What has a beginning shall also have an end. The cycle of this planet and all of its inhabitants are all locked together in this impending truth. We are born and we live our lives happily as we can until one day we join our ancestors beyond the starry veil and learn what all the mystery concerning the other side is all about. Eternia too, in all of her splendid glory, is bound to an astronomic possibility (or probability) that in some distant future, she will witness an end of her own.
The clamor of battle is not unknown to the four corners of Eternia, for from her earliest days the horns of war have rung across her history and persistently haunt her very foundations as lingering echoes. Warlords of darkness have ever assailed the guardians of light in an ongoing conflict to wrest power and control of the universe from Grayskull. Great and terrible have been the battlefields of times past but there is an event in the future that is destined to be unlike anything previously yet witnessed.
A final war is set to undo the current conflict and reset the world of Eternia anew. None will walk away and be the same ever again.
Realistically the battle will never end in our hearts and shall, in all likelihood, go on to outlive our generation; nevertheless, as we’ll soon learn, there is cannon proof of a final battleground already set in place in a distant time on Eternia. And unto it shall rise up dead kings, lost fortresses of immense power, and a deadly union of evil masters which spells the doom of all.
You know I couldn’t just stop where we left off. In my Legendary Villains series when we last saw Skeletor he was fully risen to his truest form, a figure of dark sorcery, and come into his own as the Lord of Destruction. That was his origins and his past explored as thoroughly as I knew how to do. I closed the laptop and finished my coffee, moderately pleased too (I might as well add) with how things wrapped up, and I moved on to other things.
And yet… what about Hordak? Would our readers like to know that outcome? Like would Skeletor ever release his old master from Despondos however reluctantly he may be to do so? And there were other baddies out there I hadn’t mentioned. What of the evil Snake Men? Nah, no, no I’ve written enough and so I moved on.
I actually began my newest topic on the mighty Megatron. But…there was something nagging at me, a voice that wouldn’t let up on my subconscious. It demanded my attention. It made its demands because the saga wasn’t over. And I couldn’t leave things the way they were. Skeletor would not have it you see.
Call it destiny or mere coincidence (if you believe in that) but I was sent a beautiful surprise over the holidays and I am eternally grateful for the gift. I was given a MOTU omnibus full of all the mini-comics that came with figures from the past. This thing is amazing for research purposes and it’s so much easier to fact-check myself now. I really can’t recommend it enough. It’s a must-have for any MOTU fan wanting a deeper look into the early shaping of Eternia and the lore. No, I wasn’t paid by Mattel to promote it either. I just love this thing.
But, to my surprise, and because I expected it to only cover the comics from the ‘80s license, towards the back are comics that were included with certain Classics figures. There is a three-part comic run that covers the final battle of Eternia, at least the Eternia as we all know it from nostalgic memory. That’s right, there’s an endgame in place that changes up everything. It’s an emotional adventure that covers the past and leads the way into a new adventure for the future. There are surprising losses on both sides as well and as I read over the story I knew deep down I couldn’t just sit on it. This thing was just way too hot and by Primus, I had to share it with others.
The story all centers around a massive battle involving everyone possible from across both He-Man and She-Ra’s mega rosters.
And when I say it’s a massive battle I mean this is the Dagor Dagorath or Ragnarök of MOTU. That’s right, the Final Conflict, Armageddon, the war that determines the destiny of all things. One that will crack the pillars of heaven and bring the cosmos crashing down in smoking ruins. Galloping charges thrust into the fray as the Masters deal out a final ditch effort to fully protect the universe or die beneath the marching boots of relentless tyranny and hate.
The opening to this epic three-part tale begins with these grim words:
The heroes of Eternia have been driven underground to the caves of Tundaria. Now, as the renegade Masters of the Universe, they strive to protect the innocent from The Horde, the Snake Men, and Skeletor’s Evil Warriors. These are dark times and the Sorceress of Grayskull is dead.MOTU minicomics
Absolutely chilling. There is no lead-up to the events at present. We are thrown directly into the song of savage battle, much like how the late Robert E. Howard would introduce his readers to the wicked world of Conan where only the brave can stand. Here we see Evil has won and the heroes are in hiding, regrouped, and desperate to make one final lunge against all tyranny they’ve ever had to face.
The world is in peril as all three major evils of Eternia make their move across the lands to conquer and control. The Snake Men have united with the Evil Horde which is already bad enough, but Skeletor’s evil forces scour the land hunting down the broken Masters’ hiding spot. The story opens with a picture of Skeletor making his way secretly into the cavernous ways leading to the heart of the Masters’ HQ.
Ever the cunning one, Skeletor plots to undo his old master and stomp his boot happily into the face of King Hiss. After all, King Hiss has, at this point, driven Skeletor from his throne at Snake Mountain and claimed ownership back from him. We’re not told how that happened in the comics but it was explored in the 200X cartoon. So Skeletor is on a personal mission for revenge.
And the Sorceress has been killed. These are the darkest days of the planet and the greatest threat He-Man has ever encountered. To me, that alone, the Sorceress being dead right at the start, was a shocker. I mean this tale isn’t fucking around at all. And it only gets wilder from here. I’ve said it before but I have to say it again, this is swords and sorcery at its damn finest!
Being the daughter of the Sorceress Teela has taken on the role but lacks both the experience and knowledge her mother had. Fun fact: Teela is more of a clone of the Sorceress. At one point Skeletor meant to clone the Sorceress in order to raise her to be his own minion. But when his attempt failed the Sorceress determined the clone child should be allowed to experience life outside the walls of Castle Grayskull. A life where she could make friends and connect with people, something Teela was able to do. And those bonds made her stronger than she realized.
Actually, come to think of it, I believe this might have been when the Sorceress was in fact the Goddess and not the Sorceress at all. At least not yet. At some point back in the minicomics her original role (the Goddess) was traded for the other but essentially she was the same character. The Goddess had cool green skin and wore sexy cobra armor, that being the only real difference between the two. Well either way that’s how the two women were related to one another in one reality. So some say Teela is the daughter of the Sorceress whereas in another reality she’s her clone.
Whatever the case may be she now finds the pivotal role placed on her shoulders and all of its burdens with it.
To further weigh her down, Teela’s father, Man-at-Arms has been changed into one of the Snake Men and is serving to undo all the Masters personally. The world darkens all around He-Man and his company.
However, at Eternia’s darkest hour, when all seems to be lost and Evil reigns on all sides, ancient prophecies are suddenly fulfilled with the return of past kings who come to lend their swords and might against the enemies of righteousness.
King Randor and his father both return to aid He-Man and the Masters rejoice. Skeletor will soon have to contend with not only He-Man, his nephew, but now his brother and father are both returned from the dead. It’s not the reunion he was expecting.
Along with these old kings, another miracle is in the making. Three archaic towers from Eternia’s ancient past rise out of their slumber and the mighty three edifices of Preternia are restored, beacons of undying hope and power returned to glory.
But the hour of many happy meetings doesn’t last long. The Masters still have a menacing triad of evil masters and all their forces to deal with. Skeletor has proven to be threat enough over the years but with the shocking restoration of King Hiss and the untimely appearance of the Evil Horde things are very grim. Also in a strange twist of fate, King Hiss now holds the Havoc Staff thus multiplying the tyrant’s evil might.
Skeletor is pissed. Being run out of his home at Snake Mountain and losing his staff to Hiss have proven to be unpleasant. In a stroke of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ kind of thinking Skeletor knows that if anyone has the power to defeat the Snake Men it’s none other than He-Man, which is why he’s gone through so much trouble hunting him down.
The new Sorceress reveals to He-Man that this isn’t the first encounter the Masters have had with the Snake Men and – as unstoppable as they may seem – the ancient Masters were able to vanquish them from existence. It is crucial for He-Man to learn the secret used against King Hsss and his minions from days long passed.
Who Is King Hsss?
The Snake Men first appeared back in the original ‘80s toy line and won over the hearts of fans instantly. I remember the utter joy of getting hold of such figures like Tung Lasher, Squeezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz (ok I over did it but I don’t care), and, oh hells yeah, the infamous King Hiss. Let’s be honest the Snake Men were some of the absolute best-looking villains to hit toy stores at the time once again proving how MOTU could completely out-badass itself time and time again.
Rattlor was another favorite of mine. The guy was a mother fuckin’ rattlesnake man of all things and it doesn’t get much more METAL than that, my friends. He also had an extendible head giving him ‘strike’ action against the Masters. I think he had a cool rattlesnake tail too. So the Snake Men were a big deal upon their initial release.
At the time a need for a new bad guy was being passed around at Mattel and someone suggested snakes. The logic behind it was ‘Hey even Indiana Jones is afraid of snakes.’ And so it just took off.
And King Hiss was master over these slithering monsters. He is ancient and evil, a monster pretending to be a man to lure innocent victims to their imminent doom. His exterior skin is very human-like and beguiles all to his actual persona hiding beneath a veiled layer of human flesh. Originally King Hiss was introduced to He-Man and played as a faux friend to the hero in order to win the champion’s trust. But the ruse could not last long and He-Man saw through the fiend’s falsehood real quick.
When King Hiss reveals his true nature the human skin is shed and a lashing body of hissing snakes is exposed underneath. He’s a hissing coil of many vipers, each one sharing the same mind. He is a demon among men, a serpent hiding behind a garden of flesh. It’s so classic and apocalyptic.
Now I’m a proud snake owner and can honestly say my Uru is the most chill little dude ever. Wouldn’t hurt you in the least and is the sweetest snake I’ve ever met. Certainly anything but a symbol of pure evil. The worst thing he’s capable of doing is overeating and getting a bit fat. Oh so scary…
But I get it, people think snakes are scary so it works. It also hits us on a spiritual level, or to employ an archetypal reference of evil just imagine Lucifer lurking in Paradise to bring about the ruination of mankind all the while being in the guise of a serpent. It’s classic and readily recognizable. John Milton’s epic Paradise Lost can’t help but come to mind here.
Snakes being the representation of evil is an archaic motif that’s been refined from as far back as the sacred writings of Genesis to more modern literature like Harry Potter. It resounds within us in many ways. Bottom line: King Hiss was a brilliant new addition to MOTU.
Anyway, the original toy was built in a way that hid the snake’s body beneath a shell-like exterior. When the Classics line finally released their take on the slithering king they ended up making a few different versions. They couldn’t find a way to emulate a snake shedding off human skin and if they had could you imagine how amazing that would’ve been? So ultimately the Four Horsemen ended up giving fans different figures of the character to fully display his devilish metamorphosis.
King Hsss and the Snake Men were not featured in the Filmation cartoon but were the main villains in season 2 of the 200X series where their menace was finally explored. In it, we learn that Snake Mountain was the original lair of King Hsss and his minions. Now that makes sense, but I also love how Skeletor took ownership of the place (years later of course) because it just looked evil AF and scary as all Hell. Totally a Skeletor move.
Fun fact: the giant snake coiled around Snake Mountain is revealed to actually be an ancient serpent god solidified by magic, and King Hsss brings him back to life. It’s so badass and I can’t stop singing the 200X series’ praise. Seriously that just works too well. You look at that giant snake and it’s not too difficult to imagine it could be a petrified god. Sure, why the Hell not? I love it. Why is no one making movies about this?!? This is a gold mine for games and movies!
There’s a lot of mystery surrounding the Snake Men and their evil king with very sparing details out there to help fill in the blanks despite what research I do. To my limited knowledge, King Hsss (and yes, both spellings ‘King Hiss’ and ‘King Hsss’ are correct) hasn’t been given an extensive background story, unlike either Skeletor or Hordak. Oh Hell, even Horde Prime has a deeper background out there. King Hsss is left as a mystery and almost on purpose. As if he’s not supposed to be remembered or something. And that makes him even more fascinating. There’s a mystique and dangerous curiosity about him. And really that’s nothing short of what we’d come to expect out of a slithery character like him.
What little we do actually know about the Snake Men is they’re very ancient and first appeared during the warring reign of King Grayskull. That was about five-thousand years before Prince Adam was born. During a time not unlike what He-Man and the Masters are dealing with now, King Grayskull was met with the powers of both the Snake Men and the Evil Horde. Both forces misjudged the righteous king and met their ends quickly.
To this effect, He-Man must travel back through time and enter Preternia in hopes of learning the secret behind their enemies’ defeat.
So the battle to save the future starts in the past as He-Man heeds the words of the Sorceress and enters a world of dinosaurs and snake demons. But hot on his heels is Skeletor who secretly follows close behind and enters Preternia with plans of his own.
Straight away He-Man finds a band of Snake Men tormenting a captured Bionatops, one of the bio-mechanic dinosaur varieties this world has to offer.
Being warned by the Sorceress to not interfere too much with things in the past, He-Man promptly ignores her and leaps down from his hiding spot and kicks the unsuspecting Snake Men’s asses, then sends them back to their slithering king in shame. He frees the captured bionatop and quickly wins over a new companion. Good thing too because this thing could either have gored him to death or shot his head off.
Unbeknownst to He-Man a powerful friend watches in secret, approving of his valiant rescue of the poor creature and his assault against the Snake Men. We learn this is none other than He-Ro, the most powerful wizard in the universe and a very good ally to have on your side. He-Ro doesn’t introduce himself right away but keeps nearby to observe He-Man’s actions a little further. Something about He-Man reminds He-Ro of King Grayskull.
Meanwhile, Skeletor has seen the whole thing take place and wisely recognizes a golden opportunity at hand. So as He-Man rides out across the prehistoric landscape Skeletor reveals himself to Hiss as an interdimensional demon.
Skeletor knows he can easily crush two birds with one stone here and warns King Hiss about a troublesome uprising at hand and naturally blames the Masters for it. Just then Snake Men return with reports that an upstart human disrupted their fun in the jungles. Someone dared to challenge them at their own game. The words of the skull-faced demon ring true in the king’s ears and with a possible resistance on the rise King Hiss strikes in anger.
Outraged, King Hiss sends forth his evil forces to punish nearby villages and root out the man daring enough to rebel against him. King Hiss isn’t missing out on the fun this time around though and mounts his ferocious Tyrantisaurus Rex and rides out.
Skeletor sits back delighted by all the destruction he’s managed in such little time. With any luck, his enemies will destroy one another leaving way for a hassle-free future for him to rule.
Unfortunately, that’s all the time we have for now otherwise we’ll all be here for hours. And believe me, I could go on for hours more when it comes to this stuff. We’ve only just scratched the surface and this is just the first minicomic in the saga.
There’s plenty more for us to cover in the next part so be sure to keep checking in for the conclusion of the Final Battle saga and the linked fates of He-Man and Skeletor.