Tag Archives: Legendary Villains

Legendary Villains: Skeletor’s Origins (Part 3 of 3) – Rise of the Lord of Destruction!

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.

the goddamn Frog Monger

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.

Manic out.

Legendary Villains: Skeletor’s Origins (Part 2 of 3) – The Secret History of The Lost King

Previously on Masters of the Universe

Skeletor’s dark origins were explored as we delved into the macabre makings that went into his earliest days. How one little boy’s shocking trauma at the face of true death rooted the core concept of what Skeletor would eventually evolve into, and how that self-same concept bloomed into a majestic lore explored across TV screens and the flipping pages of comic panels to give avid fans a fuller picture of the Lord of Destruction. 

For more on that click here.

However, by the end of the gen 1 line, a secret identity was finally revealed with the final mini-comic. An identity, it must be emphasized, fully intended to have been further fleshed out and deeply explored; the missing link between the mystery of Good and Evil. That was none other than Keldor, King Randor’s older (half) brother, and all the back history involved with him.

And yet the bible of MOTU was slammed shut in ’87 then all was silent across Eternia. New waves of toys came to master the shopping aisles, a new craze known as Turtle Mania was upon our generation, and Eternia along with all of her fantastic denizens was put aside. Skeletor and He-Man still strove in conflict over the fate of Castle Grayskull, but this time behind the scenes where we couldn’t see. However, there were some who did not so readily abandon these eternal champions and someone like Skeletor does not go by unannounced for long. His evil reign will always return! 

The secrets of Keldor and the ghastly connection to the Lord of Destruction would not stay forgotten for long. A generation of fans eventually grew up and set aside childish things such as acting far too adult-like and soon these marvelous few brushed aside the glittering dusts from the Eternia bible and determined enough time had gone by and Keldor, the lost king of the ages, would finally be renowned for who he was always meant to be. 

The Long-Lost Brother of King Randor

A new wave of warriors heeded the call, raised the banners, and reopened the jawbridge of Grayskull. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe were getting a much-needed return. After a series of re-runs on TV and a failed live-action motion picture (hey I like it) the time had come for MOTU to be restored back to its shining glory. 

No, we don’t speak of the New Adventures He-Man where they fought in space. Basically, because I never watched it and have no emotional ties to it. But what I can say is it was meant to be a follow-up to the original MOTU cartoon. In that iteration Skeletor was an evil instigator among space mutants and, naturally, he kept up his battle against He-Man. But now onto the crux of what we’re seeking. 

A little studio over on the East Coast called The Four Horsemen, a group of talented artists who grew up loving MOTU, had ideas of revamping the old toy line and adding a continuation story to the lore they all adored.

According to the Four Horsemen’s lore, the battle of the two-sided Sword was over with Skeletor being victorious! Now He-Man, the Sorceress, and Man at Arms found themselves facing a demonic Eternia. These renegades vowed to defeat Skeletor, retake the Power Sword, and ultimately restore peace back to the planet. That’s fucking metal!

This story would have let Eternia grow up alongside all of her fans. A more mature setting where Evil thrived against the measure of Good set against it. I can’t help but think that given the time frame this idea was being passed around, an early millennium, a new age for all of us, one where all the kids who spent hours playing with these toys back in the day had grown up expecting the world to be at peace by the time a new thousand years came along. Sadly though, at the start of this new world and at the dawning crest of our new-found adulthood, New York suffered an unspeakable tragedy and the whole planet was shaken as two towers fell. The world was not a place overflowing with Good as we hoped. We didn’t feel safe anymore. A terrible new trauma assaulted the zeitgeist of our culture and Evil reared its deathly smile. 

This is pure speculation but the thought that our world still suffered at the hands of evildoers, real ones, men and women who saw life as inconsequential to a bigger picture in the mind of fanatical ideals, shook the global psyche. Evil could win sometimes. Evil, in fact, did win every so often. That was terrifying. 

So naturally, that dread would find itself in our art whether intentionally or not. So as coincidental as it could be or not, Castle Grayskull had fallen into the hands of pure Evil and Eternia was under the command of Skeletor! 

Despite it being a great story – jam-packed with potential – the green-lit cartoon did not follow that script. The studio thought a reboot would be much more fitting, as is all too typical now. Nevertheless, they did realize the potential of the new artwork and used it as conceptual inspiration.

This new show also provided very-much needed backstories for many characters. Something a little more concrete than what Filmation was able to provide in the day.

Personal moment: I would love to see someone get their heads out of their asses and turn the Continuation Storyline – the one where Skeletor wields the united Power Sword – into a proper He-Man game! Seriously, what the fuck? Why has no one made a proper MOTU game yet? That continuation idea is prime videogame material. After finishing the outstanding Transformers: Cybertron games (both games are amazing and highly recommended btw!) I’m so pissed there’s not a He-Man game out there like it. Get on this someone! 

An Eternia For A New Generation 

He-Man and the MOTU 200X is honestly great. If you’ve somehow missed it you, as a fan, owe it to yourself to watch some episodes. There are some genuine great storylines included here, some updated animation more akin to the newly-discovered love for anime sweeping pop culture at the time, and the champions we all loved were all back.

And this time around we were getting yet another background story for Skeletor. One much more personal and deeply connected to the royal family. It’s told, as per typical MOTU fashion it now seems, in both cartoon and several comic books. Connecting them all is truly part of the fun though! It’s a spectacular puzzle told a little at a time and for your convenience, I include all that I’ve sleuthed out for you. It’s not perfect but it’s concise.

And it all revolves around a newish character called Keldor. 

The chronological story of Keldor is first located within a comic even though this comic wasn’t released until the 200X series already aired. So we’ll be jumping a little between both mediums to help connect everything into a cohesive picture. 

Now had you tuned in to watch MOTU 200X you’d soon be introduced to Keldor right away from episode 1 in which Keldor invades the kingdom and the valiant Randor (who is not yet crowned king) opposes the evil sorcerer from taking over the council. Keldor’s forces fight like demons and the two men battle with swords and wits. Keldor ends the fight by throwing a vial of green acid at his hated enemy to which Randor reflects back at him with his shield. The flask breaks and the acid returns to Keldor splashing his face in the lethal mixture. The battle comes to an end as Keldor is whisked away by his minions to assumedly die of his wounds. This all takes place in the first few moments of the show. 

The next we see of Keldor he’s cloaked and wields the infamous Havoc Staff revealing himself to be the newly christened Skeletor. I mean it was obvious that’s where they were leading. But the acid is not what melts his face away, as many then assumed. It was literally killing him and would have done so without the interception of yet another classic name to the MOTU alumni. 

This is where the comic book comes in handy. It fills in the lost years, both the before and in-between stuff, that bookend what was seen in that first episode. Cartoon-wise we see Keldor get a facewash of acid and the next time we see him his voice is changed and he’s Skeletor. But there’s a lot more, so much more, to it. Something nothing short of epic as well as cinematic.

So let’s look into the background of Keldor and discover his hatred for the royal family. We’ll also uncover his obsession to rule. 

First things first: Keldor is none other than King Randor’s lost brother and his elder. The two grew up together and there’s an event that sent Keldor away from the palace and when he finally reappears years later – after being assumed dead for decades – he’s the villainous Skeletor in all his glory.  But he was not always an evildoer.

Keldor’s blue skin indicated he was of Gar descent, a race of aliens that landed on Eternia eons ago whilst seeking refuge after their home planet was destroyed. We’ll talk more about that a little later on.

Skeletor/Keldor was in fact the first-born son of the king and the rightful heir to the throne. So how did his half-brother Randor take it from him? 

That’s the drama behind the whole saga. 

According to the comic-canon Keldor and Randor – in their youth – fought alongside one another to battle and defeat enemies of Eternia. Together they were heroes and legends. Both young men were renowned for their valor and strength. No enemy could best either of them and side-by-side the two were unstoppable. There was a brotherly connection between the two and Keldor looked after his little brother’s safety. 

After winning a major victory the two siblings were highly celebrated at the palace for safekeeping the kingdom once again. It’s then announced to all those gathered that Keldor would soon take the throne and rule as king. It’s at that moment a shadowy figure (with fittingly red, glowing eyes) walks about the crowds whispering prejudices in their ears and questioning if the people really want a blue-skinned Gar for a king. 

Before we go any further, just who are the Gar? They’re key to understanding Keldor’s background after all. We’ve all seen MOTU figures with distinctive blue skin such as Skeletor, Trap Jaw, and Sy Klone to mention a few more famous ones. That’s because they’re Gar themselves.

The Gar, as mentioned previously, are a race of outsiders who sought refuge on the shores of Eternia. All that remains of their home planet is a strewn-out asteroid belt marking the desolate site among the stars where a planet once thrived. They were a highly advanced culture and only a sparse few survived when a black hole tore their world apart.  

The barbarian tribes of Preternia stepped outside their modest homes one night to gaze up in bewilderment at celestial sights burning across the starry sky as the Gar ship entered their atmosphere and landed upon a world of stone castles and primitive thinking. The Gar brought with them their mighty technical advancements and soon built shining cities with high-rising buildings that touched the clouds. It was like nothing Preternia ever bore witness to before.   

Primitive people looked upon these strangers with puzzlement and fear, but soon their hearts filled with envy. Vehicles that flew and towers with electricity looked like gloating entitlements. The Gar also carried advanced weapons whereas the primitives held axes or spears. The native people felt intimidated by these strangers from space and soon treated them with hostility once the Gar refused to share their astonishing innovations with them. Strife grew quickly between the two cultures while the cold fog of war settled over their hearts. 

The Great Wars

This war was nothing short of legendary and is actually mentioned way back in the first issue of the original mini-comic. In it, the Goddess bestows upon He-Man magical armor and strange vehicles of science left over from the Great Wars as the cultures who fought against one another died leaving behind their technology. It’s very ominous and makes you wonder what kind of horrors the battles could have been like to leave an entire culture decimated and practically forgotten. Now with MOTU enjoying a rebirth such things as this era of battle and chaos could be further expanded as the Great Wars were finally explored.

It’s a pure spectacle of swords, sorcery, and science combined to shake Preternia to its foundations. It’s the stuff fantasy is built upon. It’s a war that involved both He-Ro and, eventually, the legendary King Grayskull, names familiar to fans I’m sure.

And I just love King Grayskull. I mean the guy is proto-He-Man and his saga takes place during all this amazing conflict. He bears the name for which Castle Grayskull itself is known by. He’s a savage adversary to those who oppose good while also known for his kindness among his allies. I suppose I also envision a King Conan-like character when I think of Grayskull himself, but I do really like this incredible legend and wouldn’t mind a video game where you play as him and fight the snakemen as well as the early days of the Evil Horde! Plus did I mention he rides the mighty Battle Lion into the face of his enemies? Yeah, Prince Adam has Battle Cat but Grayskull has Batte Lion.

King Grayskull being the total badass he is
MOTU 200X cartoon

Now back to the Gar and the Great War

It was an era when dinosaurs still roamed the jungles and plains of Preternia. Into it came flying saucer-like crafts and robotic armour. It’s sci-fi and fantasy fusing together to create a world unlike any other in the universe. Tensions continued to grow between the two differing cultures and a bizarre astral event would soon change the primal landscape of Preternia forever.

The earliest stages of this battle break out after a technological virus from space infects the primitive world of Preternia, spreading its metallic touch to both vegetation and beasts. In effect, primal creatures roaming the land would suddenly be grafted with mechanical attachments and sophisticated weapons of war. Cyborg wildlife arose and the barbarian tribes saw this as the universe answering their call against their enemies.

these toys were just too cool to ignore in the reboot

Everything got a massive upgrade and soon barbarians held superior weapons to rival that of the Gar’s. Not to mention they now rode out on dinosaur cyborgs capable of taking down any armored vehicle the Gar could build. And who wouldn’t want to ride a mighty T-Rex with shoulder canons grafted on it? MOTU has always managed to out-badass itself time and time again. I can hear DIO blaring in the background as I imagine this primal world of magic, dinosaurs, and bizarre science.

you know they had to involve these awesome dino-mounts somehow into the lore

In retaliation, the Gar took up axes and swords, the standard weapon of their barbarian oppressors, and made superior enhancements to them. Lightning-charged spear tips, plasma-heated axe blades, and swords that doubled as lazor guns. Feels like a proper ‘fuck all y’all’ to me actually.

Things were heating up against both sides and once the battle started it became an onslaught of carnage in which both sides suffered massive casualties.

There would be no going back as the Gar justified their acts as self-defense while the natives claimed the same. Both sides blamed the other for provoking war and, in an instant, the world was caught up in bloodshed and mayhem.

Imagine this: a cavalry of triceratops riders stampeding into enemy lines. A mounted T-Rex blasting phasor canons from afar while a fleet of pterodactyls fire upon hover crafts among the clouds. Meanwhile, humming axe blades cauterize necks while lopping off heads as Gar troops enter the fray swinging blades made out of mad science.

Nothing short of pure goddamn METAL!

Sorcerers summon neon-hot lightning blasts out of a thundering sky to burn the barbarian legions. Barbarians release cyber-raptors to speed across a warring landscape to shred, shoot, and leap upon magicians. Both the roar of canons and feral beasts fill the stinking air of battle and thousands litter the ground in bloody clay. The imagination is limitless.

The war was so great that by the end the whole planet was entirely reshaped and Preternia, as it was known, was no more. What was left in the settling cataclysm was what we now know as Eternia today. Had He-Ro not stepped in to put an end to the conflict it’s likely no life would’ve been left at all.

That’s not to say more battles wouldn’t happen. As mentioned before the reign of King Grayskull and his war with King Hiss and, eventually, the Evil Horde would come. But the Great War that broke the world was at its end.

The Gar settled into Eternian culture and many people were able to move on and away from the original strife. But a lot was lost due to a clash of cultures and not everyone was ready to forget no matter how much could be forgiven.

Plenty of people in Eternia still held the Gar responsible for the wars to begin with. There was an inherent distrust towards the Gar and a tendency to envy them. Though technology was now (more or less) widespread at the time of this story the Gar were naturals when it came to magic and that further darkened the outlook of many hearts. 

Keldor’s Banishment

The people mellowed out over the centuries but still, the old distrust of their ancestors ran hotly through their veins and it didn’t take much to push them over the edge. Truly, the Gar had mingled into all aspects of Eternian culture and became part of their society as Keldor’s annunciation bears proof of. Keldor was only half Gar, but, to the prejudiced heart, one drop of ‘stranger’ blood is enough to affect the whole. And, at the prompting of a soon-to-be-announced evil influencer, people began hissing through clenched teeth and booing the King’s chosen heir. As a dark figure worked his way among the crowds tactically sowing bitterness into already miss-trusting hearts the crowds cried against Keldor, openly revealing the long-suppressed contempt lying like a vile worm in their hearts. 

Things were going exactly as Hordak planned. It was his dark influence that poisoned the crowds causing their tumult to grow louder, maddeningly so. 

Randor, offended and angered by how the people disrespected his older brother, turned to be at his brother’s defense only to find his mother dead and in the hands of Keldor. It appeared Keldor killed the Queen. If you ask me I think a little of Hordak’s spell had a hand to play in this for either Keldor purposely killed her in a fit of rage (maybe madness) or it was a strange accident.  

Keldor swore she ran into his weapon and maintained his innocence, but the evidence was damning enough to drive a wedge between him and the whole royal family. Who’s to say? Perhaps the stygian mists of Hordak touched the Queen’s mind too and she threw herself on the blade. Whatever the reasoning the results were precisely as Hordak intended. 

Keldor was accused of murder and the love Randor had for his half-brother smoldered. Keldor, the man destined to be king, was banished from the kingdom and forced to roam the outskirts and wildlands of the planet. With Panthor as his only companion, the two ventured into exile where in his loneliness the rejection of the people and his humiliation took root and his heart darkened.

The days of his exile will be explored in the conclusion of Skeletor’s origins and history.

That was a lot to take in. A lot to research too but a ton of fun doing so!

Reworking Skeletor’s origin and introducing the character of Keldor brings a lot more depth to his background. I like the climatic drama involved with the royal family, how it’s shattered, and, ultimately, became a brother-against-brother story like Cain and Abel. Skeletor’s motives are a little more ironed out here. His determination to rule is a lot more understandable from this perspective. It is his given birthright and ultimately he’s striving to claim what was taken from him.

He was chosen to be king after all. But now becomes an exiled king without a kingdom, rejected by the people for his half-blooded Gar ancestry, and shunned by his family for a crime he wasn’t responsible for. All the while having the hand of Hordak working against him.

Not to mention that according to this storyline essentially He-Man is in a fight against his uncle over the fate of the universe when it comes to MOTU. I love that kind of drama. Shakespearean really.

Fret not though this isn’t the end. Far from it in fact. We still have a ways to go for Skeletor is on the horizon of Keldor’s dark descent.  So stay tuned in for the thrilling conclusion of the fallen king who would become the feared Lord of Destruction.

Manic out!

Legendary Villains: Skeletor (Part 1 of 3) -Early Origins and Lore

The ancient rivalry between Skeletor and He-Man rages eternally across space and time. Blades meet in ferocious battle and brighten the cosmos with their erupting sparks. It’s a timeless tale of swords and sorcery, a tale as old as mankind. It is a thrilling reincarnation of the old Good vs Evil morality play. And it all took place before our little eyes right on the center stage of our living rooms. The magic words “By the Power of Grayskull” unlocked the secrets of the cosmos and a fantastical world would unfold. Toys, cartoons, and comics all fueled the ever-lasting battle for Eternia over our lives. For many, it introduced us to the esoteric concepts of Good and Evil as well as the hefty responsibility of power. 

In this new series dedicated entirely to villains, we’ll be discussing the devious merits of villainy and the loneliness of Evil. Their victories, their defeats, and, most importantly, their origins and the roots of wickedness. Where did they come from and what is the end game for some of our favorite bad guys? That and more awaits!

And who better to start this off with than Skeletor, the Lord of Destruction himself?

It truly goes without saying any hero worth his salt needs a significant villain. An embodiment of darkness and someone to upset the tranquility of life. A definite negative to the heroic positive. An opposite that matches the hero in some way and provides threats for our champion to face. If the hero is all about selfless sacrifice the villain is about selfish conquest and will slaughter anyone to make it happen. 

For many of us, Skeletor was our first look into the face of pure evil. And what a visage it was! There was no hiding his malice, no denying his diabolic intentions. He (with the possible exception of Darth Vader) was our first villain and his pursuit was nothing short of obtaining the celestial power of the universe eternal to play with at his will. 

Skeletor is the perfect villain. You look at him and just know he’s pure evil. His face is that of living death beneath a sorcerer-hood. His weapon is crowned with the head of Baphomet and bears the name of Havoc Staff, a creation of pure sorcery. He’s singular-minded in his purpose to crush, kill, and ruin all who defy him. And his body of pure muscles reveals lunatic self-discipline. He is evil through and through. 

Many evil doers set goals towards wealth, influence, or world domination. Skeletor on the other hand seeks nothing short of ruling the entire universe and will stop at nothing until he, at last, holds the Power of Grayskull in his hands. Woe be to those foolish enough to stand in his way.

“Yes, I feel it! The power fills me… I feel the universe within me. I am, I am a part of the cosmos. Its energy flows, flows through me. And what consequence are you now? This planet, these people, they are nothing to me. The universe is power! Pure, unstoppable Power! And I am that force. I am that Power!” Skeletor (Frank Langella) Master of the Universe (1987)

concept art for Skeletor, image via Canon.

Origins Rooted In Macabre Horror

Fittingly for one such as Skeletor his origins reach out of a nocturnal hall of shadows, twistedness, and decaying fear. The concept artist (Mark Taylor) behind the iconic design for Skeletor recalls visiting a creepy funhouse as a kid at Pike’s Amusement Park where an event would leave a mark on his subconscious for years to come.

Mark Taylor’s early concept design of Skeletor

He recalls how the further down the dark corridor he traveled the air soured ahead of him as if he were walking toward an open grave. The acute smell of rot grew more cumbersome until a skeleton dropped from a hidden door in the ceiling and dangled grotesquely before his horrified eyes.

The smell of the macabre sight was overwhelming and young Taylor knew he was looking at a real human corpse, and years later it would be confirmed he was right. The skeletal face stared at him with lifeless sight and blocked the child’s path. He swears it was the scariest thing he’d ever seen and, years later, admits that’s where the persona of Skeletor took root in his subconscious.  

early concept art for He-Man and Skeletor via artist Mark Taylor

Taylor’s further attributed his inspirations come from the scandalous horror comics of EC. That’s right the comic company banned for being much too graphic for polite society’s eyes played a hand in Skeletor’s beginning. Now our readers will gladly recognize the heinous works of EC Comics, the guys who made Tales From the Crypt and the Vault of Horror (to name a few) are well beloved around here.

image via EC Comics

Whether it’s grizzly depictions of scarred killers mutilating innocent victims, or the rotting undead rising out of wormy graves to feed on warm human guts, their images linger in the soul. Who can forget the devilish monsters brought to life by pen and paper under the EC seal of macabre quality? Most of us here were born in the ‘80s and EC Comics were already far long gone by then but even we recognized the art and wonder these old comics held in them. I remember finding one of my dad’s old EC comics and was disgusted by what I saw in there. I, being a child psychopath, needed to see more of course. So EC Comics – in part – helped inspire the conceptional-design of MOTU.

Fun Fact: in his earliest genesis, Skeletor was originally known as D-Man or ‘demon.’ And as you can see by this grizzly concept sketch EC was heavily part of his character. You can definitely see Skeletor in the face, but there’s a strange other-worldly nature to the design too. Something almost alien. This early-on concept manages to be even more ghastly than the finished product.

early Skeletor concept

Mark Taylor intended Skeletor to be both the very essence of Evil and the manifestation of fear. And who can deny it? There’s something dreadfully hypnotic about Skeletor. A demonic charm that enthralls the attention and has never really let us go. 

Skeletor’s origins may have started as one boy’s initial jump scare back at an amusement park, but as his background fleshed out and grew it transcended generations and rose above and beyond what anyone thought a small plastic toy could ever do.

What are the basics?

Skeletor is the arch-enemy of He-Man. Skeletor is the devious bad guy at Snake Mountain and has one goal in mind: to take control of Castle Grayskull.  He is a skilled swordsman as well as a cunning sorcerer. He’s a powerful warlord with an army of demons at his command. He is a very real and ever-present threat to all life.

Fans of the cartoon also know him as a cackling wiseass whose plans never quite turn out how he intends. He’s always bitching out his lackeys and being a constant thorn in King Randor’s side. In pop culture, this is his most recognizable identity.

Nevertheless, as we’ll be discussing, Skeletor’s legacy has spread out from the animated campiness and allowed him to go all-out Hellish.  Not that there’s anything wrong with cartoonish camp. I just happen to like my Skeletor a little darker is all.

Early Origin Story

Shortly lived as it was, according to the earliest conceptual work (and the mini-comics) Skeletor was from an evil dimension where the hellish denizens looked uncannily similar to him. We’re not told much about his home planet or dimension. It very well could be Hell or a version of Hell in that part of the Universe. Now interestingly enough this ‘alien’ or outsider background hasn’t exactly left Skeletor as his lore later developed and found itself at the heart of his origins in the updated 200X series, but we’ll get all into that a bit later on. 

So overall Skeletor is a Hellish entity that entered into the calm beauty of Eternia with the sole plan to rule the universe.  His archenemy though has a few different origin stories.

Admittedly each of the original comics holds different explanations as to how He-Man became He-Man. At first, he was a barbarian (but an even earlier background had him originally raised by apes) who walked away from his village and wound up in the favor of the Goddess who bestowed upon him magical armor and weapons. Weapons and armor Skeletor and his evil minions coveted and sought to steal.

Originally it was this armour of the Goddess that made He-Man the most powerful man in the universe. So if Skeletor wore the same armour he would then hold the same power.

This origin is also more akin to Frank Frazetta’s fantastical artwork and is metal AF. The world of this He-Man is a far more savage place inhabited by barbarians and demons. I dig it.

But then later the comic license was transferred to DC who quickly changed things up and gave the man with superpowers a secret identity and thus Prince Adam was born. In this version, Prince Adam would jump into a cave and come out as HE-MAN! The most powerful man in the universe! It can get confusing but the core thread these differing origins share is the idea that He-Man is the hero sent out to answer his destiny. Meanwhile, as the hero was setting out to answer the Universe’s call so was his opponent, the villainous Skeletor. And so the balance of Good and Evil was set in place and the battle has never stopped.  And speaking of balance…

Of the Sword of Sorcery

The Power Sword was split in two. One half went to He-Man and its twin fell into the hands of Skeletor. In order to unite both halves and complete the sword one of the two champions would need to fall. Only by fusing the broken Sword back together could you unlock the jaw-bridge of Grayskull and gain access to all the secrets hidden within. 

Skeletor knew that only by the power of Grayskull could he achieve his goals. In order to do so he would need an army of demons to attack Eternia. Skeletor’s (original) goal was to use the Power Sword and tear an opening in the fabric of reality to gain access back to his evil dimension. Only then could he lead his legions in a merciless invasion over this new world where he would take control of Castle Grayskull and finally become the Master of the Universe. Ambitious as all fucking Hell right from the start. 

Why won’t anyone make a film about that? I’m serious. Could you imagine that kind of movie? It would be as epic as Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. 

It’s funny but I can’t really find what He-Man would have done with the complete Sword other than keeping it safe. Skeletor on the other hand has a very definite goal and pursues it with Hell-bound determination. One (of many) gripe I have with Kevin Smith’s take on MOTU – and if you’re a fan of Revelations go ahead and skip forward because I’m going to get critical – is the man’s complete lack of understanding of the property. Smith’s Skeletor obtains the Power Sword and commands Grayskull but in no time at all gets to the point where he has really no clue what to do with it. Well other than kill He-Man. Which, I must point out, he can’t even pull off. The established lore contradicts this notion by already revealing, and in various ways, how Skeletor has a definite goal at work and what he would do should he obtain the coveted Power. Guess that’s what happens when you give a man a property he claims he never even liked to begin with. 

Now the Filmation cartoon introduced the notion of the Power Sword being lifted up and the magic words being said, ‘By the Power of Grayskull!” In this version, Skeletor does not have half of the Power Sword and the sword, as far as I know, is complete in the cartoon. I personally like the idea of one half being held by the champion of Good and its equal in the hands of Evil. Something deep about that notion. Something about the loneliness of Good equalling the loneliness of Evil if you know what I mean.

Some have had a real issue with all the lacking continuity found in the different background stories. So much so that it frustrates and overwhelms some people. You can tell a lot of this stuff was made up on the fly and as Mattel swung by the seats of their pants to get toys out to kids they wound up conjuring forth some of the coolest characters anyone had ever seen in the whole universe.

And kids don’t care much for this stuff. They’ll make up their own stories. The fact that Mattel even gave any background or a moment’s thought to the history and world these figures inhabited is astounding really. Today we just come to expect lore. Back then though, the early ’80s, this was all brand new! So one guy came up with a cool look for the characters and another gave it a gander and spun a bullshit story about who the toy was and then the toys hit shelves. Later on, as the comics were being written more lore could be included. As that went along a fresh idea came to mind and so the lore was broadened even at the cost of continuity. The same happened when writing the cartoon.

At the end of the day we can’t expect some almighty cohesive storyline as fundamental cannon. I personally like each one, although I favor the Frazetta-inspired saga. The one thing they all agree on is Skeletor’s always been a demon of some kind. And he fights the mightiest hero in the cosmos, He-Man! But don’t miss the point here: Mattel sold demons to kids! Fucking legendary.

And who’s to say it’s not all somehow connected? It’s a story about the Universe after all. So while He-Man walks away from his barbarian tribe to become the champion of Eternia in another reality Prince Adam simultaneously walks into Grayskull and meets the Sorceress. Bottom line, to me, a lifelong fan, they all work together rather than against each other. As long as the basics stay the same the lore stands intact.  At its heart its a saga about Good vs Evil. And we can all relate to that.

It’s up to you to choose which background you prefer. That power is entrusted to the fan’s hands. 

To wrap things up I want to leave off with the cliffhanger of the final mini-comic of 1987. The story revolves around King Randor’s long, lost brother who vanished years before the events of MOTU took place. So there’s, even more, to explore, and believe me, it’s going to get wild as we not only look at the finale of the ’87 story but then jump ahead to the 200X series to meet its conclusion.

As the above panel shows the secret of Keldor was meant to be a major breakthrough in the lore surrounding the Lord of Destruction. In true villainous fashion Skeletor’s story didn’t end in ’87. Our beloved villain would not just make a return in the decades to come, but he would come back with much more power and weave a spell over generations to come.

So be sure to join us next time as we cover this secret in Part II of Skeletor’s origins and legend. We’re far from over, my Nasties. They’ll be plenty of twists and turns as well as a few familiar faces making an appearance.

In the meantime, if you crave more of that lovely nostalgic goodness be sure to check out more of our stuff like my thoughts on the classic 80s Transformers: The Movie. I’m Manic Exorcism and wish you all a very Happy New Year!