blast a laser beam out of his eye as well.
13. Ram Man
One of He-Man’s most colourful compatriots, Ram Man fought alongside the heroes of Eternia making use of his most notable attributes: his incredibly strong head, and his unusually springy legs, with which he could fire himself as a projectile weapon against the enemy like a human battering ram.
Though not the sharpest tool in the shed, Ram Man was always a loyal and dependable ally of He-Man. It always made the younger kids in the audience giggle when he made a ‘boing’ noise on bouncing into action. Meanwhile, the older kids and parents were more likely to smirk at his inadvertently rude-sounding name.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe had no shortage of characters who had in some way been physically modified by way of machinery. Perhaps the most extreme example of this was Trap-Jaw, who boasted both a mechanical lower jaw and a missing right arm which could be replaced by a variety of weapons.
One of Skeletor’s most trusted henchmen, Trap-Jaw was another character who had the potential of being a little too scary for kids, hence he too was often portrayed as a simpleton to make him less threatening. Even so, Trap-Jaw may well have been the most intimidating of Skeletor’s crew.
Despite He-Man’s legendary might, he’s lacking in one of those key abilities we tend to see in superheroes: the power of flight. Enter He-Man’s airborne ally Stratos, leader of the Bird People of Avion who take flight both with the power of their winged arms and hi-tech rocket packs.
Anytime He-Man’s adventures took to the skies, Stratos was never far behind, ready to lend a hand. Interestingly, when toymakers Mattel first designed the character they intended to make him a villain, but on the cartoon series he was reconceived as a hero.
An Aquatican originating from Eternia’s Crystal Sea, Mer-Man was another of Skeletor’s henchmen whose greatest skill was his ability to function underwater. Of course, most of the evil plots he got involved in proved to be a bit of a wash-out.
An amphibious humanoid with blue scales and webbed ears and feet, Mer-Man was something of an aquatic counterpart to Beast-Man, but with a greater level of dominion over the underwater realm. Similar to Beast-Man’s ability to command animal life, Mer-Man could exercise similar influence over fish and other sea creatures.
As the changeable eye of Tri-Klops proved popular with the kids, the next logical step was of course a character whose entire face could be changed. Enter Man-E-Faces, who – as the name might suggest – had a variety of visages available under his mighty blue metal helmet.
Man-E-Faces could switch between the faces of a robot, a monster and a regular person. While the character was conceived by Mattel as literally having multiple personalities, in the cartoon he was instead presented as more of an actor who used his different faces to portray different roles when the circumstance called for it.
Much as Beast-Man was a man related to animals and Mer-Man was a man related to fish, their fellow villain Webstor was a man related to spiders. (They couldn’t name him Spider-Man, for fairly obvious reasons.)
One of the later villains introduced on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Webstor was often teamed up with the snake-based Kobra Khan. This duo would make an appearance in The Secret of the Sword, the animated movie which introduced She-Ra.
A reptilian humanoid fighting on the side of Skeletor, Whiplash was named for his most prominent feature: his mighty tail, which could be utilised as a weapon in the manner of a whip. Unlike many of Skeletor’s cronies, however, Whiplash also had a little more brains to go along with his brawn.
In fact, Whiplash came into his own as an adversary to He-Man in his own right. He came from the Demon Zone, a nightmarish realm under the surface of Eternia populated by monsters, most of whom Whiplash was able to command.
He might have a slightly cheeky name, but Buzz-Off was actually one flying insect that we were always pleased to see. Another of He-Man’s airborne allies, Buzz-Off’s flight powers could be very useful in the battle against Skeletor and his henchmen.
Another humanoid crossover with another species, Buzz-Off was one of the Bee People from Eternia’s mystic mountains, who form an allegiance with He-Man when they come under attack from Skeletor.
As we’ve seen, most He-Man characters (be they hero or villain) only need one simple gimmick to work. Fisto has one of the simplest of them all: he’s a mighty warrior with a resplendent beard and an alarmingly oversized armour-plated fist.
It’s never entirely clear whether Fisto’s mighty metal hand is a cybernetic appendage or simply his own natural hand in a suitably massive gauntlet, but either way he was always sure to use it to hit evil where it hurts.