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In three short years, Netflix has transformed the wider He-Man universe into a lively place. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power shed a new ray of light on the realm of Etheria when it debuted back in 2018, followed earlier this year by Kevin Smith’s trip to Eternia in Masters of the Universe: Revelation.
Now the streamer is making a return visit to the He-Man homeworld with this week’s premiere of a new, kid-focused CGI series that comes with a familiar Filmation-vintage name — even as it adds a potentially complex new dimension to He-Man lore. Tugging at a seldom-seen thread from a late-1980s mini-comic, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe reportedly tackles a major family link between the hallowed series’ biggest hero and biggest villain.
Speaking recently with Comicbook.com, showrunners Rob David and Jeff Matsuda said they intentionally teased out the idea that He-Man's alter-ego, Prince Adam (voiced in the new series by Yuri Lowenthal), and Skeletor (Ben Diskin) are meant to be more than mortal enemies. Thanks to a canonical comic book connection from the past, they said, Adam is actually Skeletor’s nephew.
Uncle Skeletor? Well — yes. "There was a mini-comic in 1987 [most likely the mini-series launched in 1986 by Mattel’s The Search for Keldor] where they hinted that Skeletor might be Randor's brother [aka the brother of Adam’s father, the good king of Eternia],” explained David, “but they never directly said it. In 2002, when they had the next He-Man show, they noted that Skeletor was Keldor, but the link between him and Adam wasn't totally made explicit. They never really got to explore that familial relationship.”
In Netflix’s new storyline, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is taking those family connections and mining them for all the tension that a Grayskull-sized family squabble implies, said the showrunners. The idea, they explained, is to “really dive into that relationship and make the drama personal with stakes. We had the perfect opportunity to bring this all together and show the comparisons and contrasts between these two characters. They're both heirs of Grayskull but the fact that Adam doesn't covet the power makes him the right choice to wield it.”
This isn't the first time an attempted He-Man revival has dared to deal directly with family feuds left untouched by Filmation’s original 1980s animated series. The script for David S. Goyer’s unmade He-Man movie at Sony has long been rumored to tweak things even further, making Adam and Skeletor actual siblings — a complicated brotherly bond if ever there was one.
In any case, the important thing as the new series kicks off is to be on the lookout for a freshly-updated wrinkle that adds a ton of weight to Adam’s royal responsibilities. Thanks to David and Matsuda, now you know — and knowing is half the battle. (Oops! — That’s from a completely different 1980s animated series.)
Produced by Mattel Television, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe debuts Sept. 16 at Netflix.