What are the makings of villainy? What terrible alchemy goes into the making of one more heart of evil? Is it something that can be easily detected early on or are some of us somehow just born bad?
It is the oldest topic to trouble mankind. It’s coursed across the arcane podiums of sages and saints alike as humanity strove tirelessly to understand the enigma of Evil. From the time our ancestors crawled out of cavern shelters to gaze up warily upon a setting sun and the inevitable night to hurriedly follow, humanity has obsessed over the fearsome mystery of the darkness and, more importantly, of those who cover themselves in all the powers it provides.
At its barest essence, Evil can be determined by one of two factors. The first deals with an unspeakable wickedness threatening us from the outside of our camp. It’s a mysterious idea, a dangerous one, that climatically differs from the ones we either take comfort in and/or believe will keep us safe. It’s seen in the faces of people who roam outside of our borders, and, according to many, must be dreaded at all costs. Their only reasonable crime: they simply aren’t us and therefore must be mistrusted. That’s the Outside Evil, something we must diligently guard ourselves against.
Then there’s the other evil, one far more intimate and deadlier. It exists much closer and is not found in strange faces or unfamiliar cultures. It’s not an outside conflict threatening to break down the draw bride and invade by any force of strength. Neither is it an alien contact hailing from the silence of outer space. No, it is an evil walking among us already. It takes its seat at our table. It stares back at us in the mirror. It’s an evil far easier to justify because it’s already here among us. It is one of us. It is the Inner Evil.
The best kind of villain manages to embody both kinds of Evil in their ultimate pursuit of gaining power at any cost. It becomes an obsession, a passion-driven need for vengeance, and woe to those who stand in their way. Such was the case for Keldor who suffered a terrible fate.
“Revenge is a dish best served cold.” – Old Klingon proverb
In case you’ve missed part 2 be sure to catch up by clicking here. To recap, last we saw Keldor the throne and crown were robbed of him as he was blamed for the Queen’s murder. Already the crowds rejected him for his blue-skinned ancestry but now the beloved Queen’s death left little chance for him to inherit his rightful place in history.
Now onto the thrilling conclusion of Skeletor’s Origins.
The Loneliness of Evil
Randor, the younger half-brother to Keldor, banished the prince from the kingdom. Some speculate whether this was an act of mercy in order to spare Keldor’s life. After all the crowds were already worked up and more than eager to tear Keldor to pieces if given the chance. Who’s to say? Perhaps Randor’s sentence was moved by compassion. However, it was Randor’s mother who lie dead at Keldor’s feet in the palace. Perhaps enmity was already taking root inside his heart and clouded his judgment.
Whatever the reason behind the sentence, Keldor found himself cast out.
Bereft of kin and kingdom the once-celebrated hero quickly found himself abandoned by the very people he risked his life for in wars and conflicts to keep safe. Destiny wove a cruel pattern before Keldor’s feet. The comforts of his royal heritage lay behind him as if in fading memory. He who would be king became a vagabond forced to master the savage backside of a vicious planet with his loyal pet Panthor inseparable at his side.
But this is the mighty Keldor and not even the harsh wastelands of the more violent regions of Eternia could defeat his resilience. In fact, like maddened prophets of antiquity, the wastelands reshaped the man, drawing out his strength to near lunatic proportions.
Survival of the fittest was the name of the game and Keldor the throne-less was slowly chiseled, bit by bit, into the Lord of Destruction he would eventually become.
He vowed to unite his people and bring them all under one language, one race, and, most of all, one people drawn to an Eternia Keldor could claim as his very own. This solemn oath he carried in his chest as he survived the cruelties of the planet. Until his weary steps brought him to the very mouth of Doom. An abandoned temple lay before him, an edifice raised millennia ago to serve and proclaim the majesty of pure Evil.
The Evil of Hordak
It was not by happenstance Keldor found himself before the forgotten Temple of Hordak. It was designed to happen by an evil being who shaped the ancient world of Eternia long, long ago. Now Hordak is a villainous character MOTU fans will recognize all too well. Many old-school fans will recall he was the primary villain of She-Ra, and, to be perfectly honest that was once the extent of my knowledge concerning the character. But once I got back into MOTU in the early 2000s I was knocked back when I learned just how much more prominent the character is.
Hordak, the tyrannical leader of the dreaded Evil Horde, has a genesis as equally extensive (and disjointed) as Skeletor himself. Fans of the character will tell you he holds an origin worthy of his own article. We won’t be able to go too deeply into his background here and will only focus on the bits that pertain now to Keldor’s destiny and, fully, to that of Skeletor.
Hordak has one of two origins and both are linked to none other than Horde Prime. Now who the fuck is Horde Prime, you may ask? He is an evil essence, the Satan of MOTU is how I always saw him. In the cartoon, he is seen as a fuming dark fog with gigantic metallic arms. He is a sentient mist, the literal power of darkness. The great shadow. No one really was sure what he looks like apart from that back in the day.
Now some hardcore fans will be quick to correct me that Horde Prime did have a character design. Yes, I already hear you. In an obscure minicomic, Horde Prime was illustrated and looked very much like a B-level 50s alien. He’s pretty sweet looking but it’s debatable as to how canon that is. I mean in one reality it’s totally canon I guess. Also, I should add how in that more recent She-Ra show on Netflix he’s a little more fleshed out or so I hear. But goddamn I ‘m too old school and just like to keep him as a mystery.
Why does this matter? Well, when it comes to Hordak he’s said to be either 1) the younger brother of Horde Prime or 2) the actual clone of Horde Prime. So, in either case, he’s a lesser image of Horde Prime. I like that actually. I prefer to think Hordak is a mini-clone of pure evil. He certainly acts the part all too perfectly.
Quick note: MOTU Classics released an actual figure of Horde Prime in which his appearance was left hidden even in the package. Collectors had to open him to finally catch a glimpse of the fiend’s face. There are pics of him online so I won’t ruin anything for you here. I’d rather our readers have their own image of him in their own heads. But for the curious, he is out there. One thing is for certain though: MOTU is not lacking in evil-doers.
But what was Hordak’s purpose?
To uncover that once more we must go back to the elder days when King Grayskull gripped hold of the Power Sword and defended the fate of the universe from all who threatened it. Hordak found himself upon Eternia, an emissary of the Horde Empire, and fully intended to break the planet’s will and bring them into the Evil Horde. Just one more victory.
To his immense surprise, King Grayskull proved to be a far more lethal opponent than Hordak ever anticipated. The King defeated the entire force Hordak brought with him. One encounter with King Grayskull was all it took for the Evil Horde to face defeat and shame. Now Hordak was good and pissed. No one had ever humiliated him so despondently before. He determined to cast an evil spell that would trap the upstart King in a dismal dimension and finally have the last laugh.
King Grayskull is one badass motherfucker who should not be underestimated though. I said it in the last article but I really love this guy. When he held the Power Sword he was invincible. It should be noted that the Sword was freshly forged too. It was eager for battle and was getting its very first taste for blood in those days so it was a viciously powerful weapon.
King Grayskull used the spell against Hordak himself and thereby Hordak and the Evil Horde were trapped in the dimension of Despondos where in wrath and rage Hordak would plot his revenge and eventual return.
From his own exile, Hordak focused all of his malignant thought into a conscious source of red-glowing energy within his ancient Temple and from there reached out to the conflicted mind of Keldor, sensing in the man an untouched talent for immense sorcery as well as an equally cunning mind. Not to mention a kindred bitterness towards the royals of Eternia. What Hordak found in Keldor was the perfect disciple. A true man after his own heart of darkness.
Hordak could use the conflict he sensed within Keldor and fed it with his own malignancy until it festered and nothing of the old prince could be found. That person, the valiant hero, the hopeful heir, all traces of his old self were devoured for the ravenous pursuit of perfecting his knowledge of dark arts. Under Hordak’s tutelage, the hidden magic of his ancestry was unlocked in Keldor and his powers grew expediently.
Hordak fed those growing flames of bitterest hatred until Keldor was all but consumed by them. His life quickly shifted into an ongoing cycle of black magic, demonism, and occult knowledge. Keldor grew strong quickly and Hordak knew well that someday this pupil would use his newfound dark mastery to at long last release him from his interdimensional imprisonment.
It’s an interesting play on the original back story between Skeletor and Hordak from the Filmation days. Even back then Skeletor was said to have been mentored by Hordak, now, with the rebirth series, that connection could be more fully explored.
The Havoc Staff
What sorcerer can fully perfect his craft without the means of a wand though? Powerful as he’d grown Keldor still lacked a crucial piece to his dark legacy. His iconic Havoc Staff, his very own wand.
The final bit of Keldor’s training was at hand and before him was set a dangerous path, a path, should he walk it, would grant him a power he’d never yet thought possible to control. Hordak’s latest lesson was on the subject of magical relics, weapons of great worth, that each had been touched by a sacred power source residing at the core of the planet itself. Known as the star seed, any weapon touched by its might would grant the wielder unsurpassed might and majesty. These weapons contained in them the very energy of Eternia.
In the above panel, you’ll notice Evil Lynn’s famous wand as well as the staff of the Sorceress. Also among them is the renowned Havoc Staff. Hordak reveals that until Keldor claims his own weapon he will never fully be able to concentrate his immense power. Only by it would his power be amplified.
Fed by covetous need Keldor wasted no time in setting forth to claim the Havoc Staff. The mystic staff though was within the possession of an old being known as the Faceless One and claiming it from him would be nothing short of suicidal. Keldor, knowing the risks, set his sights on his goal and entered the thing’s shadowy lair to wrest the staff from the being’s dead hands if need be.
As guardian of the staff the Faceless One was not unaccustomed to traveling fools who thought they could best him in battle and win the relic. Keldor really was no match for this ancient wizard and his mastery of the secrets of the Havoc Staff would have left Keldor in oozing pieces had it not been for a sudden and unexpected turn of the tide.
Trained for battle at the palace and chiseled into a warrior by the horrors of war Keldor was skilled in combat as well as magic. And when the mystic arts proved unsuccessful against his foe Keldor turned to tried and true means of hand-to-hand combat and choke locked the Faceless One in his arms.
It was at that moment when Keldor touched him, a vision transpired before the ancient one’s mind. A vision of the future presented itself, a future involving this young sorcerer and the Faceless One’s daughter, Evil Lynn. How their destiny was intertwined and how someday they would give birth to a son, the Faceless One’s grandchild who would then hold the Havoc Staff.
The Faceless One knew the staff had to remain in his very own bloodline.
Shocked by this revelation the Faceless One relinquished control of the staff for the sake of destiny and at last Keldor was in possession of his iconic weapon. Personally, I never expected the Havoc Staff to have such an intricate storyline of its own. This is the level of passion the writers had for the source material. As an avid reader of Robert E. Howard’s CONAN books, I can honestly say these storylines can stand side by side with the platinum standard of those primo sword and sorcery tales. This is some great stuff, my Nasties.
Keldor was now more powerful than he thought possible. The core energy of Eternia was at his fingertips. Nothing on the planet could hold him back and with his new-found might, Keldor returned to the dark temple victorious. However, with this triumph came pride and as Keldor approached his mentor he opened fire upon the temple, openly defying his dark master, considering himself master of his own fate and to be under no one’s boot.
Defeating his master truly inflated Keldor’s confidence and he set out across the land building a personal army out of the most dangerous criminals and monstrous beings the savage outlands had to offer. Sorcery and a hunger to harm innocents bonded them to Keldor. He was charismatic and very determined. He recognized not only their strengths but also easily could overpower them if challenged. He became their king and they marched behind him against the palace itself.
Side Note: One moment that happens later but one I love is the ‘creation’ of Trap Jaw. You see in the comic panel above he isn’t yet the iconic villain we know him as. Early on he’s known as Kronis. The guy is also Gar but a mean son of a bitch too. He stupidly will someday challenge Skeletor to which Skeletor uses magic to utterly destroy the man’s head and rips his lower jaw right off his face. That’s fucking savage.
So no one felt like challenging Skeletor again I guess. I mention this because (SPOILERS) at the end of Revelation Season 2 we see Triclops and Trap Jaw overpower Skeletor and my eyes just rolled back in my head when it happened. Ugh…whatever I guess. Skeletor is stronger than that.
Cain and Abel Tale
This brings us full circle to the battle we opened with way back when. It was a fresh retelling of a battle between two brothers, Good and Evil, one king challenging another. The royal men at arms were pushed back by Keldor’s band of evil.
The full treachery of the Lord of Destruction was at hand. Here we see at long last the Skeletor we all know. Behind him was a temple in smoking ruins. Before him was a throne he would take by force. And the only one standing between him and his destiny was his younger brother. He would stop at nothing to claim his destiny and his obsession worked to his undoing.
Keldor’s treachery backfired on him when the acid (fully intended for Randor) washed over his own face, baptizing him in agony and harrowing defeat. Ironic, is it not? Randor could not defeat the man but by his own hands came Keldor’s demise.
But the acid did not turn him into Skeletor. Well in a roundabout way, it leads to that. But many, myself included at first, just kinda assumed the acid melted the flesh away, and ta-da! Instant Skeletor! The fact was though he was dying from it. And really is it any surprise? Who could survive acid to the face for fuck’s sake?
Mortally wounded and scarred to the bone, Keldor was forced into a reluctant retreat. He had only one meager hope at his call and quickly he was rushed back to a place he never intended to return to.
Hordak expected his ambitious pupil to return though and so bided his time until the prodigal one darkened his threshold once more. Unfamiliar with the act as he was, none the less Keldor humbled himself before Hordak and pleaded for his life so that he may pay vengeance on those who did this to him. This would be the bargaining chip Hordak would eventually use to make his pupil finally release him when the time was at hand.
Hordak agreed to save the sorcerer’s life. And so Hordak cast a black spell and summoned a demon whom he’d imprisoned long, long ago. Now, this is of particular interest to me. Take a look at the demon Hordak summons and ask yourself if he looks familiar to you.
We’ve seen this guy before. And the writers proved they knew their MOTU stuff by bringing back this face from yesteryear. Here, allow me to refresh your memory. We saw him way back in Part 1.
That’s right. They used the earliest concept Mark Taylor came up with for Skeletor during the early days of MOTU. D-Man, or as he’s known today, Demo Man. The fact that this was the demon the writers/artists chose to be at Hordak’s beck and call brings a smile to my face. It’s all connected in there. It just proves the team took time to learn and know the lore before setting out to put their own spin on the legacy. Something that can’t be said for a lot of people today said to say.
There’s even a Classics figure of this guy! Someone out there really liked him.
Now is that not fucking METAL as all hell? They even include the goddamn Viking skull! Sadly I do not (yet, I stress yet) own this figure. One day I will proudly have him as part of my collection.
So here we have at the birth of Skeletor his ancient past (design) meeting up with him once more to fully create the Lord of Destruction. I want to point out one more thing pertaining to this demonic look. As recent as last year (2022) Mattel released an homage to D-Man in the New Eternia: Skeletor figure. A figure that combines Skeletor with the definite look of his demonic roots.
I just love that. The villain is brought full circle with his destiny. As the demon combined with Keldor new life and energy flowed into his weakened body.
This wasn’t a possession and the demon had no claim or will over Skeletor in the least. He became pure energy to Skeletor, healing him first and foremost, but also filling his veins with an extraordinary surge of magical power. As a result, the demonic fusion changed Keldor’s appearance into a hellish death mask. Whatever lingering tattered shred of Keldor secretly remaining in him was then erased completely. Skeletor now stood in his place, a true demon of darkest destiny.
A demon king now capable of raising his own demonic armies. Again, it all connects back to the original minicomic lore. I really admire the lengths to which the artistic team took to tell a fresh story while drawing from the wellspring already established. From the very beginning, Skeletor was a demon who wanted to raid Eternia with his own demonic legions. Now the circle was complete.
Fans were given a beautiful reshaping of Eternian lore and legends, canons bloomed across the fully forming multiverse and fans can enjoy which of them they find to be most inspiring.
Not one of them is really THE canon to follow. They all work together in so many ways and are simply meant to be enjoyed and shared. Each fan no doubt has the one storyline that means the most to them. And at the end of the day, this was a lore meant for plastic toys kids played with. And kids made up their own stories when they got their MOTU out. I’m just impressed by how deep some of these origin stories go to make Eternia a place you can truly believe in.
If someone decided to make a video game there’s plenty of good stuff to draw from is all I’m saying. HINT!
This was a ton of fun to cover, guys, and thank you if you’ve stayed around for the whole three-part journey! Like me, I’m sure a lot of you grew up loving this world of machines and mysticism. It’s so unlike anything else in the genre.
It’s artful, it’s epic, and it’s timeless. It truly is. With MOTU Classics picking up the banner of Grayskull at the dawning age of a new millennium to walking into either a Target or Walmart to find Origins and Masterverse toys on the shelf today it’s proof the property has life.
In light of recent controversy, I would like to take the middle-finger salute atop my soap box and make this declaration. MOTU will never die. It may rest for a time but as we’ve just seen MOTU always finds a way back because at its heart it is a story we all can relate to. The classic Good vs Evil saga of heroes and villains waging a war for the universe around them.
So what if Origins ends? It won’t stay dead. It can’t. Time’s proven it to be so. And, even though I’m not a fan, Kevin Smith did bring MOTU front and center to the attention of a lot of people. It got people talkin about it all over again.
And for fuck’s hairy sake I woke up this past Tuesday morning just so I could put my hard-earned cash on a mother fucking frog toy made by MOTU. I scored a Frog Monger for myself, the Dungeon Dweller in the flesh, and I’m giddy as fuck about it.
So MOTU is with us and will remain so. The future shows no slowing down either as fans can expect to see Snake Mountain back in stores as well as MOTU Revolution in the works on Netflix. Mattel’s also announced Masterverse editions of the Sorceress, Man-E-Faces, and Shadow Weaver. (Sighs)My poor wallet…
Let’s not forget the planned movie that’s been in the rumor mill for years now. There’s so much potential there and damn it I’m staying hopeful about it being good. Time will tell.
MOTU is undoubtedly my favorite geek kingdom. Out of all the horror nostalgia and all other nerdy things I can talk for hours about I have to say He-Man and Skeletor are at top of the list of things I love geeking out over. It’s got horror in there, cyber-dinos, sorcery and sword fights, science and magical castles. It’s a win in every way for me.
Skeletor is unsurprisingly among my top three favorite villains of all time. I’ve already talked about one, that being Joker, and I have plans for Megatron in a future installment. Skeletor naturally makes up the top three on my list. He was certainly the first villain I was ever exposed to and he left a definite impression.
Adding to his eternal coolness Skeletor once teamed up with Mumra in an incredible crossover between MOTU and Thundercats. In it, Skeletor gets to stick a sword through He-Man’s chest and causes a bad case of the dead to the hero’s health. But does it end there or will He-Man make a comeback? The comic holds the answer
And on that topic look at this amazing combination of Skeletor and Mumra the Everliving down below.
This has to be a figure someday. Peak geekdom right here.
Skeletor’s victories and defeats echo across our minds as told and defined in comics, cartoons, and figures. We can hope the planned movie lives up to the lore we all love. And, I’m adamant about this, where are the video games? They need to finally happen! Given all the lore we have from the franchise they could easily make several of them.
Ok all you royal boobs, I’m getting out of here. This series is far from over though. I have plans to cover quite a few more villains out there, each one worthy of the infamy they’ve acquired over years of dastardly deeds. So be sure to stick around.