THE NEWSPAPER COMIC STRIPS

One of the exciting things about being a fan of MOTU history is the discovery of rare and little known material. The Newspaper Comic Strips book from Dark Horse provides one such example. It's a collection of stories which spanned a four year period and charts the shift from Filmation era concepts to the New Adventures period. A lot of fans - including myself - never knew about the He-Man newspaper stories, so it's interesting to see them now, years after their original publication, lovingly restored and presented in hardback book format.

Although Filmation and NA don't receive a lot of attention on this website, I'd still recommend having a look at this book. The stories are longer than those found in the MOTU minicomics, so there's a little more substance to them which makes for interesting if not inspiring reading. The artwork is generally rather good despite the obvious confines of newspaper strip panels. If you're not a fan of the Prince Adam theme you might find the quick-change routines fairly tedious and repetitive, but there are some good characters in the stories which balance things out.

The most impressive aspect of the book is not actually the stories themselves but the work that went into finding and restoring them. In her introduction, Danielle Gelehrter describes the difficulties in finding copies of the strips. The book represents an extraordinary labour of love by Danielle and her merry band of enthusiasts. I suspect more research and time went into this book than for any of the others published in the Dark Horse collection. Everyone involved deserves congratulations for their work on this project.

Somehow almost all of the newspaper strips were tracked down and restored. Danielle explains that just 2% remain lost. In some cases foreign language versions had to be used, and these have been relettered in English. A new font, based on the handwriting of the originals, was created for this purpose. The digital restoration work must have taken a huge amount of time and effort, and the resulting images look fresh and vibrant. The strips are mostly black and white but there are some good colour panels too.

Occasional inconsistencies appear in the stories. For example, a fight between Skeletor and Hordak in Day of the Comet is interrupted by Skeletor talking to He-Man in the spaceship's control room. Whether this is a continuity error in the original story or an unintentional rearrangement of panels in the book is not clear. There are some story elements which aren't well explained or described, possibly because of the limitations of space or simply oversights by the writers. But these problems are relatively infrequent and don't hinder enjoyment of the stories too much.

The appearance of characters such as Ninjor, Scare Glow and Clamp Champ provide clues in the early stories about when the comic strips were written, because these figures appeared at the end of the original toy line. Other characters appear who were not produced as toys. The later stories include an NA cast. Some 'old' faces make it into the stories, including Beast Man and Whiplash. Sometimes the way the characters are drawn is quite different from their toy designs or their appearances in other media.

I'm sure I speak for many fans when I say that a lot of us who loved He-Man and Skeletor in the 80s now have the same enthusiasm for the Masters of the Universe lore as we did for the toys back then. We have discovered so much material that we didn't know about as children, and we now see the MOTU concept in much broader terms than we ever imagined. The Dark Horse series of MOTU books is a superb archive of stories which, I suspect, is unmatched by other toy lines. So, while I believe there are better He-Man stories out there, I have to recommend buying The Newspaper Comic Strips book.