Life lessons from He-Man

The popular TV cartoon series, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe ran from 1983 until 1985. Essentially designed to promote the Mattel toy range of He-Man action figures, the series was based around Adam, a prince on the planet Eternia and his ongoing struggle for control of Castle Greyskull with his rival, the malevolent Skeletor. By declaring “By the power of Greyskull!” Adam could transform into the all-powerful He-Man. There were a whole host of other characters, plus a spin-off entitled She-Ra in 1985, aimed at girls.

Despite being set on a mythical world, He-Man would often end with a straight to the camera moral message to the audience from some of the characters. These were sometimes edited out of the British transmissions.

Here are just some of them:

There are no magic drugs (He-Man)

“In today’s story Ilena tried taking a magic potion which she thought would help her. Well, she found out there aren’t any magic potions. And you know what? There aren’t any magic drugs either. Anytime you take one from anybody but your parents or your doctor, you’re taking a very big chance. Your gambling with your health, maybe even your life. Drugs don’t make your problems go away, they just create more.”

Very true. Skeletor would be especially well advised to stay off cocaine as he doesn’t have a nose.

Be careful when doing practical jokes (Man-At-Arms)

“You’ve all seen how Orko’s magical tricks don’t always go the way he planned. Sometimes they backfire on him. The same thing is true of practical jokes. Sometimes they don’t go the way you planned, and you or someone else can get hurt. So be sure and think twice before playing a joke or a trick on anybody. It might not go the way you planned and someone could wind up losing a finger or an arm, or maybe even an eye. And no joke is worth that is it? See you again soon.”

Bloody hell! An arm or an eye? What sort of practical jokes were they thinking of? One involving a chainsaw???

Respect Magna Carta (He-Man and Teela)

Teela: “A very long time ago a wonderful document came into being. It was called the Magna Carta.”

He-Man: “It was the first big step in recognizing that all people were created equal. But even though more laws have been passed to guarantee that, there are still those who try to keep others from being free.”

Teela: “Fortunately Queen Sumana realized in time that only by working together could her city be saved. And that’s the way it should be. Together. Right?”

He-Man: “Right.”

Er…so they had Magna Carta on Eternia too then? I didn’t know they even had it in the USA.

Don’t ram things too much (Ram Man)

“In today’s story I sure was busy. Boy, did that hurt. Ramming things may look like fun, but it really isn’t. Trying to use your head the way I do is not only dangerous, it’s dumb. I mean you could get hurt badly. So listen to Rammy, play safely and when you use your head, use it the way it was meant to be used, to think. Until later, so long!”

Got that? If you’re ramming while reading this, please stop immediately. Ram Man (not to be confused with ‘Rainman’) was a minor character. He’s wrong about this though. Ramming is definitely fun. Ram Man, thank you man.

Sleep properly (Orko and Cringer)

Orko: “Hi, today we met some people who had slept for over two hundred years. Well, we don’t need that much sleep, but it is important to get enough sleep. So here’s some things to remember. Don’t eat a lot before going to bed, a glass of milk or a piece of fruit makes a good bedtime snack. Try to go to bed at the same time every night, and avoid any exercise or excitement before going to bed. Well, goodnight. Oh, goodnight Cringer!”

Cringer: (snoring).

Does eating fruit before bedtime really help you sleep? I’m not convinced.

We all have a special magic (Sorceress)
“Today we saw people fighting over the Starchild, but in the end her power brought these people together. It might surprise you to know that all of us have a power like the Starchild’s. You can’t see it or touch it, but you can feel it. It’s called love. When you care deeply about others and are kind and gentle, then you’re using that power. And that’s very special magic indeed. Until later, good-bye for now.”

Sorceress was clearly to busy building a nest to read the first moral, Sorceress. Stay off the magic drugs!

Your brain is stronger than any muscle (Man-At-Arms)

“Being the most powerful man in the universe isn’t all that makes He-Man such a great hero. Being strong is fine, but there’s something even better. In today’s story He-Man used something even more powerful than his muscles to beat Skeletor. Do you know what it was? If you said, ‘his brain,’ you were right. And just like a muscle, your brain is something you can develop to give yourself great power.”

I’m not sure Man-At-Arms was the best choice to put forward this argument, to be honest. He has “university of life” written all over him.

Play it safe (He-Man and Battle Cat)

He-Man: “I’d like to talk to you for just a moment about safety. When we go to the beach there are lifeguards there to watch out for our safety. Crossing guards are in the street for the same reason, to help protect us. Now things like that are fine, but we can’t count on someone always being around to protect us. We should practice thinking of safety all the time. So don’t take a chance. And that’s true whether you’re crossing a street, or driving a car. Think safety.”
Battle Cat: (Roaring)

The beach? ‘Crossing guards’? Has He-Man been to Earth at some point? And what does “practice thinking of safety” mean? Nice of Battle Cat to contribute here too. Much appreciated, thanks.

Learn from experience (He-Man and Battle Cat)

He-Man: “As we’ve just seen Skeletor went back into the past to make evil things happen. In reality no one can go back into the past, that’s only make-believe. But we can try to learn from the past, from things that have happened to us, and try to apply them toward being better people today. Remember, it’s today that counts. So make it the best day possible. Until next time this is He-Man wishing you good health and good luck.”

Battle Cat: (Roaring)

Learn from he mistakes of history. But also live for today: that’s all that matters. Make your mind up, please!

No job is unimportant (He-Man)

“Have you ever had a job to do you thought was boring and unimportant. We all have. Opi did. But no job is unimportant. Opi learned that if he’d done the little jobs his father gave him, things would not have gone wrong. So remember, any job worth doing is worth doing well. No matter how dull it may seem at the time. Bye for now.”

Sadly, this one isn’t true. Some jobs are both boring and unimportant. Writing the moral messages at the end of children’s TV cartoons, for example.

Fighting is bad (Teela)

“Some people think the only way to solve a difference is to fight. Skeletor for example, his answer to every problem is fight. He doesn’t care who’s right or wrong. He thinks that might makes right. Well, it doesn’t. He-Man knows that, even with all his power, he always tries to avoid fighting. Fighting doesn’t solve problems. Fighting only makes more problems. See you soon.”

Bloody hell! This is a bit rich. He-Man spends half of every episode fighting.

Read a book (He-Man)

“I hope you enjoyed today’s adventure. You know television is not the only way to be entertained by an exciting story. There is another way; it’s called reading. And one of the wonderful things about books is that they allow you to choose whatever kind of adventure you like; a trip with an astronaut, an adventure with the great detective Sherlock Holmes, a comedy, anything. You can find it in a book at your school or neighbourhood library. Why I’ll bet there are even some good books right in your own home just waiting to be read.”

In other words, in the immortal words of the 1980s UK kids’ show, ‘Why Don’t You?’ “switch off your TV set and go out and do something less boring instead.” Especially now this episode of He-Man has finished.

The 80s: The ultimate exam

So you think you know the 1980s. But could you pass a full blown exam on the subject? Take a look at the questions below and if more than half of them even make the slightest bit of sense to you, you may consider yourself a true aficionado of the decade that brought us break dancing, Bermuda shorts and Bergerac. Ready? You may turn over your papers now…(And no, it’s not a proper quiz. Sorry).

1. You are sitting at home in front of the TV. Why don’t you…

a) Just switch off the TV set

b) Go out

c) And do something less boring instead?

2. Complete the phrase: “You can’t get quicker than…”

a) Maximum velocity.

b) The speed of light.

c) A Kwik-Fit fitter.

3. Philosophy. Consider the following…

a) How soon is now?

b) What is love anyway? Does anybody love anybody anyway?

c) Do you really want to hurt me? Do you really want to make me cry?

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4. You are driving home from work, listening to the radio when you hear the following announcement:

“Humidity’s rising. The barometer is getting low. According to our sources, the street is the place to go. Because tonight for the first time at just about half past ten. For the first time in history, it’s going to start raining men.”

With alarm, you see that it is nearly half ten now and you are still a good twenty minutes from home. What do you do?

a) Desperately hope that the multi-storey car park is still open so you can take shelter from the imminent aerial male adult human precipitation assault there.

b) Park in a lay-by and frantically attempt to hide underneath your own car

c) Realise that you are, of course, listening to the popular 1982 hit, “It’s Raining Men” by The Weather Girls.

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5. You purchase a bizarre but cute furry creature from a Chinese antique shop, an unusual but ideal Christmas present for anyone. What must you remember not to do?

a) Don’t feed it after midnight.

b) Don’t let it get wet.

c) Don’t leave it home alone in the apartment over Christmas while you go on holiday, forcing it to defend itself from two clumsy burglars by devising an elaborate system of dangerous but amusing booby traps (I may be thinking of another film here).

6. It is a Saturday evening on a Bank Holiday in 1980 and you and your friend end up having a fierce disagreement in the pub over the name of an actor who was in a TV show you both watched as a child. What do you do?

a) Wait until the library opens on Tuesday and look it up in the appropriate reference book, if such a book even exists.

b) Find a new friend. You never liked him/her that much anyway.

c) Go home. Wait twenty years.  Look it up on your phone.

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7. If your mansion house needs haunting call…

a) Some sort of medium.

b) An expert on the paranormal.

c) Rentaghost.

8. Alternatively, if there’s something strange in your neighbourhood, who you gonna call?

a) The police.

b) The local branch of the Neighbourhood Watch.

c) Ghostbusters.

9. Steven Seagal is…

a) An actor.

b) A leading Buddhist.

c) Hard To Kill.

10. Who recorded the song “True Blue?”

a) Madonna.

b) Diego Maradona.

c) The Fallen Madonna With The Big Boobies by Van Klump.

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11. Michael Jackson’s Thriller may be described as…

a) A thriller.

b) A horror.

c) A song and music video.

12. You hear a car horn. Do you…

a) Get off the road.

b) Jump.

c) Go “Yeeee-haaaa!” in true Dukes of Hazzard fashion.

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13. Finally, write a short essay on ONE of the following…

a) War is stupid. And people are stupid (Culture Club).

b) The history book on the shelf. It’s always repeating itself (ABBA – not actually from the 1980s).

c) Bum bum bum. Bum bum bum. Bum. Bum bum bum bum (The Frog Chorus).

Thirty years of The Ballad of Halo Jones

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If you were reading the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, 20000AD, thirty years ago this month, you would doubtless have noticed a new character.

The Ballad of Halo Jones written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Ian Gibson first appeared in July 1984. 2000AD, which had started in 1977, already featured many of its best known science fiction and fantasy strips notably Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper, Strontium Dog, Nemesis the Warlock and Slaine. Ian Gibson had, in fact, drawn many Dredd episodes as well as the more humorous Sam Slade: Robohunter.

Alan Moore is a legend in the world of comics today. This was less true in 1984, but he was hardly unknown then either, having already penned both the futuristic drama V For Vendetta and Marvelman (later known as Miracleman) for Warrior, a title Moore had largely dominated but which was on its way out by 1984. He was also doing Swamp Thing for DC and had produced the extraterrestrial fantasy Skizz and D.R. and Quinch for 2000AD.  He had also written many Tharg’s Futureshocks; the Twilight Zone-style one off stories which many 2000AD staff first get established on. Moore had worked once with Gibson on one of these, “Grawks Bearing Gifts”.

But the first Halo Jones story wasn’t a hit. Lance Parkin in his biography Magic Words: The Extraordinary Life of Alan Moore writes: “Now, Halo Jones is regularly cited as a high point of the magazine’s long history. Then, it was a different story. Every week, the magazine polled its readers on their favourite strips, and Halo Jones was notably unpopular during its first run (#376-385, July-September 1984)”. What was the problem?

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Was it because most of the characters were girls? Halo is introduced as a teenager, one of a group of female friends (plus Toby, a robot dog) who live on the Hoop, a large crime-infested artificial population centre constructed off Manhattan Island. It was fairly unusual for 2000AD to have a female lead character at this time but it is probable a few factors conspired against the strip. Readers complained of a lack of “action”. Moore assumed they meant a lack of “violence”. Cynical but perhaps accurate, there is little of either in Volume One (at least, not until the end). The story also features a fair amount of futuristic slang which may have alienated some readers. Although to be fair, the slang “Squeeze! Squeeze with a bare arm!” isn’t that unusual bearing in mind the strip is set in 4949, nearly 3,000 years in the future. Another possible point against it is that there is also little interesting to mark out Halo at this point. She is just another one of the girls.

Volume Two which appeared in 1985, however, was much better.

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For one thing, the intriguing prologue features a lecture, set even further in the future which not only updates us but hints for the first time that Halo might be destined to become a figure of genuine historical import. Halo also develops more as a character, working as a stewardess on a space cruise liner the Clara Pandy during a year long voyage and leaving her less ambitious or unlucky friends back on the Hoop.

The ship turns out to be a perfect vehicle for all sorts of great stories, many working as stand alone strips. Toby, Halo’s companion reveals a ferocious dark side while a particularly strong story concerns The Glyph, a soulless sad character rendered invisible after countless sex changes have robbed him of his true identity.

Volume Three, is by Alan Moore’s own admission, the best of all.

Although it appeared only a year later, in 1986, ten long years have passed for Halo and she has become a more cynical, harder and more interesting figure. Washed up, she bumps into her old friend Toy Molto (a giantess) and the two decide to join the Army.

Predictably, this ends badly with the two becoming involved in the encroaching war in the Tarantula Nebula, a Vietnam-style conflict, periodically alluded to in the strip since Book One. Funny, ingenious and at times, moving, (one episode sees Halo talking for some time to a wounded colleague before realising with total horror that they have been dead for some time), Halo experiences the full indignity of combat. The war on the planet Moab, particularly leads to a memorable battle in which the strong gravity of the large planet leads time to be distorted leading the conflict to literally be appearing to pass either in slow motion or sometimes even accelerated speed. Halo also becomes embroiled in an unwise love affair with the monstrous General Luiz Cannibal and loses her innocence in more ways than one.

Adverts for the Titan anthologies of the story at the time hinted at ten volumes of Halo even suggesting she became a pirate queen. But, in fact, Volume Three would be the end. Moore fell out with 2000AD and went onto The Watchmen and phenomenal comic success. Only Neil Gaiman has come close to his status amongst contemporary British comic writers.

The Ballad of Halo Jones remains his overlooked masterpiece. I urge you to seek it out.

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80 years of The Beano : A timeline (1938-2018)

Happy birthday Beano! If you’ve never read it, here’s what you’ve missed…

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1938: The first edition of the Beano appears, dated 30th July. The Dandy started the previous year. Stories include Big Eggo (the cover story centred on an ostrich), Pansy Potter: The Strongman’s Daughter and the more enduring Lord Snooty and his Pals which lasts into the 1990s.

There are only twelve copies of the first issue known to still be in existence.

1939 -1949: Due to paper rationing, the Beano and Dandy both appear on alternate weeks, rather than weekly.

1940: The first ever Beano Book. If you own one without a year on the front, it must be from between 1940 and 1965. If it’s called The Magic-Beano Book, it must be from between 1943 and 1950 (the regular comic was never called this). The one below is from 1948.

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1940-43: Musso The Wop appears, the racist title of a strip mocking Italian fascist leader, Benito Mussolini. The real leader was overthrown in 1943 and the strip ended.

1948: Biffo the Bear appears and immediately knocks Big Eggo off the front page. Eggo disappears forever in 1949.

1950s: Despite (or perhaps because of) the threat provided by TV and new comics like The Eagle, the Fifties is something of a golden age for The Beano with most of its most famous stories starting during this decade.

1951: Dennis the Menace appears, undoubtedly the comic’s most popular and famous story.  By strange coincidence, a US strip with the same name about a similarly mischievous but blonde brat started in the same week. The American one was usually just called “Dennis” in the UK to avoid confusion. Cartoons and films of the US version started to appear in the UK after the Eighties.

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Biffo remains on the front page. Dennis’s distinctive black and red jumper appear after a few weeks and Dennis’s friends Curly and Pie-Face as well as Softy Walter all appear from the early Fifties onward. Gnasher comes later.

1953: Three major stories Roger the Dodger, Minnie the Minx and Little Plum all begin. Little Plum (“your redskin chum”) ceases to appear regularly after 1998.

1954: The Bash Street Kids (initially called When The Bell Goes or When The Bell Rings) appears. There were initially a vague and often changing large group of pupils eventually settling down to a hardcore of eight: Danny, Sidney and Toots (brother and sister), Smiffy (stupid), Erbert (short sighted), Plug (ugly), Spotty (spotty and has a very long tie), Wilfred (face partly obscured by jumper) and Fatty (obese)

Cuthbert Cringeworthy (the teacher’s pet) first appears in the Bash Street Kids from 1972.

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1955: The first Dennis the Menace book appears. It is available most years until 2010.

1959: The Three Bears, a Wild West take on the fairy tale featuring blunderbusses appears (until 2011).

1964: Billy Whizz races onto the page for the first time.

1966: The Beano Books have the dates on the cover from now on.

1968: Gnasher appears alongside Dennis the Menace for the first time.

1972: Babyface Finlayson – appears (on and off) from now into the 21st century.

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1974: Dennis replaces Biffo the Bear on the cover after a twenty-seven year run. Biffo ceases to be in the comic regularly after 1986.

1975: The football-obsessed Ball Boy kicks off.

1976: The Dennis the Menace Fan Club begins.

1979: The Bash Street Kids book (just called The Bash Street Kids) starts appearing most years until 2010.

Rasher, Dennis’s pet pig gets a story of his own.

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1980: Smudge (a bath-averse boy) appears in the comic, lasting into the 1990s.

1982: The first Beano Comic Libraries (small book-like comics with one long story in) appear.

1985: Ivy the Terrible, the Toddler Terror,. makes her first appearance.

1986: The terminally unlucky Calamity James arrives at The Beano.

Gnasher goes missing in a well-publicised story, only to return with a new puppy Gnipper who has one solitary tooth (a new story Gnasher and Gnipper appears). Gnasher is male. Who Gnipper’s mother is, is never explained.

b1986

1988: The comic is revamped for its 50th birthday. Extra pages appear and more colour is used. Many other British comics fold in the Eighties and Nineties (The Beezer, Topper, Buster, Whizzer and Chips). The Beano does well to survive.

1991: The comic’s oldest story Lord Snooty ceases to appear regularly. Some blame John Major’s “classless society.”

1993: The Beezer and Topper merge into The Beano.  The Numskulls – who live inside and operate a human body – now appear in The Beano. The comic goes into full colour for the first time.

1994: A new look politically correct Bash Street Kids are unveiled. The new look is quickly abandoned after a fierce public backlash. Some suspect it is just a publicity stunt.

1996: A Dennis the Menace cartoon appears on TV. Voices include Billy Connolly and Hugh Laurie.

1998: Birth of Dennis the Menace’s sister Bea.

b2000

2002: The Beano Book becomes The Beano Annual.

2004: Dennis the Menace becomes the longest running strip in Beano history (it became the longest-running front page story in 2000). As of 2013, the most enduring strips are Dennis the Menace,  Minnie the Minx, Roger the Dodger, The Bash Street Kids followed by the previous longest-running story, Lord Snooty.

2007: The Dandy undergoes a dramatic and probably ultimately fatal revamp, becoming Dandy Xtreme.

2009: Another new TV series, Dennis and Gnasher begins. It continues until 2013.

2012: The Dandy ceases to appear in print and becomes The Dandy Online. Bananaman, the third longest running strip in The Dandy now appears in The Beano and Dandy Online.

2013: The Dandy Online formally ends. The Beano has another revamp for its 75th birthday.

2016: Beano Studios is launched. It is described as “a brand new multimedia Studios set up to create, curate and deliver mischievous entertainment for kids worldwide”.

2018: With weekly sales figures hitting an impressive 37,542, The Beano approaches its 80th birthday.

May there be many more!

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