Kevin Smith's 'He-Man' Anime Should Avoid Being Grim, Stay Goofy

The director of 'Clerks' is entering a new sandbox, but let's hope 'He-Man' doesn't become an adult-oriented gore fest.


It’s been a self-generating meme factory for almost 15 years, and we should hope that a new Netflix sequel series won’t change that. On Sunday, during the annual Masters of the Universe fan convention Power-Con in Anaheim, California, film director Kevin Smith (Clerks, Chasing Amy, Dogma) announced his newest gig as showrunner over an animated sequel series to the 1983 smash hit, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

We should remind you that a series that has spawned some of the best and earliest memes, from “HEYYEYAAEYAAAEYAEYAA” to “Positive Skeletor” is not a series that should be taken seriously. It’s a series that should be taken lightly.

Titled Masters of the Universe: Revelation, the new series will pick up where the original left off. In a statement, Smith teased the show will stage the final battle between He-Man and his archenemy, Skeletor, as the show wraps up “unresolved storylines” from over three decades ago.

“I’m Eternia-ly grateful to Mattel TV and Netflix for entrusting me with not only the secrets of Grayskull, but also their entire Universe,” Smith said. “In Revelation, we pick up right where the classic era left off to tell an epic tale of what may be the final battle between He-Man and Skeletor!”

Furthermore, the series does not seem to have any ties to She-Ra and the Princess of Power, another Netflix reboot of He-Man’s literal sister franchise She-Ra from executive producer Noelle Stevenson. It seems Masters of the Universe fans are on the brink of their own sprawling multiverse.

Confirming the involvement of Powerhouse Animation, who previously adapted Smith’s Clerks into a short-lived series on ABC and most recently worked with Adi Shankar on Netflix’s Castlevania, Smith added: “[T]his is the Masters of the Universe story you always wanted to see as a kid!”

For those who missed the ‘80s, here’s the gist of He-Man: In using the Power Sword, Prince Adam of Eternia can turn into the superhuman guardian known as He-Man. He regularly fights Skeletor, who seeks the Power Sword in order to unlock the secrets hidden in Castle Grayskull.

The director of Clerks working on his first Japanese-inspired anime is one thing to wrap your head around (though Smith is also working on another animated series, Marvel’s Howard the Duck on Hulu).

But another thing is that his He-Man could go in one of two distinct ways: Either peak Kevin Smith, in which He-Man cracks jokes about weed while watching Star Wars, or a gritty reboot in the style of Castlevania. Based on what little we know about Revelation, it could be the latter, as Smith teased “the most metal character designs Powerhouse Animation can contain in the frame.”

Promotional poster for Kevin Smith's 'Masters of the Universe: Revelation,' a sequel to the original 'He-Man' series from 1983.


From a point of pure curiosity, it is fascinating to imagine a “metal” Masters of the Universe from Kevin Smith. But I’m actually hoping there are elements of Smiths’ goofier side imbued in the show, because there really isn’t a goofier property than He-Man.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, in its artistic blend of Frank Frazetta with breakfast cereal box art, is very silly. Delightfully silly, of course. But still unabashedly, completely silly.

Like most nostalgic TV shows of yesteryear, including G.I. Joe, Ninja Turtles, and Power Rangers, He-Man is powerfully ridiculous television that never makes it clear how “in” on the joke the show’s creators really were. Like those other shows, He-Man is a series of 22-minute plots that pit good against evil and ultimately end in a moral message, like, “Respect all life” or “Don’t do drugs”.

Even the owners of He-Man, DreamWorks, embraces the cheese. The studio has edited and released YouTube compilations of great one-liners and out-there moments. Here’s a time when He-Man — and I quote this directly from the YouTube SEO — “saves a funny clown.”

This is a kind of cheese that shouldn’t go anywhere, especially not in favor of gruesome violence and depressing, dark imagery. (Oddly enough, Netflix’s new She-Ra has plenty of the right tones for a modern He-Man, it’s just a shame that internet dudes can’t get over a show being for girls.)

There was serious integrity to the making of He-Man, as detailed in the exhaustive 2017 documentary Power of Grayskull. But only someone like Kevin Smith can spoof an aging nerd’s childhood in a way that feels fun, cool, and possibly even meaningful. You might say that Smith has the power.

There is no premiere date for Masters of the Universe: Revelation.

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