Power of Grayskull or to give it it’s full title, Power of Grayskull: The Definitive History of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is a look at the long and convoluted history of one of the best-known characters in pop culture. From the forces in the toy industry that created He-Man right through to more recent attempts to reboot the franchise, it’s all there.
Power of Grayskull starts with Mattel’s quest for a successful line of action figures. They passed on Star Wars and had a dud with the original Clash Of The Titans and were interested in Conan until its “R” rating scared them off. So they rolled their own sword and sorcery hero, a muscular figure who was the opposite of the current action figures. They looked fit and athletic, He-Man looked like a bodybuilder.
Directors Randall Lobb and Robert McCallum let us hear from both the creative talent who designed the original figures and the executives who handled the business end of bringing it from concept to product on store shelves. Power of Grayskull is illustrated with some of the original concept art and even the three original prototype figures made by adding clay muscles to an existing action figure. He-Man could have ended up a spaceman or G.I. Joe on steroids if they’d chosen differently.
Within two years the Masters of the Universe line had brought in over a billion dollars. Which was a lot more in 1984 than now. Power of Grayskull spends much of its time on these glory years. The launch of the cartoon and the ridiculous kid’s TV standards it had to deal with get lots of attention. Stories such as the writers getting told not to have He-Man rip a tree from the ground because kids might copy it. Among those interviewed are J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5, Sense 8) who got his start writing for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and the spin-off She-Ra: Princess of Power.
The live-action film also gets covered. Both Dolph Lundgren (Dead Trigger, Battle Of The Damned) and Frank Langella (Dracula), are interviewed. There’s also loads of production art and tales of the rapidly crumbling Cannon Films empire.
And that crumbling would spread to Eternia as well. The sad tale of how corporate greed, flooding the market and recycling figure designs brought the franchise down is briefly at the end of Power Of Grayskull. As are the attempts to reboot the franchise. I’d liked to have seen a bit more about the reboots actually.
For fans of the show and collectors of the toys, Power of Grayskull will be fascinating. Others who remember the cartoons and movie should find it interesting if a little talky.
Power of Grayskull is available on Netflix, who have announced a new reboot of Masters Of The Universe. High Octane Pictures will bring it to DVD and VOD September 3.