What’s Old is New Again: He-Man/ThunderCats by Jerry Whitworth
Announced just weeks before San Diego Comic-Con, DC Comics will produce a limited series crossing over Masters of the Universe with ThunderCats. Following in the footsteps of 2013’s DC Universe vs. Masters of the Universe, He-Man/ThunderCats will arrive beginning in October from the team of Rob David, Lloyd Goldfine, and Freddie E. Williams II. The plot of the series is set to feature Mumm-Ra seeking out the Sword of Power to tip the scales in his ongoing battle with the ThunderCats. Bearing many similarities to each other, both series saw males of royalty wield magical swords and lead a band of heroes on an alien world of sorcery and super science against dark mystical forces. Such comparable elements were not lost on fans as comic creator Val Staples would found Power-Con and ThunderCon, essentially two sides of the same convention celebrating both franchises. Likely helping to bring the upcoming crossover together, Mattel, which produces the Masters of the Universe Classics and the now defunct DC Universe Classics toylines, started production last year on the ThunderCats Classics line. In typical crossover tradition, it’s likely the ThunderCats will throw down with He-Man’s Heroic Warriors and, inevitably, Mumm-Ra and his mutants will turn on Skeletor’s Evil Warriors (one can only imagine if a possible sequel series could have the Lunataks and Snake Men team-up or bring She-Ra and the SilverHawks into the mix). As such, lets examine what match-ups readers are likely to see emerge.
The battle of the mascots, Orko is essentially the Jimmy Olsen to He-Man’s Superman. A being alien to Eternia (hailing instead from Trolla), Orko’s race and world bears some similarities to the imps of the Fifth Dimension in the Superman comics (the most notable member of that species being Mister Mxyzptlk). Wielding great magical power, Orko is unfortunately less than adept at the practice of the mystic arts and often bungles his spells (if not outright performing the opposite of the intended effect). However, in times of great need, the diminutive ally to He-Man can muster a passable spell to help turn the tide in a conflict. Orko was transported to Eternia in a cosmic storm where he was rescued by a young Prince Adam and his pet tiger cub Cringer leading to his becoming the court buffoon of King Randor and Queen Marlena. Since the day Adam saved him, Orko has been the prince’s constant companion and most loyal friend. Just as Masters of the Universe and ThunderCats bear several similarities, Snarf’s story is also not so different from that of Orko.
Osbert is arguably the most famous member of his species the Snarfs (it might be for this reason Osbert adopted the nickname of Snarf). The Snarfs are a diminutive feline/reptilian race that lived in the Valley of the Snarfs on Thundera. Being intelligent but so physically inadequate to species like the ThunderCats or Mutants (as well as the only known intelligent species devoid of evil intent), the Snarfs generally made up the working class of Thundera (specifically, the royal families). Osbert, or Snarf, was the nursemaid to young Lion-O, heir to Claudus, Lord of the ThunderCats. When Thundera was destroyed by the Sword of Plun-Darr, Snarf accompanied the surviving nobles (including Lion-O) to Third Earth. However, due to a malfunction in his suspension capsule, Lion-O aged from twelve into an adult while in suspended animation and Snarf saw his role as a child’s sitter diminish. Instead, Snarf evolved where, as the eldest living member of Lion-O’s party, the small creature became a voice of patience and wisdom while other times he became the tipping point in the ThunderCats battles with Mumm-Ra (such as freeing them from capture, sneaking into places only one of his size could fit, and defending the Cats’ Lair as its warriors were away or incapacitated). Despite being male, Snarf maybe the closest thing to a mother-figure Lion-O has ever known as Snarf loves him like he were his child.
While He-Man has no shortage of allies, only a handful make up his close inner circle. Counted among this number is Stratos, leader of the Bird People of Avion. Despite his responsibilities as a ruler, Stratos frequently assists and accompanies He-Man in his battles offering his air support and impressive fighting ability. Able to fly under his own power, Stratos also wears a jetpack to greatly enhance his speed. Additionally, Stratos bears brass knuckles on his right hand that allow him to discharge a laser beam giving him significant range capabilities. Where Stratos is most adept is acting as a spy able to observe the enemy unseen from above with his sharp eyes and offer crucial intelligence to his fellow Heroic Warriors. In battle, Stratos is often seen alongside Ram Man who is also one of He-Man’s closest friends (filling out the circle with Man-At-Arms, Teela, Battle Cat, and Orko). It’s likely that should Stratos find himself on the battlefield against the ThunderCats, it would probably be Tygra, Lion-O’s second-in-command, he would meet.
One of Thundera’s nobles, Tygra acted in some manner like an older brother to young Lion-O, heir to the ThunderCats’ leadership. A brilliant architect and scientist, when Tygra escaped the destruction of his homeworld, he was integral in the design and construction of the Cats’ Lair, home fortress of the ThunderCats, on Third Earth (as well as the later structure the Tower of Omens). As Lion-O aged to adulthood in suspended animation, the youth adopted the mantle of leadership for the ThunderCats on Third Earth (despite in many ways still being quite immature). However, Tygra helped Lion-O transition into this role becoming an unofficial second-in-command (until Lion-O later outright told Tygra to become leader in the case of his demise). In addition to his sharp mind, Tygra also has the ability to become completely invisible to the naked eye making him vital in gathering data and evading capture. For battle, Tygra wields a retractable bola whip offering great range, versatility, and power. Tygra is also capable of creating illusions in the minds of others but it’s incredibly physically taxing on him to employ it.
Head of the royal guard and advisor for the Eternian military, Duncan bears the mantle of Man-At-Arms where he is the chief confidant of King Randor (beyond Queen Marlena). Duncan serves many roles in his position, not only invaluable to the daily operations of the kingdom of Eternia but also a brilliant inventor with a mind of few parallel on the planet. Despite so much responsibility, Duncan also acts as a mentor to Prince Adam (both in his civilian identity and as He-Man, one of only a handful of those aware of Adam’s dual persona). Wearing similar armor to that of the Eternian military (with a seeming gladiator-variation), Duncan wields a large mace in battle that he employs with the utmost precision and skill (being a master of all known weapons). On the battlefield, Duncan can often be found side-by-side with his adopted daughter Teela and the Eternia military. In his personal life, Duncan is often at odds with Orko’s antics. For the ThunderCats, Panthro serves a similar role to the Man-At-Arms.
The eldest living noble of Lion-O’s party, Panthro is the chief mechanic and pilot for the ThunderCats where he is often seen driving the ThunderTank (the ThunderCats’ chief ground transport). While it was Panthro’s responsibility to pilot the vessel that saw his fellow nobles flee Thundera’s destruction, Jaga (who adopted the mantle of ThunderCat Lord from Claudus following the sire being blinded by the Mutants) ordered Panthro to join his fellow nobles in suspended animation and had taken his place at the controls. Jaga gave his life to ensure the safety of those in his charge leaving Panthro to adopt the role of mentor to the survivors (a challenge given his short temper which often put him at odds with Snarf and his pranks). A martial arts master skilled in the use of all weapons, Panthro has super strength and wields technologically-enhanced nunchaku in battle (with grasping claws and a variety of spray discharges). Additionally, Panthro wears spiked chest bands down his torso where each spike can fire a retractable line employed in climbing and combat.
Captain of the Royal Guard and adopted daughter of Duncan the Man-At-Arms (as well as secretly the biological daughter of the Sorceress), Teela is charged with the safety of Prince Adam and instructing him in the ways of combat. While Teela may view Adam as being weak, cowardly, and lazy, she seems to have immense admiration, if not attraction, to his alternate identity of He-Man (often trying to assist and support the hero). Somewhat reckless and bold, Teela often acts on her gut rather than thinking through her actions and their consequences. Employing a staff in combat, Teela is a highly skilled fighter that worked her way through the ranks of the military on hard work rather than her familial ties. The daughter of the Sorceress, Teela also has within her great magical potential but her relation is kept secret, even to her, to avoid being used by the forces of evil either against her mother or as a hostage. Despite being unaware of Prince Adam’s dual role as He-Man, she is nonetheless one of his closest friends (drawing parallels to that of Clark Kent and Lois Lane). Among the ThunderCats, Teela’s closest comparison maybe that of Cheetara.
The sole adult female noble to escape the destruction of Thundera, Cheetara is a highly accomplished fighter that acted in some manner as an older sister to young Lion-O. Often accompanying Tygra on his explorations of Third Earth, it was subtlety implied as if the pair had a relationship beyond that of friendship (drawing some comparison to Fred and Daphne of Mystery, Inc). While Panthro is super strong and Tygra can become invisible, Cheetara has super speed but which exhausts her if overused. Further, she employs a sixth sense that allows her to peer into the past or future. These visions can occur at random but if she forces them to emerge, it can exhaust her for days or weeks. For combat, Cheetara wields an expandable stave that shrinks to at least her forearm’s size and grows to an indefinite length (making it an ideal pole vault especially paired with her speed). Further, this stave can discharge bursts of energy for ranged attacks.
Prince Adam is the son of King Randor and Queen Marlena and twin brother of Princess Adora. Randor is the warrior king of Eternia (though, since adopting the role of ruler, he’s generally laid down his sword) having served beside Duncan and urged him to adopt the role of Man-At-Arms. Marlena Glenn was an astronaut for NASA from Earth who was marooned on Eternia where she was taken in by Randor and the pair fell in love, producing Adam and Adora. Keldor, Randor’s older brother who became the monstrous sorcerer Skeletor, would later assist his teacher Hordak in kidnapping baby Adora leaving Adam to be raised as an only child. Adam grew into a strong, intelligent man who one day, while walking through the Wind Forest, saw a falcon that lead him to Castle Grayskull. Therein, that falcon transformed into the Sorceress and told Adam he was prophesied to wield the Power of Grayskull. Provided the Sword of Power, Adam could hold the weapon and speak the phrase “By the Power of Grayskull” to be transformed into He-Man, the most powerful man in the universe. Choosing to keep this secret to himself and a chosen few (for fear that his enemies could use it to get at his loved ones), Adam can also use his power to transform his pet tiger Cringer into his mighty steed Battle Cat. As He-Man, Adam has a physique without parallel wielding strength at least comparable to Superman (having traded blows on different occasions). However, this power perhaps pales in comparison to the ingenuity with which he wields it, often employing his surroundings to defeat his enemies. Where He-Man may lead Eternia’s heroes, Lion-O rallies the champions of Third Earth.
Son of Claudus, Lord of the ThunderCats, Lion-O was only twelve years of age when his world Thundera was destroyed by the Sword of Plun-Darr. Thanks to their subjects, the surviving nobles of Thundera escaped the destruction as Lion-O was accompanied by Jaga, Panthro, Tygra, Cheetara, the Thunderkittens, and his nursemaid Snarf. Due to a malfunction in his suspension capsule, Lion-O aged into an adult during his vessel’s journey to Third Earth but lacked the maturity that comes with experience. Jaga, who accepted the mantle of leadership from Claudus, piloted the ship to its new home at the cost of his life. Thus, the Sword of Omens and its treasure the Eye of Thundera was passed to Lion-O. The Eye of Thundera, the source of power for the ThunderCats, is an immensely powerful gem and its energies are directed through the Sword of Omens. In its natural state, the Sword appears like a dagger until its wielder, the Lord of the ThunderCats, awakens its power to transform the Sword into its full size (appearing as a broadsword). The Eye can summon and empower ThunderCats across great distances by emitting a signal into the sky (this signal also dispels illusions and mind control). The Eye can unleash a powerful force capable of destroying starships, generate forcefields, freeze or ignite targets, transport its wielder, carry its wielder through the air, and all manner of other abilities. The Sword’s wielder can also summon the sword to come to them from anywhere (the Eye able to destroy any obstacles that may obstruct its return). The Eye also allows its wielder to see great distances, view that which is hidden, and observe impending danger by peering through its handguard and saying, “Sword of Omens, give me Sight Beyond Sight.” In addition to the Sword of Omens, Lion-O also wields the Claw Shield, which acts as a scabbard for the Sword and shield for its wearer. The knuckles of the Shield also discharge with an indeterminate length of line for climbing.
Honorable mentions: Jaga and the Sorceress were left out as they seem unlikely to battle each other and more likely to be the voices of reason that end any sort of misunderstanding. Also, the likes of the Thunderkittens, Lynx-O, Bengali, Pumyra, Ram Man, Man-E-Faces, Fisto, Mekaneck, and Buzz-Off were abandoned to prevent being overly excessive.