Us 80s kids tend to be a friendly, understanding bunch, but if you mess with one of our beloved childhood memories then there’s a good chance you will incur the full power of our wrath. There was a generally positive reaction when Netflix announced they were going to resurrect one of our favourite retro cartoon characters in Masters of the Universe: Revelation, but the animated series has proved to be one of the most controversial 80s revivals to hit our TV screens of late. Read on for some facts you might not have known about the show – and please be warned, this article contains spoilers.
20. It’s a direct continuation of the classic 1980s series
Today, any new take on an old property tends to be automatically dubbed a ‘reboot.’ However, when used correctly this label should only apply to something which resets the clock and goes back to the beginning of the story. This is most definitely not the case with the Netflix series Masters of the Universe: Revelation.
It’s a direct continuation of the classic 130-episode He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon that originally aired between 1983 and 1985. Showrunner Kevin Smith has confirmed that Revelation was written as if it were the next episode of the original series – and it completely ignores the underwhelming, largely forgotten 1990 follow up series The New Adventures of He-Man.
19. It’s produced by filmmaker and geek icon Kevin Smith
You might well have heard the name of Masters of the Universe: Revelation showrunner Kevin Smith. A cult icon since the early 90s, Smith broke through as an independent filmmaker with ultra-low budget comedy Clerks, followed by such further cult comedies as Mallrats, Chasing Amy and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (all of which co-star Smith as Silent Bob).
In more recent years Smith has enjoyed huge success as a podcaster, and he’s a prominent figure in film and comic book fandom. Masters of the Universe: Revelation is the largest project Smith has taken on in TV, although he has also directed episodes of such shows as The Flash, Supergirl and The Goldbergs, as well as producing and appearing in reality show Comic Book Men.
18. The cast includes Mark Hamill and Sarah Michelle Gellar
The return to the world of He-Man, Skeletor and company was already enough to draw many viewers to Masters of the Universe: Revelation. What made the animated series was its impressive array of vocal talent. Firstly, the show cast no less than Mark Hamill (the Star Wars legend who is also a prolific voice actor) in the role of He-Man’s arch-nemesis Skeletor.
Nor did the list of Masters of the Universe: Revelation’s big names end there. Other well known voices include Buffy the Vampire Slayer actress Sarah Michelle Gellar as Teela, and 90s teen icon Alicia Silverstone as Queen Marlena. Fans of writer/producer Kevin Smith’s films will also appreciate the presence of his regular collaborators Justin Long and Jason Mewes.
17. Skeletor’s original voice actor can also be heard in the show
While Masters of the Universe: Revelation brings in an all-new voice cast, it does show some reverence to those who came before. Alan Oppenheimer, who voiced Skeletor in the original series in addition to Cringer/Battle Cat, Man-At-Arms and Mer-Man, also has a role in the new Netflix show.
Alan Oppenheimer provides the voice of Moss-Man, who has just a small part to play in three episodes of Revelation. Now in his 90s, Oppenheimer has an impressive resume boasting 325 screen credits to date, many of which are cartoon voice roles. The actor’s other cartoon credits include various roles on The Transformers, She-Ra, Bravestarr, Duck Tales and many more.
16. Several characters from the Masters of the Universe toy line make their animated debut
Another way in which Masters of the Universe: Revelation offers up a treat to fans of the original franchise is the presence of characters who never made it into the original animated series. Lest we forget, Mattel’s Masters of the Universe toy line was created before Filmation’s He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon, and not every character who had a toy also made it to the show.
Kevin Smith and the creative team on Masters of the Universe: Revelation have made a point of rectifying this situation. A number of characters who had previously appeared only in action figure mode make their animated debut in the series. These hitherto unseen characters include Blast-Attak, Scare Glow, Clamp Champ, the dinosaurs Bionatops and Turbodactyls and the robot horse Night Stalker.
15. He-Man and Skeletor’s nipples can be seen for the very first time
In their original design and conception, the Masters of the Universe toy line drew heavily on such existing sword and sorcery adventure heroes as Robert E. Howard’s Conan. However, once it came time to bring this colourful story world into the small screen, TV rules mandated that they had to pare back on certain aspects which were deemed inappropriate for children’s television.
Case in point: in the original He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, no one had any nipples, even the perpetually bare-chested title character and his nemesis Skeletor. Not so in Masters of the Universe: Revelation, which proudly displays both He-Man and Skeletor’s previously invisible mammary papillas. By contrast, female characters Teela, the Sorceress and Evil-Lyn have been given less revealing outfits than before.
14. Critics were kind but fans were less pleased
Critics were kind to Masters of the Universe: Revelation, with RogerEbert.com writing that ‘Smith and his team have threaded the needle that so many reboots fail to, making a show that feels both lovingly consistent with the source and fresh at the same time.’ The show currently sits on a 91% fresh critics’ rating at Rotten Tomatoes – yet this sits side by side with an audience rating of just 41%.
As this illustrates, fan response to the show has been considerably more mixed. Many angry commenters have expressed outrage at the direction in which Masters of the Universe: Revelation takes the well-loved characters of yesteryear. Take this Metacritic user who bemoans, “another day, another terrible Netflix adaptation that takes a giant dump all over the original material.”
13. There are hopes for a He-Man and She-Ra crossover
Back in the 80s, the success of He-Man led to the introduction of female spin-off character She-Ra. In the 2020s, however, things are a little different: She-Ra has been rebooted with Netflix animated series She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, which did not feature He-Man and has no direct link to Masters of the Universe: Revelation.
Nonetheless, given the shared history of He-Man and She-Ra share (they famously appeared together in 1985’s He-Man and She-Ra: The Secret of the Sword plus a Christmas special that same year), we may yet see them together again. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power showrunner Noelle Stevenson has said that she would be interested in seeing a brand new Christmas special featuring the powerful siblings.
12. There is a tie-in comic book series
Masters of the Universe has lived on in a number of different comic book titles over the years, and a new book has been released specifically to tie in with the Netflix series. Published by the renowned Dark Horse Comics, the four issue series Masters of the Universe: Revelation serves as a prequel to the animated series, further filling the gaps between the old and new shows.
It’s fairly commonplace now for major TV shows and movies to get comic book prequels and/or sequels, and it’s familiar territory for Masters of the Universe: Revelation’s showrunner Kevin Smith. Outside of his filmmaking and podcasting, Smith is a famed lover of comics: he’s written many comics of his own, as well as producing TV series Comic Book Men and owning the Jay & Silent Bob’s Secret Stash comic book stores in the US.
11. It’s not the only new He-Man series on Netflix
One complaint that could easily be made of Masters of the Universe: Revelation is that, while it may be a colourful animated TV series, it’s not necessarily ideal for young kids. It’s probably not a bad thing, then, that Netflix decided to release yet another He-Man cartoon on the streaming platform very soon afterwards.
Entitled simply He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, this computer-animated take on the characters was launched on Netflix in September 2021 (roughly midway between the first and second halves of Masters of the Universe: Revelation). By contrast with Kevin Smith’s show, this other He-Man series is aimed squarely at children.
10. Kevin Smith was “heartbroken” by the backlash from fans
As soon as Masters of the Universe: Revelation was announced in December 2019, Kevin Smith insisted the show as being made by the fans, for the fans. Once the first half of season one arrived in July 2021, however, many fans were left very unhappy with what Smith and co had done with the property – not least due to the fact that He-Man and Skeletor abruptly die, leaving Teela and Evil-Lyn as the leads.
Smith reflects, “I honestly felt like, ‘Oh man, any kid who’s ever loved Masters of the Universe who’s an adult now is going to love this’… I never thought we would make people unhappy. In the way that I sat by the sidelines and watched people react to The Last Jedi and thought, ‘Man, people really take this stuff seriously!’ I suddenly found myself at the epicenter of something like that and it was heartbreaking for me because I honestly thought we were giving people the ultimate Masters of the Universe.”
9. Teela actress Sarah Michelle Gellar was attracted by the new show’s less “gender specific” approach
A lot of contemporary takes on time-honoured properties have opted to change things up by increasing the emphasis on previously neglected female characters. Masters of the Universe: Revelation does much the same, making Teela the focal point for much of the series. This has annoyed many fans, but Teela actress Sarah Michelle Gellar was happy the new show was less of a boys-only club.
Gellar remarks of the original He-Man cartoon, “it was very gender specific. There wasn’t something for me; there wasn’t a character that I saw myself in… What’s so wonderful about what they did [with ‘Revelation’] is not only do I see myself in a lot of these female characters, but I also see myself for the first time in He-Man and Skeletor. They’re much closer to characters that I think that we can understand and feel like we have something in common with.”
8. It was intended to be true to the original toy line, not just the cartoon
The original He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon was a largely innocent affair whose kid-friendly content often felt at odds with the warlike nature and appearance of its central characters. By contrast, the backstory created for the original Mattel toy line (which predates the cartoon) was darker and more mature, and it was this that Masters of the Universe: Revelation really sought to do justice to.
As Kevin Smith explains, when he was approached by Netflix and Mattel, Netflix’s Ted Biaselli told him, “‘I yearn to watch the show I thought I was watching in childhood. That’s what I’m looking for here, the same show, but people can die. Can you do that?’” Smith said. “And I was like, ‘That’s the only thing I can do.’”
7. He-Man actor Chris Wood admits he was shocked by He-Man’s sudden death
Masters of the Universe: Revelation sets the stakes high from the very first episode, which sees He-Man and Skeletor enter a mighty battle, which appears to leave both of them dead. Outraged fans of the original series weren’t the only ones taken aback by this: so was Chris Wood, the actor cast in the dual roles of He-Man and Prince Adam.
Wood (best known as Mon-El on TV’s Supergirl) recalls, “I read [the script for episode 1] and I was like, ‘Wait, is that…? Is that how this happens? Is this…is there more?’” Of course, as both Wood and the audience learned, neither He-Man nor Skeletor were truly gone for good, and the conflict between the two remains pivotal to the drama.
6. It’s the first time Skeletor and Evil-Lyn have been directly shown as a couple
Back in the original He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Evil-Lyn was simply another of Skeletor’s underlings. Viewers may have assumed that the two of them were romantically entangled, but this was never stated outright. This is another thing that Masters of the Universe: Revelation handles differently, as there’s no question that the two are in a relationship – and a highly dysfunctional one at that.
The later episodes of Revelation feature a scene which shows Evil-Lyn (voiced by Game of Thrones‘ Lena Heady) kissing Skeletor’s bony face, with a clear implication that things are about to go further. Kevin Smith remarks, “It’s been hinted at everywhere that they are more than just archvillain and sidekick… we wanted to play with her sensuality in that sequence.”
5. Kevin Smith has hit back at complaints the series is too “woke”
After the original He-Man and the Masters of the Universe centred primarily on white male characters, Masters of the Universe: Revelation has made a point of putting a more diverse array of characters on display, with more women and people of colour. This has attracted derision from some more conservative fans of the original series, but showrunner Kevin Smith will have none of this.
Smith snaps, “I know there’s some people that are like, ‘Hey, man, this show’s woke.’ I’m like, all right, great, then so was the original cartoon we’re f***ing sequel-izing. Go watch it again. There are girls in every episode. Deal with it.” As regards the reduced emphasis on He-Man, Smith argues that in the original series, “It wasn’t like He-Man always saved the day. His friends helped him. That was the f***ing point of the show.”
4. It shares a number of voice actors from the Batman cartoons
Mark Hamill takes on the key role of the evil Skeletor in Masters of the Universe: Revelation, but this is not the first iconic villain the Luke Skywalker actor has voiced. Hamill also voiced The Joker on Batman: The Animated Series in the 90s, and his performance has long been hailed as one of the best takes on the infamous Batman bad guy.
Masters of the Universe: Revelation also features two actors who have previously voiced Batman himself: Kevin Conroy (of Batman: The Animated Series) voices Mer-Man, and Diedrich Bader (of Batman: The Brave and the Bold) is King Randor and Trap Jaw. We might also note that Ileena is voiced by Harley Quinn Smith, the daughter of Kevin Smith, whose fictional namesake Harley Quinn was introduced in Batman: The Animated Series.
3. Two forgotten characters from the live-action movie make an appearance
Masters of the Universe: Revelation may have inspired a mixed response, but it’s surely gone down a lot better than the live action Masters of the Universe movie did. The 1987 Cannon Films production starring Dolph Lundgren and Frank Langella displeased many fans by jettisoning vast swathes of franchise lore, and replacing many beloved characters with new, less interesting ones.
Two such new characters introduced for the movie were Skeletor’s sword-wielding henchman Blade, and the minor background character Pigboy. Fans of the movie should be pleased, then, to see these minor and largely forgotten characters make an appearance in Masters of the Universe: Revelation, once again serving under Skeletor.
2. Kevin Smith tried to emulate the Marvel Cinematic Universe
In taking something that was primarily conceived to appeal to young children, approaching it a little more seriously, upping the stakes and gearing it towards adults, Masters of the Universe: Revelation has more than a little in common with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is in no way accidental, as confirmed Marvel aficionado Kevin Smith (who has written for their comic line) drew heavily on their influence.
Smith declares, “I know how to Marvel-ize this s***… I’ve been studying [Marvel Studios boss] Kevin Feige like crazy for 10 years. They give you something that you feel like looks like your childhood. But when you go back and compare it to your childhood, it’s way better. And that’s what we did here.” Alas, as we’ve seen, not all viewers agreed.
1. It’s been left open for another season, if Netflix gives them the green light
Masters of the Universe: Revelation ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, hinting at further adventures ahead involving the Horde (the principal enemies of the She-Ra franchise, indicating a possible crossover). At the time of writing, however, it remains to be seen whether or not a follow-up season to Masters of the Universe: Revelation will be ordered by Netflix.
The streaming service are notoriously secretive about their viewing figures, so it’s hard to say just how many viewers Masters of the Universe: Revelation has drawn. It does seem likely that the negative fan reaction will be taken into account. Netflix are not averse to cancelling high profile shows: recently, they pulled their plug on the live-action Cowboy Bebop mere weeks after the first season premiered.