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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!