Some Sunday nostalgia on the Masters of the Universe cult. First, read this piece about rediscovering He-Man (link via Shruti). I love the references to the homo-eroticism – characters named Ram Man and Fisto and such. It reminds me of the Star Wars light sabres and the onanistic connotations of Han (Hand) Solo's name, as well as Sam and Frodo’s attempts to save their world by destroying the gigantic vagina in The Lord of the Rings.
Samit also writes about He-Man here, accurately pointing out that for many of us boylings in the mid-1980s, playing with those toys was a crucial first step towards metrosexuality years before the term was coined. (“You do realise they’re dolls, don’t you?” my mother would say. “They’re ACTION FIGURES!” I’d growl back.) I must disagree with the young duck on one point: Teela wasn’t hot. She-Ra (He-Man’s twin sister, separated at birth) …now she was some woman. She rode a unicorn named Swift Wind and could turn her sword into a lasso. Excellent!
I picked up my first He-Man toy around the age of eight and contented myself for some months with the few characters that were available in India (Prince Adam/He-Man, Man-at-Arms, Teela, Skeletor, the Sorceress, Beast-Man, a couple of others). But it was during a two-month vacation in London that true nirvana was obtained. In the Toys section on the fourth floor of Selfridges, I discovered why the West called itself the Developed World: here were dozens, perhaps even hundreds of Masters of the Universe characters that I’d never even heard of in India. My cousins and I bought huge numbers and spent hours playing with them, scripting and acting out stories. Each of the figures came accompanied by a 20-page comic book that explained the provenance of the character in question, and this helped us work out our plots. (Those comics, very cheap rip-offs of Tolkien and other sages, were my earliest introductions to a fantasy landscape outside of Enid Blyton’s Toyland and The Enchanted Wood, or the Indian mythology of Amar Chitra Katha.) I even picked up a couple of Masters of the Universe audio-books (to date the only books I've listened to on tape), including one about Mer-Man, lord of the deeps, with fantastic underwater sound effects.
Our favourite characters included the dastardly ssssnake men – like Tanglor, whose long pipe-like arms made him distinctly different in shape and size from any of the other figures; Mosquitor (who had a chest cavity that would fill with a slimy red liquid if you pressed a button at the back); the evil Hordak (who was an even bigger bad-ass than Skeletor), the stinky Stinkor (the toy gave off a faintly unpleasant smell), the awful Clawful and many others.
My appetite was whetted by the fact that a live-action film titled Masters of the Universe was coming out that summer. In London I picked up a promotional book about the film; it had a plot synopsis with movie stills, but more interestingly it had a page featuring info on all the main characters, with blanks where the mug-shots of the characters were supposed to be. You had to gradually fill those blanks by collecting stickers from candy stores – they came with purchases of specific chocolates. As you might guess, I made sure to accompany my aunt each time she went shopping to Tescos that summer. (I only got to watch the film months later on videocassette. It had Dolph Lundgren in the He-Man role and a decent-ish cast including a young Courtney Cox, 10 years before Friends.)
Needless to say, after returning to India with my prize collection I was for a while the star among my He-Man-obsessed friends, none of whom had more than 7-8 of the most basic toys. We set up elaborate games including knocking the figures down with darts and bows and arrows, and playing hide-and-seek with them (it was especially useful to hide the all-green Moss Man among plants in the garden; finding him could take hours).
Then, after a few months we lost interest, turned our attention to other things (the Ramayana/Mahabharata obsession was just setting in), and the toys were tucked into a plastic bag and consigned to the storeroom – until I retrieved them this morning and found that Stinkor still hasn’t lost his stink, nearly 20 years after I bought him.
He-Man memories. Such fun.